Friday, November 29, 2013

The end is here...

I leave tomorrow morning and it's not fun to think about. Don't get me wrong, I'm literally ecstatic to see my family and my dog and be in my home country....but this moment is so bittersweet.

Newcastle will definitely always hold a place in my heart. I love everything about it; it was the perfect place to study abroad! I got to live in an apartment in the main part of a city, a small city, but still! I'm literally a mere fifteen minutes walk to several gorgeous beaches. This has literally been paradise. My roommates- well, I honestly couldn't have asked for better ones. I have met and become very close with some amazing people on this trip....and I never thought I would ever say this but, I might have to make it out to the midwest sometime! I absolutely must see every single one of these people again. One word specifically comes to mind as I say goodbye to each of them....'reunion'- it must happen!

I just want to say how thankful I am for this entire experience- my parents rock! Without them, this would have never happened. Thanks Mom and Dad, you're the best!

Well.....I'm off to sleep as I have a very early airport pick up service tomorrow. Australia, you've treated me quite well. I know it rained all day just because you're sad that I'm leaving! I'll make sure to be back soon!

Durkee Down Under OUT.

A Week in Thailand!

If you were to ask me what my absolute favorite country I've visited so far was, you might think it would be Australia.....well guess again, because it's definitely Thailand.
Bangkok was so awesome but the most beautiful place I've ever seen is Phuket and the islands that are nearby.
In Bangkok, we went to temples and shopped.....a lot. We shopped at the famous Khao San Road, which was a three minute walk from our hostel, and one day we went to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets, about an hour south of the city. We also went to a bar on the rooftop of a very tall hotel, so you can see the entire city and that was gorgeous!
Floating Markets
Temple of Dawn
The Emerald Buddha Temple
























Bangkok at Night

In Phuket, we did so much! First, we went elephant trekking and then had a sunset dinner cruise around Chalong Bay. The next day we went on an island hopping boat trip all day around the Phi Phi Islands, which are stunning. That was my absolute favorite part of the entire trip! We went snorkeling around reefs, walked on practically untouched islands, visited Monkey Island and fed the monkeys, and had lunch with an incredible view. The next day we went to Patong Beach in the morning, a fifteen minute walk from our hotel. Later, we did the Flying Hanuman, which is basically ziplining across the jungle! It was so fun! The next morning, we visited the super famous Big Buddha at the top of a mountain in Phuket; the views were spectacular and the Buddha just as cool! That night we had our flight out and had to leave the lovely land of the Thai!



It was the most incredible trip of my life and I will make sure to stop by there again, hopefully for longer!

Elephant trekking!

Sunset Dinner Cruise
Bamboo Island
Snorkeling Mosquito Island
Monkey Island


Phi Phi Don Island 
Patong Beach

Flying Hanuman
Big Buddha Phuket



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One month left?! You must be joking...

