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30+ is Never Too Old For Adventure!!!

Expectations of the Civilized World

There is a certain stigma to being over 30 in the Western “Civilized” world. You are expected to:
– Have a steady job
– Be Settled
– Be Married, preferably with children
– Have a dog and a cat
– Have a car or 2
– Have a nice house
– Be financially settled without debt

In truth most people who follow the stigma are:
– Hate their job
– Don’t feel settled, grass is always greener
– Have a rocky marriage
– Can’t stand the dog or cat
– Have a house mortgage threatening to bankrupt them
– Have student loans and car loans and fake financial security by having multiple credit cards

When People Ask Me How??

People often ask me “how I do it, how do I travel and live all over the world??”, I reply that I just “do”! 15 years ago I was still paying off $25 000 US in university fees, had a car payment, rent. I paid most of it off by working as an English Teacher in Seoul, Korea and getting to travel at the same time. Then in 2009 (6 years ago) I was working 3 part time jobs and on unemployment. But I found a way of saving, I gave up my car and used the bus, I shopped at the charity shops, I learnt to reuse things for other purposes, finally I moved back in with the folks and managed to find a great job as a vet nurse and then I saved! I didn’t buy name brands or expensive cars or felt embarrassed that I lived with the folks at 32. Heck, I paid a small rent and helped around the house. I paid off my school loans and without a car or a home loan I had no debt… which meant I could explore the world.

At Machu Pichu, Peru

At Machu Pichu, Peru

True I am not married or have kids, yes that does make things a little easier. But I have met people from all over who sell everything that society “requires” you to have and takes their kids on an amazing worldwide adventure. Experience is often the best education.

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Creativity Makes the Difference

Another important note is that I travel creatively, I find ways to save money from couchsurfing, to work trade in hostels/ backpackers, volunteer work where accommodation is provided, eating locally, not drinking in excess and spending money that way. I spent less than $20 000 total on a year long adventure to 8 different countries from South America to Australia to Nepal.This adventure led me to to work on cruise ships for 2 years all over the world, and, ultimately, to my present job as a dive instructor with Scuba Futures in Thailand. It might look easy every time I try something new or move halfway across the world on another crazy adventure, but I promise you, if you had to watch me trying to decide to buy my air ticket you would see someone who is crazy nervous and on the verge of hyperventilating, and having an internal battle between my “responsible” side vs. my adventurous side. It is never easy to decide to change, but 9 times out of 10 it is worth it.

Working on a cruise ship - Zakynthos, Greece

Working on a cruise ship – Zakynthos, Greece

Doors are always open if you look and even if the path seems difficult and weaves away from the “required” path of 30+ year olds, it’s one hell of a fun path to follow, so give it a try and do something different.

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Go ahead, follow Alice down the Rabbit Hole and see what LIFE has in store for you!

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

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Reflections of a Year Abroad…Part 1

2011 was an epic year in so many ways, good and bad. I still can’t believe that I visited 8 countries (9 if I can count Malaysian Borneo separately, I did have to go through immigration) in under 12months.

Ready to Go…

Here are a few flashbacks and memories. The titles are all linked to the first blog entry of that country with a few others scattered around. Hope you enjoy…

Peru

When plans to volunteer in Botswana fell through I felt I needed somewhere else to replace those months before heading to Australia and New Zealand. It’s not like any tickets were bought or anything, it was just something my mind had decided on, there had to be a country or two before. I was at a loss of where until a friend said “don’t you know someone in Peru?”. Why yes I did, a co worker from the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo. Fernando was our imported penguin expert for the new exhibit and all of us summer employees got on really well.

So I contacted him and it was on, Peru was destination 1. I honestly had no idea what to expert, I had never been to South America and the only Spanish I knew was hola. But ever the one to shrug off obvious adversities I booked my ticket the day after my 33rd birthday. Now only 4months and 5 days till I would leave.

Peru was amazing, and I loved every minute of it. Cusco is now one of my favorite cities, although next time I am definitely pre-dosing on the altitude tabs… Man that hit me hard.

Fernando and Me

Machu Picchu was at first unimpressive, just a ruined city in the rain… the the clouds parted and it all became clear why it was so revered as a must see, that and the thought of “what bloody crazy idiot would make his people lug thousands of stones up a mountain side that scares the living daylights out of on the bus ride…and down??”. Seriously, it was breathtaking.

