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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

AFS WA NW Safari 2011

Hi All!

Wow! A whole heap has been happening recently!
As I do not have the endurance to post all the happenings I will simply inform you about a great thing AFS WA has organised for their exchange students: The AFS WA NW Safari!

More than 5 months after my arrival in the world's remotest city I have finally started to write a diary: There were simply too many experiences!

The following is a tiny outtake from what I experienced in the best time of my entire life, as already mentioned it only includes a tiny outtake - and it is not written in an interesting/funny way, so don't feel horrible if you just skip and go on to the pictures!

Monday 26 September
We leave East Perth train station in our Denning coach at 1pm, head towards New Norcia where we arrive and have a tour of the old Benedictine community, all exited and keen on meeting the unknown strangers (as if strangers could be known.. tsts Elijah). We sleep in the St Ildephonsus College, a former catholic college. Man, life at school would have been horrible at that time, especially in that school .

Tuesday 27 September
We drive 530km towards Nullan Station which is to the north of Cue. On the way we stop at Payne's Find where we have a tour of the only still operated Gold Battery in the whole of Western Australia. After a long ride on the bus on which we see an eagle eating a dead kangaroo (Unique Australia!) we arrive at Sandy and Michael's Nullan Station. Now these people are heros: Even though their station has not had any sheep for a very long time (after a so far 9 year drought!!) they still stay on their station and now just work for other stations. In the evening we all go animal gazing - we saw nothing but rabbits, the bloody horrorible animals.

Wednesday 28 September
This morning we spend time making Damper (bush bread) and eat Quandong Jam along with it: The Quandong is a desert fruit which is very very very yummy in jam! Another delicious traditional Aboriginal dish we had were Widgety Grubs. Mhhmmmmm! Not really - I wouldn't mind eating them for the sake of survival - but they certainly won't ever be my favourite dish. A short and intersting presentation of minerals, stones etc. that can be found in the vast bush of W.A. and a presentation of Aboriginal Police Weaponary end our stay at Nullan Station.
Today we travel farther northwards, have lunch in Meekatharra. Beautiful place, but not only I loved it: If it weren't for the flies: For the first time of our lives we were exposed to such an amount of flies! It was just horrible. Probably also horrible for all the spectators seeing this bunch of young people doing terrible dances - in despair of saviour from the bloody insects.
After seeing a Racehorse Goana we arrive somewhere in the bush where we set up our bush camp for the first time.

Thursday 29 September
After having crossed the Tropic of Capricorn we have a swim in the Opthalma Dam near Newman, then set up our camp in a campground. Our clothing is red, the beautiful red from the bush we have been travelling through will stay in our cloths forever.
The night sky is magical! Apperently there are 1.10^15 stars to be seen in the sourthern hemispehere - over 200x the amount we can spot in the northern hemisphere!

Friday 30 September
Today we wake up into a hot day and visit a BHP Biliton Iron Ore mine in Newman, where we have a tour. A - quite frankly - horrible tour. When the tourguide is asked, where the difference between Iron and Irone Ore lies, a rather unsophisticated "I am not a chemist. It is explained on a board over there" is the answer.
After a lunch stop along the Hamersley Range to the opposite of Mount Robinson we head farther towards Karijini National Park, at arrival we soon saw a gecko. In most likely one of the most beautful spots in the world we have a swim in a gorgeous sparkling pool in the light of the setting sun! This will be another experience never to be forgetten!

Saturday 1 October
Again and again we are stunned today. Massive termite hills, circular pool, ferne pool and even an goana are just an outtake of the fantastic things we got to see today! Ferne pool is simply the best place to be. We couldn't believe our eyes: We encountered another of Karijini's natural beauties!

Sunday 2 October
We start the day in the visitor centre before we head off to have another look at some of Karijini's gorges, unfortunately some of them are inaccessible. After another great lunch we head off to a pool which is accesed by a crossing of a pool, a very narrow trail, both sides of the gorge can be touched at the same time and a descent on a waterfall! The water was cold but most beautiful as we sat in a pool surrounded by steep high walls of rock. Finally: ONE OF MY AUSTRALIA GOALS IS FULFILLED: We encounter a baby Taipan snake, which is the 6th most poisonous snake in the world, once grown up!

Monday 3 October
We climb Mount Nameless (typical Australia: The summit can be accessed by a 4WD) after a short drive to Tom Price. This is a substitution program as we cannnot access Hamersley Gorge due to construction works.

Tuesday 4 October
We see a dingo puppy to the side of the road on our long 600km trip to the coast. After a short visit of the beach (we are warned that there are deadly creatures in some of the shells - typical Australia) we arrive at the caravan park where we get ready to go out for pizza.

Wednesday 5 October
We spot whales from North West Cape! We are sad that we
In the evening we have some "me time" where we watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean on our own. It is great to be traveling with a group of such great people, but from time to time having some time for yourself is just great!

