Into the Bush

Our program arranged a “bush” excursion for us this weekend to spend time with a speaker on Aboriginal culture, and experience some non-tourist nature. It was quite the experience.

We took the train to Helensburgh and were met by our host and taken to a Christian-run campground center. The accommodations were a tad lacking, as our rooms didn’t lock from the inside and the fitted sheet on the mattresses looked questionable. But we sucked it up and went to dinner, holding in our heads the curiousity of what events would unfold over the weekend.

The first dinner was pretty good, burgers/hot dogs on huge bread rolls. Since the drink choices were water or hot tea, I went with water. After dinner, we were told there was really no itinerary for the evening, so we explored a bit. We were told we could go for a walk but to “not go that way because there’s a huge gorge, or that way because there’s a cliff”, but if we went that way, we’d eventually hit the highway. Yeah, those were the choices. Well, a group of my friends decided o try a walk, but when I realized the trail was pitchblack, mud, and the only available light was somebody’s keychain flashlight, I decided against it. I may be new around here, but I know better than to go into the dark woods with 1) no sufficient light 2) no cell reception 3) no knowledge of the native animals and their nocturnal activities. I’m happy with my decision to pass.

Back at the main room, our host set up The Dark Knight on the projector screen, which was great since I still hadn’t seen it, but kind of odd, since he forgot speakers and we had to listen to it through his laptop. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group SO quiet before in my life. May my dear Heath Ledger rest in peace.

Anyway, that night, was…well, strange. Our rooms were small square rooms with bunk beds stuffed in them. One room had four bunk beds crammed in (eight boys in total), mine had room for six, with little room for more than 3-4 people to be up moving around the room at a time.

Bush Weekend 001

The doors didn’t lock, and we could hear everyone outside for a while. Then suddenly a random boy just opened the door to our room. I gave him a flat stare and said “Excuse Me?” with a stern tone and he quickly ran off. It was weird and left me paranoid the rest of the night. I slept like three hours. Breakfast was at eight, so we stumbled out of bed and made it for some toast, bacon, and baked beans??? This is the third time I’ve seen baked beans included in a breakfast spread. Apparently it’s an old English tradition. I also tested out this ‘hot tea’ business. They had boiling water dispensers for tea/coffee making, so I filled a cup and selected a tea bag of Lipton Green Tea with Jasmine. It smelled awesome as it soaked. Then I tasted it…hmmmm…well, six packets of sugar later, it was DELICIOUS! I had two that day, and yes, there were six packets of sugar in the next cup as well. Tasty.

We had a class session about Aboriginal culture and how it has been and continues to be deeply affected. It was an interesting lesson, I felt that being a minority, I really understood a lot of what was being said. It’s interesting how culture seems so rooted, but is so easily taught, transferred, and even erased. I’m sure if you want to know the details, you will just ask, I’m pretty much an open book on topics, and would love to share specifics if anyone’s curious when I get home.

After lunch, one of the camp operators took us on a walk through the forested surroundings. We walked a bit until suddenly he headed straight into the high grass. I had no choice but to follow. It was messy, but suddenly, we came to a clearing where there was a small river bed. I thought maybe that was the end goal, but suddenly he started walking along the water edges, and even on the river floor. Through the river and more tall grass we came out to another river clearing, only this time we were at it ends, ON TOP OF A WATERFALL. It was crazy, but really beautiful, as we could see all the forest below and even a beach beyond the forest. That’s when the real craziness began. since we were at the waterfall, surrounding us were cliffs, and nothing gets blood pumping in thrill seeking twenty-somethings like cliff climbing, cliff sitting, and standing on edges for photos. I seriously thought someone was going to fall to their death like 30 times. It was terrifying.

Bush Weekend 006

Crossing riverbeds
Crossing riverbeds
The waterfall and some of the cliffs
The waterfall and some of the cliffs

Anyway, after a good 20 minutes of what most of the daring students called “tempting fate” (I thought it was more like tempting death), we finally headed back in. As we reached the cabins, the operator briefly encouraged us to take off our shoes and socks, you know, to check for leeches. LEECHES??? Yeah, we were freaking out at that point. I checked my feet and legs twice before I felt okay moving on. As the first batch of us were settling down and prepping some tea, suddenly we heard screaming from outside. One of the girls had a leech on her leg and her ankle. Pandemonium erupted, as people ran to find salt, band-aids, and just ran to freak out. Suddenly we were rushing to our rooms to do full body searches. A student realized there was a line of blood on his sheets and a dead leech on the floor near his bed from the previous night. Everyone was freaking out, fearing all bloodsucking insects, and praying for the hours to run down until we would be back in the city.

That night was another freebie, so after dinner, some intense poker broke out amongst the boys, a “telephone” style note passing game amongst the girls, some people just disappeared for a while, and I enjoyed some music and word search puzzles. Later we also watched Underworld another movie I hadn’t seen until then. Pretty good as far as adventure vampire movies go, but I’m still holding Interview With A Vampire as my favorite. Another student found a leech on their leg, and the chaos and excitement started up all over again. Oh, the great outdoors…yeah…

Another night of paranoia ensued, but this time I got about four hours of sleep. The next morning, we had breakfast, and I packed up my things to head out. I left early to catch an event my internship was hosting called “Indent to Save FBi”, a fundraising/awareness concert for Sydney’s community radio station FBi. The show was great, I saw a young rocking band called The Bennisons, and the heavier rocking, Tom Ugly (who have a girl bassist..SWEET!), and my new faves Cloud Control. The show was great. It’s always great to see people coming together for a good cause.

Cloud Control @ the Annandale Hotel July 12, 2009
Cloud Control @ the Annandale Hotel July 12, 2009

More Photos of the weekend

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