The Collegian
Thursday, December 08, 2022

The luckless life I lead as a tourist

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Apart from my studious nature and countless pub crawls around Melbourne, I do take the time to be your typical American tourist with the fanny pack and huge camera around my neck. Okay, so not quite that extreme, but yes, I have been fortunate enough to tour some of the natural attractions of Australia; although I do have to whine a bit -- or, I guess, laugh -- because it would be my luck that three out of three tours I have been on, I haven't been blessed with the best weather. By that I mean, it rained every time, I got stuck in a hail and thunderstorm on a beach and our Great Ocean Road trip turned into the coldest day Australia has seen in 10 years; but I will elaborate more on the not-so-perfect-day-weather-wise trips in just a bit.

Trip 1: Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and Yarra Valley Wine Region

They don't lie -- those people who tell you that Melbourne has four seasons in one day. From the moment I stepped off Qantas Airways, I guess you can say I had the good fortune of experiencing this seasonal mayhem. First of all, going from uncomfortably-hot-and-humid-95-degree weather to overcast and 40 degree climate is a bit of a shock. I was forewarned of the opposite seasons or told that I chose the wrong semester to go down under, but either way, I was aware of the winter season. Knowing this, I made sure to pack my sweaters, rain jacket and UGGs, but again with my luck (if you haven't caught on by now, I am not the luckiest clover in the bunch), Qantas lost my luggage. So here I am, halfway across the world, stuck wearing the same clothes for a week. Of course I showered because I am not one to break my habitual hygiene habits, but I tell you it is not the same after-shower-refreshing feeling when you have to don the same clothes and underwear for several days.

Okay, so what is important is not my droning on about past events, but rather the unbelievable adventures I have had so far in Oz ...

Upon my arrival, I confirmed my place in the Melbourne Welcome at Queens College. What this was, was basically pre-orientation operated by Australian students who wore fluorescent-colored sweat suits and guided 50 international students to must-see tourist locations or more importantly, the local pubs throughout Victoria.

Our leaders took us to the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and the Yarra Valley Wine Region for our first excursion outside of Melbourne. At the wildlife reservation, the animals, for the most part, ran wild. Besides the reptiles, Tasmanian devils and dingoes that had legitimate cages, the rest of the Australian fauna roamed the premise of the sanctuary freely. In addition to feeding the kangaroos and massive pelicans, we spent the majority of our time searching for shelter from the rainy weather and warming our hands by the miniature fireplace near the reptile house.

After sprinting through the downpour to our bus, the leaders took us to the Yarra Valley Wine Region for some quality wine-tasting and a brief information session on how to bottle wine. Unfortunately, the group did not a get a tour of the vineyards because of the overcast and drizzly weather, but that was okay because I learned the proper way to taste and smell wine. I can now officially say I am an expert ...

Trip 2: The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world's most scenic roads along the coastline of southwest Victoria, Australia. It is a memorial to those Australians who died fighting in the First World War, and along its route and in the towns, there are a number of statues that honor those who lost their lives.

The journey begins at Torquay, finishes near Warrnambool, takes around four hours to drive its entirety and covers nearly 151 miles. Oh, how could I forget to mention: It's probably the windiest road I have ever experienced! Fun fact about myself: I get extreme motion sickness. I take ginger pills before every flight, live for Dramamine when boating and always carry a set of Sea Bands, which apply pressure on the acupressure point on each wrist to reduce nausea and vomiting.

What can I say? I have a weak stomach. Although what does not go well with queasiness is rainy, chilly weather; and by chilly I mean the coldest day Oz has seen in ten years! Ten years, and to my good luck, I witnessed it. I all but fought the wind on the last day of our trip as I struggled to keep my balance walking toward the beach against the huge gusts of wind and massive rain drops. Not to mention I could barely see through my mass of hair that just about acted as a balloon trying to carry me off into the clouds!

Despite my continual nausea and chattering teeth, I managed to capture hundreds of pictures of the spectacular beaches of Lorne, the waterfalls and treetops in Otway and the Twelve Apostles which majestically rise from the Southern Ocean.

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Phillip Island

This nature island, located in Western Port, is a place of natural beauty, sandy beaches and unique wildlife experiences. It is famous for the Penguin Parade which takes place after sunset when the little Penguins waddle up the beach to the safety of their homes in the sand dunes.

A few weeks ago, I went to Phillip Island, organized by an outdoor program, with 24 other Americans. We woke up early and started our two-hour bus trip in the pouring rain. What a surprise!

After a quick lunch, our group followed our guide Jared for an enjoyable walk along the beach and a three-kilometer trail that overlooks the water. At this point, the weather was fairly sunny, a bit breezy, but very tranquil. Our guide enlightened us about all the venomous insects and animals in Australia, and nonchalantly mentioned that Great White Sharks infested the waters in Phillip Island because of the seal habitation nearby. As I made a mental note to never go surfing here, Jared abruptly stopped the group and advised us to head back to the bus because a storm was approaching; and he wasn't joking!

Jared immediately took off in a trot and insisted we pick up the pace. Since our guide was now running, we all frantically took off and followed him. As soon as most of us got on the beach, it started to downpour! In fact, downpour is an understatement, because it was not the most favorable thunderstorm to be caught in, since it included hail.

The most amusing part was watching everyone attempt to run along the beach, in the sand, during this monsoon while trying to keep their rain jackets and hoods on. It got to the point where it was so hard to run, that everyone just walked and by the time they arrived at the bus, they were absolutely drenched. It looked like we had just jumped into a pool, but it was so unpleasant that Jared stopped at the next town so we could buy a new wardrobe! As humorous as it was, it was a bit inconvenient because it was the first stop of the day.

After the pit stop of sweatpants and coffee, we went to a wildlife preserve, fed countless animals and headed off to watch the Penguin Parade after sunset.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and the erratic weather only betters my memories and adventures. I am taking the optimistic approach to this unpredictable weather and am concluding that it can only get better from here. This means I am expecting to have the best spring break weather! As a matter of fact, it is 5:10 a.m. right now, and I am leaving in 15 minutes to start my journey up the eastern coast of Australia. After a two week break, I guarantee I will have stories or better yet a novel to write when I return. Well, at least I better because if not then I didn't demonstrate and maintain the proper meaning of spring break, right?!

Contact blogger Sawyer Weirman at sawyer.weirman@richmond.edu

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