Wow, where do I even begin?! Okay, probably from the beginning is good. This weekend, a majority of the students studying abroad through Arcadia in Melbourne geared up and headed to the Grampians National Park for a free weekend excursion hosted by Arcadia. It was about a three-hour bus ride with a stop at Macca’s for lunch. Our first stop was the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre. We watched two short films about the Aboriginal dreamtime creation story of the traditional people of Gariwerd, and on the landscape and aspects of the Grampians National Park. After the films, we went outside and learned to throw boomerangs. Since I learned before during the Melbourne Welcome Summer Program, this was a chance to try again and not feel rushed (there were 14 of us total, including the bus driver, our RA, and our student services coordinator). Some of us succeeded, some of us failed; I didn’t do so well, but I did do a lot better than the last time I attempted. After we all had a chance to try, we went inside the centre again and painted our own small boomerangs! We only had 30 minutes, but we all managed to finish painting ours, especially since they were the small, non-throwing ones.
After washing up, we had lunch at the Brambuk Bush Tucker Café. Besides the traditional menu items like hamburgers and hot dogs, I actually tried the kangaroo, crocodile, and the emu!!! By the way, it was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!! Kangaroo and emu taste kind of like steak, but they’re a bit more tender and emu is a bit more ‘gamey.’ Crocodile tail is almost like chicken. After lunch, we did a small walking tour around the gardens learning about the different plants that are native to Australia and what each plant grows or is known for.
After the tour, we headed to MacKenzie Falls, which required a bit of a hike. We went to the lookout first for the view – let’s just say every picture I took is nothing compared to the actual breathtaking view. We worked our way down to the waterfall and relaxed by the water. Some of us jumped into the water, while the rest of us (including me) sat by some dry rocks and dipped our feet in the rigid, cold water. The hike back up? Well…when you’re as out of shape and exhausted as me, you’d probably already know that this was definitely not an easy hike up. Luckily it wasn’t a long trek up, but that didn’t make the steps and hills any easier. We headed to our hostel to freshen up (and lay down) before going out to dinner and getting ice cream. When we got back, we saw kangaroos about 100 feet away, so we all went closer to them (but kept our distance of course) to take pictures and watch them eat and hop away. There was a small reptile show that was happening, but being petrified of snakes, decided to head back to my room and sleep.
On day two of the excursion, we had to wake up early for breakfast. We headed to Hollow Mountain for the morning to go rock climbing! Since it was before 9 am, there wasn’t a lot of heat so it was good weather. As someone who is quite afraid of heights and has never rock climbed before, I have to be proud of myself because I climbed twice on two different mountain grades! Albeit I didn’t go all the way to the top, but I did go about 2/3 of the way up before chickening out or losing grip and belaying back down. (Thank you Raechyl, Laura P, and Devon for belaying me and taking some awesome pictures! Thank you to the two instructors there too for teaching and helping us!) We then hiked to the top of that mountain (at least it wasn’t as bad as the hike up from MacKenzie Falls) and got ready to abseil (or rappel) down the side of the mountain! (AHHH!!! Remember how I’m quite terrified of heights?) The hardest part was backing up to the edge of the cliff, leaning back, and letting myself basically walk down the ledge before feeding myself down the rope without any footing and spinning a bit mid-air before finally reaching to the bottom. BUT AGAIN – the view was spectacular and breathtaking, as long as I wasn’t looking directly down.
After an adventurous morning, we headed to the J Ward Prison for a guided tour of the jail for the criminally insane (basically any males who were found not guilty due to reason of insanity). It was shut down in 1991 and was restored into a museum, so there weren’t any patients or prisoners, but it was still eerie to see the pictures of these patients and to stand in the rooms of where they once stayed. After our guided tour, we were on our way back to St. Kilda.
I’m not sunburned, threw and painted a boomerang, saw kangaroos, emus, and wallabies, tried three new types of food, and completed two new adventurous activities – all in a matter of 30 hours in the Grampians. I really did enjoy myself this weekend, and I hope to one day overcome that fear of heights and be able to rock climb all the way to the top and be able to abseil without feeling extremely terrified. Here’s to also hoping I get to eat kangaroo, crocodile, and emu again. Most of all, here’s hoping for a great rest of the semester full of adventures and excitement!