Good Friends: Cathleen and Me at Macchu Picchu

Lake Titicaca, just giggle everytime I say that, was awe inspiring and I would love to go back. However, the port city of Puno was a real dump and I was glad for fellow traveler advice to avoid it as much as possible.

Lake Titicaca Local Kids

The worst thing to come from Peru : The altitude sickness that actually had me bed ridden for a day.

The best thing to come from Peru : A great new friend named Cathleen!

A reason to go back : I haven’t tried roasted guinea pig yet 🙂

Ecuador

I was almost to the point of buying tickets when my mom held out a newspaper article about volunteer travel. It had a 2 sentence blurp about Amazoonico Wildlife Refuge in Ecuador. The part that caught my eye was the minimal cost of $120/month for food and accomodation. Bonus! I dropped them a line and soon had that on the map. Or actually I couldn’t even find the town of Tena on the map, but Ecuador was right about Peru so how hard could it be.

42hours later my bus (with the locked bathroom) pulled into Quito. Have you ever experienced the need to pee so bad that you can’t… Let’s just say when I could finally see through the wall of water in my eyes, I was in love with the loos of Ecuador. At least the one in the daughter’s home of a lady I had met in Spanish class and who was kindly putting me up for a few days.

My two months at the refuge came with high highs and low lows. The first month was tough as I was the only new volunteer, all the others were girls averaging 21 and had Spanish as a common language. By now I think I could almost say my name and ask where the bathroom was. In short it soon became apparent I was back in highschool and … I still wasn’t popular. My amazing volunteer co ordinator, Sarah, took me aside and said “you can leave, or you can stay and it will change your life”. Who am I to argue with authority, I stayed and in that first month got through a good number of books and enjoyed my alone time since group time was in Spanish, which I was picking up quite well.

“Walking” a Monk Saki Monkey

The second month was much better, we had a new cycle of fresh blood, English became the common language, I was a senior volunteer (and ok I admit I love being the one who needs to teach others), and I discovered my gift for making cookies… That pretty much made me popular in high school! It was very hard to leave.

Beata Relaxing at Sunset

At the end of my time in the jungle I went to the ocean and saw blue footed boobies… again another thing that just makes me want to giggle.

The worst thing to come from Ecuador : Struggling with the volunteer dynamics that first month.

The best thing to come from Ecuador : Blue Footed Boobies!! Oh and discovering an inner strength.

A reason to return : Perhaps a chance to see the Galapogos.

Surprise Easter Visit

It turned out cheaper to fly back to the states and then to Australia rather than from Peru to Aus. So I found myself with 8days in the states. I decided to surprise my parents for Easter. Officially the best surprise I have ever pulled off. The first time they were ever speechless.

Australia

Australia and New Zealand were always on my list, part of the reason for this trip was to find a place I might want to live and since they were on the “most likely” list.

My first impression of Australia, especially after 3 months in South America, was “Oh shite!!! I can barely afford a coffee”. I was shocked at the prices and the Aussie dollar was stronger, of course that changed a few weeks after I left… I quickly worked out plans to mooch… I mean visit any friends and family I had, along with sorting work trade with hostels.

Yes my finger is down its throat


Forcefeeding Kookaburra at Currumbin Wildlife Center

Australia ended up being a country of many new experiences:
I attempted work trade at a farm that has now become known as the Looney Farm by all of us who were there.
I saw Koalas, Kangaroos, Platypus and many other strange and wonderful critters.
I saw friends I hadn’t seen in over 10yrs.
I shaved my head for charity.
I swam with manta rays.
I force fed Kookaburras.
I swam in a freezing lake.
It might have been expensive, but I have some amazing memories that are worth every penny.

Carolin and me!!


Carolin and Me on the Day I Shaved my Head for Charity

The worst thing to come from Australia: The cost.

The best thing to come from Australia: Shaving my head for charity.

A reason to come back: Friends and a little town called Coral Bay.

Tonga

I discovered this amazing organisation that spent a month on the island of Tonga every 3months running a vet clinic. I contacted them months before arriving and was super excited. Accommodation was included and there was no fee to volunteer. A great way to experience island life and do something good for the community.

