Red dirt in the NT

 

The two weeks I spent in the Northern Territory of Australia were a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So many of these moments were new and fascinating.  I was pretty excited to get out of chilly chilly Victoria and get outside into some warm winter weather. As soon as our small plane touched down at Galuwin’ku airport we felt the heat!

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How could you not love this landscape?!

Three of us traveled to the remote Elcho island off the Northern coast of Aus for 2 weeks to be part of a council based Animal Management Program. There is a large amount of community dogs and cats that live in Galuwin’ku (the largest community on Elcho island). The majority of our work was spay and neuter surgeries and distribution of dewormer medication.

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This was one particularly friendly dog that met us on the beach one day and followed us home 🙂 

After we first landed we did a little tour of the community and drove past some of the main buildings.  After a few minutes we came across a group of people standing by a dog on the side of the road. He had been hit by a car and was not looking good. We asked if the people wanted us to ‘finish’ him (euthanasia).  In the evening we went to walk by the beach; you can’t go close to the water because it is full of crocodiles. The sunset was amazing. We heard a dog crying and found her laying in a stand of trees in the vines. She was old and riddled with ticks and mites. She belonged to a nearby family who I think moved the dog down to the beach because she had been sick and crying for days. I had never considered how difficult it might be for families to get rid of a dog or euthanize an animal who is sick if there are no vet services around.

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The ‘clinic’ and the ute that we used for all our veterinary work

No one on the island wakes up early; this means that we got to very casually wake up, eat breakfast, and leave the house around 9am… 9:30am…whenever. We often stopped in at the ‘clinic’ (a trailer) and picked up a few things we needed. Then we would drive slowly through the community and stop at family homes and ask them if there was any dogs or cats for ‘operation’ (the term for de-sexing surgery). We would sedate the dogs with their pre-medication drugs at their houses and allow them to get sleepy before loading them into the ute. Children would run and catch the cats for us to put into carriers. At the clinic there was two tables to do surgeries on; you either had to bend over or sit in a chair. One table required you to stack 2 chairs & a pillow on top of each other to be at the right height. There was a desk lamp for added light. We made a makeshift scavenger system for ourselves. The surgical instruments are kept in a saucepan and boiled on the stove each night. Gauze is baked in a canister in the oven. Instruments are scrubbed and sterilized in cold sterile between each surgery. We made swaged on needles as we needed them.  Anesthetic monitoring was done with an SPO2 monitor and our stethoscopes. Each wound was sprayed with Cetrigen purple spray after surgery and dogs received flea spray for a day of relief. All the spays are completed as flank spays: this is because they likely heal faster, if the wound breaks down there is less chance of evisceration, a lot of the patients are either pregnant or lactating and you do not want to disturb the mammary tissue, and its easier to recheck the surgery site from afar. A lot of the animals will remember you and not want to come near you afterwards. Us students got to do almost all of the surgeries by ourselves which was SUCH good experience, and really cool because I got a lot of practice doing the less common flank spays.

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A typical surgical morning.

Occasionally we would do other vet work. We did a couple of new puppy & kitten exams, checked out a lump on a dog, stitched up a dog who had been gorged by a pig, and checked a cat with tail injury.  But, by far, the most thrilling call was—Nigel. Nigel’s family thought he had broken his leg and our whole team was very distressed as we rushed over to his house! Luckily….he must have just stepped on a prickle  and he was totally fine & just as cool as ever.

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Nigel with his mum and his brand new collar!

In Aboriginal communities, especially in a climate like where we were, when someone passes away in the Wet (season) the body cannot be buried because of the humidity and the rain. The body is flown to Darwin where it is held in a morgue until the Dry (season) when it can be returned to the community for a funeral ceremony & burial. Dumbulah is an out station approximately 10 mins from where we were staying. We were invited to watch the funeral ceremony. Funerals can last for days to weeks; they happen for every person who passes away in the community—because of the associated health issues in aboriginal communities, funerals occur fairly often. As we walked closer to the community we could hear singing. When we arrived we saw a few hand painted cloth signs hanging up. The biggest sign was on white cloth, with bright green writing—’ Welcome Home’. Other signs said ‘rest in peace our loving father’, etc. The man’s name was painted.  There was 3 trees as flag poles for the territory flag, the Australian flag, and a third- they all flew at half mast. We sat on the dirt a little ways away and watched some of the singing and dancing. After a short time, a family invited us to come and sit on their mat with them. A lady on our mat explained to us that 2 different clans would sing/dance the next song (I think it was about a sunfish) one after each other. They had differently painted digeridoos.  This was such a valuable life experience for me; I sat there mesmerized for quite a long time.

We had a short meeting with some of the human medical team one morning to talk about a research project that is being run on the island. The medical team is swabbing mothers, children, and infants at certain households to look at skin infections (likely staph/strep). Our job was to take swabs from the dogs who lived at the house as well. The study required swabs from nose, mouth, and perineum.

