Leaving Australia

The Longest Day Ever

By Loren Butler

Today ended our two-week journey “Down Under.” It was a day of mixed feelings about leaving Australia. For me, I was extremely happy to be going home and sleeping in my own bed. I couldn’t wait. After about day seven, I was starting to feel a little homesick anyway. I woke up excited about leaving and packed my things. We checked out of the hotel and headed to brunch. It was the most beautiful day we had seen in Australia. The sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky. There was the perfect breeze so you didn’t get too hot. All of this made me a little sad considering we had rain 11 out of the 14 days we were there. After brunch, we had some time before heading to the airport. My roommate and I decided to walk along the water and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Cairns. Read more

Tjapukai Visit

By John Gary

Throughout the trip through Tjapukai I could not help but notice all the similarities between their creation story and that of all other religions. It seems that some characteristics are universal. Watching their creation story was definitely a highlight of the trip through their sanctuary. It was interesting to hear everyone’s opinions on the story. Read more

Queensland University

By Tori Ingerson

Queensland University was an impressive campus as you enter. The grounds were beautifully kept and there were winding walkways as we headed to the large open grass area. Nothing was as impressive as the large sandstone blocks that the school was made of. They stood three stories high and each had their own unique hue and texture that came together masterfully. Colors of yellow and orange ruled most of the blocks with swirls of purple and red spotted around the courtyard. We lined up for a photo in the grass. The females were very attentive. The photographer was prettier than all of us. No problems smiling at him.


We finished and walked into a ground level classroom. We were met by a middle-aged woman that was very friendly. I struggled to listen but she greeted us with a welcome presentation. Oddly it was a welcome to Australia, not just Brisbane. Since we had already been there a week, most of us had realized they drive on the opposite side of the road but she made sure to emphasize this. The presentation was short and had little to do with the city however we did get to learn about the University and its’ history. We are spoiled in America having so many Ivy League schools, the significance of the school was slightly lost on me until it was further explained.

The student body was mixed. There were many people of different races. There seems to be a large Asian presence everywhere in Australia. Some students were dressed in business casual, some seemed to have a uniform of some sort. Many of the young ladies had the same skirt and blazer on, perhaps it’s a cultural thing. Very few students were in jeans and tee shirts but there were some speckled throughout. The campus seemed very large although the vegetation made it feel homey and not so much like an institution.

Kuranda Railway

By Josh Hutchinson

Growing up accompanying my grandfather on trips along the old railway line where he worked, I was not unfamiliar with their workings and capability to surprise even the most well-traveled guest. However, the historic Kuranda Railway has a charm rarely seen on tracks elsewhere in the world.

Snaking its way through the Macalister Range, this 23-mile track passes several waterfalls and crosses 55 bridges providing breathtaking views throughout. Upon boarding the train, I was impressed with the rustic feel of the carriage. Red leather seats in rows of 4 awaited us with space for up to 40 passengers per carriage. As the friendly voice tape reminded us, the carriages have all recently been restored in order to retain their original look and feel.

After several initial squabbles over who was to secure a prized window seat, the train slowly pulled away from the historic Kuranda Railway Station to make its steady way towards Cairns via Freshwater and also a quick stop at Barron Falls for photo opportunities. Aside from the obvious scenic views, the train provides an interesting glimpse into the lives of the over 1500 workers who toiled away in the baking heat in order to make the railway a reality.


Given the sheer drops faced at many points in the journey, it is easy to see how over 30 workers sadly lost their lives whilst building the railway. Despite the high human price paid for the completion of the railway, it is certainly a significant feat of human engineering. It was interesting to sit and marvel at the logistics of building the track through the mountainside.


The village of Kuranda itself is just a short walk from the Railway Station. Whilst on the small side and evidently geared towards tourists, gifts and souvenirs can be purchased for a cheaper price than in Cairns itself.

Overall, the Kuranda Railway provided breathtaking views of the rainforest as it dawdled through the mountainside and was certainly an unforgettable experience unique to North Queensland.

The Great Barrier Reef

by Catherine Clark

A brief, brisk walk down to the docks and before I knew it, we were boarding a magnificent sailboat that would take us to the small sandy island of Michaelmas Quay. After about an hour of windy, rocky sailing, we arrived at our destination. The water was as clear as glass, filled with fish and sea creatures of all kinds. The day ahead was full of fun opportunities to explore the miraculous ecosystem right below our feet.

My first exploration began with a tour of the reef on a glass-bottom boat that glided over the coral communities to showcase its beauty without even having to touch the water. We heard about the different types of coral, different species of fish, and all the other life that exists under the surface.

Then we got back on the sailboat, changed into all our snorkelling gear and headed to the island on a small boat with other eager tourists and locals to experience first-hand the largest living organism on earth.

The water, although crystal clear, was cold at first touch. We braved through the initial shock and swam out to the closest patches of coral we could find. Literally, inches below my nose were countless little living organisms, with exoskeletons and hungry bellies, feeding on the bright beautiful sunshine all day and plankton all night, living in harmony with all the other creatures of the sea. How amazing is that? As I tried to focus on breathing through my snorkel and not inhaling a mouth or nose full of salt water, I couldn’t help but have my breath completely and totally taken away by the marvels of our wonderful world.