Thursday 6 October
Today is going to be the best day of the safari! We start off with a tour on a glass-bottom boat, where we leap from into the cristalin waters of Coral Bay and snorkel - it was just magnificant! Even though I had to snorkel without my glasses (like seeing a beatufiul video on Youtube in the worst quality...) it was just beautiful! Almost everyone agrees that this is the best experience of the safari - for some even of their lives! The fish, the beuatiful coral of Ningaloo Reef: Astonishing!

Friday 7 October
Today we leave back the hot Coral Bay and head towards the by the town that provides heaps of Western Australias fresh produce. We have a tour on a plantation (if you would like to know why bananas are shaped the way they are shaped, contact me :) ). Believe it or not: Due to the cyclons, floodings in both the eastern states and Canarvon - so much was infrastructure and harvest was wiped away the money paid for a kilogram of bananas has exploded by 20x!
One of the two most unexpected happenings was about to follow. Smart readers will remember that I went on the 1-mile jetty with my hostmother on our trip to the north of the state, so I was not too keen on going on the jetty. Well we were having a chat when someone yelled out: "Shark!". Our natural response was disbelief, but we glanced on the surf of the ocean and - There was a massive (~2 - 2.5m) hammerhead shark! This is one of the moments where you question yourself if you were dreaming of not! This 2 second experience will certainly be a thing I will NEVER forget. Awesome!

Saturday 8 October
We stop at a telegraph station and have a look at the most boring thing I have ever seen in my entire life. We go and visit Stromatolites (living rocks). Expecting moving rocks or something you could touch, feed or eat I was just devastated. They were just plain rocks. Funny that people travel from the other side of the world to encounter them. Expecting it to be a bad joke with a hidden camera or something of that sort I leave this place - thich will certainly be the last time it is visited by me. In Monkey Mia we experience feeding of sharks and see a variaty of local fish in Ocean Park. On the camp ground we meet a few exchange students.

Sunday 9 October
We get up at 4.45am this morning. Believe it or not. We wait almost and hour at the beach for the sun too rise - but here in Australia everything can be late. Even the sun. But at least we saw a turtle swimming across the surf of the not yet sunlit waters of Shark Bay. We then watch the world famous dolphins come into Monkey Mia, after which we depart on the katamaran "Shotover" where we saw dolphins, shags, dugongs and turtles. It certainly was a highlight as well.

Monday 10 October
We drive farther to the south towards Kalbarri Natioanl Park.At Hawkes head lookout we take a short walk to Nature's Window and have lunch, again accompanied by millions and millions of flies - trying to drive me crazy. I think they might have actually achieved that.... :)
We spent the afternoon in Kalbarri.

Tuesday 11 October
Our last full day has already arrived. There are three options in terms of activity: Sandboarding, horseback riding and abseiling. As I did horseback riding.. OF COURSE NOT! RUBBISH! Of course I do abseiling (well, sandboarding would have been awesome as well, from what I heard). which is just awesome! It is great fun to do abseiling and rockclimbing surrounded by beautiful scencery in the gorges of Kalbarri National Park!
We spend the late afternoon in Kalbarri (mostly eating the icecream we buy - see pictures- I actually feel sick...). We spend the last dinner in "Finlay's Fresh Fish Seafood BBQ" which is just - yummy and in addition to it great fun!

Wednesday 12 October
We leave towards Perth, all a bit sad that we have to leave eachother. After over 4400km we feel quite close to eachother. We stop at Natural Bridge and have a look at what looks like a tiny version of "The Great Australian Bight". Then - unbelievable! - a humpback whale jumps out of the water! I am just stunned, cannot say anything for a moment! Another moment for lifetime (like the encounter with the snake and the shark)!
We drive past a pink lake as we get closer and closer to Perth. Closer to home.


The AFS WA NW Safari 2011 was definitively the highlight of my stay in Australia. Not only in terms of geography and experiences, but too in terms of wildlife we experienced the true Western Australia. Absolute highlights would include a spectacular hammerhead shark spotting on the 1-mile jetty in Canarvon, the sparkling pools in some of the world’s most magnificent gorges (Ferne Pool, Fortescue Falls) in world famous Karijini National Park, the spotting of the first wild snake at a pool surrounded by a massive vertical stone wall (Handrail Pool) and the impressive tour on a katamaran in Monkey Mia. But most certainly almost all of us participants would agree that snorkelling with the colourful fish amongst the variety of Ningaloo Reef coral  was the absolute highlight.

Two further experiences a lot of us will never forget are certainly our first Widgedy Grub meal as well as our freshly made damper with Quandong Jam on Nullan Station.
20’000 pictures, over 4400 kilometers and enrichened by dozens of once in a lifetime experiences later we arrived back in Perth, dreading the 16 days had passed too quickly.

Definatively the best time of my life!

Thank you for organising this, AFS!