This was a month of extremes, as it turned out there had been a misunderstanding and I went from being a vet nurse to designated pee/poop cleaner and coffee maker. But I had committed to a month and so I pushed through proving my skills on more than one occasion when they needed me to monitor during surgeries when no one else was available. I think one of the biggest problems was that I was there in the middle of a year long trip and to volunteer while reserving my finances, the others were there as a vacation and had money to spend.

My Favorite Puppy

At the same time I met some amazing people, locals and expats (including 4 South Africans, what are the odds) and got the chance to visit one of the outlying islands.

No Matter What, It Sure Was Pretty!

The worst thing to come from Tonga: My treatment by the other volunteers and the organisation.

The best thing to come from Tonga: Fulfilling my commitment and discovering an amazing culture.

A reason to go back: maybe for a vacation and not to volunteer.

I must admit I had a hard time finishing this post for some reason. So many things that go through my mind and writing this entry makes the journey complete. Luckily there are still many more to come.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Australia, Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Sydney – Days 165 and 166

18th July and 19th July 2011

Sydney Harbour

Rolled out of bed just before 9am and headed out to visit Sydney Harbour. As I was walking down the street I saw the bus pull up, assuming I would miss it I took my time. Luckily it turned out to be a small mob of kids getting on so I was able to almost stroll up at a leisurely pace and hop on. As we were driving I realised they did not announce stops and other than it taking about 45mins had no idea where I was going. I asked a fellow passenger and was rewarded with “its the last stop”. Well that should make it easy then.

My wonderful friend, Maz, who I was staying with had given me her all purpose transport pass that would expire that day (thereby saving me $20 at least). I got off at Circular Quay and headed down to the bay. The next ferry to Manly Island was in 15mins so I found a spot in the sun and ate some of the left over pizza for breakfast. The Sydney Opera house was just peeping around the corner of the harbour and even though I could barely see it, it took my breath away.

First view of Opera House

At boarding time I managed to duck and weave my way to a perfect position at the front of the ferry on the 2nd level. Unfortunately, everyone else followed suit. As we headed out into the bay the opera house came into full view and was truly like some mystical structure you hear about but never believe you are going to get the chance to see.

Opera House

Once under full steam into the harbour I gave up my prize location for a wander around the ferry and settled for a more solitary position at the back of the ferry to watch the Sydney bridge and opera house disappear into the skyline on our way to Manly Island.

Sydney Skyline

The weather was near perfect, with just enough of a nip in the air as to need a fleece but not the warm jacket. I walked along the beach and then up along a walk way until I found a sun-drenched rock, perfect to sit and read on. The water below me was crystal clear and I keep expected to see fish and sea creatures cavorting below the waves. After about an hour I headed back to catch the ferry.

The ferry ride was as perfect on the ride back, with the amusing background drama of parent vs child not wanting to put her jacket on. Back at the harbour I considered catching another ferry in the opposite direction, but some music caught my ear I went to investigate. It was a group of Aboriginals playing the didgiridoo, in truth the first ones I had seen that were not sitting in doorways with brown paper packets. The main speaker was singing and encouraging us to sit with Uncle Max and take a photo. Uncle Max seemed like a jovial enough character in a loin cloth and traditional body paint. The music was haunting and the general sense of entertainment combined with culture was at our fingertips. I even picked up one of hte cd’s. It was that or the painted Emu egg that would go nicely next to my Ostrich egg, but the cd was $10 cheaper.

Uncle Max

Feeling a bit tired, fresh air and ferry rides can do that to you. I decided to head “home”. On the way I got a text from Maz saying that we had free tickets to the final Harry Potter movie and to meet her at 6pm. Perfect!!! A quick nap and bite to eat then off to the movies.

We had KFC for dinner, hate to admit it but out of all the fast food places (all of which I try to avoid at all costs) there is something addictive about the KFC sweet chilli wrap. Just so dang yummy! Then the final installment of Harry Potter. It was great seeing families, teenagers, men in business suits… it appears Harry Potter appeals to them all!

Last day in Sydney
My last day consisted of going to the coffee shop and doing some internet, mailing a few postcards and then staring glumly at my backpack, that appears to have exploded all over my friends living room floor. I swear I don’t have that much stuff. Just as I returned to the apartment the weather turned foul, the wind was howling, the rain was pouring down… so we opted for take out Thai for dinner. A perfect choice.

