“I can’t believe we finally made it,” breathing a sigh of relief after my final midterm exam this past Saturday afternoon. After an immensely stressful week 4 and 5, all the pressure, stress, and weight of exams, papers and field exercises were off my shoulders. I could finally relax and not have to worry about cramming in a massive amount of work into our already structured, jam packed schedules. Unfortunately, my perfectionist mentality got the best of me, which made even the smallest assignments seem like massive projects.
Week 4 kicked off with a practice directed research project for Rainforest Ecology. Three days, 9 hours per day spent in Ravenshoe collecting data in dry open Eucalypt forest. Our mission: find active feeding (Eucalyptus resinifera) and den (Eucalyptus grandis) tress used by Yellow-bellied Gliders in order to access the population in North Queensland. The active or inactive determination was beyond a tedious task. Sifting through the brush and debris, canopy cover, surrounding tree species, understory density, and numerous other measures were calculated for each tree discovered on our 500 meter transect. Not to mention the massive Tiger Leeches we had to pull off every once in a while.
Our reward: Cairns. Saturday at noon we arrived in Cairns and checked into our hostel, Gilligans. Exploration, beach volleyball, and swimming filled my first exposure to the bustling beach city in the lowlands of Far North Queensland. That night, the entire group went out and experienced the night life of our first major Australian city. The next morning, half of the group went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. However, the rest of the group and I went out and familiarized ourselves with Carins. Stores, internet cafes, and restaurants were staked out for future reference on our next two Cairns weekends. Unfortunately, we were forced to carry around our bags the entire day since checkout was at 10 a.m. At 7 p.m., we loaded up and headed back home up the Gilles Highway.
Who needs to unpack when Daintree is less than 2 days away? By the time we got back from Cairns, it was already Week 5, and time to leave Warrawee again for another excursion. This past Tuesday we packed up the trailer and headed 4 hours to the Daintree Rainforest. Although the SFS center is in the rainforest, there are various types throughout the northern and eastern coasts of Australia. Whenever you picture a rainforest, Daintree, is what you’re thinking of. All three days were spent in the lowlands within this pristine, type 1a rainforest environment. With staggering 90 degree weather and 95 percent humidity, Daintree was muggy and disgustingly hot.
Fortunately, before we had to endure the intense heat, the group stopped at Mossman Gorge to break up the long drive. Mossman Gorge is owned by the aboriginal people of Australia. The river water is sacred and thought to have healing properties. Full of rapids, rocks, and cool clear water, it was the most refreshing swim of the trip. However, we didn’t swim for long. Our idea of fun; trying to cross the rapids without getting swept downstream. After getting three-quarters across, we decided that the rapids were too strong to risk injury. Regardless, I already had plenty of bruises and cuts from being swept away once, which undoubtedly was worth the adrenaline rush.
During our stay in Daintree at Crocadyllus Village, a local hostel, we visited an exotic fruit farm, traversed numerous trails, and of course went spotlighting. Between eating breadfruit and seeing the endangered Southern Cassowary, the trip lived up to expectations. Our luck didn’t run out there. We were able to see a 28 foot long crocodile named Scarface on our windboat tour of the Daintree River. However, we did encounter dozens of Golden Orb Weaver spiders. Whenever you see a spider bigger than your hand, you hope and pray one doesn’t end up in your room. Most importantly, the weather held up all three days. The forecast predicted rain, but the only drop that fell was while we were asleep. The sun shined bright at every stop, which was absolutely perfect for photography.
Our arrival back to Warrawee on Thursday afternoon was far from a relief. The entire group buckled down and studied for our three exams: one on Friday (Socioeconomics and Environmental Policy) and two on Saturday (Natural Resource Management and Rainforest Ecology). Spending Sunday in Yungaburra playing soccer and exploring the town was the perfect way to celebrate surviving exam week. Midterm exams mark the midway point in the semester. I can’t believe we are already halfway done. Where the time has gone? Feels like just yesterday my flight was landing in Cairns!
Unfortunately, on my trip to Cairns I was unable to upload pictures. I left my camera cord in my drawer back at the center. I am hoping that my homestay family will have internet in their guest house this weekend, so I can upload pictures. Whenever I do get the opportunity I am dedicating an entire post to pictures. Everyone deserves to see what I am witnessing down under.
Francis DeLeo '14