The beauty of the Australian coast is without a doubt one of the most beautiful parts of the ocean I have ever seen, and I cannot wait to come back someday to once again be completely overwhelmed by the spectacular species of the Great Barrier Reef.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

By Elise Karriker

Today was a day of dreams come true. I got up-close and personal with kangaroos that roamed freely; got to hold a cute, cuddly koala; and saw a baby kangaroo in its mother’s pouch.  Truly, my ‘bucket list’ just took a triple hit! When we arrived at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the anticipation was real. So real. I couldn’t wait to hold, and get my picture taken with, a koala. I’ve always loved koalas and thought that they were so cute. With their calm and deliberate ways, they remind me of my favorite animal, the sloth. To set the stage for our visit, we heard a brief lecture from the general manager about Lone Pine and some of its marketing and other business strategies. It was so interesting how little the nonprofit spends on marketing each year, yet it continues to grow steadily, as does its customer base. Lone Pine simply lets its guests do the marketing with their pictures and reviews, and this approach is obviously working. I mean, koala pictures are a pretty great marketing tool! Even more, I am proof of the contagious enthusiasm generated by the experiences the sanctuary offers. After the lecture, we walked further into the zoo and to the first exhibit: the koala exhibit. I went immediately to the store and got my photo pass as fast as I could, then got in line to hold one of these adorable creatures. Finally, it was my turn. I held a koala. She was soft and cuddly, and I felt like “Cordelia” was giving me a hug. Even though I was filled with such joy, I had to work to contain my excitement so I wouldn’t frighten this sweet Aussie ambassador.

Snack-a-roo

After lunch, my friends and I went to the free-roaming kangaroo area. Difficult as it is to top holding a koala, this may have been my favorite part of our visit. I had purchased a small bag of kangaroo food and began feeding and taking pictures with the adorable “’roos.” They are such beautiful and unique creatures, with their contrasting bunny-like faces and scissor-like claws. Interacting with them and watching them interact with each other was just amazing. They let us get so close, seemed to ‘ham it up’ for pictures, and some of them would even hold my hand as they were eating out of it. This was probably one of the cutest things I have ever seen. One thing that I have always wanted to see was a baby kangaroo (a joey) in its pouch. Now, I kind of wish I hadn’t seen it, as this picture was actually a bit disturbing. (Let’s just say that the inside of the pouch is definitely not all cute and fuzzy like we’ve been led to think.) But, it still was an unforgettable experience.

Met the cutest baby kangaroo

This cute ‘roo grabbed my hand as I was feeding him

Cute and cuddly koalas. This picture was taken after the one on the far right jumped over both of the other koalas to get to his resting spot!

Brisbane’s XXXX Brewery

By Tony Brienza

It was a long, fun day, in Brisbane, Australia. It was the first day without rain and we started it with a few presentations at the University of Queensland and then went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Towards the end of the day, we boarded the bus and began the trip to XXXX Brewery. The outside of the factory was amazing and had a large billboard of the famous Mr. Fourex. We walked inside and the tour officially began.

We walked into a room, put on a safety vest, and began to watch a video about the history of beer. After that, we moved to a big theatre and another video played about the 135 years of history at XXXX. Beer was originally labeled by X’s and they decided to keep that as their name. We were warned by our funny tour guy that told us no photos were allowed in the factory and then began to walk up the stairs into the brewery where we took the steps of brewing beer and the ingredients used. We even got to taste some of the barley used in their beer.

We then walked into the room where they filtered the beer and were able to take some pictures. After that, we were walked into a museum where they had many old wooden kegs, old bottles and cans, and old advertisement. One of my favorite bottles was from 1883 and called a Blenheim Stout. I fell in love with this bottle because my family recently got a Caviler King Charles and the bottle contained an image of a Blenheim Caviler. I wish they still made that beer so I could bring one home for my family but, they stopped brewing it in 1930. Next, we got to see the bottling and packaging process. This was a really exciting process see since I am a supply chain manager. Overall it was a very cool experience and was very informative on their history, advertising, and bottling process.

Zoo Day

By Jon Thompson

June 13th started just as our previous days here have started, with rain pouring from the clouds over the east coast of Australia. We are convinced that the storm is following us on our journey up north to Cairns as well, but hopefully, positive thoughts will help us conclude this trip with some good weather.

Through the rain and clouds, we journeyed an hour and a half to Beerwah, Queensland where we were entertained by mellow Kangaroos, lazy Tigers, leaping Crocodiles and many more at the Australia Zoo. As a kid, I idolized Steve Irwin’s passion for animals and adventure. Being able to visit his zoo and see the impact that he’s left on the employees and his family was incredible. The crocodile hunter died almost 11 years ago and today his family, the Australia Zoo, and the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve still carry out his legacy and research every day. When people visit the Australia Zoo or the SIWR, they are funding conservation projects that protect many species including crocodiles, tigers, wombats, elephants and cheetah. June 13th was a free day with the option to pay extra to go to the zoo, but growing up a huge crocodile hunter fan and knowing the amazing things that the Irwin family does for animals across the world, going to the zoo was a no-brainer for me.