An OH SHIT moment!
Maz’s roommate had offered to take me to the train station at 6am on her way to work, saving me the bus trip and walk down the hill in the rain. I made it to the airport perfectly on time, lined up for checkin, was sent to the front of the line for those going to Auckland only (the plane was continuing on to Santiago), was able to get my air miles reward number entered in, everything was going wonderfully. Then I was asked “ok great now if I can just see your flight info for leaving NZ”.
OH SHIT!!! I hadn’t printed it out. I had all the info written down but had never managed to find an internet cafe (that will teach me to look harder). With a mild sense of panic the very nice lady behind the counter explained that if I just pop downstairs to the left I would find a place to print. She even let me leave my big bag. I ran downstairs, and searched for the internet place, finally I found the computer stuck behind some tables, printer was out of order. I was now reaching the frantic part of the search, I asked someone and he said there was another place further down to the right. I frantically made my way there and discovered the coin slot was jammed so had to use my credit card, $5 minimum (plus exchange rate and foreign transaction fees, this was going to be expensive printing). With a sigh of relief I got it all printed and made my way back upstairs where I was handed my boarding pass and sent on my way.

Up to the point where I was asked for the dreaded flight info I had really needed the bathroom. It is amazing how your body goes into survival mode in panic, as I no longer needed to go, at least not until everything stopped clenching and relaxed.

Delayed???
Not only was my flight on a Chilean airline, LAN, and therefore at risk if the volcano in Chile had burped again, but the weather was also outrageous and I had this gnawing fear that I would have to stay in Sydney longer. As I walked to my gate I looked at the info board only to see my flight displayed thus:

LAN Flight 800 gate 30 delayed-Wed

Forgive me, but has anyone else had a flight appear delayed for an entire day. I nearly had a heart attack. But then it changed to on time, apparently someone had pressed the wrong button. Go Figure! Without any further instances I settled in to wait for boarding.

At boarding I was very pleased to discover that I had a whole 4 person row, that they had yummy FREE snacks and an excellent entertainment system. I almost wished it was a longer flight.

Next entry will be my fun experience with NZ immigration!

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Gold Coast – Days 162 to 164

15th July to 17th July 2011

Return to the Gold Coast

Another early morning, up at 6.30am. Had to pick my way through the wreckage of my dorm mates luggage and went to have the free pancake breakfast at the hostel. The weather had taken a definate turn for the worse and it was miserably rainy and cold. A bunch of folks at the hostel were not impressed as they were leaving that morning for a 3 day camping trip on Fraser.

Note to self: What not to say to these guys “the weather was fabulous yesterday!” I just couldn’t resist.

Then met “Sparrow” our driver for the return bus to the Gold Coast. Due to a damaged tire we had to make a side trip and got to spend a glorious morning in the town of Gympie! Gympie used to be the murder capital of Australia… just the place you want to go.

But, considering we were at least an hour behind schedule Sparrow managed to make up time and we arrived spot on in Surfer’s Paradise. Chris came to pick me up and we went to fetch SJ on the way home. Back at home, I made lunch and later dinner. SJ was running around pretending to be a spaceman so I grabbed the aluminum foil and turned him into one.

Spaceman SJ

A Change in the Weather
It appeared as if the crappy weather had followed me, that or Karma for my comment to the campers. We had hoped the weather would be as perfect as it had been for the last 2 weeks so we could spend the day at the beach. Instead it was rainy and cold. Chris and I did the chores, this time I was asked to clean the bathrooms and toilets…

We had thought of going to the movies, the Klopper’s taking SJ to watch Cars2 and me to Harry Potter. I decided to rather save the money and hang out at home and get some stuff done. This was such a good idea that everyone decided to just chill out at home and Coral went with SJ to get a few videos.

I had been requested to make my lemon stuffed chicken again, apparently it was quite a hit. As my flight left quite early and I wanted to try and finish the “Power of One” so I could leave it for Chris, I called it a night.

Finished the book around 11.30pm!!

Sydney Bound!

