Hiking the Australian Bush
*I haven't explained what I am doing on my current adventure so I'll take a second to quickly lay it out*
For about five months, of which began in August, I find myself in the Southern Hemisphere. Three of those months are devoted to my study abroad program at University of Queensland in Brisbane, through which I get the opportunity to explore the wild diversity of ecosystems that the land down under has to offer. Weeks of lecture are punctuated by weeks of field work, and myself and 44 other U.S. students will learn about the ecology of terrestrial (land) and marine (sea) systems as well as some Australian study.
Our adventure begins in the Australian bush.
On the note of traveling on a budget, I'll let everyone know that entrance to the park is FREEEE, and on non drought years you can camp within the site for easy access and about AUD$4 per student, AUD$7 per non-student per night.
Budget: AUD$4-7 per night + groceries ($5 or less per meal is very possible!)
Three days following our arrival at Brisbane Backpacker's (the hostel I described in a previous post: https://www.travelingkyle.com/blog/welcome-to-the-hostel-australia), we were shuttled off into the bush to spend four days hiking (what at first seemed like unimaginable distances) and learning about field techniques, and all of the unique flora and fauna of the dry habitat of Giraween National Park.
Because of the severe drought in Australia right now (the country goes through unpredictable cycles of El Niño and La Niña years that either bring severe drought during the former or intense rain the latter), we camped outside of the park. Every morning began at 7am with our delightful camp cook Steve, who despite the 0ºC weather throughout the night and morning, stayed true to his Aussie roots and sported cargo shorts, shirt, and a broad rimmed Steve Irwin hat. I felt his arm and it radiates heat (I'm convinced he heads into the outback before every trip and charges his body temperature up, but that's just me.)
Following breakfast, it was off to the park for field work. Let me get something straight before I get into what we did each day:
I do not like to hike
I have found that this is not a popular opinion. "But Kyle, don't you just love that rush of adrenaline as you climb, your muscles pumping, your heart beating! And that beautiful view at the end??"
No. I don't. For me, hiking (and honestly anything involving running, walking, or exercising on land) gives me searing pain in my lungs. My legs burn and I never seem to get over that adrenaline hump everyone talks about where pain becomes gain.
I am a fish.
And if you asked a leopard shark to climb up a mountain, he would take one look at you and slap you with his tail on his way out.
Now I invite you to take that image and ask yourself why the photo below shows me sitting on top of a steep cliff, gazing onto a distant landscape.
In short: I now love hiking
Four days stranded in the Australian bush with no one but your 44 new!!! closest friends and a professor (botanist) who hikes like theres an undiscovered species of Eucalyptus waiting for him at the top will really change a person.
It was not easy. The first half hour of the first hike (my group got to do the hardest hike first, yay..) I felt like my limbs were going to fall off. My backpack (filled with 22 granola bars for sustenance between meals) felt like I had rocks in it. I was miserable.
And yet as the day went on, as John (shown below) recited more poetry, I began to forget how heavy my backpack was. My hiking boots stuck to the rock and carried me up boulders I never would have attempted before. It helped too that the views looked the way they did.
Its amazing how I had to come to the other side of the world to learn to truly appreciate the land for what it is.
If you are planning on visiting Giraween National Park, the hikes to do are called "Castle Rock", "Sphinx", "Turtle" (about 7km all together) and "Pyramid" (about 2km).
All of the trails begin at the entrance to the park and the pathways are nicely labeled with signs and white markers painted onto the rock. This is especially important for hiking Pyramid, which is essentially a vertical incline. Wear your hiking boots for this one. Granite is a sticky rock, and any brand of hiking boots will easily adhere to the cliff face, but I watched many classmates slip and slide in running or tennis shoes.
Considering the personal growth that Giraween National Park instilled in me, I definitely recommend it to anyone ballin' on a budget but still trying to see some incredible places (see pricing above). The Australian Bush is a legendary habitat unique to the land down under and seeing it and learning about the ecology has definitely made me even more excited to explore this beautiful country.
Until next adventure,