2011 Spring Australia Erin Shetron External Programs

Jungle Hikes

Since arriving in Australia, I’ve heard some talk about the intense droughts that left the country with little water to go around. Usually, this tidbit came up as an explanation for the toilet flushing options- the button on the left uses minimal water (to rid #1) and the one on the right uses more (to rid #2). It wasn’t until last week that I really got an idea of the damages a drought can have. While catching up on my laundry, I got talking to my friend Gavin about his roots. He had grown up on his family’s cattle farm (they tried sheep for a bit, too, but apparently sheep were too much a pain in the butt) until the drought took its toll. We didn’t talk for long, but from what I gathered, the drought devastated Gavin’s farm as well as his family. The same year they were forced to give up on their farm, his parents divorced. His mum continued a job in nursing, and his dad found work in a town. Gavin’s older sister now attends a university right by a farm and has picked up horseback riding. He concluded to me it’s good for her to be ‘out there,’ still living something of a farm life.

This weekend, I went with my IFSA-Butler group to Tamborine Mountain and Llamington National Park. On the bus ride out to the the mountain, we passed acres upon acres of farmland dotted with cows, bulls, sheep, llamas, and horses- all grazing with fat bellies on the lush, green fields. I thought of Gavin and how I would never have guessed that farmland had once been dry, its grass turned brown and the animals hungry. I saw a mare and her still clumsy foal gently play together in a separate field by the road, another pasture with at least six miniature horses (so cute!), and a dad on a tractor pulling his two kids behind him in a cart with a dog running alongside. I thought of home and my once pseudo-farm life- my horses, my dad’s lawn mower rides around our backyard.

When we arrived at Mount Tamborine, the farmland spanned out far below us and seemed like a different world altogether. Up on the mountain, there was only jungle. Two guides lead my group along narrow, muddy trails. The deeper we went, the cooler and damper it became. The sunshine was suddenly blocked by tall trees, the smaller trees and shrubs cleared away, and the earth was covered with fallen trunks, branches, and leaves, all covered in moss and slick mud. It was unlike any forest I’ve ever been in. Eventually, after crossing streams by way of decaying, slippery bridges and stepping down tiny stone stairs, we reached a look-out point that gave us an amazing view of a waterfall shooting out from the mountain.

After our hike, we boarded the bus and headed to a wine tasting at a local winery. The small vineyard was sunny and picturesque, and while I’m not much of a wine lover, it was the perfect activity to follow up our jungle hike. After sipping on fruity whites and zesty reds, the group and I grabbed Subway sandwiches from two huge coolers and sat around picnic tables overlooking the vineyard.

We followed up lunch with a bit of free time in a local town (just five minutes from the winery) to browse the shops and refuel with some coffee. The town was really just one street, both sides lined with antique and gift boutiques, clothing stores, cafes, fudge & ice cream stores, etc.

The day ended with a shorter hike in Lamington National Park. There, we followed a similar trail, came upon a much more close-up waterfall, and saw a massive (as in, I could curl up comfortably inside it) bush turkey nest.

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