My flight was leaving at 8.55am, so we were out the door by 7.30am. Would have preferred to go earlier but it all worked out ok. I walked upto the checkin counter and was amazed that there were only 3 people waiting. Then I realised that was the international flights. My flight had a line almost out the door and me only 30min till flight boarding. I asked someone and was directed towards an empty counter, apparently they expect some of us to come right on time. I was offered an aisle seat with more legroom. After a general giggle from both the guy checking me in and myself, as I am the last person needing extra legroom, he clarified that I looked fit enough to help out. I mentioned I was a vet nurse and he asked if I could help fix the Hendra Virus then (the virus spread by bats, infecting horses and then humans). I asked if we expected any horses on board?

The flight went smoothly and I managed to find my way to Bondi Junction where I met Maz. Maz had been a surfer with me back in 2008 and this was the first time we had met up since. Catching the bus to her house we caught up on each others news. Then we went out for brunch and Maz bought me the best breakfast ever. A bacon, chive, potato, cheese omelette with turkish bread and an extra side of bacon. UN BE LIEVE A BLE!!!!!!
The coffee was great too. Then we went with her friends to the little sunday market and I managed to pick up a new hat. I tried to bargain with the guy, who wanted $25.
Me: would you take $18
Guy: NO!
Me: ok here is $25

He was definately NOT the bargaining type and seemed almost insulted. Oh well, can’t blame me for trying.

Saying cheers to her friends we went for a walk down to Bondi Beach. I must admit it is a lot smaller than I expected but still not bad for being in the middle of the city.

Bondi Beach

There was a Christmas in July fest going on with an iceskating ring, free chai, Oktoberfest food and fake christmas trees. The chai was delicious and the atmosphere fantastic.

Christmas in July

We planned to walk up along the headland and over to the next beach, but a huge cloud had other ideas and the heavens opened as we were running back to the chai tent. We then decided to head home and Maz made us pizza for dinner. Tomorrow its all about exploring the Sydney Harbour.

Maz and me

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Fraser Island – Day 161

14th July 2011

Fraser Island Here We Come

A group of us were picked up at 7.45am by our driver Mark and his massive bus like creature. Apparently these creations are needed for the sandy conditions on the island, but this puppy was enormous. I was lucky enough to get the front seat and so had a panoramic view of the tour, definately the best seat in the bus, although also the noisiest as it was near the gear box.

We made a few more stops and were soon chock-a-block full. Then it was off down the road to get the ferry, straight off the beach, to the island.

Monster truck riding ferry

From the ferry we drove directly onto the beach of Fraser, there were no roads or anything of the like and as we drove along we occasionally had the waves wash towards us. At these points driver Mark would let go of the steering wheel and pretend he was swimming or paddling through the incoming waves.

Driving on the beach

The main beach was an endless stretch of smooth sand and the sight was breathtaking. I could just imagine my dad racing along the beach in our “bakkie” (pickup/ute) looking for the best fishing spot. After about half an hour on the beach we turned into the resort for our tea break and then it was off inland and some severe turbulence in the cabin of the bus.

The interior road, this is a smooth bit

We drove past stunning trees, such as Scribbly Pine and Blackbutt Eucolyptus, that seem to go against the idea of an island of sand not being able to support such huge trees with so much diversity. I could feel my headache returning as we pulled into the Lake Mckenzie parking area. There are over 100 freshwater lakes on Fraser Island and are some of the purest in the world. Lake Mackenzie is a perched Lake, which means it is above sea level and the retains it’s water through the compact sand and leaf matter that form a water proof basin. If this basin was destroyed the lake would simply drain away into the sand.

Lake McKenzie

The lake is breathtaking to see and freezing cold too boot, especially in winter. The pureness of the water and the underlying leaf litter at its base reflect the sun and make it seem bluer than it is.

Lake McKenzie

The water was so inviting that I had to go in and was the first person in the group to attempt it. The water was freezing but within a few seconds you were so numb that it actually felt pleasant. The sand is pure silica and was used by the Aboriginal people to shine up jewellery, stones and even their teeth. It makes a great exfolient and I made full use of it, also shining up my rings at the same time.

very very cold!

Refreshing swim

Beauty Treatments

One thing was for, the brisk swim had cured my headache!

We then returned to the bumpy ride and headed deeper into the rainforest and went for a short hike. The ecosystem on the island was truly incredible and I was awestruck at the size of the staghorn ferns (a fern we also have in South Africa). Not only were they prehistoric in size but there were hundreds of them.

