Carnarvon and Reflections

Our last Australian field trip has come and gone. Carnarvon was absolutely beautiful. The hikes were so cool. The first day my group did the long hike, 14k. The first half of the day we were with our American professor, Meghan. It was a really great opportunity to get to know her better. That morning we hiked to a cave in the rock wall named the Amphitheater. It was practically a religious experience. We hiked in in silence and just absorbed how ancient this place was. It was sort of an oasis, surrounded on all side by bare sandstone but with enough light and plenty of water for a little garden to grow. Being in there made me feel small, but connected to a larger whole. It was fantastic. We then hiked to the “Art Gallery” a place where Aboriginal people carved and painted the rock face many years ago. It was beautiful, and it made me think. I wondered what it was like when the art was being created. Were the people joyful? Solemn? What did this art mean for them, and what would they think of me looking at it? After a while we hiked back to the center of the gorge and had lunch while soaking our feet in the creek. We then swapped over with another group and spent the afternoon with our Australian professor John Hall. John took us to two side canyons in the gorge. One was host to a species of giant fern. What was interesting about this fern was its next closest habitat is hundreds of kilometers away, on Fraser Island. The gorge acts as a refuge, remaining cool and wet enough that this species can still survive. A little further down the trek we went to the Moss Garden. John had us close our eyes and conga line into the garden in order for our first impression to not be a visual one. It was cool and damp, quiet except for the rush of a waterfall. When we opened our eyes we saw lush green had overtaken the pale sandstone. This place was the very bottom of a huge water filter, where water trickles out of the bottom of the rock formation. This allows enough moisture for moss to grow on the rock. It was a beautiful place.

The next day we got up very early  and headed out to Boolimba Bluff. We climbed nearly a thousand stairs to reach the top of the gorge. The view was spectacular, and it made the climb worth it. We did some field work, then headed back down. A nap, some homework time, and then we headed to the waterhole for a swim. That was so much fun. That afternoon we did more field work and Josie talked about fire management in the dry sclerophyll forest. The next day we observed kangaroo behavior, went for a swim and then hiked out to another side gorge. We sat by a stream and reflected for a while, and then John told us to get the Indiana Jones theme playing in our heads. We hiked into a very narrow canyon, climbing on the walls and scrambling over rocks. It was totally a blast, and really beautiful. That night we had “Carnarvon’s Got Talent”. We had magic tricks, skits, impressions, and I showed the group a kata and then got attacked by a zombie. Josie sang a beautiful heartbreaking song about the Vietnam war that almost made me cry. John, of course, recited a poem. Every night I slept under the stars. Every evening I camped out by the bank of the stream to catch a glimpse of the platypodes that live there. It was a surreal and beautiful experience. 

I skyped with my parents this morning and they asked what I’ll miss most about Brisbane. We’re leaving so soon. My first answer was “Not Translink.” But when I thought about it seriously, I decided what I’ll miss most after this program is the people. It’s been amazing getting to know the 40 or so personalities that I’ve been travelling with. Everyone is unique, everyone has a different perspective. It’s been really interesting watching people fall together like puzzle pieces, and every once and a while things get shaken up and fall back together in a different way. If I were an anthropologist, studying a group of young people going abroad for three months would be a fascinating project. It’s been a privilege to get to know every student, every professor, every tutor, every family member. If I had the power to stop time, to freeze things exactly as they are, the moment we were all laughing together under the pavilion in Carnarvon would be worthy of consideration.  

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