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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

Ooooh Build Me a Home Among the Gum Trees! Australia & Hawaii


Since we last left you, we’ve been loving life in the northern part of Australia! We continued our adventures at the On the Wallaby Lodge with our amazing guide Tall Paul, who led us on a platypus spotting walk. Only 2% of Australians have seen this unique but rare animal, so we were very lucky to catch a glimpse! We also took a scenic bicycle ride through the Atherton Tablelands and Brittany, Molly and Allie were great at conquering the hills along the way. Tall Paul introduced us to the sport of cricket, a popular sport Down Under. Amanda was a natural, scoring an incredible 32 wickets! We not only explored the Tablelands by foot and by bike, but in the arvo (afternoon), we mounted our noble steeds and rode horseback through the countryside, marvelling at the beautiful scenery. Both experienced riders like David and Madi and rookies including Ryan and Alex enjoyed the experience. We had a great sing-a-long on the ride on the way home including a full-trip performance of “Home Among the Gum Trees,” an ode to uniqueness and beauty of Australia. We’ve nailed down all the actions to one of our new favorite songs! Next, it was back to the lodge to celebrate James’ 17th birthday Aussie-style! We enjoyed cake, smores and singing by the campfire.

The next day, we said farewell to the friendly staff at the Lodge and drove down the windy roads into the town of Kuranda. We had some time to explore the local artisan shops and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Maddie K. and Madi A. also sampled a ‘meat pie,’ a popular snack in Australia and considered Australia’s “national dish.” They were delicious! Later on all of us blokes and sheilas (guys and girls) checked into our hotel in Cairns and since then it has been non-stop adventure! At our first dinner in town, we cheered on the hometown “Aussie-Rules” footy team at dinner with the locals and had a chance to explore Cairn’s famous Night Markets. We also got a sneak-peak at the amazing variety of life under the sea at our “Reef Teach” session, where experts gave us a great rundown of the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

The next day, we saw the Great Barrier Reef firsthand and it was nothing short of spectacular! Experienced divers including Ashlee, Leo and Ben D. were thrilled at their chance to SCUBA dive in the largest coral reef in the entire world. Many of us first-time divers had the incredible opportunity to take part in an introductory dive including Jeremy and Dylan as well as Emma who described SCUBA diving as the “greatest experience of my life.” We saw a wide variety of creatures under the sea, from all different kinds of coral to countless types of fish, sea cucumbers and so much more. Many of us were even successful in “Finding Nemo!” At our second dive site, while experienced divers went for dive #2 and got up close to a sea turtle, many of us snorkelled, which was just as incredible. Amanda, Allie, Rachael donned flippers and a mask and swam among the fish and the coral. Cassidy called the experience “amazing,” describing the Reef as “a whole new world underwater.”

A new day and new experiences were aplenty. First up was a visit to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park where we gained a deeper appreciation of the one of the oldest cultures in the entire world – that of the indigenous peoples of Australia who have called this continent home for thousands of years. We learned about the traditional medicines, foods and weapons of the Tjapukai people, heard the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo and took part in an Aboriginal dance show. Sam, Brent, Sabrina and Marc were called up to dance on stage while the rest of the group joined in with the traditional Aboriginal songs that we learned. We also got to try our hand at Aboriginal weapons including spear-throwing and the world-famous boomerang. Some of our throws did indeed make it back! 

After lunch, the adventure continued with a visit to the Cairns Cable ski-park. We got to kneeboard and wakeboard around the circuit on the man-made lake – all run by cables. A lot of us got the hang of it pretty quickly and had a great time on the water.  After dinner, where some of us tried kangaroo meat for the first time, it was back to the hotel for group activities and taking part in what has become somewhat of a trip tradition – the “Tim Tam Slam” – the dunking of Australia’s favorite cookie (the Tim Tam) into hot chocolate – using the Tim Tam as a straw. Ben F. and Zach are Tim Tam connoisseurs and hope the delicious snack is popularized back in North America.

For the past two days, we enjoyed a relaxing day at beautiful Trinity Beach north of Cairns and had a night on the town with dinner and a movie at the local mall. During our last day in the Cairns region, we took a voyage to the Tully River for an exhilarating white water rafting experience. We paddled our way through the rapids and enjoyed the breathtaking views of the rainforest that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs.

Today we say goodbye to Tall Paul and the tropics of northern Queensland. We are all looking forward to our final stop in Australia, the bustling metropolis of Sydney, where more Aussie adventures await. We are eagerly awaiting our first glimpse of the iconic Sydney Harbour and can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Until next time…no worries, mates!

The Westcoast Blogger