Tag Archives: travel

Camping in The Grampians National Park

Camping in the middle of the Australian winter probably wasn’t the best idea I have ever had but I did not have the option to wait until the weather warmed up again.  Thankfully our local friends who brought Megan and I down to the Grampians were well versed in the art of Australian camping.  They provided us with all the necessary camping gear as well as “swags” which we later found out is a special Australian style sleeping bag.  The drive from Melbourne into The Grampians did not take long at all.  If my memory serves me right the drive was not more than two hours (although Google maps disagrees I am not ).  When we officially entered into Halls Gap, a specific area within The Grampians,  we more or less randomly chose a road and began to drive down it.  We finally came to a fork in the road where one of the roads was the blocked off by a small gate warning against flooding; beyond it were fallen leaves, a few big rocks and some fallen branches:

The other road was free of warning signs and road blocks so naturally we decided to take the road less traveled.  This included squeezing the car between the gate and a random post not far from it.  Our side-view mirrors just cleared the wooden posts on each side.  Then we bumped along the road until we found a decent spot to park, climbed out and scavenged for a good camping ground.

After clearing a sizable area and erecting our tents we attempted to cook.

The boys clearing out the area:

Cooking ended up being a more tedious task then we anticipated because we had forgotten to pack any kind cooking implement.  We tried a few different techniques such as making a “frying pan” out of a cut up beer can and some sticks but the metal melted and warped before we could properly cook the meat.  We ended up getting so desperate from hunger that we just speared our kangaroo steaks with some skewers, the one thing we did bring, and roasted it that way.  For dessert Megan and I had brought an American campfire specialty to share with our Australian friends: smores.  It was funny listening them repeat the word in confusion because they had never heard of it before.  We made each of them a gooey chocolaty sandwich and they loved it!  Around bites of melted chocolate and marshmallow they kept repeating the word “smore” in their accented English trying to commit the word to memory.  Next came the campfire stories but as we were doing this camping trip “Aussie style,” as the boys referred to it, there were certain requirements that needed to be fulfilled.  One of which was to listen the to the renown Australian poem A Man From Snowy River (if you would like to see the whole poem: http://www.wallisandmatilda.com.au/man-from-snowy-river.shtml).  No one had brought along a copy of the poem but thankfully that wasn’t a problem because one of the boys knew it by heart.

The next morning we had a bit of a sleep in before cleaning up and heading to a few of the famous sights in The Grampians which were absolutely gorgeous!

**Note- I did not take any of the photos in this post.  Photo credit goes to my friend Scott Hodges.**

Why Are You Going to Adelaide?

The week before leaving on a four day weekend trip to Adelaide people kept asking me “Why are you going to Adelaide?” as if it were hole out in the middle of no where.  With the amount of people making this comment I was starting to worry I was wasting my money. Especially when I was asked to do an extra security screening at the airport and the security guy conversationally asked me where I was going.  When I told him he scrunched up his face, laughed and said “Adelaide?  What are you going to do in Adelaide?” I wanted to ask him if he was serious.  When I met up with Megan at the end of security line I relayed what the security man had said and started to wonder if there was some infectious disease across Adelaide that had left it a barren waste land of nothingness.  Why else would everyone be asking us the same bewildered question?

When I arrived in Adelaide it did not take long to understand the reason for the relentless question.  Adelaide city itself is fairly small, at least compared to Melbourne, and quiet.  There is not much to do and as far as I could tell the night life was lacking.  But even though it was quiet city it was still charming.  The amount of old Gothic cathedrals were astounding and could entertain an architecture junkie or photography fanatic for hours.  The fresh food market itself kept Megan and I entertained for hours!

It might not be the most bustling city in Australia but if you have  few days to spare I think its worth the trip.  Its charm won’t be lost on you.  The only thing I caution is not to book for your stay for too long.  On the fourth day I was itching to return to my beloved busy Melbourne.