Hello all!
It has been too long since my last blog post but I've been very busy the last couple weeks since my semester is coming to an end. With projects, papers, and the like, I have not found time to blog.
This is the last week of classes and then finals start next week. I had a group project and paper due this past Monday and have a project due this Thursday...then next Monday I have my only final and I'll be done! It's crazy! What's more crazy than that is there is less than a month left...not cool. Although, I can admit I do miss my family, friends, and country quite a bit at this point. I've been gone for three and a half months!! Something I've also been really missing lately...my closet; I am so sick of wearing the same clothes! Only two suitcases of clothing for four and a half months? It's been fine until about now...but that's not really a big deal, just something I thought I'd mention.
So what's new with Caroline? Well, traveling has become such a huge part of my life now. I feel like I go somewhere every week. New Zealand and Cairns was end of September and beginning of October; we went whale watching in Sydney October 27th; dolphin cruising at Nelson's Bay November 2nd; and my trip to Thailand is in less than a week (leave the 12th). Ah! I'm so seasoned!
whale watching out of Darling Harbor!
I really can't believe I leave Australia so soon. Every time someone mentions it in the group, everyone literally goes, "SHHH! Stop talking!" It's going to be so hard to leave these people. With only 7 of the 14 people going to High Point, half are going far far away to land of the Midwest- no, leave your cheeses and corn stalks for the beautiful North Carolina! It's not thaaaat hard to transfer, right? ....yeah I know, but seriously just do it anyway ;)
I've not only grown to love my fellow roommates but also this country. It may not have my beloved JIF peanut butter or any decent frozen pizza, but it will definitely have a piece of my heart. I've decided, even if it's the last thing I do, that I am coming back sometime in my lifetime! It's absolutely final! It's strange to think I've actually LIVED in AUSTRALIA for the past few months. Like I live here. I can say I've lived in Newcastle, Australia. This is really crazy and incredible to me. I have had absolutely the time of my life here. Another funny thing here is, I really did prepare myself that the time would fly by; oh I knew it would. But this fast?! Wasn't expecting that in the slightest. I leave in three and a half weeks and it still feels like July was yesterday. Oh, and definitely not excited to go back to the cold....Virginia/ North Carolina, please go easy on me. But I guess it will be okay, because every time I'll slip on my UGG boots, I'll think of this lovely place...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sydney, New Zealand, Cairns.... wow!

Monday September 16th
My weekend in Sydney was incredible! A few friends and I went down early on Friday, instead of going Saturday morning, so we could hit up a few bars and see the nightlife a little bit, as well as shop Paddys Market early Saturday. It was a fantastic plan! My favorite place we went Friday night was O Bar, which is a bar that is on the 47th floor on a round building in the heart of Sydney; all the walls are glass and the floor spins very slowly so you can see the entire city if you sit for long enough! It was great seeing the beautiful Sydney Harbor Bridge all lit up, since we would be climbing in the next day!




So Saturday rolls around and we climb the bridge- it was awesome!! I loved almost every second of it, it was scary in some parts, but overall very doable, I highly recommend! That night we had dinner with everyone and celebrated!






The next morning we took a thrilling ride on the Thunder Jet Boat, which is a crazy stunt boat that takes you around Sydney Harbor doing spins and such- you get drenched! It was soooo fun! After, we went to the Botanical Gardens and the Government House, and then went home to Newcastle. Now Im getting everything ready for my exciting spring break that starts this weekend! So much to do.
  





Here's a just a little bit of my spring break...
& read on for all the exciting details!

Saturday September 28th
Leaving New Zealand tomorrow and I definitely have to say I've had an absolutely fantastic time. This country is so freaking stunning. Just on the bus rides you can't help but take a bunch of photos because everywhere is just beautiful; mountains everywhere you look and green green green.

This entire trip has been very adventurous. We landed in Auckland and got a night and the next morning before leaving; of course that time was occupied by shopping. The first place we went was Hahei. Hahei is a very special little place because nearby are both the famous Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. We of course did both. Hot Water Beach was first. Basically you dig a hole on a specific part of the beach and when the tide comes up, the hole fills, and because the ground has geothermal activity, it becomes a hot tub; and man was it hot! Steam comes off of them! That was incredible. The next morning, we got up bright and early for a 7 am kayaking tour on the ocean to Cathedral Cove. It was quite windy that day so the ocean was a bit rough and it was tiring paddling against it, but it was so worth seeing the cove, it was gorgeous.

The second place we went to was the Waitomo Caves. These caves contain the very tiny glowworms. We went on two cave tours, the Rhukari and Glowworm. Rhukari had beautiful stalagmites and stalactites and rivers flowing through it as well as a few glow worms. The Glowworm cave had so many glowworms; you take a boat on a river through that cave and it just looks like you're looking at tons of constellations of green stars. Glowworms are actually only found in this part of the world (New Zealand and the east coast of Australia); they're mainly only found in caves because they essentially live in hammocks for months at a time and there's no wind to knock them out, as well as the total darkness helps attract food to their glow.

