Thursday, August 6, 2009

Australia trip

This summer, I went to Australia. It was a trip with People to People, which is an American organization founded by President Eisenhower, designed to culture understanding between cultures, and allow American students from 6th grade to adults travel the world in organized, well planned out trips. They travel to every continent on the globe.

July 14 - I went to Seattle Tacoma International Airport where I met with my fellow delegates and boarded a plane for Los Angeles International Airport. It was a nice flight on a Virgin aircraft. We landed in Los Angeles and hung around the airport for a number of hours. I didn't find LAX very well laid out, and it is hugemongos, so on a first glimpse, I thought it was a little confusing. We boarded V Australia late at night and took off. It was pretty smooth to the Australian coast, but a ways off of the Australian coast there was a thunderstorm, and our plane was hit. But it was barely a scratch and we landed as expected in Sydney at 7:10 am on July 16th. But since there were thunderstorms, we didn't depart from Cairns as expected. We stayed at the airport for many hours until about 4:00 PM. Before we got to leave, I saw an American show like Oprah playing in the airport, which was interesting in how much American media dominates the world. We then took off to Cairns in Queensland. We landed at 6:00 where we met Peeta, our delegation manager, and Hayden, our bus driver. We went to dinner first, and I had a tropical fish that was really tasty, followed by going to the hotel. It is in the tropics, so the sun set at 6:30, and we were at the hotel. We went to bed after writing in our journals.

July 17 - We started, after a continental breakfast at the resort, going to the reef. We went to a touristy place where they bring you out on a boat on the ocean to a dock that is in the reef. The sea was very rough. We docked with a dock that is in the ocean on the reef. It has a restaurant, and swimming equipment. I got into a wetsuit, which covers my entire body keeping me warm, and learned how to snorkel. I have swum all my life, and to put your face into the water and be able to breath took a minute to get used to. I swum in the small swimming area next to the dock, and then went back up. I went on a boat further out on the reef where I snorkeled with a group of people to people people. I saw amazing fish and the unique coral, which forms valleys, and is amazing. Coming from Washington, I am used to ocean water being freezing cold, but the tropical water was nice and warm. It is very pleasant to swim in. We went back to land and went straight to a night market where I bought a few things. It was a lot like a farmers' market, with many booths and many items for sale. I got some shirts.

July 18 - The next day we headed north to the rain forest. We went up the mountain to the top where there was a store and tourist gifts. We went into a little gondola and went down the mountain. It is a beautiful area, similar to the Hoh rainforest in the density of life, but different in the types of trees that are there. We went down the mountain stopping several times to walk around, and at the end were at the main place with a store and a few other things. I might have got something, and we then went to the Aboriginal cultural park. The first thing that we did was learn how to throw a boomerang. You throw it with it upright, but slanted towards your body a little, bringing it back, and then throwing it. We then threw spears at hay bails using a small stick that gives us better leverage. We then went to learn about a leaf that smells like lemons that also makes noses clear of goo, followed by face painting, and going to see a play. Some boys from our delegation got their chests painted and they danced with the Aborigines which was really fun. We finished the day by going on the road to the farm stay. We arrived, unpacked, had dinner, and then went star gazing. We saw the southern cross, and I now know how to find north, and south, a very useful skill.

July 19 - We started the day by learning how to milk a cow, something I hadn't done before, and seeing how they make meat out of livestock. I now know that I do not want to be a farmer. We then went to the freezing river where some people swimmed. I chose to stay out of the below 10 degree water. We then had free time, and I asked the farm owner about what sports they play in Australia. The sports they play the most are Australian football, American football, rugby, and soccer. We then went in groups to the old homestead, which is where the old farm owner Jack lived. He was not a very kind man, having hung some boys up by their toes for not doing a job correctly. It had many antiques, which was interesting to see. We ended the day by going around Woodley station in a truck. It is a very big farm, with many pastures that are all larger than my property. During that night, their son brought a very confused goat into both of our delegation's tents, which woke us up, and I've been told is a joke. I don't think it is very funny though.

