Monday, April 22, 2013

here there & everywhere: lecture recess

i have a bad case of the mondays today. lecture recess flew by- after 10 days of exploration i am so not feeling ready to get back to studying. 

day one of the break (last saturday) we drove south to alligator creek, about twenty minutes from townsville. apparently you can hike 20km all along the creek, but we were more in the mood for some swimming. after climbing over rocks up the creek past rapids and waterfalls for about thirty minutes, we found a calm spot. 

the hike got steep at some points- got awesome views of the creek!

at the beginning there were a bunch of people, and it got more and more secluded the further we went upstream

had to stop for some waterfall jumping/climbing

a good place for a swim! you still had to fight with the current a little to stay in the same spot though and not get sucked down the rapids. the water was so cold though! it felt amazing

attempting to climb, but the rocks were pretty slippery

found a whirlpool!

 sunday morning was the first of many early starts- woke up before the sun rose to head out to orpheus island. this time, i was there on a field trip for the reef fishes course. we had three beautiful days of intense snorkeling while observing fish behavior out on the reef. i barely had time to take photographs, but i feel like i actually learned so much about different species and families. i swear when i went to bed i'd close my eyes and see fish..

the daily struggle

a parrotfish chomping away 

Labridae, Pomacentridae, Chaetodontidae... ahh the diversity!

we would all split up on these little boats and go to various spots around the island to snorkel. one time our boat's motor randomly stopped working and we had to get towed by the barge! 

i missed my frog friends. they look like they're living the life

found a tiny python! i don't think he liked us poking him very much

for one of the studies some unfortunate fish did not survive. the harlequin wrasse is so gorgeous though! tons of them out on the reef

beautiful sunset

we were all so sad to leave orpheus. there is something really wonderful about living out on the island for a few days that makes it seem like it would be easy to stay out there for ages. weird thinking that i probably won't be back here, unless for some chance i come to JCU for graduate school... hmm..

after waking up up at 4:30 am to pack up and leave, we returned to townsville by 11am. i ignored my lack of sleep and got ready to rock climbing on mt. stuart! the drive up the mountain is awesome- rolling hills of green forest spread out below and in the distance you can see the city reaching the coast. apparently most of mt. stuart is a military training area; we could hear distant gunshots while climbing which is always reassuring!

instead of going down the perilous hike down to the base of the rock face, i decided to abseil down instead. once down, i deftly avoided the rock that had impaled itself on my shin a month ago. 

robyn on the first attempt up the face

victoria was the most successful

we moved to try a higher climb and got an even more awesome view

fellow climbers below! they look like tiny ants

discovered that lying down while belaying is extremely comfortable and necessary for high climbs! otherwise your neck starts to hurt from looking up

my first attempt at a little bit of crack climbing. it was kind of mossy and slimy in there but at the moment i didn't really care, was so intent on getting up there

every so often i'd look down and remember my slight fear of heights.. i think i'm getting over it though

and the week didn't slow down here... thursday morning i went off on a field trip for my australian  vertebrate fauna class. we drove three hours inland to this enormous 57,000 acre cattle station called wambiana. (wambiana means kangaroo in the aboriginal language native to that region) wambiana looked very little like the typical cattle farm that i imagine in my head- the pictures speak for themselves! basically while we were here we learned how to check and bait traps, search for animals during the day and night, and identify different species in order to gain a comprehensive view of all the different creatures of wambiana.

there are tons of camels roaming around- instead of using herbicides to kill the weeds that grow here, camels just eat them! plus, they were described to us as the only employees that work here 24/7 for no pay.

emu in the distance

5am wake up call

let me tell you however that is trip was not all fun and games. things got serious when we got out into the bush and literally swarms of mosquitos enveloped us. wearing insect repellent? how about long sleeves? DIDN'T MATTER. these guys were serious. do i sound bitter? 

carolyn's face tells you how we all felt about waking up at 5:00 am to check traps

the fog did look pretty cool

and the sunrise wasn't bad either

but there were also gigantic spiders/spider webs

which we all walked through multiple times

i discovered another talent i am lacking is bird watching. okay seriously, how do you identify the beak shape or wing tips of a black silhouetted creature that flies by in three seconds and disappears into a tree?

the best parts were when we would wander around just trying to find animals without traps. while the only things i found were crabs and cane toads (exactly the opposite of what we needed), other people found some awesome animals!

like this sleeping bat

and this mini frog

don't forget tons of geckos and lizards

one of the coolest animals found: an echidna! the only other mammal besides the platypus that lays eggs.  so cool looking! our echidna actually escaped during the night from where were were keeping it and burrowed under one of the hay bales

i felt bad for this possum that we trapped in one of the cages. it looked absolutely terrified as everyone was staring in at it and snapping away photos

this black headed python seemed content just sitting on my lap. he had tons of battle scars, likely from squeezing prey to death. we were shown a picture of one of these snakes eating a wallaby.. crazy! 

needless to say, it felt good to get back to townsville after such a hectic break. but i can sleep when i get back to the U.S... i've already made plans for a trip north to cairns this weekend! looking forward to going diving on the outer great barrier reef and exploring the giant fig trees & waterfalls of the atherton tablelands. 

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