Next was Rotarua. This town was really cool and seemed pretty modern, unlike a lot of New Zealand, although there were sulfur springs everywhere so if it was windy at all, which it was, the smell of sulfur (not good) consumed the entire town. That was incredibly unpleasant, but the sulfur springs were incredible; like you would just drive around the town and all over there would be holes with sulfur and steam coming off of it.  Just tons of geothermal activity! While in Rotarua, the majority of the group went on The Lord of the Rings Hobbiton tour; that was so fun! The houses are so cute and afterwards you get a free drink at the Green Dragon pub.

Our last stop was Taupo, 100% my favorite place in New Zealand. Taupo isn't near the beach at all but it's built right off of Lake Taupo, which is the biggest crater lake. Our first day there, we took a sailboat tour on the lake to see the Maori carvings which can only be seen from the lake. These are carvings on a cliff rock that were made by the indigenous people of NZ; they're only as old as 1980 but they are still very neat! And the boat ride turned out to be very exciting, it was rough seas that day on the lake and we would've been soaked if not for the fleece lined ponchos they give you! The sailboat tipped a lot too, that was so fun! That night we decided to take on the great Tongariro Alpine Crossing the next day. We woke up at 5 am, got picked up at 6, drove an hour or so to the mountains, and started our great trek around 7:30. This day hike consisted of going across a volcanic rock valley, then climbing a mountain that is right next to a huge active volcano (erupted twice last year) and then descending a great deal before you finish with a couple hours through the bush (jungle) until you finally reach the carpark (parking lot). It took us until 4, so 8.5 hours. The entire hike is roughy 15 miles and is incredibly rocky, with various terrains including snowy paths. You see the mountains below and the huge volcano right next to you, as well as a few craters and the famous neon lakes. The views were incredible to say the least. The hike was pretty difficult and terrifying in some parts but overall I liked it. Would I ever do it again? You couldn't pay me!! After 6 hours, my legs started shutting down going constantly downhill for so long and after 7 hours or so, we all started going delirious, "I think I see a car!" (Meanwhile still in the thick of the bush) "Is that a dog?" (Tree stump) After we reached the carpark, I literally cried out in relief "I'M ALIVE!!" People probably stared and questioned my sanity, but that's okay because I was just happy to be alive.

I'm now sitting on the bus going back up to Auckland to fly out in the morning to Sydney, then straight to Cairns! New Zealand has been spectacular, but I'm not complaining to leave for sunny Cairns...



Monday October 7th
Ive finally unpacked everything and done all my laundry from the last two weeks (I dont even want to think of how many times I wore everything- blegh)
Cairns was so sweet! It was waaaay hot though.like too hot. We explored the city and did a little shopping the first day. The second day we went out on the Great Barrier Reef, which is an all day thing. That was amazing! I thought there would be way more fish, but it was nevertheless a spectacular experience, and I got a bunch of underwater video and pictures, too! The last day, we had our flight in the evening so we did a quick trip to the Cairns Tropical Zoo, and we all held a koala! It was so cute and cuddly!
Buster & I
Now Im reunited with Newcastle and Abbeywood (the apartments) and it feels so good

It got hot here while we were gone, like mega difference! Our apartments dont have air conditioning so theres been lots of sweating, but even more frightening, lots of BUGS! Gah! The spiders have gotten bigger, the moths more plentiful, and the mosquitoes hungrier. I still love Australia so so much.but these bugs are really starting to freak me out.please just stay out of my apartment! How hard is it?! The moth count since Ive been back found in my apartment is up to at least ten.thats just in a few days. Anyway, Ill stop my little bug rant. The weather is beautiful and Im excited for all the days Ill be spending at the beach this month, and of course the homework Ill be doing as well. (:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

5 days in Melbourne!

