Saturday, June 21, 2014

Opinions in the Outback

Our Carnarvon tour guide, Simon

During our last hike at Carnarvon Gorge, we stopped as Simon showed us some ancient birth control methods that were used by the Aboriginal people. They were some type of nut or berry that had quinine in them and were an effect method in preventing pregnancy.

Ancient birth control methods 

He began to talk to us about population control and our decline of resources. "You need to think about what the worst the environment can deliver and that we stay within that carrying capacity. The Aboriginal people stayed within the caring capacity," he said. Once he opened the floor for others to talk, our 5 minute stop turned into nearly an hour. Simon asked Mindy what she thought if we were told we could only have a certain number of kids. As an easy-going girl, Mindy is not the type of person to speak her mind and argue her beliefs. Yet, this questioned stirred her, making her strong opinion of having as many children as she pleases sound bold. Alex was quick to disagree and believes our resources are far more important.

Controversy began and others were telling their opinion. All I could do was listen. Watching my classmates discuss this controversy was interesting. We all come from different backgrounds, different upbringings, different values.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Welcome to the Outback... Not the Restaurant

We left Brisbane at sunrise and arrived to Carnarvon Gorge after the sunset. The 10-hour bus ride to Carnarvon Gorge went by very fast for me since I took a ZQuil and slept the majority of the way. My classmates, including Dr. Kris, said they were amazed at how I could sleep in awkward positions on a bus. I like to sleep. Speaking of sleep, I have been having some bizarre dreams while in Australia. I don't know if it's because my mind is on vacation mode and I am not stressing, but I am able to remember all of my dreams, scary and happy. It's quite interesting.

Our bus drivers Collin and Steve were fabulous. In addition to driving us around the Gorge, they cooked  us our meals. I expected our "camping" meals to be plain and simple, but we were given a full buffet for every meal. We had stir fry and pasta and pancakes and bacon and eggs and cake and ice cream and so much more. The quality (and quantity might I add) of the food we ate was superb. Dr. Kris loved the stir fry for dinner one night. He was very much impressed! Steve gave us seconds and thirds and made sure we all ate up during every meal, especially since we were hiking and being so active. He didn't want us to have any empty stomaches… which is how I live my life. I was a happy, content, over-fed girl.
Team Dingo

Kyle and I cutting rope with quartzite rocks

During the first full day, on Friday, June 13th, YES I SAID FRIDAY THE 13TH… dun dun dun… we had an Aborgional competition where we spit into two teams: The Dingos and the Wombats. Kyle and Alex are the only two boys, so they were our captains. Our teams were determined "dodge ball style". As I guessed… I was picked last… the BEST for last right? I think my pink fuzzy socks came off intimidating, so they each were assuming I would get picked by the other. Whateves, I pulled my weight as a Dingo.

We were given three different tasks:
1) Carve tools out of stone that are sharp enough to cut rope
2) Construct a water container our of raw material
3) Carve a returning boomerang

These tasks gave me a sense of what the Aboriginal people had to do on a daily basis, heavily relying on nature. Kyle and I were in charge of finding rocks to carve tools out of stone. We threw full quartzite rock on other rocks to cut the rocks in half, creating sharp edges. Kyle cut as I held the rope tight and motivated Kyle to cut faster! After cutting the rope at least 7 times, we won! Goes to show that those picked last are the true winners hehe. However, we lost on the water container and boomerang carving. Although we lost, we had amazing team work. Plus, our face paint looked fierce.

After the Aboriginal competition, we went on a water hike in the Wagaroo Gorge with our tour guide, Simon Ling. Simon brought a wealth of knowledge of the Gorge's plants, animals, landscapes and cultures. He combined his deep love of the Australian bush and a talent for communication to lead us to a greater understanding of the natural world and the place of humans within it. Simon explained where we were and why it is important with fascinating commentary. When I said we went on a water hike, I mean water. We were about chest deep in water, hiking along a narrow Gorge. The greenery within the Gorge and the sunlight shining down within the Gorge's walls were amazing. From swimming across large puddles, walking along a log as a tight rope, and climbing the Gorge's walls to continue along the route, we had to help each other with each challenge. I mounted my Go-Pro on my head, which better illustrates my adventure visually.
I will post a video of my water hike soon~

Later that night, we went on a night walk and nocturnal wildlife spotting. Unlike the nocturnal walk at Lamington, we saw multiple creatures in the dusk. Kangaroos, wallabies, yellow-belly gliders, and a king toad. From dawn to dusk, I learned there is a lot of activity happening throughout the day.

