Home Stretch!

It’s been a very busy two weeks! It began with the group being split into two different groups for our work with the CVA (Conservation Volunteers Australia): Group one consisted of Alana, Chris, Annie, and Lindsay. Group two was Tracy, Ryan, Sarah, and Zach. It was a surprise to us all, and it was really weird splitting up the group after having been together for so long!

Alana, Chris, Annie and I (Lindsay) headed out to Port Victor where we stayed in a beach house, and spent our days driving around to other towns and doing much needed work in local parks in beaches. We cut down invasive plants that were suffocating the native plants in the area. The one thing we were most surprised about was the massive amount of flies that seem to lack an idea of personal space. For meals, we split into groups of two and took turns cooking different dishes everynight, an amazing toca dish, tuna and plenty of pasta ! But for free time we were lucky enough to have Drew push us to jog on the pier everyday, as well as have tons of fun on the local playground. Plus we had the guilty pleasure of a dvd player and tons of dvd’s to watch at night after a hard days work out in the sun!

Group two, Tracy, Ryan, Zach, and I (Sarah) went to an old mining town called Burra, where we spent the week looking for a rare species of lizard called the Pygmy Blue Tongue. Up until ten years ago, they were thought to be extinct, but small populations have been found. Our job was to try and find some new territory. This basically involved walking around looking in spider holes (which most of the time contained huge, nasty looking trapdoor spiders), but occasionally we got lucky! Our accomodation was pretty nice, we stayed in apartments with kitchens and nice beds. When we weren’t working we went to look at the old miner’s dugouts, the jail, and other historical sights.

After the group reunited we had a day off and then woke up bright and early to begin our Groovy Grape desert adventure! The first day, we spent about fourteen hours in the bus, with occasional screeching stops where our guide, Clancy, would jump out of the bus to capture some sort of reptile. We also stopped to see some aboriginal cave paintings, which date back thousands of years, and are made with ochre, which is yellow, white, or red. They’re usually used to tell ‘Dreamtime’ (the Aboriginal’s creation time) stories, to depict important rituals, or simply to point out the location of waterholes and food sources. That night we ate kangaroo around a campfire in a tourist village in the middle of nowhere.

The second day we were in the car for even longer. There were no stops, but we finally arrived at our destination and we spent a refreshing night sleeping under the stars, which are completely visible and absolutely beautiful.

The next day we got to sleep in (which it turns out was much needed: we woke up for sunrise for the rest of the week). We headed to Cooberpiti, which is Aboriginal for “White Man’s Burrow.” Basically, in the nineteenth century, large deposits of opal were discovered. To escape from the wretched heat, the miners began to build their houses underground. The temperature remains the same no matter what, and they’re actually really comfortable. From above ground, you can tell how many rooms a house has by how many metal poles (air vents) are sticking out of the ground. We stayed in an underground hotel called “Bedrock” which was fittingly reminiscent of the Flinstones. We went out for pizza and had a relaxing night.

We woke up for sunrise that morning, and headed to Uluru, the famous “Big Red Rock.” We stopped at the Breakaway cliffs, which are colored from the ochre they contain, and we watched the sunrise. On the way we went into an Aboriginal village to see their art center, which was beautiful. We arrived at Uluru at around sunset and watched it at a lookout point.

Four AM was our lovely wakeup time the following morning. This is for a good reason though: it simply gets too hot to do anything after around ten o’clock, and everything gets really crowded. We watched the sunrise with about 400 other tourists and then went for a hike around Uluru. The creation stories were all around the rock, which is an incredibly sacred site for the Aboriginals. It’s the grounds for important coming-of-age rituals for both boys and girls. The men and women have different sacred areas, which out of respect for their law, they never enter, and when they walk past the other’s sacred sites they avert their eyes. We then went through a small museum talking about aboriginal art and the Dreamtime.

The next day was nearly the same but we hiked Katijuda instead. It’s much bigger than Uluru, and entirely unique: the name stands for “many heads.” We spent the rest of the day swimming (in the 105 degree weather) and then driving to our next location.

The last day we all worked really hard to create a beautiful thanksgiving dinner, complete with chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, casserole, gravy, peas and carrots, fruit cake, apple pie, icecream, and tons of little treats, like candy cane and chocolate. The girls decorated the table with flowers and made place cards, and set up candles. We were lucky enough to have a german couple, a british man, and two australians with us to celebrate the holiday! After dinner we went around at the bonfire and said what we were thankful for.

Now we’re headed to Cairnes for the final stretch of our trip, where we’ll learn to scuba dive in the legendary great barrier reef!