Saturday, October 10, 2009
Wednesday afternoon we arrived at our resort at the Undara National Volcanic Park. The three and a half hour drive was broken up nicely by another stop at a (slightly warmer) swimming hole (see above). Wednesday evening we watched the sunset over the Outback from a bluff above our resort- the orange sun setting over the orange Outback. Thursday we got to visit the Undara lava tubes, which are short caves that are several hundred feet tall and wide, but only a few hundred feet long. The absolute highlight of our time in the Outback was star-gazing on Thursday night- it's truly something you cannot see in the Northern Hemisphere. Alarmingly, you can't see the North Star from here or any of the Big or Little Dipper- I was completely lost. However, what you can see really makes up for it- the Milky Way is truly spectacular here, much more visible than at home. We were also able to see the two neighboring galaxies to our own, something only visible this far south. And all of this was accentuated by the near total darkness of the deserted Outback. Sadly, my camera didn't have the settings to photograph the seen; instead I'll just have to recommend that if you ever find yourself in the Southern Hemisphere, take the time to glance at the stars. We finished up the evening with a campfire where we learned the "Australian Song"- Waltzing Maltida. Out professor also explained what the song means because honestly it's pretty incomprehensible- check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waltzing_Matilda if you're interested. Friday we had our mangrove and rainforest exam (whew) and then went on a brief kangaroo observing expedition (definitely my favorite animal here). The Outback is unlike any place I've ever visited- the sheer magnitude of the emptiness, the vastness of it, is honestly scary. The roads in the Outback are the first thing you notice- four lande roads are unheard of, and between the sparse towns in the Outback, the roads become one-lane with dirt pull-offs on the side to avoid oncoming traffic. Driving through the Outback, you come across the stereotypical Australian "bush" towns- towns of only a few hundred with a dried-up creek, a handful of trees, and a hundred year old bar that also serves as a hotel. I did actually see one golf course, although it was the most pitiful hilarious excuse for a golf course I've ever seen. There wasn't a speck of green to be seen anywhere, and there wasn't any sign of people either. Yesterday we drove back to Cairns the biggest city in Northern Australia for five full free days (woo). I'm going on my first dive here and hopefully hiking as many other days as I can- I'll update again soon. Thanks for reading.
P.S.- the previous entry was a poem written in 1908 by a famous Australian poet that I really feel fits the Outback and this country.