‘Till Next Time

*Sniffle sniffle* This is my LAST required Reporting Australia blog – In which I’ll reflect on my study abroad experience while attempting to mask my overly-sentimental side.

I’m not sure a blog post of any length could adequately express how much I learned during this trip.

Before I get all soft, I’d like to acknowledge all the scientific content I attained during Reporting Australia. I genuinely enjoyed getting my fix of environmental science pertaining to sustainability, ecology, climate change, etc., a rarity for many journalists. Due to my enjoyment, understanding the science came fairly easily.

Another note on the scientific content – I felt as if it was extremely concrete & relevant.

Having lived the life of a biology major my freshman year, I found the environmental science material I learned during Reporting Australia more important/pressing than material I learned in any other biology/chemistry class:

I learned higher ocean temperatures cause coral bleaching, and in turn, death – not only to coral, but countless other marine life that seek refuge in coral.

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Joe Pollock talking coral while guiding us on a reef walk off Lady Elliot Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

I learned (reluctantly) although more conscious than traditional tourism, ecotourism (aka Reporting Australia) is a paradox and isn’t sustainable.

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Dr. Rob Nash challenged the idea of our program being environmentally-friendly during a lecture at his workplace, Bond University.

I learned it’s possible to have a wellbeing that outshines your income.

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…Thanks to Simon Ling, Reporting Australia’s nature guide at Carnarvon Gorge in the Australian Outback

I learned I can download, learn and crank out an info graphic from Adobe Illustrator in 17 hours with only two cups of coffee and no sleep.

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One of my main contributions to Reporting Australia’s website, explaining water’s movement in the Great Artesian Basin

I learned I should comprehensively consider my dreams before I deem them unrealistic.

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This is probably where I first began developing the idea of becoming a dive master/instructor and opening my own dive shop (I’m to the right) – Photo cred: Rachel Robillard


Not only am I thankful for all the above knowledge Reporting Australia has given me, but also my new friends.

Reporting Australia at Brizzy's Museum Scienceentre

Reporting Australia at Brizzy’s Museum Scienceentre

I had a great time exploring Queensland with all of them, especially those in the Carnarvon group who contributed to our webpage.

All I’m left to say is Thank you to this program, thank you Dr. Kris & and thank you Australia. You’ve all taught me things I can use to better shape the future of our environment & lives. I’m pretty sure you’ve taught me how to be a better human. It may be too soon to tell, but I feel like a happier person because of this experience.

‘Till next time!

Kyle

Best NZ pic edit

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Rainforest/Dryforest

During my second day at Lamington National Park, Barry Davies, my program’s eco-guide, took us on a 6ish-hr hike on a few of the park’s trails. The hike led us to a 210-ft waterfall, Coomera Falls.

Mediocre footage I captured of the falls:


On the way to the falls and back, Barry shared some of his vast knowledge of the park. He brought up climate change and effects it’s having/will have on specific aspects of Lamington.

To be honest, I must’ve been intently soaking up the magnificent rainforest during the whole of the hike because I don’t think I can write an entire blog post just from what Barry shared with us.

Luckily, I found a 196-page assessment to compliment Barry’s discussion of climate change & the Antarctic beech (The good stuff is on page 93).

Base of Antarctic Beech @ Lamington

Yup – You’re correct if you guessed the Antarctic beech is vulnerable to climate change.

Here’s how it goes:

1. The Antarctic Beech has a disjunct distribution (Department of Climate Change)

This means the Antarctic Beech was geographically separated from its original home, and because of that, has endured a completely altered environment – In this case, the beech originates from Gondwana – a supercontinent consisting of Antarctica, Australia, South America & Africa (so Southern Hemisphere) dating back hundreds of millions of years ago.

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Upon researching this, I thought all flora must have disjunct distribution if Earth’s landmass was, at one point, all connected. I guess an easy answer to that discrepancy is that not all flora are old to be from Gondwana, Laurasia, etc.

