I didn’t sign up for this! When I think about Australia, I picture kangaroos, dingos, and pythons. Never did it cross my mind at any point in the application process that the wet tropics would be infested with these pests. Well, that statement isn’t entirely true. I knew that Australia is famous for poisonous spiders, but that’s beside the point. Between swatting flies every five seconds, consistently pulling leeches off of my legs, and watching spiders spin webs in the cabin ceiling, I am slowly developing a case of paranoia. However, there is nothing more terrifying than rolling your pants up and seeing a swarm of leeches attached to your leg.
All blood sucking aside, the trip has been phenomenal thus far. Week 1 consisted mainly of getting acclimated to the 15 hour time difference, classes, no electronics, and the center and its rules, while Week 2 was trips, trips, and more trips offsite. The time difference hasn’t been too difficult to adjust to. Although, I do find myself dozing off in the middle of the afternoon when it is normally 2-4 a.m. back home. Not to mention it is incredibly difficult to communicate with family and friends. McDonald’s WiFi in Atherton is not cutting it for Skype and uploading pictures. Nonetheless, I do enjoy not having to check my phone or send an e-mail every five minutes.
So what is life in Australia like? Between the 80 degree weather, beautiful scenery, and abundant wildlife there is nothing better. Can’t say I’d rather be trudging through the multiple feet of snow in Worcester. However, I learned quickly how different and structured life is at the center. In addition, the immense amount of rules and safety precautions are a lot to handle sometimes. More often than not my schedule varies day to day, but most weekdays breakfast is 7:30-8:30 a.m., lunch is 12:00-1:00 p.m., and dinner is 5:30-6:30 p.m. Classroom lectures fill the morning and afternoon with field lectures and workshops thrown in now and then. The long day is capped off with a night activity or free time. Usually, I hit the hay around 10 p.m. due to the 7 a.m. (or earlier in most cases) wake up. However, every Friday is community service and Warrawork (cleaning), every Saturday night is pub night, and every Sunday is a free day.
Despite having little free time, the professors and staff at SFS have planned a massive amount of incredible offsite and onsite excursions: TREAT tree planting, Mount Hippipome field lecture, Malanda Falls, and Night Spotlight just to name a couple.
One recommendation for anyone’s next trip: spotlight. Basically, spotlighting is going out into an environment in the dead of night to observe nocturnal wildlife. If you have the opportunity to spotlight in the wet tropics, make sure to bring long pants and hiking boots, but most of all fashionably tuck your pants into your socks. Unless you enjoy leeches, then by all means go out in shorts and flip flops. Armed with our headlamps, my group managed to see a ten plus foot long Amethystine Python, Golden Orb Weaver, and a family of Pademelons. The eight leeches I had to pull off was totally worth it.
Tomorrow we leave to camp-out at Chillagoe (the Outback) for two nights and three days. Spotlighting, starshowing, and cave exploring are all on the agenda. It’s going to be an incredible spectacle.
Unfortunately, I have some good news and bad news. The good news is I have taken a ton of pictures of my adventures thus far. The bad news is I can’t upload them until I go to Cairns to get halfway decent internet. Weeks 1 and 2 were action packed. I have pictures of Lace Monitors, Tiger Skinks, Pythons, and much more. However, my personal favorites are of me on top of a waterfall and on top of the rolling hills of the Atherton Tablelands. I am going to dedicate a blog post every Cairns weekend to pictures in order to make up for lost time.
Hope everyone is doing well. Look out for a Week 3 Post this weekend.