The highlights of my trip were:

A half day trip to Sterling.  I hopped on the public bus and took a thirty minute ride outside the city to a small town called Stirling which held Sunday markets.  I love little markets like this and it was nice to see families conversing with each other one eye on their children the other on their dogs.  It reminded me very much of being home.  They sold everything at this market from art and clothes to food and special honey (I tried a concoction of Vanilla bean creamed honey.  It was fabulous!) I also treated myself to amethyst tear drop earrings as a little reminder of my Australia trip when I return home.

Another half day trip to Hahndorf, a small but famous German style town outside of the city. This place was adorable!  I felt like I had magically appeared in Germany somehow.  All the the little shops with their thatched roofs and welcoming open doors poured German music and aromas out onto the sidewalk to lure you in for a quick look around.



Welcome Week vs. O-Week

For a lot of international students preparing to study abroad at the University of Melbourne there is the question of participating in Welcome Week or (saving $565 AUD) and participating in O-week.  Before I came here I thought that the two programs were both orientation programs with the only difference being that the welcome week catered solely to international students.  I almost did not sign up for the Welcome Week and I will now be eternally grateful that I did.   When making the initial decision it seemed like so much money for a 4 day orientation that I was going to get a few days later from my residential college.  When I looked into it, though, I found out that my school-and apparently most universities would reimburse the money paid out-of-pocket to the program.  And this one little fact influenced my decision to participate in the program.

Welcome Week

I cannot say enough about how much fun I had in the four days of Melbourne Welcome.  I came to Melbourne not knowing anyone and was very fearful I would not make close friends because my stay here was so temporary.  After the first day of the orientation program I realized I sorely mistaken.  This program is funded by Melbourne University but is completely student lead, which I think was a smart decision on Melbourne Uni’s part.  Who would be better to orient a bunch of exchange Uni students then local Uni students themselves.  They were obviously chosen very particularly because the Welcome Program group seemed to the perfect group for the job.  They were the perfect amount of fun and responsible as to abide by the Uni’s guidelines while making sure we had a blast.  They showed us all around the city by day and introduced us to most frequented Uni clubs and bars by night.  The four days flew by and by the end of it I had made so many friends it only bolstered my open-mindedness to continue to meet more people.  Now the people I met during Welcome Week have become my very good friends and a welcome retreat from when College life becomes to repetitive.




I want to be fair to both programs.  So first some disclaimers:  1. I can only speak about my experience at St. Mary’s.  All colleges have different anti-hazing policies in regards to O-Week, some more lax than others.  Janet Clark, for example, has a strict no-hazing policy while St. Mary’s tends to let a little more fly under the radar.  2. You only live once, there will be no harm in trying O-week one way or another.  Your experience my be very different from mine.  3. A lot of O-week also depends on personality type, if you are super laid back then a lot of what I had a problem with probably won’t bother you.

I think my two previous posts about O-week sums up my experience fairly well.  Although to be fair the first two days were the worst of the week after that everything else was moderately tame, except for waking up at 7am every morning.  I think my biggest issue with O-Week was simply a matter of age difference.  I have already lived through the harass-the-freshman phase of my life  when I was real freshman three years ago.  Then you move up the hierarchy.  Perhaps if I had been warned that O-week would be a tamer version of the  American Greek life pledging process I would have been mentally prepared.  As it was, I was running off the assumption that O-week was going to be just like the Melbourne Welcome Week.  My disappointment in realizing that it wouldn’t be the same was probably the biggest contributing factor for cranky mood during O-week.  Here is what I didn’t like about O-week:

