Thursday, May 24, 2012

Camping with kookaburras

Kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree

Eating all the…pancakes?

Yes, on my camping trip to Cathedral ranges I saw Kookaburra, and he saw the rocky-road pancakes we were eating. One of the clubs I joined is the bush walking and orienteering club which does a ton of awesome outdoor activities including camping, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and orienteering.


The clubs first trip was called Bumbly day out. At the time I thought it was because we were going to a place called Bumbly Lake or Bumbly national park, but no-Bumbly is the name for the new members of the club. I guess I just proved myself to fit the name. Anyways- the adventure was a day trip that gave a sample of several of the clubs activities. The first activity I did when I got there was mountain biking. It was muddy and gross, so by the end of the trail I was covered in mud. The ride was definitely worth it though because I saw my first wild Aussie animal- the wallaby! There were about 5 of them just chilling. Of course I had to get a ton of pictures.


Following a classic lunch of sausages on bread was kayaking. We had to practice wet exits on the kayak in case we flipped because they were closed topped kayaks. Once all of us had proven our ability we started a game of keep away with teams. The first team to get 10 consecutive passes of a polo ball got a point. I thankfully didn’t flip.

The last activity of the day was regaining which is running to find clues on a map worth different points. Well- we were supposed to run. By the end of the day my group decided to leisurely find the points and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. We saw more wallaby’s tooJ.

The next adventure was a Friday- Sunday trip aptly named Carnage. We drove down to the Cathedral Ranges on Friday evening and set up camp. My friends and I toasted marshmallows on the campfire. We got up bright and early the next morning for a full day hike. And by hike I do not mean a walk in a park- it was an intense 8 hour journey up Sugarloaf Mountain, along Jawbone Ridge to the summit of Cathedral Mountain. This trip included scaling up rock faces, climbing through narrow caverns, and several instances where I was scared for my life. However, we all made it to the top, and the view was amazing.


We had tacos that night for dinner. The next morning shared pancakes with our feathered friend before setting off to kayaking. There was no polo ball this time, but there were rapids and a strong current. The experience kayakers taught us how to paddle into eddies what to do on rapids. As to my success on this… let’s just say I became very good by the end on getting out of the overturned kayak. Still, it was a good experience.

My most recent camping trip was to the Arapiles for outdoor rock climbing. I’ve done indoor before, but never outdoor climbing, so this was a different experience. When I went to the gym to practice I’d been doing around a level 8 (this is Australian levels, I’m not sure how others are graded around the world, but here it’s from 1-32. All of our climbs were top rope. I tried an 8 first and was so happy at getting to the top. By the end of the trip I’d successfully completed a 16! I was so proud of myself. I like outdoor climbing better than indoor because there is more freedom to pick your own path rather than having to follow what was given.


The Sunday of the trip was Easter, so the leaders of the trip hid chocolate eggs along the paths we climbed up. It was such a treat to make it half way and find a little chocolate egg sitting there. The climbs were really fun that day. One of them included a cave. After taking a second to explore the cave, the way to end the climb was to do a flying fox jump which meant swinging out and turning around to catch yourself with your feet against the wall before being belayed down. Another activity I got to try was abseiling which is essentially belaying yourself down the cliff. At the top looking down I was terrified! I didn’t want to step over the cliff- it just goes against human nature to walk off a rock ledge! The first few steps were the worst, but then it was pretty interesting.

I’m really glad I found this club to do trips with. The people I’ve meet through it are so nice, and I’ve gotten to try so many fun things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I hope I can continue to do these types of adventures when I get back to the US too.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Food, sports, and ferrets

   So I've now been in Melbourne for a while and yes I know the last entry was talking about scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, so this is a bit out of chronology. Anyways, so far I'm loving Monash. In Australia most students live off campus usually with their families. Of the 20,000 students at Clayton campus on around 3,000 or so live on campus in Halls. I'm in Farrer (the coolest hall). I know I've already said this, but the people here are so friendly. When I first checked into MRS (Monash Residential Services) they directed me to my room. One of the RAs went out of her way to show me where to go. Then when I was walking past the kitchen I was immediately welcomed and invited to join a group cooking for burgers.