2. The species can resist moderate fire but very little seedling regeneration occurs where frequency of severe fire is too great (Department)

3. Fire-tolerant species will invade and beech seedlings will not regenerate (Department)

So if we’re talking Lamington, the eucalypt tree would be an applicable fire-tolerant species. Although this tree burns, and is in fact very flammable, it’s able to regenerate after a fire.

Koala Eucalyptus

Koala chillin’ w/ some eucalyptus branches @ Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

4. Antarctic Beech will cease to exist


I tried ending my post with that last bullet point but figured it was too daunting. Below I share multimedia I captured at Lamington – Reminders of what we’re fighting to sustain.

Lyrebird Song
(You won’t see bird in vid – Click here for photo)

Sunset Lookout

Sunset @ Binna Burra Lodge lookout

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Minutes after sunset @ Binna Burra Lodge outlook

Realtalk: Eco Tourism

For three days/four nights, I stayed at Binna Burra Lodge at Lamington National Park– 2ish hrs south of Brizzy. Here, Barry Davies, an eco-guide with a background in science, discussed the park’s history/wildlife, guided us on a few hikes (one of which was 6ish hrs) and even taught us a few bush dances.

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Barry explaining Lamington’s flora at the beginning of the six-hr hike

After leaving Lamington, my program stopped in Gold Coast & Surfer’s Paradise (both names of cities, not beaches) for a lecture & lunch, respectively. Prof. Rob Nash discussed eco tourism – responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people, at his workplace, Bond University.

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Prof. Rob Nash

Gold Coast, AUS

Gold Coast, AUS

Nash’s lecture took me for a spin as he claimed the ultimate solution for preventing problems related to tourism (mass tourism [overcrowding], destruction of natural environment, demise of local businesses, etc.) is to stay at home – He chuckled right after saying this, but obviously instilled truth in this message.

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Bathers on Playa Levante Beach, Spain

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Venice, Italy trying to keep afloat with all these tourists at San Marco Pier

Although much more in favor of eco tourism, he wasn’t hesitant in pointing out similarities between it and bad tourism– Most of which include westernization in primitive/undeveloped areas. This pertains to the introduction of modern/harmful technology (air conditioning, toilets, etc.) & ideology in primitive areas.

Three eco accommodations I will have stayed at by the end of my trip:

Western ideology comes into play when people from developed nations tell those from the undeveloped world what they should/shouldn’t do – hunt manta rays, work in eco tourism, etc.).

Do we really have a right to change the way foreign natives have been using their land for centuries?


I felt a bit unsettled by the lecture as it pointed a large, condescending finger at my program, which falls under the veil of eco-friendliness – especially as an environmental journalism course.

I genuinely believe Nash’s viewpoint should be taken seriously. Even before his lecture, I felt this program & my travels in NZ beforehand, enlarged my green thumb & drew me closer (physically, mentally, spiritually) to nature/the environment.

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Spotted a small waterfall in Coomera Gorge during the six-hr hike

Nevertheless, staying at home isn’t a viable option Prof. Nash.

Speaking for myself, I want/need to go out and explore more of the world. I hope to do my best being as eco-friendly as I can on the way. Many people share this same desire.

I understand the true backbone of tourism is money – not exposure to different cultural experiences. Sure, culture may expose itself to you (LOL) during travel, but usually at a cost – inauthentic.

These days though, everything’s backbone is money related. Marriages for example are part of an enormous moneymaking industry. That being said, just like traveling, money isn’t the first value people generally take away from weddings.

Just because marriage is part of moneymaking industry, should people not get married?

From my current travels & Nash’s lecture, I gather the best traveling tip is to be knowledgeable of your impact. With this in mind, hopefully you’ll make conscious decisions on where you lodge, what you eat and how you spend your money.

Even when not traveling, I enjoy myself more at authentic, locally-based establishments. Hopefully you can too.