Most nights we stopped at the beach on the way home to watch the sunset over the water. We would go for walks along the rocks close to the water or sit in a freshwater pool that was a safe distance from the ocean.

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Jess and I woke up early a few mornings to go for a walk on the beach or the road above the ocean to look for crocs or dugongs before breakfast. It was really lovely. We never saw a dugong, but we did see a crocodile!

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Our fantastic team, we got along swimmingly, and I think all of us grew a bigger spot in our hearts for Aboriginal culture and the NT. 

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Road Trip: Melbourne to Brissy to Melb

After my parents spent a week with me in Melbourne we left on a road trip up the coast. We drove in my roommate and I’s car. Since we bought the car a few months ago, it has changed our lives in Australia—made everything so much easier and nicer! I love it.

If I tried to write about all the places we went on our trip this blog post would turn into a 3-part novel series. So, I’ll summarize:

Places we stopped:

Wilsons Promontory, VIC

We did a hike and explored Squeaky Beach—its called Squeaky Beach because the sand squeaks when you step on it. Also, its absolutely beautiful and I love it there.

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The parents taking pictures of the waves going in and out

Seaspray/Ninety Mile Beach, VIC

Perfect unspoiled brilliant white beach for as far as your eyes can possibly see in both directions. We were so disappointed when we were here because it was too cold and raining to swim and we so badly wanted to spend a lot of time enjoying the area.

Lakes Entrance, VIC

Gorgeous location, full of boats and great sunsets! We went fishing one day and pulled in a few puffer fish. Also, ate a lot of great seafood.

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There is something incredibly interesting going on here

Raymond Island, VIC

Drove here and took a 5 minute ferry ride to the small island known for koala sightings. And we saw koalas, tons of them (and kangaroos)! No matter how many times I see these guys curled up in trees—they will always be adorable.

Buchan Caves, VIC

Took a guided tour through one of the caves and saw very sparkly rocks and amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Different than other caving experiences I’ve had.

Eden, NSW

This is where my family spent new years eve. Its a small town with a huge whaling history. One day we did the ‘Killer Whale Trail’ and drove around to different locations to learn about the colorful whaling history in the area. I was way more into it than I expected and really enjoyed this stop!

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Quite the party animals these two are!

Tilba Tilba & Central Tilba, NSW

Tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere. Accidentally spent too much time here cause there is great cheese and tons of fun little shops to explore.

Huskisson/Jervis Bay, NSW

A bit of a party location. The beaches are unbelievable. Still a bit rainy for enjoyable swimming but we got some snorkeling in and explored Booderee National Park (Cape St George Lighthouse/Moe’s Rock/Stoney Creek/Murray Beach/Botanical Gardens). Hyams Beach is in the Guinness World Record book for being the beach with the whitest sand. It is brilliant and so soft! But looks just as white as a lot of the other beaches we’ve stopped at?

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I don’t know if you could ask for a picnic lunch with a better view

Sydney, NSW

I’ve been to Sydney a couple of times now, but I do like going with different people and showing them some of my favorite views or exploring new areas together. I actually traveled to Sydney with my family when I was still in elementary school so it was fun to be back in the same place with them again. This time we spent an entire day at Cockatoo Island in the sun learning about convicts and industrial ship building in Australia.

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In the middle of our audio tour on Cockatoo Island

Another one of my favorites in Sydney is the fish markets. I made sure my parents stopped here before we drove on to the next place. We obviously ordered up a seafood lunch and ate it outside under the watchful eye of the seagulls. Read about my last trip to Sydney here.

Port Macquarie, NSW

We went to the Roto  house, Tacking Lighthouse and Lighthouse beach, but my favorite stop was the Koala Hospital. It is free to tour around and look at the koalas. A few of the patients are now permanent residents because they have been too sick or injured either due to bush fires, cars, or chlamydia infections (yes, surprise! All the koalas have chlamydia in Aus; look it up!)

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Just before we headed down to look at all the blue bottle jellies on the beach

Coffs Harbor, NSW

I wanted to stop and take a picture of the giant banana statue. (ask my mom why I never got the picture 😛 )

Byron Bay, NSW

I love Byron Bay, this is the Australia that everyone imagines when they think of ‘down under’. Its hot, its right on the ocean, everyone is tanned and beautiful, people wear swimsuits everywhere, no one wears shoes. Surfer dudes galore! Party town. I wished I could spend a whole summer here. We visited Main Beach, the lighthouse at night time, and The Farm.

Brisbane, QLD

We didn’t nearly have enough time in Brissy to explore it properly. But we did go to the Australia Zoo (and Wildlife Hospital)—possibly the best zoo I’ve ever been to! I loved all the exhibits and the fact that Terri, Bindi, and Robert Irwin are still heavily involved in promotion of wildlife and carrying on Steve Irwin’s work.

