Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Final Frontier

My last month abroad was a whirlwind of adventure. I tried to stuff in every last destination possible. My last 2 trips were Tasmania and Victoria. As it has been some time, excuse the lack of detail. I miss Australia so very much and these are the last of a 5 month journey of amazing memories.

I went to Tasmania with 3 friends on a road trip around the state. We came to refer to Tasmania as it's own country. It is Australia's hidden jewel and the Switzerland of the South. We started our journey in Hobart and picked up our camper-van (my new home for the week). We drove to get some meat pies and coffee and then headed of on the journey. We stopped at 7 Mile Beach, Kate's Berry Farm, and Spiky Bridge. We ran into some Australians with a shark in their back seat (typical) and ended up sleeping on the beach in our van. We woke up and started the days hike in Freycinet National Park. Adele and I climbed Mt. Amos, overlooking the beautiful Wineglass Bay. It was worth the difficult ascent and we sat at the top for quite some time to admire the view. At the end of the hike we went on another one through the woods to the Wineglass Bay below. We ended up running so we could make the sunset over Honeymoon Bay, it was amazingly beautiful. The sky was a mixture of warm shades and we sat mesmerized until the sun faded to darkness. Then we drove to fins a place to park and rest. We ended up parking under a mountain by a wharf. We woke up to climb "The Nut", a volcanic plateau in Stanley. It was a beautiful walk and we got a great glimpse of the coastline. Bay of Fires was our next destination. It was a large bay of five smaller bays. They were all surrounded by orange walks and beaches. The drive through Tasmania across to the west coast was filled with fields and farm life. We stopped at a lovely dairy farm. We were given many galloons of milk for free and tried their award winning cheese and ice cream. The next day we hiked Cradle Mountain and visited a Tasmanian Devil Conservation Center. I got to touch the devil and learned about how they are at risk of extinction and are subject to a deadly disease. After our final hike we ventured back to hobart to see the Saturday markets, Salamanca Markets. We walked about and experienced the lovely atmosphere of the market. Then we headed up to grab some Aussie Lamingtons (a vanilla cake with raspberry filling, chocolate frosting and covered in coconut) and a chai tea. Then we ventured to the Tasmania Botanic Gardens. At night we went to this art exhibit. It was the largest piece of art I had ever seen! I think it was meant to resemble a spaceship abduction. Several lights shown straight up into the sky and trance music played with the sound of being beamed up into a spaceship every now and then. It was dreamy and I got lost in the piece. We spent our last night out at a cute restaurant talking about the adventures of the week and saying our goodbyes. I had to leave before everyone else a couple days so as to study for my finals. In the morning, it was back to Sydney. I had bonded with Adele so much this trip, she ended up being my best friend in Australia and I miss her dearly, but we had one final adventure planned once we were back in Sydney.

I had 5 more days in Sydney to study and hang out with my friend Devon, who was visiting from Brisbane and also studying abroad. I couldn't wait for school to be over and to finally be a senior. I had 2 finals in both of my business classes before I could officially enter seniorhood. Along with studying, I went on the Manly Scenic Walk, rode the ferry, visited an art museum, the Sydney aquarium, and ventured about with Adele ting up all my lose ends in Sydney. After my finals were over, it was time for the last trip, Melbourne and The Great Ocean Road.