Staghorn ferns covered the trees

Prehistoric Staghorns

As we wandered through this beautiful old forest Mark told us about all the trees and the river. The river is what is known as a ghost river, as it makes absolutely no noise as it flows through the forest. This is due to the lack pebbles to make it a babbling brook. It is also a sacred location for the Aboriginal people. No male Aboriginals are allowed here as it is where the women would give birth. It was believed that the low pH and cold temperature aided the birthing process.

Leaving the forest we bounced our way back to the resort for a delicious, all-you-can-eat, lunch. Then back up the beach to the wreck of the Maheno, built in 1905, used as a hospital ship during the great war and finally stranded on Fraser Island in 1935, it is now a tourist attraction. The twisted wreck of metal creates quite a stark contrast against the blue sky and crashing waves.

Wreck of the Maheno

Maheno

As we returned in the direction of the ferry we came across a wild dingo. There is quite a large population of Dingoes on the island, and with people feeding them there have been a few nasty run-ins. However, we never had any issues with the solitary one we came across and he was in stunning condition.

Dingo

Dingo on beach

It was a spectacular day with perfect weather. I am very glad I had the chance to explore this location and only wish I had more time (and more money) to explore it more. When I returned to the hostel I discovered my 3 thoughtful roommates had checked out and been replaced by 6 young German lads. The place looked like their bags had exploded and I had to kick things aside to reach the bathroom. Oh well I guess you can’t have it perfect everytime.

Some pics from Fraser:


 
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Posted by on July 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Gold Coast – Days 156 to 159

9 July to 12 July 2011

Back With Friends
As it was Saturday it was also chore day and I soon had the duster and polish thrust in my hand for morning duties. After that we had planned to go to the markets and then the beach, but stopped off at the Harbour Town outlet malls to pick up Chris’s new glasses. We never left!

We decided to just stay and look for a few things while we were there. After the horrors of the previous week in searching for a bikini, I was a little apprehensive, but dove in regardless. I headed to the speedo store and this time let the attendant help me out. She suggested about 5 different styles and if you would believe it, the very first one worked and, if I must say, looked rather nice (as long as I didn’t stand sideways and kept my posture that is). I couldn’t believe that, compared to how mentally stressful the search had been the week before this week had been a breeze and almost ego boosting…almost. Plus for a speedo it only cost $40, so I think I did pretty well all around.

We stopped into a few more stores and picked up a couple of things then went back to the shoe store to see if the boots were still there. They were and they looked great, so I decided to splurge a bit and spent $45 on knee high lace up boots (well it is cold in NZ and I need some closed shoes, right?).

Heading out we went to the promised “surprise” for Stefan John, McDonald’s. Mainly because they have a great playground. They also have rather half decent coffee these days with an actual coffee bar. Not sure if they have that in the States as I hadn’t stepped into a McD’s for years until arriving here. McD’s also has free wifi, so have had a number of coffees (which are the same price as an actual coffee shop), in the past few months of travel.

Back home I made cookies with Stefan John, or rather he was chief cookie dough taster and continually “encouraged” me to finish up. A pretty good day in the end and except for the fact that the shoe shop only gave me one lace, I am thrilled with my purchases.

Return to Currumbin
Sunday morning we missed chores and headed out early to the Carara Markets, a fantastic weekend market with lots to see and do. Then we headed towards Currumbin for a family day at the sanctuary. I was a little nervous as due to certain unexpected happenings I would be unable to complete the 2nd week of volunteering.

My fabulous friend Joel, who I had met in Hawaii 4 yrs ago and not seen since, had called to say that, as a driver for OZ Experience, he could get me a free ride to Rainbow Bay when he passed the Gold Coast on Wednesday and a free ride back down on Friday with another driver. That way I could get a tour to Fraser Island, apparently one of the MUST SEE’s in Australia. This meant that my 2nd week at Currumbin was essentially null and void. I felt really bad and brought cookies with me as an apology. We rode the little train from the entrance of the park to the hospital section and while the family watched a turtle surgery, I popped in to make my apologies. My first head nurse, Tash, was there and when I explained the situation she was all for me taking the trip to Fraser and completely understood, I dare say she was almost excited as it meant I had brought cookies. I said my farewells to the nurses I knew and headed out. I must say I learnt so much in the that week, and while I had been nervous at the fact that I had not nursed in over 6mths, surprised and happy at how naturally it all came back to me. Maybe I do I have a calling after all.