Safe travels everyone…

A somewhat strained smile at the Binna Burra Lodge outlook

A somewhat strained smile during sunset at the Binna Burra Lodge outlook – Photo Cred: Mindy Bloem

My GREAT Barrier Reef Experience

Lady Elliot Island

As I write this, I’m on a ‘tour bus’ back to Brizzy. The past three days I’ve spent on Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.

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Lady Elliot is an atoll – a coral island consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon (object to right is plane’s wing)

Here, I stayed at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, the island’s only accommodation – Lady Elliot is 100 acres, or small enough to walk around in 45min. Just like the island, the resort is humble in size. It bares the term eco in its title due to its efforts in sustaining Lady Elliot.

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Andreas Supper, manager, discusses the resort’s transition to solar power during an eco tourism walk/lecture

Joe Pollock, a scientist specializing in coral disease, accompanied my program group. Along with supplying his vast knowledge of coral reefs via lectures, Joe guided us on snorkels around Lady Elliot’s reefs.

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Joe guides my program on a reef walk our first day @ LEI


Island Lyfe

In total, I spent three nights & four days on Lady Elliot. Here are some brief anecdotes:

Saturday, May 31st

The flight 

I left Hervey Bay (mainland AUS) Airport ~8:30 AM by a nine-passenger plane to the island.

The plane ride alone almost rivaled the experience of my first snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef later that day.

~Video of flight on its way!~

Four of us from my program (including Dr. Kris) took one plane – the smaller one, and the other 11 & Joe took another.

First Plane LEI

Finally snapped a pic of the plane after landing on LEI

The flight was ~40min. After we took off from the airport, from a birds-eye view, I was able to witness Hervey Bay, who knows how many miles of Pacific Ocean and Lady Elliot Island of course.

Hervey Bay from Plane

Hervey Bay from plane

Window view of what looks to be storm clouds ahead (and the plane's wing)

Window view of what looks to be storm clouds ahead as I fly toward LEI

Much cooler than takeoff was landing on Lady Elliot. As much as I dislike using the word blessed these days, I felt extremely lucky/special seated on a small aircraft, landing on a half-mile (stretching it) sweep of grass on an island on the Great Barrier Reef, which only accommodates 41 rooms.

Welcome to LEI

Welcome to Lady Elliot Island

After landing ~9:15 AM, Joe took us for our first snorkel on the Reef, gave us a lecture on local marine life and later guided us on a reef walk. A general highlight of Lady Elliot was the resort’s buffet (which was prepaid for), open for brekkie, lunch & dinn.

On our reef walk w/ Joe (middle)

On our reef walk w/ Joe (middle)

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A beautiful selfie of moi during reef walk

 Sunday, June 1st 

The snorkel

Round 2 of snorkeling happened ~10:45 PM – This time guided by Fabrice Jaine, a doctorate in ­­­manta rays & resort employee.

Unfortunately I didn’t have an underwater device to record with…

ACTUALLY, I was given an underwater camera that I took many pictures with…while it was turned off

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We traveled ~15min. to the snorkeling site by glass-bottom boat. This snorkel was more intense (deeper) than Friday’s – which was in the same spot we did our reef walk.

LEI from First Plane 4 Mapped

Here’s where Fabrice took us snorkeling Sunday. Friday’s reef walk & shallow snorkel took place on the upper-righthand side

At this site, I’m guessing the ocean floor was ~15-20ft. below sea level. Beside beautiful coral, which I could now somewhat classify kudos to Joe’s lecture earlier that morning, I saw at least one sea turtle and stingray.

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Pic I found that closest resembles what I saw while snorkeling

The most memorable parts of this snorkel occurred when I dove under and swam over coral on the relatively deep ocean floor. Because of my swimming background, it just felt good to dolphin kick while straining my lungs as I held my breath, propelling underwater.

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Me being a pro snorkeler – Photo Cred: Rachel Robillard

After lunch, a smaller group of us snorkeled again with Joe, close to where Fabrice took us earlier that day. Rather than boating, we walked/swam to the site this time.

