Written by Brooke Noland from Pennsylvania State University
As I reflect back on my weekend excursion with my CIEE group, the first word that comes to mind is, “Wow”. One of the reasons I decided to study abroad in Australia to see beautiful landscape that this country holds. To say that my expectations were met would be an understatement. The journey began with about a 3-hour ride down the south coast to Merry Beach, luckily, I was given the opportunity to ride shot gun. As I sat passenger to Tonia, I couldn’t help but stay quiet. My focus was fixated on the magnificent surroundings outside the van. All I saw was green; Green everywhere! Any direction I gazed my eyes, I saw the green grass, green trees, and green plains that rolled into mountains. There were moments where beautiful grassy grounds transformed into water, the oh-so-blue water. It was all so breathtaking and very fascinating to notice the different characteristics as we passed from town to town. Tonia would occasionally point out the various attributes known to that region which helped expand my knowledge about the alluring country.
Upon arrival at Merry Beach, we were greeted by several kangaroos. Until that Friday, I had never seen a kangaroo in the wild before. I was able to finally check that off my bucket list. It was amusing to see how interested they were with us! When we approached them, they stared at us, almost in the same manner that we were staring at them. It was such a captivating experience to see them roaming around the campsite. Anywhere I looked I could see a kangaroo hopping around. Merry Beach provided us an incredible experience with the kangaroos, however this campsite had much more to offer! The beach at the campsite was impeccable. The long, sandy beach lead to crystal blue water. Glancing over to the left, there was a rock area which wrapped around the coastline. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a beach that had more than just sand along its coastline. It was astonishing to watch the waves crash onto the rocks. After some free-time of exploring Tonia introduced us to another hidden beach through the woods, Pretty Beach, and might I add that the name was very fitting. This beach had a similar layout, but the area was so intriguing because it was very secluded. If I was there alone, it would feel as if I was on my own private beach. This campsite also provided small hiking trails that lead to a couple discrete look-outs of the stunning landscape.
On day two, Tonia took us to a traditional country of the Yuin people for a hike of a lifetime at Gulaga National Park. She had asked us to try and stay silent during the hike up, in order to fully appreciate the surroundings. Cardio work-outs may not be my strong suit, but that granted me the chance to take my time and genuinely enjoy the scenery. The best part of the hike was the various smells and sounds throughout the forest. I found myself comparing the plants I saw to the ones I’m familiar with back home which allowed me to become more aware of what not only this country, but this world, has to offer. As we came to the top of the hike, we were then given the opportunity of a lifetime to witness extremely sacred grounds of the Yuin people. Our beautiful guide, Lynn, taught us about their community and showed us some very sacred places to them. At one point during our teachings, she asked us to climb up on top of a rock. As we were sitting up there, I glanced out over the mountain to notice we were able to see the coastline. Not too many places in the world is anyone able to sit in the mountains and admire the beach, which made this feeling very special to me.
As our trip concluded on day 3, we were taken to 7-mile beach for a surf lesson. This beach was unbelievable. Tonia noted that this was the beach she lived closest to and has spent a lot of time at. The landscape was particularly interesting because the sand stretched out so far. However, before the coastline was reached, I was able to notice, what appeared to be, a small river that ran through the sand, which connected to the ocean. There were several kids playing alongside it due to its shallow depth. Houses were against the coast to the left of the beach and to the right was more trees and greenery. The surf lesson helped show us how to feel one with mother nature. When I caught my first wave and I could feel the wave beneath my board, gliding me through the water; Talk about a feeling of a lifetime! As the lesson concluded, Rusty had us meditate along the coastline on our surf boards. Out of everything we did over the past 3 days, that mediation was my favorite part. As I closed my eyes and breathed in and breathed out, the waves crashed along the board and I could feel the sun soaking into my skin. At first, I felt unsteady with the board moving underneath me, but by the third or fourth breath I felt myself at ease with the waves. When it was time to open my eyes, everything around me looked remarkably clear. All I could think was, “What a perfect way to end a perfect weekend”. This trip truly allowed me to be grateful for the exquisite Earth we live on. The sights I saw that weekend forever changed my perspective on the beauty of nature.