We stopped at the Glasshouse Mountains during sunset to eat fresh pineapple and watch the sun go down—absolutely breathtaking.

Lastly, we did a ‘hop on hop off’ bus tour in the CBD. My fav stop was Streets Beach—a man made beach right in the middle of the city because Brisbane is located slightly inland from the ocean and doesn’t have their own beach.

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Brisbane skyline overlooking the river

My parents left from Brisbane to fly back to Canada. We had a great trip together that I will remember forever. It was nice to be able to spend a lot of family time in my new home. Looking forward to the next trip when my brother might join us!

Then the drive home….

Tommie flew up to Brisbane that same morning to meet me and drive home to Melbourne with me!

Places we stopped:

Byron Bay, NSW

Since I loved Byron so much we decided to stop here again; we may have also bought a surfboard and spent an afternoon playing around in the waves at Main beach. We went to visit Stone & Wood Brewery for a tasting of one of Tom’s favorite beers.

Ballina, NSW

Picture of giant prawn statue obtained!

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What a beautiful thing

Coffs Harbor, NSW

Picture of giant banana statue (finally) obtained!

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#touristgame strong

Port Macquarie/City Beach, NSW

Tom and I had fantastic weather for our entire trip back down the coast, this meant that we could stop and swim whenever we wanted. And we loved it!

Taree, NSW

Picture of giant oyster statue obtained!

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This oyster ‘statue’ was oddly very hard to find

 

Sydney, NSW

If you’ve never been to Sydney and you’re driving past Sydney—you really need to stop! The harbor and Circular Quay is exactly like the movies and its very impressive. We did the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk to see 2 of the most popular beaches (and all the ones in between) before going for a quick swim and then continuing on!

Canberra, ACT

I hadn’t been to Canberra yet so I really wanted to stop here. Most people say there is nothing to see in Canberra—but I think I would come back to the capital city. It is a lot smaller and not as visually impressive as Sydney or Melbourne but there is a ton of history and museums to explore. And the area around is beautiful as well. Since we didn’t have a ton of time here, we randomly picked the Australian War Memorial Museum to take a tour at—huge!! Then we drove up to Black Mountain and went onto the viewing deck of Telstra Tower. I think this was a great option for us as it allowed us to see a lot of the important buildings and locations all around Canberra even though we didn’t have time to visit them.

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Poppies on the wall at the Australian War Memorial Museum

Melbourne, VIC

I actually loved driving inland on the way back to Melbourne. Likely because I had seen coastline for the last few weeks (And the coast is brilliant, don’t get me wrong) but the rolling hills and fields reminded me home. I like seeing the sun shining on straight roads and the open sky.

While we didn’t have many days to drive all the way home, we managed to see a lot of spots and experience a lot of cool things! We saw dolphins swimming in the ocean, goannas in our campground, learned to surf, and had a ton of fun!!

Pending: one more travel blog post before I get back to what this website is really about—vet student adventures!

My parents’ trip to Melbourne

After 2 years living down under my parents decided it was time they plan a trip down to Melbourne to visit me. Since I had previously decided I couldn’t afford a trip home for Christmas this year they decided to stay with me in my apartment over the Christmas holidays (summer break in Australia!).

After their flight out of Vancouver was cancelled and delayed several times due to snow (whats wrong yvr, can’t handle a little powder?) they landed in Melb on a sunny December 20th afternoon. Our first stop was a tour of my apartment and then I took them to Laksa King. Laksa King is my roommate and I’s favorite restaurant in Melb. It just happened to be one of the first places we stumbled upon and then was close to both places we’ve lived. Its been our tradition to stop in for laksa after we get in from the airport.

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Laksa’s new biggest fans!

On the next day, I took my parents to see a large variety of places in the city. First stop was the University of Melbourne (vet building and main campus), my job, and then into the CBD. We had lunch at Hash cafe, one of my favourite hippy cafes for amazing coffee and cool vibes. Next we wandered through Flinders, Federation Square, along the Yarra River, Collins Street, Bourke and Little Bourke Street, Swanston Street and Christmas Square, Melbourne Central, the State Library, the Shrine of Remembrance, etc. To end the night off we went to the Summer Night Market at Queen Victoria Market for some dinner and then over to Lygon street for dessert! I can’t believe I managed to show my parents so many things in one day! But when you have a limited amount of time- you do what you gotta do!

The next morning, my friend from Canada who has been living and working in Wagga Wagga for the past few months came down to Melbourne to spend Christmas with our family. All 4 of us set out on the Great Ocean Road. This was my 3rd time doing the road trip and I still love it! The sights are so beautiful!