Monday, June 2nd

The dive

I’ll cut straight to the chase and direct you to my fellow divers’ blogs for footage – All of them had GoPros :/

Rachel Robillard/Camille Garcia/Mikayla Martinez/Julia Noel

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I feel his pain

I was scuba certified ~2006; and because I hadn’t dove in years, I was required to take a refresher course. Said course happened at 10 AM in the resort’s pool and was painless. For an hour, my lovely Austrian dive instructor, Diana, & I went over basic skills such as regulator retrieval, mask clearing & weight belt removal/reapplication (extremely hard when done underwater).

At 12:45, all of the divers from my program were at the dive shop strenuously suiting up in full-length wetsuits – We were used to the half-length ones (wetsuits w/ short sleeves and cut off at the knee).

Dive Shop

Where dreams come true

We were in the water ~1:30 (LOL). I believe there were 11 total divers including several dive masters and even one unbelievably talented free diver.

Hands down, the highlight of the dive was witnessing manta rays. Just the night before, my program attended a manta ray talk hosted by Fabrice. We learned just how precious, smart & new (very little is known about the manta) they are – Mantas are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Wiki).

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The reef manta is only the second confirmed (in 2009) species of manta

The dive lasted ~40min, not nearly long enough. Beside the majestic mantas, I saw a couple sea turtles, a stingray covered in sand and a glimpse of a shark as it swam away from us – It must have been a reef or nurse shark.

Tuesday, June 3rd

This isn’t goodbye

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Between brekkie & lunch, Joe & a small group of us went on our last snorkel. It was the same site as our first (Lagoon), so it was a little sentimental – Idk, it just felt right to do one more.

During this snorkel, I kind of branched off from the main group – like I always tend to do, but this time more than usual. I tried snorkeling/swimming as far as I could from the mainland until I hit waves – The lagoon is protected from waves by its extensive reef (I think); so you’ll only encounter them if you swim out ~half a mile.

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LEI Lagoon during low tide aka not when I snorkeled


Reflection

Lady Elliot Island is everything I love, without everything I despise, about paradise: It’s beautifully tropical, perfectly wild, very comfortable BUT doesn’t boast an enormous amount of guests.

~video of LEI Eco Resort on its way~

Also, it’s an eco resort! There’s much to learn about and appreciate here – the wildlife, the sustainability measures, the knowledgeable & caring staff. I left with a genuine feeling that the island & reef are in good hands. I wish I could say every vacation I will take could feel as environmentally conscious as my time on Lady Elliot.

Pathway to Cafe Dark

My favorite of LEI’s paths – which coincidentally leads to the buffet

Not gonna lie – I was sad leaving. Time doesn’t seem to go by when you’re in paradise (especially if you’re disconnected from Internet). It seemed as if time back on the mainland/home must’ve been going by in slow motion or not at all. I would’ve liked to stay at least another five days.

Lagoon Beach Foot

My foot on the last day of LEI

Besides missing the slow island life, there are certain attachments I made with memories/people on the island that I’ll hopefully hold dear forever.

ILY Lady Elliot

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Cam, Jules & I walkin’ the reef

A Touch of AUS History

Dr. Martin Crotty, a professor at the University of Queensland, gave a brief lecture on Australian history to my class Wednesday, May 28th. Specifically, he highlighted discovery, settlement, & Australia since 1901 (when it became a federation).

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Dr. Martin Crotty


Déjà Discovery

 

Before Australia became a hotspot for Western Europe, Britain mainly, people had premature ideas of what the great unknown southern land might be like.

Especially after Captain James Cook & Joseph Banks ­­­made the first recorded European contact with Australia in 1770, Europeans were humorously confused by the land Down Under. Crotty said they thought it to be a topsy-turvy place because they couldn’t get a grasp on the wildlife – Crotty explained that Europeans didn’t know where to fit creatures like the kangaroo, very foreign & strange, into their hierarchy of life.