July 20 - We left the homestead and went across the mountains back to the coast. We went south to the billabong wildlife sanctuary outside Townsville. We learned about different fauna of Australia including koalas, wombats, and crocodiles. We then kept going south until we got to Ayr, which is where we heard how Australian local government works. It is very similar to America's counties. We walked around Ayr and then went to our hotel. I relaxed in the hot tub a bit with people from our delegation and the Montana delegation which would be at the same hotels for a number of days.

July 21 - We drove a lot, and had a stop at a shopping mall in Mackay. We watched a lot of crocodile hunter on the bus. I got a nice shirt. We landed in Yeppoon, which is supposedly a very posh resort.

July 22 - The first thing we did was go to Capricorn caves. We learned a little about fruit bats and then climbed through the caves. There then were three cave hikes we could do, and I chose the intermediate one. It was really cool, with a couple places where the cave got really closed in. The front of my shirt, unlike a lot of other people's, was clean. We then made our way back to the resort after lunch. I found that their washer and dryer were very old, and I wasn't allowed in the weight room even though I am old enough. We then went to the crocodile farm which is where we saw how powerful crocodiles are once again and got to eat crocodile soup. It was a cool activity. They are extremely powerful creatures.

July 23 - Another driving day, though for lunch we stopped at a little christian school in Gin Gin. the kids were nice, and

July 24 - We drove again, down all the way to Brisbane. We went to Queen Street Mall where we shopped for several hours. We then went to where the ferry was going to take us to Moreton island, and saw some cricket. We crossed the bay and fed dolphins on the island. My phone got soaked when I walked into the water, and is completely ruined.

July 25 - We spent the day on Moreton Island. We fed pelicans. They are really big birds with yellow eyes. We went further into the island to the sand dunes through the rainforest in coaches. The trail is very bumpy. The sand was wet, and because of that we couldn't go sand tobogganing on a large dune in the island, which was disappointing because the other delegation did. The island is mainly rainforest and has great trees. We had lunch back at the lodge and went snorkeling at the wrecks. We were out of the tropics and the water was really cold, and I decided to come in. We were supposed to hold onto a line in the water too, and because people were sitting on it I couldn't reach it, so I went back on the boat. When we got back we got changed and after resting heard some lectures about the local dolphins and how much damage is being done to them by people. After hanging out in my hotel room after dinner, my friend Brian dragged me down to where people were dancing. I hung out and danced a little. It was cool. The first dance since 8th grade.

July 26 - We drove down to the Gold Coast. It is filled with amusement park rides and malls, a very preppy place. I got a couple things, but not much, and then we were in New South Wales after going back to the mainland. We drove into New South Wales, I missed the sign, and took on the coastal route through a rural area to Byron bay where we ate lunch. There is a local college that is probably like Evergreen and there was a music festival with hundreds of hippies. It was amazing what clothing they were wearing!!!! We went to a pizza restaurant and had lunch. I now know that Olympia is not the hippie capital of the world, that is Byron Bay. The streets looked like arts walk on steroids, and it wasn't even a parade! We went to the easternmost point of Australia too, which is Cape Byron. I got almost to the tip before it was time to go back. We drove south some more until we hit Ballina. We all met our families and I was with Mickey at Barb and Jordan's. They showed me some of their coins, from about 7 countries. Mickey and I gave them some USD to help with their collection. Before going to bed I played Battlefront II with Jordan on his Playstation.

