Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Heysen Trail Mk 2

The less-than-brilliant Adelaide testing system spreads finals out over two weeks, and yet three of us had all three to four finals each clumped in the first and last two days of the span. Which meant that we had a very large span of time in the middle with absolutely no scheduled engagements. So did we spend that time studying for our finals? Heck no, we went hiking!


Our second backpacking expedition was more ambitious than the first. It was also planned and prepared in about a tenth of the time of the first one. This time it was just Katherine, Cassie, and me, since Kyle had a conflicting final. We hiked across the Fleurieu Peninsula, once again following the Heysen Trail (the same trail we used on the first trip), for a total distance of 60km in a little under three days of walking and three nights camping. Here's a map of the peninsula in relation to Adelaide, with our start and end points (Cape Jervis and Victor Harbor, respectively) marked in purple.

On Saturday we spent the whole afternoon packing, then caught a coach bus down to Cape Jervis, our starting point. Incidentally, we had been through Cape Jervis once before, as it's the mooring point for the ferry to Kangaroo Island. It seemed fitting that we were to begin our final South Australian adventure in the same place we had begun our very first one.

The first section of trail followed the coastline, providing us with all sorts of beautiful views, including a very nice sunset. Unfortunately, that sunset also meant that it wasn't going to stay light for very long. We were hoping to make it into the first conservation park, which had an official campsite. Fate wasn't with us on this one, and some very dark stormclouds showed up, blotting out the last of the light and making angry thunder sounds. After climbing down a hill that slanted at a crazy angle and losing the trail to a washed-out creek bed, we realized that we were still a long way from our hoped-for destination, so we set up our tent next to the trail (not easy in the intense winds), ate some soup quickly and hid in the tent. The storm that we were afraid of never really materialized, but the wind was relentless, and kept us awake a lot of the night by making it sound like our tent was going to blow away (even more of a concern since we hadn't been able to stake it down very well in the rock-hard ground).

The next morning provided more beautiful coastline views, and at one point we hit a picturesque little beach where we took our shoes off and frolicked in the waves and sand. Then we turned inland towards Deep Creek Conservation Park. This section of the trail was incredibly steep. I don't remember the exact figures since I don't have the map any more, but we did something like three quarters of the total vertical meters for the whole trip in that one day. The trail in this section was also a bit more... 'untamed' than we had been expecting. The trail was really just a tiny winding dirt path, in some places completely overgrown by plants (a few of which had thorns and gave us some nice scratches all over our arms and legs). Other places had us scrambling over and up steep rock-strewn hills. This area of the Heysen must not get much traffic, because it didn't look like there had been any maintenance work done on it in the past several years or so. By the time we made it to the campsite (well before dark, thankfully), we were all exhausted and sore, Katherine's heels were bleeding, and Cassie's toes were battling for supremacy by gouging pieces out of each other. I don't want to make it sound like half the day was horrible - there were some very nice parts, like a waterfall hidden away in the bottom of one of the valleys, and a family of kangaroos (an enormous one, a medium one, and a frisky little baby) as we were nearing our campsite, and all in all it was still great scenery and everything. But I can safely say we were all very relieved when our campsite finally came into view.

The next day the trail left the conservation park and returned to the coast. That morning took us down three different beaches with stints of climbing in between. As you can see in the photos, we were literally walking right down these deserted, picturesque beaches, which was pretty neat. The first was a rocky one with enormous waves crashing against the outcrops. The second, Tunkalilla beach, was sandy and also had enormous waves. The guidebook warned that while it might look inviting (it did), it was full of dangerous currents and, I quote, "shark infested." Washed up on the beach we found a can of air freshener that had obviously been floating for a very long time, and a full oil drum. No kidding. We could make out a Shell logo on the side, along with a tattered label that had part of a tracking number, and the drum felt full and seemed to still be sealed. When we got back to civilization, I phoned it in to the environmental agency, but the tide must have come in and washed it back out because they couldn't find it. Anyways, the third beach was also sandy and inviting, and since it's apparently popular with surfers, presumably less shark infested. If it had been warmer, we might have been tempted to go for a swim.