A special thanks to Deb for accepting me, to Tash, Shelly, Pat and Jess for showing me the ropes. To Erina, vet, for being patient with my questions. And to all the volunteers for doing such a great job, especially Colette and Hamish (my co-volunteers), it was great working with all of you.

For the rest of the day we wandered around the sanctuary, it is an absolutely stunning place and completely built in and around the trees. Much better than a lot of zoos I have seen. It also concerns itself solely with native wildlife. We checked out what has to be the biggest bloody saltwater crocodile I have seen, he could swallow me and a few others whole at the same time. His name is Holey, I am sure because when he was first seen someone said “Holey Sh%#”. To get an idea of his true length, he weighs over 1000kg, check out this link:

Holey! This does not do him justice!

After Holey, we walked through the free range kangaroo exhibit. SJ and I even got to feed them. Too cool for words! Unfortunately they were so over fed, they pretty much seemed bored.

Me and SJ feeding Kangaroo

The Alpha Male

After some play time at the playground for SJ to work off some steam, and a couple of photos on the fake giant crocodile, we headed home to have lunch and nap time. That evening I made pasta for dinner.

Nothing much happened on Monday, Coral was working from home so I sat and caught up on some blog entries, photo and video uploads and made the tea for us sporadically. Am drinking so much tea staying here that I am peeing like a racehorse… That night I made a dinner of lemon stuffed roast chicken, roast pumpkin and potatoes and baked zucchini. It was very well received and I have a feeling I will be cooking that sometime in the next week again.

Tuesday I had the day to myself in the house, and just worked on reading, packing for Rainbow Bay and blogs. It was fantastic. For dinner I made fish and chips.

Altogether a great few days, but tomorrow its time for a short trip on the road again!!! WOOHOO!!!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Gold Coast – Day 177 to 181

4th July to 8th July 2011

Currumbin Wildlife Hospital

On the suggestion of Chris, I contacted the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary concerning volunteer opportunities. I was almost immediately offered a position at the wildlife hospital if I could commit to the 2 week minimum. Checking my calender I worked out that the two weeks would just barely fit into my schedule and promptly agreed. Monday was to be my first day and I was thrown in shortly after arriving, they almost forgot to give us a tour of the facility. Along with me were two new volunteers, Hamish and Collette were doing a two week practicum for vet school.

Some of my first duties were to follow Jess in the cleaning of cages and preparation of medication. At first glance there were mostly birds, but with some scuffling of papers under the bird cages I discovered my first echidna, Snorky. So named because one of his nostrils had grown over and he constantly made a snorky sound.

Snorky

Other than cleaning cages, I was taught how to medicate birds, how to handle the echidnas and medicate them and was also monitoring animals during surgery and examinations.

Duck monitoring

At the end of day one I headed to meet with my host for the week, a very cool journalist by the name of Kate. I was so exhausted that I could barely move, but after a hot bath the feeling returned to my legs… standing all day in the work force was never my cup of tea. Kate turned out to be a fantastic host and also about to leave on a monumental year long trip, to Europe. It was great talking to her about travel and writing and getting ideas and advice.

Day two started much the same with lots of cleaning and monitoring and standing. Only this time I had been put in charge of force feeding the Kookaburrahs. Tash, our head nurse, had showed me how to do it the day before and had then passed the responsibility to me. With 4 birds in the hospital this could take a while. Kookaburrahs are renowned for not eating by themselves while in hospital and so force feeding was required. This meant shaping balls of meat into worm like shapes and then shoving it as far down the birds throat as you could. I ended up being quite good at it.

Yes my finger is down its throat

We also had a flying fox come in. Due to diseases including rabies, it was only handled by the vet and experienced staff. We were also concerned about a recent breakout of Hendra Virus in the area. Spread by bats droppings in water sources for horses and then to humans the disease manifests very quickly and is often deadly. Luckily we had no horses in the clinic so were not concerned about catching it, still made us nervous and we needed to test the bat for the disease.

Due to monitoring a bandicoot (similar to large shrew) surgery I only got to force feeding the kookaburrahs at 4.30pm, we finish at 5pm. Luckily I was down to 3 as one had been released. But it still took me a lot longer and with cleaning we only got out after 5.30pm.