  1. Being crudely, loudly, and annoying awoken every morning at 7am (after a crazy Melbourne Welcome Week I was hoping to catch up on some sleep.  I also ended up catching a cold from lack of sleep)
  2. Being bossed around by a group of students who I didn’t know and who were all about two years younger than me
  3. I did not have much in common with the “freshers” I was grouped into because they were all three to four years younger than me.  All of them had just left home for the first time and had just graduated high school.  I actually found it hard to relate to a lot of them.
  4. Having a strict 12pm curfew.  And when I opted out of one of the evening’s events thinking I could use a break from O-week by going out with Melbourne Welcome friends, I was told that if I do not go out with the college I cannot go out at all and I also could not have my friends over either.
  5. Number 4 branches into Number 5- Being treated as an actual freshman all over again in all senses.  A curfew?  Being told by random strangers who were my peers and mostly younger than me, that I could not go out and see my friends or if I went out with my college I had to be home by midnight?  I have never had a curfew in my life before and I figured at 21 I would never have one.  I was not happy to have all these rules strapped on to me because the other “freshers” had never lived on their own before.

Despite all of this though, its hard to look back at O-week and be mad about it.  That’s because all of the nameless, faceless students who bossed me around eventually became my friends.  I learned their names and recognized their faces after sitting down with them every night at dinner, after playing grueling rounds of softball with them and loosing every game, after attending rowing day as a college decked out in red and blue and cheering until we lost our voices for our boats, after all the little things and silly stories that happen in the hallways everyday.  I wasn’t happy during the O-week and was pretty grumpy about the whole thing but then again it was in that shared experience that was the first step in creating memories with everyone else.  This is a very Australian experience.  You have to earn your place in the group.  This much I knew and, as much as I did not like it, I kept my mouth shut and tried not to complain; in so doing I earned my place at college just like everyone else.

Melbourne’s Wild Parrots

I never fancied myself as much of a bird enthusiast but I seem to have a certain fascination for Melbourne’s feathered population.  When we first arrived in Melbourne I had heard a few of my friends mention that they had seen birds that looked like parrots flying around the city; as I had not seen any myself I did not think much of these claims.  It was not until the beginning of this week, as the weather has become colder that I have seen not one, not two, but flocks of these gorgeously colored birds.  I have never seen such colorful birds in the wild, especially in a bustling city like Melbourne.  But here they are fluttering about the tree tops with a unique but lovely sounding  bird song.  I was walked very slowly to class yesterday with my head tipped back reveling in all their colors.  They are actually quite cute too.  They are not too big to be intimidating and not too small that they are hard to spot; they are probably a little bit smaller than your average pigeon with the most vibrant of blues helmeting their heads, their bodies a splendid variety of sunshine yellow and a deep tropical green.  Some of them have slashes of red and orange thrown in as well.  I am not too sure about the habits of these birds but if you happen to find your self in Melbourne in May make sure to look up once in a while.  If nothing else the small, energetic birds will put a small smile on your face.

This photo is from White Forge Photos’ Blog: http://whiteforgephotos.blogspot.com.au/2009/06/parrots-of-colour.html.  I do not take credit for their photography, this photo is not my own!  I am simply sharing.

Australia- O-Week, The First Circle of Hell

Am I still in America?  I am pretty sure I haven’t left.  Sorority recruitment, that’s just the American name.  Here its called O-Week.

O Week started off nice and simple.  A quiet lunch for all the freshman and their parents (and the exchange students), a traditional speech from the principal, tearful goodbyes as the parents left and then shy introductions among the new students as we waited in a room for the activities of O-week to start.  Then they descended.  First it was just one guy storming into the room screaming at the top of his lungs: “SIT DOWN FRESHERS!” (Freshers here is their word for freshman).  Then in came the rest of the group: “WHY ARE YOU SITTING, FRESHERS?! STAND UP FRESHERS!……. WHY ARE YOU STANDING?  SIT DOWN FRESHERS!  STAND UP FRESHERS!  TURN AROUND FRESHERS!”  So up and down we sat and stood like little stupid monkeys.  Finally when their voices started to strain they quieted down and happily introduced themselves as the student leaders of O-week.  Then they put on music danced and individually introduced each leader.  Okay, I thought, so they just want to pretend they are in America with those crazy Fraternities and Sororities.  In my mind I allowed them that little bit of leeway.

