After the ninth week of the semester, we had a week long “mid-semester break.” (They don’t call it “spring break”). I went on an amazing traveling trip with international friends. Our destinations: Gold Coast (particularly Surfer’s Paradise), Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, and the Great Barrier Reef.
Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast
We spent four days here and experienced the beaches, parks, shops, and a rainforest. Coincidentally, going on in Surfer’s Paradise was “UniGames.” UniGames is a week of athletic events with participating teams from universities all over Australia. They don’t have collegiate sports in Australia, where unlike America, they don’t have teams from universities that play against each other season to season, sport to sport.
Of course, I had to go surfing at “Surfer’s Paradise.” I bought a 2-hour lesson amongst a group of other students, and then surfed for the remainder of the day. The first half of the day was brutal – the waves did not have mercy on the beginners. I got into the swing of things after several hours and was able to stand up….every so often! Note: 1) Since a child, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go surfing; 2) I did not know how to swim prior to coming to Australia. I knew that I wanted to surf during mid-semester break, so I took swimming lessons at a nearby pool; and 3) after this experience, I decided that I would sacrifice eating for 5 weeks in order to invest in a surfboard that I could take home to Seattle.
We spent one day/night here. Walked everywhere in the city: Street Beach, Chinatown, Botanical Garden, across the River, through Queen St, etc. Brisbane is the 3rd most populated city in Australia. Although it was very modern and chic, the city was under major development and construction. I found that Brisbane is much more laid-back and personable than Sydney.
Airlie Beach/Whitsundays/Great Barrier Reef
From Brisbane, my friends and I took a 20 hour train ride to Prosperine. We arrived to Prosperine a little after 4am. The bus dropped us off at a McDonald’s in Airlie Beach because there was nothing else open. Exhausted from the train ride, we took turns napping and purchasing orange juice at McDonald’s.
Later in the afternoon, we departed the Airlie Beach Marina on the Habibi sailboat. For 2 days and 3 nights, we sailed past Whitsundays and through the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. We made stops at Whitehaven Beach and along the coastlines of small islands to snorkel and look at corals. Hands down, my favorite beach among all the other beaches I have been to (in Cali, Oregon, Hawaii, Philippines, Australia) was Whitehaven Beach – it is beautiful, secluded, and seems untouched by humans. The Habibi had 26 people on board (including the 3 staff). There was a mix of students, backpackers, and abroad workers on break.
After our sailing trip, we spent 2 more nights in Airlie Beach. We rested on the beach and jet skied, weaving through sail boats and kayakers.