Larissa and me (wearing a tank top)
My classmates and me (wearing everything I brought)

The next day, Saturday, June 14th, my classmates and I went on one-heck-of-a steep hike, estimating 1,000 steps. The thing about Simon is he doesn't wait for ya. He leads the group and expects to meet you at the end of the trail. Since I learned that from yesterday's hike, I tried my best to be close up front, next to him. I definitely kept my pace to keep up, but let's just say I went from wearing 2 jackets, a beanie and gloves to stripping down to a tank top and using my hand-held battery-generated fan by the end of the journey. I went from freezing to bloody hot within 5 minutes of the hike. Collin and Steve prepared grilled-cheese sandwiches before the hike, which was definitely worked off by the time I got up the mountain. When we arrived to the top, I didn't know what we were looking at until Simon pointed out the great divide. It was a beautiful siting. Since we weren't moving, I got cold again. I swear, I put on, took off, put on, took off clothes multiple times during the day. Actually, for the entire time we were at Carvnarvon Gorge. I couldn't keep up. Oh, and I completed this intense hike wearing high-top converse…
I will post a video of my steep mountain hike soon~

Day 3 came too fast. On Sunday, June 15th, I woke up at 5am to make it to 6am breakfast then our 7am hike. Did I mention I woke up at 5am? Yeah… Although we had to wake up before 7am each morning, it was worth it. We were able to fit SO many activities during the day. The 7am hike ended around 4pm. Hiking for 9 miles was quite the experience, let me tell ya. Since I wore my Nikes the first day for the water hike and my Converse the next day for the mountain hike, I was shoe-less since they were both still wet from me washing them. Big mistake to think it was a good idea to do that. Fortunately, Kathleen let me borrow her Nike shoes… bless her heart! I am so thankful to have met Kathleen on this trip. She is a one-of-a-kind person with a sincere heart, always willing to help. She has been my partner in crime this trip.

Aboriginal Art
Meme Me and Kat - The best roomies at the moss garden

During the long trek, we saw history, wildlife and grey nomads along the way. Steve told me what a grey nomad was. Can you guess? They are the old tourists at Carnarvon. They embrace it. They know that's what they are called. My classmates and I were without a doubt the youngest people at Carnarvon. I realized this outback was tourist spot for those retired. They were nice though! When we started talking to them, they knew we were from the States (or Canada). What I like the most about Australia is that I blend in. When studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain (twice), it was hard for me to adapt to the culture and language and style. Living in Australia, people don't think I am a tourist until I open my mouth. My accent gives it away. It's a nice change.

We saw authentic Aboriginal rock art on the Gorge's walls, which proved to me that this Aboriginal culture and history is real. The stories Simon and Mary Graham said were true. It was a beautiful view and I couldn't keep my eyes off of it. We also trekked to an amphitheater and the moss garden. It's stereotypical to think that an outback is all desert. It's not. Parts of the trek, especially the moss garden, reminded me of a rainforest. Not Lamington National Park rainforest, but a stereotypical lush rainforest with canopies and greenery.

Once the bittersweet hike came to an end, our meat feast was time to begin. On the menu: steak, sausage and KANGAROO. It was ironic to be eating kangaroo when there were kangaroo EVERYWHERE in the outback. I saw at least 10 everyday while. I would be exiting the bathroom and one would just be chilling outside the door. It was the coolest thing. But back to eating them…. I again reminded myself it was the circle of life. Any by golly it was yummy (again). I actually preferred the kangaroo over the Australian steak.
Yum Kangaroo 
Meat feast 

The last activity on the Carnarvon itinerary was the Southern Skies star gazing. I have never seen so many stars in my life. Being in an area with little to no lighting, watching the stars was spectacular. I saw the southern cross, scorpio, Saturn and millions of stars. Overall, Carnarvon Gorge was a phenomenal experience. I rank the outback to a very close second to Lady Elliot Island. I hope to one day go back.


Proof I am "Studying" Abroad

On our way back to Brisbane, we stopped at Bond University in the Gold Coast to meet Professor Robert Nash. Teaching tourism and hospitality management at Bond University, Professor Nash's research focus is peripherality and development issues related to destinations in peripheral locations.

Professor Nash lectured us on economic and environmental impacts to tourism all over the world. It was different to be at a university… in a lecture hall… with a professor… lecturing class. Well, I can now tell my Mom I technically went to school while studying abroad. 

Professor Nash's lecture was interesting to say the least. I would classify Professor Nash as an extremist due to his unrealistic expectations. He practically laughed when we said we ventured to Lady Elliot Island: an Eco Tourist Resort. He believes there is no such thing "eco tourism". Since we were present on the coral reef, he knew we had to have damaged it. Okay, well maybe I did possibly hit the reef with my knee a couple of times causing a scar here and there on my knees but just maybe. 

How are we supposed to learn about our environment if we cannot venture out to see it? There needs to be a balance, and I truly believe Lady Elliot Island is a justifiable example of a balance between eco-friendly and tourism. The island has it's own sustainability program, protects the wildlife and closely monitors their guests to ensure there is no foul play. Professor Nash did not give a justifiable solution. He blatantly said, do not go. Sorry Professor Nash, but I'll have to disagree with that method of travel.

