I spent this past weekend (friday-monday) in the outback with my study abroad group. It was an organized trip centered around us learning about Australian land and environment. We stayed on a farm in the outback, but before you picture a lancaster farm with cornfields, let me just tell you that this farm is 30,000 acres of mostly desolate terrain with some tempermental wheat fields and herds of cattle and sheep thrown in. Oh yeah.. and some typical Australian wildlife, which I’ll get to…
On the way there we tried to make a stop in the Blue Mountains, which sit an hour or two outside of Sydney. Unfortunately, it was so foggy you couldn’t see anything at the lookout point. Oh well. The trip took pretty much all day via charter bus, but we watched some Australian films and I listened to an audiobook (i’m cool like that).
We arrived and explored the farm a bit. We stayed in the cabins where the hired sheep shearers normally stay when they’re hired out. The host family that are professional chefs came along (since it was their brother’s farm) and cooked all our meals, so needless to say we didn’t go hungry in the Australian wilderness. There was a constant bonfire going on, and our little campground area was situated right by a creek. They challenged us at the beginning of the weekend to see if we could go the whole trip without showering. This was not so much for us to be gross for the fun of it, but more because they water supply out there is low and it would be best to spare as much as possible. Most of the group of 35 made it the whole time, including myself. Hey when you’re chillin in the outback hygiene just goes out the window. Who cares!
It was cold, but I still decided to sleep outside the first night with about 10 other friends. We brought our sleeping bag out to a tarp and slept under the stars. We all laid there looking up, and we could see the milky way constellation, and even the planet Venus. The southern cross and scorpio were all there, too. The moon was low the first night so the stars were incredible. I saw several shooting stars as we were talking at night. It was incredible and one of those memories that I will never forget. The sky in the outback is weird – it’s different somehow than ours. Well, partially due to low pollution I suppose. The ozone layer is thinner above Australia as well which may contribute to it. I don’t know I’m no scientist but I just know it’s different. Every night the sunset was incredible. The first night they took us out in jeep-type vehicles to go kangaroo spotting. Someone in shotgun holds a huge deer light (or should i say kangaroo light) and shines it around as we drive along the dirt roads of the property. We saw tons of them bounding across the road and through the fields! They were everywhere! When we saw one we’d speed up and just off-road it through the field trying to keep up with them!
The next day we went on a tour of the farm. We saw the coolest stuff, including a rock quarry, the old abandoned homestead, a lizard we got to pet, a herd of emus which was definitely a highlight, and outback watermelons (don’t try them no matter what anyone tells you). They took us to a hill – yes even though the outback is flat they can be found from time to time) and gave us the answer to an essay application question we filled out before we came. It asked what our goals were for studying abroad in Australia. It was funny to read what I had written, since I had forgotten by now. Then we were to write a letter to ourselves, which we’ll open at the end of the semester. It was a cool experience, looking out onto thousands of acres of wilderness and reflecting on my semester so far. That day we also chased sheep and that was quite a production. I got to hold a little lamb from the flock and it was so cute! On Monday I also had the opportunity to help a shearer shear a sheep. Say that five times fast. It was really awesome. We did some canoing, some guitar-playing and singing around the fire, some card-playing, and lots of picture-taking.
The whole trip was a great chance to build relationships with the other ASC students and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was perfectly timed to be a great getaway and I loved every minute of my time there.