Day three saw a new head nurse, Shelley, who was fantastic and let me medicate the birds without checking on me. Tash had done a great job teaching me, and so had no problem drawing up correct meds and squirting them down the throats of birds such as Cuckoo Shrikes, Fantailed Cuckoos, finches, King Quail and Crested Pigeons.

the punk rockers of pigeons

We also had a young wallaby come in and tiny baby possum. The wallaby had been caught on a fence and had an injury to its foot. The possum baby had possibly been found after its mother was hit by a car.

Wednesday continued on the coat tails of Tuesday and had us out late again. During the afternoon while preparing the little bandicoot for surgery to debrade the area around a wound caused by an abscess after a cat attack, we noticed he did appear to be as active as he usually was. We put him on oxygen and I watched his progress. Just as a large group of visitors came to peer through the windows of the hospital (we are on exhibit as well) I realised the bandicoot had stopped breathing. Erina, our vet, gave him a shot of adrenalin and we tubed him in an attempt to save his life. Unfortunately, he had given up the ghost and moved on to happier pastures, most likely without cats. Since the public was watching we had to be very careful how we handled him and had to cradle him as if he were still with us. What a day that was.

That night Kate and I went to the local suf pub to watch “State of Origin”, a very big rugby game between New South Wales and Queensland teams. We met up with some of her friends and enjoyed a few drinks. The game started with what appeared to be a walk over by Queensland, but in the second half New South Wales put up a heck of a fight. It was a great night.

Thursday saw Shelley and I well on top of everything and without any emergencies we were done by 4.30pm. 2 More kookaburrahs had also been transferred out to foster care (animals go to foster care for a few days before being released). Leaving me with my favorite, who I had dubbed Hamish after the vet student (they both gave me very sarcastic looks). Kookaburrah Hamish had leg issues and was unable to perch. In fact he seemed to have no strength in his legs whatsoever, which was very concerning.

Friday turned out to be a really really slow day. I focused on laundry and didn’t even get round to cleaning a cage let alone medicating an animal. Shelley and I decided to make it a half day for me and I called Chris who said he would pick me up at 1pm. Of course, as Murphy’s Law would dictate, just before 1pm we had a koala come in. After x-rays we discovered he had broken his pelvis, the person who brought it in thought he may have fallen from the tree, the local term for that is a “Drop Bear”. As I was walking through the door we had a possum come in as well. Oh well, thats how it goes and there were so many vet students and nurses on duty I would most likely have been in the way.

It was a fantastic experience and would do it again in a heart beat. I now also have a special place in my heart for Kookaburrahs.

Some interesting cases
Duck
We had a duck come in with severe motor and neurological issues. He was unable to stand or balance and was constantly throwing his head around in spastic movements.
We x-rayed him to find no visible fractures or injuries.
We gave him charcoal in case he had ingested something with no apparent improvement.
We gave him anti-seizure medication, again with no improvement.
After a full week of monitoring him and unable to think of anything else we were forced to euthanise. After a necropsy, we discovered his right ear had been full of a waxy buildup, but we are unsure if the 2 issues were related.

Bandicoot
The bandicoot had been in the hospital for almost 2 weeks before he past away. He had been attacked by a cat and was bordering on frankenstein with all the stitches. Our biggest concern was the large wound on his right hip, after the initial attack this area had abscessed and we were continually forced to debrade and cut out dead tissue. Apparently this species is known to have tissue turn necrotic after a cat bite. Erina would use honey on the wound to help with infection and special algae patches to cover it. We did all we could and we were all sorry when we were unable to save him.

Hamish the Kookaburrah
Of the 5 kookaburrahs that came in 3 made it into foster care. 1 died unexpectantly and the 5th was Hamish. He appeared to have spinal injuries as he was unable to perch or use his feet but there were no definate injuries to be seen on x-rays. After 5 days with no improvement and without the hope of him eating on his own and therefore living an ok life in captivity we were forced to euthanise him on my last day. However, due to his spectacular plummage we were able to save his tail and wings to be use for grafting purposes onto kookaburrahs that might need them, so you see even animals are organ donors, or would that be plummage donors.

"Hamish"

Koala
The koala that came in on my last day had severe internal bleeding and a broken pelvis. He was transferred to the Australia Zoo (of Steve Erwin fame) where we hoped he might be able to get the care and surgeries he would require.

the Drop Bear

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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