Just came back from an Arcadia weekend excursion at Straddie (North Stradbroke Island) with other US students studying abroad through the same program. It was interesting hanging out with Americans again; I’m not sure what to say.
Straddie is an island just off the coast of Brisbane, and the Aboriginal Islanders call it Minjerribah, meaning “the land of many mosquitos.” It is the second largest sand island in the world and home to classic Aussie animals! Most of the island is protected land, and there are places with no cellular service. After riding an hour to the Cleveland train station, I was picked up by the Arcadia team and we drove onto the vehicle ferry (see picture), which takes automobiles, along with people, onto the island.
Once we got on the island, Matt, an Aboriginal islander, welcomed us through traditional song and dance. He even painted out faces and taught us a some of the dances his people did. Once we finished the session, we drove to the resort we were staying at. On the way, we let a koala cross the road (yes it was a wild koala! Also the first one I’ve seen in Australia haha). Instead of deer crossing signs, the island has koala and kangaroo crossing signs. Each unit at the resort had a full kitchen, bathroom, dining and lounge area, a detached bedroom, and an upstairs loft with bunk beds. But since there weren’t enough beds in the unit I was originally in, I moved into the trip coordinator’s unit with another girl. We had a bunk each + peace and quiet :). We then had dinner at the local bowls club and headed back to the resort, ready to rest and wake up for a full day ahead.
We woke up early to go surfing at Cylinder beach on Saturday. It's my third time surfing and I'm by no means an expert, but since there were 30 people in our group and only a few instructors, I tried catching my own waves. I’m pretty good at reading waves from shore (from years of building sand creations on the beach and whatnot), but watching for the right waves to ride is a completely different art. It reminded me of a surfing analogy about waiting for God’s timing, which I didn’t fully understand until Saturday:
We also saw a pod of dolphins while we were surfing! It was really cool. After we surfed and changed, we met up with Matt again, who taught us more about Aboriginal culture and way of life. He showed us the tools and weapons his people uses, various flora (which plants were edible and which were medicinal), and waited until the end to tell us that there were two koalas in the trees we were sitting under. Can you spot one? (Note: Wild koalas are not huggable because they can transmit Chlamydia to humans.)
It started pouring, so instead of eating lunch by the beach, we ate in the bus on the way to sand boarding because it wasn’t raining at the site. But as soon as we stepped off the bus, it started raining, so our boards got didn’t move very well in the wet sand. It was really cool, nonetheless, being on sand dunes with a fantastic view of the ocean.
Afterwards, we got gelato and did the North Gorge Walk around Point Lookout. It’s a magical walk on a sunny day but still breath-taking on a cloudy/rainy one. We saw wild kangaroos with joey, sea turtles, and manta rays, and took lots of pictures. My roommate this weekend, Tina, has an iPhone 7+ and took a few shots of me using portrait, and WOW they look so nice. Makes my photos look shabby haha. But good to know that I’m not the only one who takes a ton of ocean pictures ;).
Even though it was only 4pm when we finished the walk, everyone was wet, cold, and pretty tired from the day, so we went back to the resort to shower and rest, and I took a power nap on the top bunk (I slept on the bottom bunk the night before). After dinner at the bowls club, Tina and I watched the movie "xXx 3: Return of Xander Cage” while it poured outside. So this is how people kill time.
Since we did most of the activities on Saturday, we just went kayaking on Brown Lake on Sunday. Thank God it only rained before and after the kayaking, and not during. Brown Lake is brown because of the Melaleuca and Tea Trees that grow around it, but it looks black in the deep parts. The fresh water is infused with melaleuca (which is good for your skin), so a few of us swam in the lake after kayaking. We ate lunch by the lake, then headed back to take the ferry to go home.