Bad. Idea.

We were then instructed to change into clothes that we don’t mind destroying and removing any and all jewelry that we don’t want ruined.  Then we were lined up in the courtyard, blind folded and led down a path.

“Oh, dahling you forgot to put sunblock on!  Silly Fresher!”  A clump of something sweet-smelling and too sticky to be sun block was smeared down my cheek.  “Oh and don’t forget the other cheek!  Silly Fresher!”  The stuff was then smeared on to my other cheek.  It was about at this time it came in contact with my mouth and I was able to identify it as Strawberry Jam.  With a now sticky clumpy still blindfolded face I continued down the path.

“What’s that on your arm, Fresher?” Something thick and infinitely more sticky than the jam was globbed up and down my arms.  In seconds the smell hit me and I had to hold my breath to not vomit- Vegemite.  The wind kicked up at this point lodging my hair into the Vegemite and then into my mouth.  For those of you who have never experienced Vegemite the best I can describe it was that it smelled like canned cat food and I think it tastes about the same.  Needless to say, it’s hard to stomach.  Now mix that with strawberry jam and your own hair in your mouth and I was proud of the fact I didn’t puke all over the girl in front of me.

“Drink up, Fresher!”  I smelled the Goon before it washed over my head ensuring that the sickening concoction forming on my face and arms was now most assuredly in mouth (and up my nose a bit).

“Get down, Fresher! That’s it! On your stomach, Fresher!  Now crawl!  Keep going, Fresher!”  A tarp filled with honey or jelly or something of that nature came next.  And yes, I crawled through it- hands and knees and stomach.

“Get up, Fresher!  Keep going!”  Up I blindly went, dripping now with various semi identified liquids.

“Down again, Fresher! Get down, Fresher!” Tarp number 2 seemed to be filled with chicken noodle soup- I could be wrong though.  Finally when it was all over we were allowed to remove the blindfolds, hose off and walk back stinking and dripping to our rooms for a proper shower.

I thought that would be the end of it.  Turns out that was only day 1.

Welcome to Australia!!

I have been here for about a week now and I officially LOVE it here.  Classes do not start until the 27th of February so until that time the university and it’s residential colleges have created different programs to help students meet eachother and see the city.  The first of these programs was called Melbourne Welcome which was specifically for international students.  Ialmost did not sign up for this program and now I am so happy I did!  I met so many great people and the program its self was really amazing.  Everything was very well planned and organized and all the costs were covered by the initial fee of the program.  Most of all, I was really impressed by the student leaders.  I am pretty sure this whole thing was created by them and if so I am even more impressed.  Besides making the program a success I felt like all of the leaders, who are the same age as the rest of the students particiapting in the program, were the epitome of the kind of people who should run these kinds of programs.  They were all very outgoing, helpful and friendly and I feel that it was because of this that rest of us had as much fun as we did.


Besides the program, I feel that I have been more or less intitiated into the Australian life style:

1. I have gotten my face roasted by the sun because I only had only put on SPF 15.  I went out yesterday and got a huge bottle of Sports SPF 30.  Now every morning when I wake up one of the first things I have to do is put on sun screen.  I feel like I am in Africa all over again!!

2.  Instead of being whistled at, a guy stuck his head out the window of his car and said “G’day” to me.  They actually say “G’day” here!!!

3.  I have learned the secret to the Australian lingo that seems to bewildering to Americans.  Its actually quite simple- Australians seem keen on cutting words in half and adding “ie” at the end.  Hence “barbie” for barbaque, “shorties” for shorts, “brekkie” for breakfast, etc.  And I also learned not be offended when told not to wear a thong to the night clubs here- they were referring to flip flops.

4.  I was enthusiastically welcomed to my new room by a HUGE hairy gray spider.