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Like wut? (I think this is a wallaby actually)

During Crotty’s lecture I didn’t think twice about it, but after and currently I had/am having trouble defining exactly what a hierarchy of life is. The easiest way I can explain what I think he meant is: Europeans were extremely puzzled by Australian wildlife Never in their lives did they probably expect to encounter bounding marsupials, kangas.

Penal Settlement

 

Before the lecture I knew Australia was settled to house prisoners, Crotty explained why:

1. Work to be done

First and most obvious: Britain had a lot on its plate now that it had claimed Australia – Setting up camp, growing a population, harvesting resources, etc. What way to take care of said work than to use prisoners?

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Off to Australia mate!

2. Overcrowding

Another factor influencing Britain’s use of prisoners to settle Australia was overcrowding of British prisons.

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Hopeless British prisoners, I think…

3. Couldn’t use America

An easier solution in getting rid of overcrowding prisoners would’ve been to send them across the Atlantic to America – a much shorter voyage from Britain. Unfortunately for Britain, it had just lost its privilege of colonizing America (Revolutionary War). The first British colony in Australia was created in 1788 (in current-day Sydney).

USA USA! (Washington Crossing the Delaware River)

George Washington Crossing the Delaware River (USA! USA!)

Uninvited Americans

 

Crotty brought up the unanticipated tension caused by the presence of American soldiers in Australia during WWII.

This resentment came to be due to liaising between American soldiers & Australian women. The Japanese even played on this tension by dropping instigative propaganda on Australians during the war.

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Japanese anti-American leaflet

Aboriginal Genesis & More

Mary Graham, a lecturer and Kombumerri person (Aboriginal from Gold Cost, AUS) discussed Aboriginal culture with my class Tuesday, May 22nd. During her talk, I learned about Aboriginal genesis stories & Aboriginals’ relationship with the environment.

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Mary Graham

Land Made Us

Graham was given permission by her Aboriginal peers to share the following Dreamtime story – Many of which are sacred. I’m confident 90% of the below is accurate according to what she said heheh (*nervous laugh).

Approximately 15,000 years ago, there was nothing but land on a flat Earth – no flora nor fauna. Around that time though, life forms began to arise from the land. These beings took the forms of megaflora & megafauna (enormous plants & animals). The flora & fauna shaped the land and each other through their own personal dramas (adventures, battles, etc.).

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An example of megafauna

The last life form to emerge from the land was a proto human. Just like they did to the land and each other, the flora & fauna helped develop the proto human.

With time, the megaflora & fauna returned home as normal-sized plans & animals came to be. At that time is when life started.

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Aboriginal Dreamtime story artwork

Although variations in this story arise among different tribes, the notion that land created plants & animals, which in turn created man, remains consistent as a major theme. In Aboriginal culture there is no God, heaven nor hell.


How to Address Climate Change

Graham spoke a good deal on effective ways in communicating climate change. I assume most of these methods bare effectiveness especially in the Aboriginal community. From what I understand, according to Graham, understanding the science is perhaps less important than the following:

  • Accept uncertainty

Graham said it’s important to realize anything is possible and although one may feel strongly about his/her theory, it’s vital to recognize others theories – even the unthinkable ones. She mentioned Aboriginal culture is non-judgmental and all perspectives are considered valid.

  • Mental preparedness

Also essential is being psychologically strong in the midst of environmental disaster. Graham said along with being able to cope during a hurricane, tsunami, etc., one must be resilient when dealing with aftermath.

During her talk, Graham said Aboriginals don’t believe in faith, just a psychology of life. For some reason, this has stuck with me.

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Study abroad group & Mary Graham – Throwing up our horns Photo cred: Rachel Robillard

‘Till next time

Still Alive/Koala Sanctuary

No worries! I haven’t been eaten by a great white – I’ve just been a lazy blogger.

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Since my last post, I’ve adventured in New Zealand and started my study abroad program in AUS. Let’s just say while in NZ I tried hard living in the now rather than focusing on real-time chronicling.