Economic benefits: direct and indirect employment, quickest way to build a poor economy, brings in taxes, infrastructure investments, household income, re-investment within local economies
Economic drawbacks: opportunity costs (ex. sporting events-->money goes to tourism instead of social needs), local population pays price for developments, over dependence on tourism, inflation/rise in land prices, local businesses close due to competition (mcdonalds), large corps come and $$$ goes to their corps and not to local community
Negative impacts of tourism on the environment: change in character of a building, overloading of roads/water supplies/electricity grids, deforestation (ex. nepal for trekking), polution, over development along coastlines/ski resorts, distrubance of wildlife during safaris (Kenya), destruction of coral reef, aesthetic pollution, 'loud clothes' pollution, litter, air, noise
Positive impacts of tourism on environment: infrastructure development, conservation of natural/archaelogical/historical areas, restoration of buildings, accesibility to remote areas, environment management for tourist uses--canals, sea walls, land reclamation, cleaning up of environment, wildlife management projects

I'm a Flying Fox

I had the opportunity to zip line through an Australian rainforest: Lamington National Park. So far, I've gone scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and zip lining through the rainforest. The Outback has some major competition…

The zip line was called the "Flying Fox". Flying foxes are bats, native to Australia. With my arms and legs flying everywhere, I was one uncoordinated Flying Fox. 

Flying Foxes are a familiar sight in Queensland's night skies. They often fly over in such large number that they are assumed to be abundant but are threatened by a lack of native food sup pies and roosting sites due to habitat destruction. Flying Foxes feed on nectar and pollen from eucalyptus sap and rainforest trees native grit, leaves, bark and cultivated fruit. Two species are found at the Canungra camp, the Grey-headed is Flying Fox and the Black Flying Fox. The Grey-headed is nationally listed as 'vulnerable' and its Queensland status us under review. 

Photo by Larissa Liska
Photo by Larissa Liska

One night, we conducted a "Flying Fox Count" experiment. When looking at a tree-full of Flying Foxes during the day, I estimated there were about 250 total. Once the sun went down and it was time for them to go out to eat, a wave of Flying Foxes zoomed overhead. In my mind, I was imagining the flying monkeys form the Wizard of Oz… while humming the music too. As ugly as they look in the sunlight, they didn't seem as intimidating flying through the air. They actually looked like birds from a distance. After an hour of waiting for them to all fly past us, we calculated there to be about 3,400 Flying Foxes that night. WOW. I was way, way off on my calculation. Good thing I'm not a scientist. I'll stick to pretending to be a Flying Fox, zip lining through the air hehe

City Girl Goes Trekking

More videos will be posted soon~

Human Environment Interaction Causes Change

The Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia) is the largest subtropical Australian butterfly. In the 1890’s, Barry Davies said there were thousands upon thousands of Richmond birdwing butterflies. Now, Barry says he sees them once a year. There are multiple threats to them, including us…

Richmond birdwing butterflies need lowland vines to interact. Without that, there will not be enough habitats for them to survive in the long term.

The Dutchman’s Pipe Vine is a big, beautiful flower, similar in appearance to lowland vines; however, they very poisonous to the butterflies. They cannot tell the difference. They lay their eggs on them then the caterpillars die.

Dutchman’s Pipe Vines are purposely grown in public places, such as schools. Human interventions are occurring. It’s a community based conservation. Conservationists are trying to eliminate Dutchman’s Pipe Vines to improve the chances for the butterfly.

Climate Change Affecting Lamington National Park

There are changes that are occurring now and within the next hundred years. If changes in climate are only occurring within a hundred years, it does not give animals and reptiles enough time to adapt, so they will soon disappear.
Marsupial Frog

For example, the marsupial frogs. They need a moist environment to breed and live. With climate change, the rainforest is predicted to not be moist enough for the marsupial frogs to survive.

On the other hand, the pademelons should be able to adapt. Their small, compact bodies make them well adapted to movement through the dense rainforest understorey. Disguised by a thick grey/ brown fur and creamy/ pale underbelly, their name refers to the rusty coloration of the limbs, cheeks and tail.

Moreover, global warming does not mean everything is going to get drier. Some places are going to get drier and some places are going to get wetter. We are assuming that conditions at Lamington National Park are going to get drier. Lamingon National Park will survive but will shrink in area. The area of rainforest will be smaller because the area conditions suitable for the rainforest will be less.

Since we are close to the edge of the eucalypts forest, in 100 years or so, Barry Davies said Lamington National Park will be more of an open forest. Fires will come through and kill most of these trees. It has happened before. The eucalypts trees are proof. Eucalyptus trees are adapted to living and growing with fire. Fire is going to prevent the rainforest from surviving in marginal areas, like Lamington National Park.
Eucalypts Tree

In total area of rainforest in the southeast Queensland and northeast South Wales, the area will most certainly be a lot less than it is right now. That means any animal dependent on the rainforest will have a more restricted range to live. It does not mean animals will die out and become extinct, but it does mean there will be fewer of them.