  We have to cook mostly for ourselves here. There are a bunch of brands that I have never seen before at the supermarket, but would love to have back home. One of these is Shapes which are crackers with different flavorings. And of course the Tim Tam cookies that I tried and loved in Sydney. To solve the cooking situation I joined a cooking group with 3 of my friends. I make a meal for the 4 of us each Tuesday night then don't have to worry about making dinner the rest of the week. At first everyone was a little nervous with cooking skills, but now each week we feast on delicious stews, burritos, stir-fry, pizzas and more. Before this I'd never had to cook for myself, so its been a great learning experience.

   My floor is awesome. It is a combination of Australian students (usually ones who don't live near Melbourne) and Internationals. I have friends from England, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, and more. There are constant debates about the correct word for something. One example of this is flip-flops which are called thongs in Australia and jandals New Zealand. I've had several lost in translation moments...Me: "I'm making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!" My friend: "What- who puts jelly on a sandwich?" Me: (very confused) "everybody in the US does". I take out the jar. My friend: "that’s jam!- jelly is the wiggly sweet stuff". Me: "that’s jello!" And to this day there is still and argument about what the sweet fruity substance that goes on toast is.

   Food is great for sharing culture with. I have to say I really enjoyed the ANZAC biscuits (since they are Australian they are biscuits instead of cookies). They are in commemoration of the troops in the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC day remembers the soldiers who fought in WWI. In return for the biscuits, I introduced my friends to s'mores- my favorite camping treat! Another food I've tried while in Australia is vegemite. I tried it on my own earlier by spreading it on toast in a similar fashion as one spreads nutella, to great disgust. However, when one of my Aussie friends made it for me it was delicious! The trick is to put a lot of butter and a little vegemite. I now have my own tub of it.

   Another great sharing of culture is through sports. Early in the semester Halls had a Quidditch match (yes Quidditch!)muggle style of course. Farrer supporters came out proudly wearing our green (does that make us Slytherin?) with banners that included our mascot the ferret. The game is played on a turf basketball/soccer court with the basketball hoop as a 30 point goal and two vertical hula hoops hanging off the soccer posts as the 10 point goals. There are 7 players all of whom run with pool noodles between their legs. The chasers throw a net ball into the goals, the keeper protects the goal, the beaters throw dodge balls at the other players to make them drop the ball and run a lap, and the seeker catches the snitch. The snitch is a cross country runner provided by one of the other halls who runs around the whole campus while the seekers chases him. The seeker who catches the snitch scores 150 points for their team. I played chaser and had such a blast. It was really intense and physical, but after much blood sweat, tears, and jinxes Farrer came away Halls Quidditch champions! Much of the credit goes to our awesome seeker who really ends up scoring most of the points in this game.

   Our next inter-hall sport was footy or Australian Rules Football. Its played on a field with 18 players using a combination of kicks and specialized passes (known as handballing) to advance the ball down the field and kick it through goal posts to score either 1 or 6 points. This sport is only played in Australia and is most popular in Victoria where 10 of the 18 AFL (Australian Football League) teams come from. I watched and cheered our boys team as they played several exciting matches. One of the matches later in the day was an all girls match combining multiple halls to make up the teams. With some coaching beforehand one of my Canadian friends and I started the game. Since I was the tallest player on the court I got to do the 'ball-up' which is the footy equivalent of a tip-off in basketball. I really enjoyed playing footy. It was disappointing girls only had one match.

   The next sport to be played was netball. This was a league instead of a one time event. Unlike Quidditch most people playing netball had actaully played before on our team and I had never even seen a match. Its not a popular sport in the US. People told me it was like basketball, but it had some key differences. First off, you can't run move with the ball, you must stay 3 feet away from the person with the ball, players have certain zones they are allowed in depending on their position, and there is no backboard to the basket. I constantly got called for breaking pretty much every rule there was. I promise I really did try to be 3 feet away, but I just never moved backwards fast enough. My teammates were always very helpful and supportive (I'm glad they even let me play). By the last game I began to get a handle on what I could and couldn't do.

  Still, it was a relief to go back to familiar basketball. All the halls we usually compete against teamed up to play a basketball game against a rival hall, Mannix. I played center for the team and it was so much fun. A bunch of my friends came to cheer us on- I'm so lucky to have such supportive friends :) Thanks to the hard work of the whole team, we beat Mannix!