July 27 - After dropping by a friend's house we went over to Jordan's school, which is a nice little Christian school in Ballina. We started by playing volleyball, basketball, and rugby, which was interesting. I was terrible at volleyball. We then had a snack, and I sat with some 6th/7th grade girls telling them about America. They were all interested and want to come here someday. I then tried rugby some more. We then had a detour to a tea tree oil plantation 500 meters from their school. We did a scavenger hunt through a maze and a small rainforest. The entire area around Ballina before the Europeans came was covered by rainforest. We watched a video about the farm and then walked back to the school. We were divided into groups and went into individual classrooms where my group did a quiz. I was in a 4th grade class. A lot of the questions were about words, and most of us Americans didn't know the answers, and then did some art. We took a piece of wood which we painted and put a long string at one end. It makes a loud whooshing noise when you spin it in the air. We then went back to the house on the bus. Barb came in right after we got home and we played soccer on the PS2. They offered to give us some of their coins and gave them some more USD. We went to dinner with the other Americans. I hung around and didn't do too much. we came home and got ready to leave after we gave our gifts. Mine was a book about Washington and a bag with Native American art on it, and 4 pens.

July 28 - We then went back on the coach and went south. We stopped at our final destination in Coffs harbor, where we saw the "big banana" which is a plantation with lots of banana things. We then went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was a good movie, but the end stopped 5 minutes too early and didn't include Dumbledore's funeral, which wouldn't take long to get the scene in, and it left out some important scenes that set up the Deathly Hallows.

July 29 - We drove all day and got to Sydney at 6:00. We ate and then went to the hotel, where I yet again couldn't get Internet.

July 30 - We spent the whole day in the Blue Mountains at a site managed by Full On which is a company that works with people to people only. We started the day by rappelling down a cliff. We started by practicing a little and then my half of the group did a maze first, which was on a checkerboard and you are supposed to go through without making any mistakes. We then went to the cliff which is a short walk away. I was near the back of the group and people went down in front of me. I went down, and saw the valley. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. Once I was down it was easy and really cool. The fear you feel before you do it goes away once you start rappelling. We went back to the full on lodge. We started by breaking boards after lunch. I did a simple hand break, and made it on the third attempt. We spent the rest of the day doing other activities and hearing about a part in the back of your brain that helps you focus on what you want to focus on. We went back to Sydney after dinner.

31 July - Today was really cool. We went out to the waterfront where the opera house is. We looked around and saw the amazing architecture. We also went into the symphony hall where we heard the Sydney Symphony Orchestra rehearse for that night's performance. It was music to an old Russian movie about the Russian Revolution. We finished that and I got a few more souvenirs. We went then further into Sydney where we went to the top of Sydney tower. In it you can see boats coming to Australia 2 hours before you can in the harbor. We also walked outside of it tethered to the tower, and there were always barriers, so we couldn't fall. We went shopping at a mall, ate and then went back to the hotel, I went to the pool.

1 August - We went out first to the Sydney Cricket grounds. We met our guides and then went to the Football field. It is small by American standards, but fits the population of footballers in Sydney. We then went a little further to the cricket ground. It is one of the most important cricket grounds in the world and the field has been used for over a hundred years. I got to walk out on it. We all went to the practice cages and while there we played some. I unfortunately didn't get a chance to bat, which was disappointing, and I was bad at bowling too. We then went to Port Jackson. We went around on a boat where we ate lunch. We got to see the different inlets of it and it was a lot like Puget Sound, only smaller. After that, we went to an opal store where we learned about how rare opals are and how they are mined. We went shopping one last time at the Queen Victoria building. I was pretty shopped out by then, and I got a few pins for my landyard. We ate dinner and went back to the hotel for the last time.

2 August - Our last day in Australia. We started by driving to Bondi Beach. It is a nice beach and would be crowded in the summer time. I looked in a market which was right next to it, and couldn't decide which Harry Potter book to buy, so I didn't get any. We went back to Sydney for lunch and then went to the aquarium. They have a wonderful collection of fish from the southern Indian Ocean which is really cool. They also have marine mammals. We had an early dinner and then went back to the airport. Some of the people in my delegation put down their "race" for their nationality which upset one of the customs officials. We all got through and we were on our way back to America. 14 hours later we were in LAX. We had to go outside unfortunately to go to the other terminal. It was extremely humid outside. We got onto our flight home and there was Mom, Dad, and Giorgi waiting for me at the airport.

All in all, Australia is a really nice country and I will go again someday to share the sights with my family.

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