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Enjoying the sunshine at Loch Ard Gorge

December 23rd we hopped in the car again and drove out to the Yarra Valley for some exploring. Our first stop was the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery— all I can say is it lived up to its name! We all left there completely stuffed… and we may or may not have eaten a massive helping of dessert for lunch. We stopped in at a few wineries for tastings. We found it a bit odd that most wineries in the regions didn’t allow self tours or for guests to walk the vineyards; that is very common at wineries in Canada. We also stopped in at the Yarra Valley Dairy and wandered through the cute shops in Healesville before heading back to the city for an awesome dinner at one of my best friend’s house with his family. Thank you so much!!! My parents loved meeting his family and trying out new food. On the way home we stopped at The Boulevard in Ivanhoe— supposed to be one of the best places in Melbourne to see Christmas lights. While the streets were full of hoards of people, we couldn’t help but be underwhelmed… Christmas just isn’t the same without snow.

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Wine tasting at Yarrawood Estates

By Christmas Eve we needed a more chill morning, so after hanging out at home we drove in the the city to do some grocery shopping at Queen Victoria Market. Over the past 2 years, this is probably one of my most favorite places in Melb. It is almost always busy and bustling with activity. I love listening to the people yell their prices out and trying to find the cheapest fruits and veggies. In the evening we went to the Christmas Eve service at my church — Hilsong Melbourne. It was a great service and my parents and friend loved it! We had wanted to see the Christmas light show in the city, but since it was summer the sun hadn’t gone down yet. We stopped at Degraves St. for dinner and coffee until the sun dimmed. Then we wandered Fed Square and down the Yarra River to Southbank to see all the decorations, lights, musicians, and street performers.

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Christmas decorations by the Yarra River

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More Christmas decorations along the Yarra River

On Christmas morning we watched my favourite Christmas movie–Christmas with the Kranks while we prepared food for an Aussie Chrissie. We went to the park across from my apartment and had a BBQ in the blistering sun…. 36 degrees Celsius! Lunch was prawns, swordfish, steak, corn, pasta salad, fruit mince pies, and ice tea. We ended the day at Sandringham Beach in the sun!

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Family photo! Like my tree?

Boxing day was my parents’ last day in Melbourne and we had tickets to a test match (cricket!). Since none of us knew anything about cricket we watched an extremely informative YouTube video to prepare…. thank you internet! The game was at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG) and we had a lot of fun watching the game and trying to figure out what was going on…. I think I might stick with hockey and football though. Since test matches can apparently go on for days and days (!!!!) we left early and headed out on our road trip….. (blog post to follow).

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Watching cricket at the ‘G!

The week was jam-packed and I didn’t even get to show my parents everything I had wanted too…I think we bit off a good chunk of it though. It was a lot of fun to introduce my parents to my second home and I can’t wait for my next visitor!

 

 

 

Wilson’s Prom

I have been wanting to go to Wilsons Promontory National Park for a very long time now. When our classes were cancelled this past Monday it seemed like the perfect day to brave the 100% chances of rain and head out on a road trip!

We all piled in the car and headed out in the morning. The rain held up as we entered the park and we immediately starting seeing wildlife! The first animals we saw were some roos along the side of the road. The had been tagged and were likely involved in a long running research project in the park.

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We hopped back in the car and drove around the corner—only to see a group of emus!! When I was a kid I was at a wildlife shelter holding some food. A large emu started chasing me around the communal pen and my dad had to save me. Ever since then their shifty eyes keep me on their toes—-however, these emus were nice and didn’t try to eat me for lunch.

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We did about half of the wildlife walk which was on a red dirt path, surrounded by shrubs. The ground was littered with tiny white seashells everywhere–the ocean must flood up to that point at certain times.

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As we continued our drive through the park we saw more roos, a couple of deer, parrots, kookaburra, and kept our eyes peeled for koalas.

After a quick lunch of fish and chips we ran into a rather tame wombat in the park. He had research tags on his ears as well and must have been very used to people because he hung around for a photo shoot.

At the far end of the park we did the Mt. Oberon hike, about 3.4km up one way. The rain was still holding off and it was nice cool weather for a walk. It was an easy hike up until the last bit when we realized we had actually hiked up into the clouds. It was very windy, foggy, and misty. There was stone steps that we had to climb up past some cell phone towers.  Coming around a corner you climb up over a rock and then the whole view opened up in front of our eyes. You could see the ocean and a couple of beaches and the hills all around. The clouds floated past underneath us and the wind almost knocked us off the top of the mountain!

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On the way back down the mountain it started pouring rain and we all got soaked. But we all needed to see Squeaky Beach before we headed back to the city. Squeaky Beach will sound squeaky when you walk on it in just the right way—its because of the silicon content in the sand (I think!). Its also very beautiful and there is a lot of large boulders on one side that have been smoothed out by the waves and tide.

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It was a really long day–but the best way to spend a day off class! I’ll definitely be going back to Wilson’s Prom to do more hiking.

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