We arrived at the zoo and were told the best way to see everything was to take the shuttle to the other end of the park and walk back. So that’s what we did. First, we saw Giraffes, Zebras, and Rhinos. We then walked down to Bindi’s Island where we saw colorful Macaws, a 300 kg Tortoise, and a pack of Lemurs with their tails wrapped around their bodies like scarves to keep warm. We wanted to make it to the “Croceseum” to catch the show, but on the way, we saw Tigers, Kangaroos, Koalas, Emus, and exotic flora native to Australia. We had trekked back close to the beginning where we caught the wildlife show that featured many different species of birds, a few snakes, and a crocodile finale. There are over 800 species of bird in Australia and half of those are only found in Australia.

We witnessed the precision and elegance that many of these birds are capable of exhorting while they flew over the crowd, which is something we may never see again unless we come back to Australia (I will be back). The finale included the stealthy and dangerous crocodile feeding which was intriguing to see the bravery of the staff as they dangled fish and birds inches away from the crocodile’s mouth. The show ended with the crocodile vertically leaping out of the water to snatch his snack from the trainer’s hand with minimal effort.

If you’re ever in Brisbane, Australia, I highly recommend going to the Australia Zoo. It’s a great mixture of plant and animal life and on a bright sunny day, I’m sure it’s 10 times more fun and lively than what we experienced today.

Free Day in Brisbane

By Rachel Deena

On the first free day in Brisbane me, along with my classmates were disappointed to find that the rain that had stayed with us throughout Sydney had followed us to Brisbane. Our plans for an adventurous hike through Mt. Coot-Tha was fading with each hour of rain past. Luckily the afternoon brought wonderfully warm sunny weather that we had all been missing since we departed our sunny summer North Carolina. A couple of students and I jumped on this opportunity and made our way to the trail. With each twist and turn up the mountain I was nervous that we would never reach the showers of the waterfall. The impatience was beginning to wear me thin and the only thing that kept me calm was the constant breathtaking views. Being outdoors brings a special feeling of peace and excitement all at once for me. I have gone hiking in the past in New England and also in Tanzania, Africa,

and being able to hike in Australia was a dream come true. However, this dream didn’t seem to be going as I was intending as we turned up another uphill climb. Just as my hopes were beginning to fade we reached the spot that we had been searching for. While the water was freezing, due to it being winter here in Australia, I couldn’t resist staying in it for the whole time. As the sun started lowering above us we made our way back down the mountain discussing how we were so proud of ourselves for this impromptu adventure.

First Impressions of Brisbane

By Kevin Poulin

Today was our first day in Brisbane, my first impression of Brisbane started off when we left the airport and got on the bus and I noticed that this bus was a lot nicer than our first bus in Sydney. The seats were much bigger with more room and were more comfortable. As we started driving around the city I noticed that there was a lot of smaller houses right outside of the city and the surrounding areas had a lot more green space than Sydney. At first it looked like the city only had a few tall buildings compared to Sydney which had tons of tall buildings. Once we got in to the city it was obvious that all the buildings were very tall and there was just a few that were taller than the rest. My first observation was only because we were so far away from the city. As we made our way to our first stop in Brisbane to the mountain top we passed many lush trees going up the mountain and passed a rock quarry on the left-hand side.

Once we got to the top of the mountain there was a parking lot with an overlook area, a gift shop, and a restaurant with a view of the whole city and the surrounding areas. The view was incredible and the viewing conditions were perfect. We could see for miles. You could see all the magnificent architecture of the buildings and the surrounding areas with the mountains in the back with a river going next to the city. I found out that the University of Queensland is right next to the river but it was hard to see because we were so far away. As we were leaving I could hear some type of bird in the trees that I have never heard before making a loud noise. I tried to ask someone what kind of bird that was but the other person didn’t know as well.

When we got to our rooms I went out to the balcony to admire the view of the city but because I was only on the 7th floor I could not see much because of all the other buildings that were so much taller. The balcony had a good view of the pool that I plan on using at some point tonight. Because we had a free day, I went to lobby to ask the front desk for information about going to Fraser Island or Moreton Island. Fraser Island is the world’s largest all-sand island in the world and Moreton Island is the world’s 3rd largest all-sand island. This is one of the excursions that I had really been looking forward to but to my surprise what I was told at the orientation pertaining to free days and excursions was wrong. The professors at the meeting made it clear that any excursions that we wanted to do on free days could be booked in Australia. This information I learned was false because I spent 30 minutes with the front desk trying to find a tour to go to one of the islands and I did research on my own before to know what different tours were offered. I was interested in one of the tours where you take a boat over to the island and drive around on a 4×4 ATV across the sand dunes. This tour was no longer available and there were no longer tours available to go to either of the two islands. After I found out this bad news I decided to go back to my room and shower and take a nap.

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