Leaving the coast again, the trail immediately climbed an insanely steep hill, not even providing a dirt path, just an arrow pointing up. The afternoon was spent crossing mostly sheep and cow pastures. The gentle rolling hills were a welcomed change from the previous day's adventures. As evening approached, the kangaroos came out, and we saw a ton of them. We even saw two on a hillside that were boxing! Awesome!

The next and final day, we were on a schedule, since if we didn't make it to Victor Harbor by about 3pm, we would miss the last coach to Adelaide and might find ourselves camping an extra night in a park or field, not something we really wanted to happen. The trail returned to the coast for another conservation park, which meant more stunning views of the ocean and coastal cliffs and stuff. We also saw an echidna! He ran away from us, but it was pretty exciting, as none of us had seen one in the wild yet. We made it to Victor Harbor with plenty of time to spare, so we ate lunch, and then sat in a little park across from the bus stop for a couple hours since none of us felt like walking anywhere else. We caught the coach back to Adelaide, and immediately started studying for finals.

Compared to our first excursion along the Heysen trail, this one was a bit more demanding, but also more rewarding. We didn't have as many opportunities to dawdle and relax, since we needed to cover a set distance in the time we had, but we also got to see some amazing scenery and visit areas that almost no one sees (at least judging by how not-well-traveled the trail was). It certainly was a lot more fun than sitting around studying.

Botanic Gardens

Ok, I swear I'm going to start updating again! Well, at least for a little while, until we leave for Bend for a week >.<

I'm going to begin at the beginning, or more accurately, where I stopped updating, that is, somewhere in the middle of exam time. For starters we've got a quickie:

Just before things really got hectic in the last couple weeks of school, we walked to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens one day. Every major city in Australia seems to have a Royal Botanic Garden, but Adelaide's was one of the nicest I saw (probably only outdone by those in Sydney). I'm not going to write much, because mostly what we did was walk around, look at plants, and enjoy the fact that it was a beautiful day. You want photos, so I'm going to stop talking and give you what you want. A highlight is the extended section in the middle that consists of pictures of Katherine as she tried to wrestle the camera away from me.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Frisbee stuffs

Another minor but exciting thing:

The Adelaide frisbee team that Katherine and I played on won our Wednesday night league division playoffs. Here's the exciting part: we got trophies! With a frisbee player on them! I didn't even know these things existed. Here's a picture of our team holding our trophies.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Aussie Slang

I started this one a while ago and never finished, so I'm just gonna fill it in and stick it up here.

The single greatest culture difference here in Australia is definitely the slang. Australians have so much slang, and it's usually slang that isn't found anywhere else in the world. Combined with their accents, it's led to me giving a lot of blank looks.

There's slang for different types of people: guys are blokes, girls are sheilas, white trash are bogans, Brits are poms, outlaws are bushrangers, Americans are yanks, someone from New Zealand is a kiwi, and so on.

Then there's the near-inexplicable ones: afternoon becomes arvo, house flies are blowies, a teapot is a billy, an outhouse is a dunny, whining or complaining is whinging or "having a whinge", raisins are sultanas... I just don't know how they came up with this stuff.

The biggest and most ridiculous trend in Australian slang, though, is shortening words and adding a long E sound to the end. At first it seems okay: there's barbie (barbeque), brekkie (breakfast), esky (a cooler), lollies (any variety of candy or other sweet), and sunnies (sunglasses). Then you realize that "Aussie" and "Tassie" both work as adjectives describing something Australian or Tasmanian respectively, but when used as nouns, Aussie means an Australian person, while Tassie is the country of Tasmania. And they really take the whole trend way too far. The final straw was stores advertising Chrissy ornaments for sale. Once that one sunk in, I decided Australians are totally absurd.