So let me just start with how we even got to Melbourne; it was quite the trek, let me tell you.
Walk to train station at 8:30 pm Thursday. Take train from Newcastle to Sydney, arrive at 11:30 pm. Take taxi from Central Station to the international airport, since domestic is closed until 4 am. Sleep on floor of international until 4 am. Take train from international to domestic. Fly to Melbourne-Avalon airport, arrive at 9 am Friday. Take hour long bus ride from Avalon to city of Melbourne. Take city tram from Southern Cross station to our hostel at St. Kilda beach. Yeah.
The Australian airports were so so different from American ones. You can leave jackets and shoes on. They do not care about liquids or food in your carry-on, not even water bottles. They do not check your ID or boarding pass at security; they just scan your boarding pass at the gate. It's crazy! Like what?! I could have just stolen someone's boarding pass and taken their flight for them. I was absolutely stunned.

The first day there, we dropped our stuff off at our hostel, Base Backpackers Melbourne. Then we took the tram back into the heart of the city and did a little shopping at the Queen Victoria Market, which is Melbourne's version of Paddy's Market in Sydney. That day actually happened to be "Melbourne Day," which celebrated the birthday of the city; August 30, 2013 was its 178th birthday.
After exploring around downtown, we walked to the Eureka Skydeck, which is the top floor of the tallest building in the city- it's 88 floors! After, we went back to the hostile to get dinner and go to bed; we were exhausted from barely any sleep the night before.

The next morning, Saturday, we had to get up early to be picked up at 8 am for our two day excursion by Wildlife Tours. If you're interested in everything we did this trip, click on that link, it's just too much to type! My favorite places were obviously the two main highlights of the trip: the 12 apostles and the penguin parade on Philip Island (unfortunately I do not have any photos of the latter; you weren't allowed to have any photography because the flash will blind the penguins forever). The Great Ocean Road was absolutely gorgeous! There was not one thing on the entire two day trip that I would have changed. Our tour guide, Ben, was a big part in why the trip was absolutely perfect. He was so incredibly hilarious and knew exactly what to tell us (interesting things) and what not to bore us with. And he told us exactly where to sit for the Penguin Parade, so we got such a close view for that, unlike most people who sit in the part that seems like it would have the best view but actually doesn't. That trip was priceless and will forever be one of the best times I've ever had.
12 Apostles
Great Ocean Road
Philip Island
Philip Island, Penguin Parade (we sat in the stadium)
After the trip, we checked into our new hostile, Discovery Melbourne Backpackers, which was located right in the center of downtown Melbourne; it was sweeeet! One downside of this: construction right next door woke you up around 6 am.
This trip was my very first experience staying at hostels. It was definitely interesting! If you don't know much about hostels, they're basically really cheap hotels, usually housing young adults, that have group rooms and lockers; so you stay in a room with bunk beds and random other people and use the lockers to lock your stuff up while you're gone. They definitely aren't the most fun but you get what you pay for; most are $15 to $30 a night. Base had one bathroom for a room with 8 people in it and Discovery had a hall bathroom.

The next day, Monday, was filled with shopping! After a few hours of burning holes in our wallets, we decided to go find Croft Alley, which has a bunch of cool graffiti; it was very neat!
 

Tuesday was the day of our flight but luckily we were able to have until about 1 pm to see more of the city. We walked down to the harbor and enjoyed the surprisingly beautiful weather. Since Australia is below the equator, the more south you go, the colder it gets; it was supposed to be pretty chilly but luckily we went on an unusually warm weekend.
Now we ask the question, do I like Melbourne more than Sydney? Sorry Sydney, but yes I do. I can't exactly explain why, it just felt more comfortable; perhaps it's because it's known for its great shopping? All I know for sure is that I will definitely make it back there again in my lifetime! Thanks for a great trip, Melbourne.
Melbourne Central Pier

Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats."

