Written by Kimberly Gaskill from Penn State University
As the first week of classes wrapped up, we were off to our first CIEE weekend trip: Mount Gulaga. During that week we had a nice get together with Wayne and Tonia where we had discussed the upcoming weekend. We weren't told much; a little bit about where we were staying and a broad overview of the hike on Sunday. After being told that only a few Australians get to experience what we were about to, I was extremely excited for the weekend. On Friday night Wayne picked us up and we headed to Merry Beach Caravan Park. After a stop for dinner and groceries, we arrived at our cabins. We were greeted by kangaroos everywhere. As amazing as it was, I have to admit I was a bit terrified. All of the videos of humans getting kicked by kangaroos immediately came to mind. Turns out, they're actually extremely friendly. Jimmy even got one into the cabin (Suz and I hid in the bedroom).
After waking up to the amazing sunrise on the beach, we made breakfast and were off to Mount Gulaga. Once we had arrived, Lynn (an aboriginal guide) took us up to the top of the mountain where she showed us their teaching schools. I never hiked a mountain before so this was definitely something new. Hiking up I had no idea what we were about to experience which made it even better. I was amazed at not only the view all the way up, but the fact that this is were Lynn and hundreds of others would climb up to get to school. Living in Jersey and growing up down the block from every school, I was definitely a bit jealous of their every day adventures just to get to class. Once getting to the top, Lynn took us into a hidden area where their teaching schools were located.
It was absolutely breathtaking. The view, the formation of the rocks, the stories, everything. It’s crazy to think about how we were standing in the exact same place people hundreds of years back have been standing. The formation of the rocks were incredible. The one pictured was easily one of my favorites. Each layered rock represents the past, present, and future. How have these rocks been perfectly balanced on top of one another for all these years? As she took us deeper and deeper into their school area everything just kept getting more and more amazing. There were rocks such as a whale and a snake. Connecting it back to our classrooms today, each rock had a certain subject and taught the kids a specific section of life. All of their stories are from word of mouth, no textbooks, no internet.
After climbing back down the mountain, we headed to our cabins for one last night. We did some TimTam slams and headed to bed. In the morning, we got up and explored the beaches. It was a very relaxing day. We took a laid back walk around a cliff which had led to Pretty Beach. The water was unbelievably clear and calming. Once returning from the walk, we checked out and headed home, making stops along the way. We stopped in Jervis Bay for a bite to eat. The winter weather definitely treated us well as it was 80 degrees.
Overall, it was a fantastic weekend that I will never forget. We had the pleasure of experiencing something most Australians aren't even aware of. I can’t wait for all that is in store throughout the semester!