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Selfie @ Otehei Bay in the Bay of Islands (NZ)

 

I’ll try my best to designate a future blog post to describe my stay in NZ – which was, in fact, amazing. This post, rather, highlights my first 48ish hours in AUS, esp my visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Lone Pine

As the oldest & largest koala sanctuary in the world, Lone Pine is a great attraction and seems to be a reputable haven for koalas and other Australian wildlife.

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A selfie fail I took at the entrance

Sanctuary vs Zoo

The word sanctuary is a bit more humanitarian-sounding than zoo. Although Lone Pine is hardly your typical zoo, boasting open animal enclosures – letting some roam among guests, there’s still that lingering feeling that makes you question how well the animals are really treated. With the sanctuary’s supposed reputation in mind, overall I had a generally good feeling about its practice caring for its inhabitants.

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A koala looking at something idk

My three-and-a-half hours spent at Lone Pine were mostly self-paced. The sanctuary seemed small but I think that’s because of its somewhat natural environment – The towering trees and low, water-filled ravines make you feel you’re really in a forest, not a zoo…or sanctuary…or whatever.

One of my favorite parts of the visit to Lone Pine was walking in an open enclosure (I know, paradox) with kangaroos, wallabies and emus.

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A wallaby in deep thought

My first impression of this enclosure was will this gigantic bird attack me – As soon as I entered I saw a beast of a bird – perhaps almost as tall as me, walking about 20 ft away (nothing standing between it & me, hence open enclosure).

Thank God the ones at the sanctuary didn't look this menacing.

Thank God the ones at the sanctuary didn’t look this menacing.

As soon as I got over the initial fear of being terrorized by emus (there were a handful), I got a glimpse of some of the enclosure’s more cuddly animals – kangaroos & wallabies. Within 5 minutes of encountering these marsupials, we were petting them/in very close proximity trying to take selfies (hehehhh).

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Selfie w bae (a kangaroo I met in the enclosure)

The second most memorable part of the visit was holding a koala. Her name was Vinny (or some spelling variation of that name). I was on the rocks of partaking at first – mostly due to cost. It was 16 Australian dollars (AUD) to hold her/get a photo taken. It’s super lame but I hate feeling like a tourist; so I started second guessing if paying extra to hold a koala for a minute and a half while I pose for a picture was an authentic experience.

A koala called Vinny & her loving father

A koala called Vinny & her loving father – Photo Cred: Rachel Robillard

I caved and have no regrets. The caretaker had to remove Vinny once during our initial encounter because she started to climb up on my shoulders. This, of course, was totally my fault – my hands, acting as a base for Vinny’s bottom, naturally shifted upwards, encouraging her to keep climbing.

What can I say? I’m a natural father.

*4 June 2014: Update – Feeding a Kanga @ Lone Pine


First Impressions of AUS

Here I’m supposed to reflect on peculiar things/instances I’ve noticed/experienced in relation to living in a foreign place (AUS).

NZ definitely prepared me for living/traveling in AUS – Don’t think I’ve had much culture shock since I’ve arrived in Brizzy.

Cars & money are obvious differences I’ve witnessed.

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Here’s what I believe to be the model/make of the car I ‘hired’ (rented) for my NZ trip – A ’98 Nissan Sunny

I haven’t had too much experience on the road in AUS because most of our transportation is pre-arranged. In NZ though, I had behind-the-wheel experience every day – which was a fun challenge for me. Over here, pretty much everything in relation to cars/traffic is opposite than it is back in the States – Driving on the left (sharp left turns, wide right turns), blinker on right side, etc.

NZ currency - I didn't know $ could get prettier

NZ currency – I didn’t know $ could get prettier

Beside the bills/coins being cooler, mostly just because they’re foreign, speaking on money: things are just more expensive here. I cringed when I noticed what I was about to order for brekkie at a café – basically, an egg scramble, was 22 NZD. The exchange rate between the US/NZ/AUS is somewhat similar.