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!

Weekend in Sydney!

When in Australia… must travel! My last adventure was a few months ago when I road tripped the Great Ocean Road. So I bought a plane ticket to Sydney! Last weekend, me and 2 other friends headed out for a fun weekend after a few weeks of studying/cramming. I had so much fun exploring in Sydney–its a beautiful city (don’t hate on me Melb people, I still LOVE Melbourne). After finding our hostel in Kings Cross we ventured out to find some place to eat. We ended up on this cute little lane way with lots of different shops and restaurants and made sure to peek in all the windows before settling in for some Malaysian food.

Saturday morning we rolled out of bed nice and early and caught a shuttle out to the blue mountains. Our guide was great and kept up a fantastic commentary about Sydney, surrounding area, history and the mountains. The blue mountains only have two ‘big’ towns: Katoomba and Leura; we stopped in Leura for lunch. The town is very cute and full of shops and little sightseeing bits. Next stop on the tour was Scenic World, we decided not to spend the extra money to go on the cable cars and decided to do some bush walking instead.

The cable car goes across the gap and gives riders amazing views of the Three Sisters rock formation in the background

The cable car goes across the gap and gives riders amazing views of the Three Sisters rock formation in the background

Katoomba Falls

Katoomba Falls

This was my absolute favorite part of the day! We hiked up and saw the Katoomba Falls and the Three Sisters from an amazing lookout before going further down the trail for another view. Walking out of the trees and onto the edge of the falls was amazing. There were cockatoos flying over us and an amazing view out into the valley.

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Next stop was an aboriginal carving of a dead male kangaroo. Our guide explained that aboriginals had probably carved the image into the sandstone as a teaching tool for younger hunters in the tribe. The image shows a kangaroo lying down with a spear through the center of it; the kangaroo is also missing his feet. Usually carvings are found in groups, so there is likely more carvings hidden in the trees that haven’t been discovered yet!

Carving of a dead male kangaroo, head is on right side and tail on left

Carving of a dead male kangaroo, head is on right side and tail on left

A quick drive through Olympic park brought us to the dock where we hopped on the FantaSea ferry to take us across the harbor. This was a fantastic end to the tour as we got to see the sun set over the water and then the lights of the harbor turn on.  On a friend’s suggestion we headed out to Surrey Hills to look for some food!

The next morning, food was on the mind again… On our way to grab Pancakes on The Rocks we ran into a photographer who traveled to the mountains with us the day before. The 4 of grabbed some delicious chocolate fuel for the day ahead….

Tastes like heaven

Tastes like heaven

The Rocks Market captured our attention for a few hours. We wandered through all the stalls sampling foods, smelling essential oils/lotions/scrubs, looking at souvenirs, etc.  I ended up talking to a man who had a boomerang stall for quite a while. He explained that not all boomerangs are returning ones-it depends on the way they are made. He told us about the different types of boomerangs and how to throw and catch them properly. A few stalls over a lady detailed the benefits of emu oil to us. UGG stores are everywhere in Australia (obviously), I like looking at all the different styles…. they are oddly becoming more attractive to me.

The Rocks Market

The Rocks Market

Boomerang stall

Boomerang stall

I will take one of each please.

I will take one of each please.

The Rocks Market

The Rocks Market

I wanted to see the Sydney Fish Markets, so that was our next adventure! It was quite busy and full of different produce and fried fish platters. We ordered one platter for 2 people–and couldn’t finish it between the 3 of us!  We had a ton of fun throwing the leftovers to the seagulls and pelicans in the water.

Loading zone for fishermen to drop off their catch

Loading zone for fishermen to drop off their catch

Large variety of fish

Large variety of fish

I am a bird whisperer

I am a bird whisperer

The University of Sydney also has a veterinary school, we wandered on campus until we found the buildings and the vet hospital. A huge and beautiful uni campus!! After a long day of walking a chill evening catching a movie in Broadway Shopping Center was required!

On our last day we conducted our own walking tour down the Butler Stairs, past the marina, and over to a great view of the bridge and opera house. While taking photos we asked a tourist to take our picture, through broken English she insisted we use her selfie stick.

Amazing view and beautiful day!

Amazing view and beautiful day!

Our selfie stick picture

Our selfie stick picture

We kept walking and stumbled on the Royal Botanical Gardens and decided to have a picnic lunch. The weather was so nice and sunny that we abandoned our other plans and caught the bus to Bondi Beach. The water is so blue! And full of surfers waiting for the next wave.

Royal Botanical Gardens

Royal Botanical Gardens

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

This trip to Sydney was a bit of a wake up call– I am really lucky to have to opportunity to live in Australia, if only for a short time. I want to take advantage of it and get to know Melbourne really well and travel the rest of the country. My biggest fear is becoming complacent and not exploring and learning about this country while I am here. I already have a list started of everything I need to see in Sydney next time I’m in town:

-Museums

-Library

-Galleries

-Manly Beach

-Different suburbs

-Walking Tours

Anyone have any suggestions of places to go or things to see and do next time I’m in Sydney?

P.S: The photographer we met on our blue mountains tour and went to breakfast with takes amazing photos!! She has an album of pictures from that weekend in Sydney that are definitely worth checking out!! Here is a link to her Facebook album.