-Voltaire
It's been forty days, and classes are still going good. I can't believe we are already on week five. I had to drop my drawing class unfortunately; it was a much higher level and faster paced class than I wanted and the professor wasn't much help. So now I'm in only three classes, which is actually turning out to be pretty awesome. For the entire semester, I only have four essays, two projects, and one final exam! This is especially great since finals start November 9th and I leave November 30th, so I'll only have one exam during that period, the rest of the month is for travel!
the Sygna shipwreck site
Stockton Beach
This weekend, we took a bus to Stockton Beach, which is like an hour away. Nine of us all decided to go on an ATV tour at Quad Bike King through sand dunes to a shipwreck site. The ship was a Norwegian freighter that lost its battle with a 1974 cyclone that hit the shores of Newcastle. It was such an awesome experience! At first, it was difficult to drive and you actually go pretty fast on the tour; it was a good thing no one can hear anything because of their motors and helmets because I would actually scream at some parts! But about a quarter of the way through I got used to it and started to really enjoy it. I got gutsy towards the end and started actually hitting the jumps and things; I'm pretty proud of myself! I kind of really want to do it again...we'll see.

Back at HPU, my home university, all my friends have moved in and classes have begun. It hasn't really hit me until now that I really miss everyone; and it feels strange how life just goes on fine without me being there. Despite these feelings, I'm so incredibly happy and grateful to be here. I can honestly this is probably the best decision I've ever made. If you ever get a chance to do something like this, do not let it pass by!
The countdown to Melbourne is closing in- we leave in three and a half days! It'll be our first trip flying somewhere; we'll be leaving out of Sydney airport. It's much cheaper that way, rather than flying out of Newcastle. Our flight leaves at seven am on Friday so we have to catch the train to Sydney around midnight on Thursday night, and either sleep on the train/flight or just not sleep! Ah! But it's worth it to have basically all of Friday in Melbourne. I'm so excited!
It's finally starting to warm up, which is fantastic! (finally!!) An aussie told us that once it hits September, it'll pretty much be hot for the next 6 months. Well, that's exactly what I need to hear, because who comes to Australia to wear jackets and pants? No one. No one, that's who.
Anyway, I just want to take this chance to say I miss everyone! Enjoy your heat right now!...and don't forget about me :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A month gone already?!

It's crazy to think it's been a little over a month since I landed in Australia! I just can't believe it; where did the time go?! I'm absolutely loving my experience so far and don't want it to end anytime soon. Three and a half more months might not cut it....but it'll have to I suppose. Although, I know I'll make the most out of them.
So we went to Oakvale Farm last weekend and that was amazing! I cannot believe how well mannered the kangaroos are. They just hang around and let you do pretty much anything with them, especially if you have food (check out my pictures tab to see my smooch with a roo). We also got to pet koalas, which was sweet; they're so soft and adorable!
koala bear
sleepy koala
Other animals we saw were miniature horses, camels, llamas, goats, sheep, wallabies, turkeys, a peacock, and a dingo. It was very neat! My favorite part was probably hanging with the kangaroos; they kind of reminded me of my dog Kirby, whom I miss very much!
feeding the kangaroos!
Newcastle Beach
On Monday, we explored another beach, and it's actually even closer than Bar Beach, called Newcastle Beach. It's beautiful! The weather was actually decent for once and we laid out in our bathing suits and everything. We stayed for a few hours and then went to class- we are living the life!

Yesterday we went into Sydney again, and we pretty much just shopped all day; ergo, a pretty good day. Our main goal was to hit up this market in Chinatown, Paddy's Market, which just has booths and booths and more booths of random discounted stuff. I got a bag, a makeup bag, a cool aboriginal music thing, and a couple authentic boomerangs that were painted by actual aboriginal tribes. The market was so incredibly crowded and overwhelming since it's literally just rows and rows of booths; we plan to go back another time soon so we can shop there in a more organized and prepared fashion- clearly, we are very serious shoppers!
Paddy's Market
We just booked a long weekend trip to Melbourne, which is a large Australian city that is a short plane ride from Sydney. We are going in two weeks, from Thursday August 29 to Tuesday September 2. I am so pumped! I have heard it's even better than Sydney; we'll just have to see about that...
Even though it's only been a month, I feel like I've known my housemates for a lifetime. I love every single one of them and am so grateful to share this experience with them. Here's to many more months ahead!