This trip was my final chance to soak up all the amazing sights in Australia before returning home to the states. I found a host on Couchsurfing to live with in Melbourne. Her name was Ann and she was a teacher. She introduced us to life in Melbourne and showed us around. She was such a  sweetheart and I was so happy to have met her. It was an awesome experience and I would recommend couchsurfing to anyone. I feel like I got a better taste of the country's culture and its people when I was couchsurfing. Victoria was a beautiful state and I loved the city vibe of Melbourne. The city is known for its food, street art and coffee. The day after we arrived we went to pick up our car from Wicked campers, a cheap car rental place used frequently by students. We set of on the Great Ocean Road. We stopped at the famous surf beach, Bells Beach and Angelsea Beach. There were many lighthouses at the start of the trip. It was referred to as the Shipwreck Coast and was filled with dangerous coastline haunted with several crashed ships. Their was surprisingly a lot of animals along the way. There was a forest filled with koalas along the Kennett River and several colorful birds as well. The next day was a highlight of the trip, The Twelve Apostles. They were a set of 12 wondrous rock formations along the tortured coast. We reached the apostles just in time to see the sunset over them. It was spectacular and my favorite moment in the journey. The view was truly the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I had my favorite person with me as well. We walked down the Gibson Steps to the beach by the apostles and explored some of the other famous rock formations. The London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge, The Grotto and The Arch. We woke up the next morning to see the sunrise over the apostles. Fog rolled in over the mountains in the distance and the clouds were outlined in a sunny gold. After the sunrise we continued the drive to Bay of Islands. Logan's beach was a whale nursery and we were lucky enough to arrive and see a mom and baby whale swimming about not far from the shore. We walked along with them for some time. We ended the road in Port Fairy. We explored some more volcanic craters and hiked a bit and then explored Port Fairy. It was a cute little town. We picked up Victoria's best fish & chips at the wharf and then started the long journey back to Melbourne. We got stopped by a police officer doing random stops. I got breathalyzed for the first time, so that was interesting. The policeman was so friendly and I loved the comparison to America's police who typically wouldn't have been half as friendly. I even got a picture with him! The next morning we started out at Brighton Beach. The beach was filled with beach boxes, they were like mini, decorated houses used for storage. We took some pictured with the houses and walked the beach. There were plenty of dogs on the beach and it made me miss my dog, Marley. There was the city skyline in the background and it was a lovely beach stroll to start the day. Then we headed off to the next beach, St. Kilda. We strolled the pier and the nearby market. Then it was time for my first Aussie sport experience!! I was so excited because I had read about how intense Aussie pride is and couldn't wait to be a part of the crowd. It was hard to understand Aussie Rules Football (AFL) at first, but eventually we observed the rules and understood it. The next day was a day to explore the city. We saw plenty of street art, the best being in Hosier Lane. We explored Little Italy, gardens, and walked along the Yarra River. It was the first time I had been in a city with a river winding straight through the heart of it. Then we headed up to the skydeck, the tallest observation deck in the southern hemisphere. It was a magical view and I loved watching the city lights twinkle below me. We went back to Anne's and saw some black swans along the way. We went to the Queen Victoria Markets and I bought some souvenirs. We tried coffee throughout the day and met Ann for lunch. We walked around the city all day and got a feel for the pace and attitude of the people. We ended with a sunrise at the Shrine of Remembrance in the gardens. That night we went back to Sydney for a long night of packing for my flight home the next day.

I had about 10 hours to prepare for the 14 hour flight back to the states. I spend the majority of the remaining hours packing. I went to sleep at 4 A.M. to awaken at 8. I checked out, said goodbye to Adele and Carolyn and then went to the airport. I got their early and had a final dose of Aussie sushi for lunch before boarding my plane. It was so surreal. I couldn't believe my time was over in the beautiful country I had come to call home. I have learned so much about myself and want I want in life from traveling here and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I was sad to leave, but anxious to reunite with my friends and surprise my family. I didn't tell them I was returning so that it could be a fun little surprise for them. It was so weird to return to the states. I think I experienced more reverse culture shock, than culture shock when I first came to Australia. I miss my second home very much and I know I will return one day to do the things I just couldn't fit in. I am now more independent and confident. I want to go to so many places and this has made me believe that I can. I can't wait to see what the journey of life has planned for me and I'm forever grateful to Australia for inspiring me to be a better person and become more in tune with what I want from life and who I am.

Thanks for following me on my journey! This is my last posting on Australia; however, I have loved my blogging experience and will most likely continue. It's been a great 5 months, if you can, go to Australia! There is no way time there can't be filled with joy, beauty and adventure.