Port Stephens/Blue Mountains Beauty

It’s been awhile without a post but with final assignments, I found it hard to find time but I think there has finally been enough happening to make a post!

All of my classes are officially over! And the “finals” for the classes here really weren’t that different then they would be at home. Just a few papers or a final project. But I put finals in quotations because technically here finals will start next week and go on for TWO weeks. So how it works is you have thirteen weeks of classes like lectures or labs. At week thirteen you will turn in all last minute assignments. For me this meant all my papers and projects were due. But the week after this is called study break where you essentially get the entire break to study for your upcoming finals. This would have been super useful back home as I know a few friends, myself included, you could have used this during a few especially hard semesters! Then after study break, each class is assigned a day and time to take their final and you just show up for it, take your final, and then you’re done! It’s very organized and really helps the student prepare for each final they have! I don’t really get to use it though because none of my classes have an actual final where I sit down and take a test. So I pretty much have the whole month of June to do any last minute traveling or anything else that I want to do!

I did start the traveling a little bit early though and went to Port Stephens at the end of May. Port Stephens is a vacation spot for many families and is kind of a tourist town. It’s about a two hour drive north of Sydney which meant when my friend Mitch and I booked it, we would have to leave Wollongong at 5:30 to meet the bus at 8am so we could be there on time. What made this even harder was that I was too excited to actually sleep that night and I pulled an all nighter. Not my best decision ever but I survived!

So we were waiting outside the pick up spot when the tour van we booked with came by and the driver got out. He immediately came over to us and said to me, “I know who you are. You’re Erin right?” I had never seen this man before and neither had Mitch so we were both very confused. I told him yeah, that was me. He then added, “There’s someone on the bus that knows you and said you guys went to school together.” So my first thought was someone from back in Wollongong who may be in one of my classes who got picked up somewhere else. So he opened the van door and one of my classmates from high school was in there!!! She had only just gotten to Australia the week before! So we both freaked out a little bit seeing the other at a tour which we didn’t plan together but it was really nice to see her!

So fast forward two hours and we made it to our first stop in Port Stephens which was the beach! There were a few things we could do. We could lay around on the beach, go sand surfing, or go camel riding. Mitch and I were already planning on going sand surfing and we decided to try and ride the camels too!

Now sand surfing isn’t quite what it sounds like. It is more like sand sledding. We climbed up this giant sand dunes with our sand boards and just slid down the hill. It was a ton of fun!!

So we were there sliding around for about 45 minutes when we made out way down to the camels. Luckily we made it just in time to get on! So we took a twenty minute camel ride along the beach and into the water a little bit. It was so much fun!

After the camel ride, we got back on the bus and went to our next location which was lunch on the pier. Mitch and I got some toasted sandwiches and made our way to eat by the water. While Mitch went to get napkins or something, I was looking at the water and saw what looked like a penguin pop out of the water! So when he got back, I told Mitch and he said I probably just saw a seal or something. But then it popped back up and it really was a penguin! I didn’t realize there were penguins in Australia! It popped up and back down to get a picture but it was really a penguin!

So after lunch Mitch, myself, and two others from our tour group went whale watching! Neither of us had been before so we were pretty darn excited! On the way out to find the whales, we saw a giant sea turtle on top of the water! Like it was HUGE!

Someone finally spotted the whales and we stayed and followed the whales for quite some time and it was really neat experience to see the whales up close and in person! Here are some of the better pictures I was able to get of them as well as some other pretty pictures from the boat!

On the way back to the shore, we spotted a hammerhead shark swimming near the surface of the water! It was just a baby hammerhead but it was very cool! We were able to spot a few dolphins as well (I might have found the first one :D). Overall the Port Stephens trip was amazing!

Once we got back to Sydney a couple hours later, Mitch and I decided to go to Vivid in Sydney which is a light festival that goes on down by the Opera house! It’s so hard to explain how beautiful it was down there so I’ll just show you a bunch of pictures!

Then after a very long day we made our way back home and I think I passed out for a good twelve hours!

The weekend after I made my way to the Blue Mountains! The Blue Mountains were much closer to Sydney than Port Stephens. On the way to our first stop, the tour guide was telling us that Sydney was just knocked to the second most expensive place to live in the world. Then he told us that even in the suburbs, the average house cost 1.2 million dollars! And there were no suburbs in Sydney that had an average house cost less than $500,000! It’s insane!!

So our first stop was an animal sanctuary! There were a ton of different animals there such as wallabies, kangaroos, wombats, quokkas, koalas, and so much more! I was able to get a picture with a koala but I think the cutest animal there was honestly the wombat. He was just so fluffy and adorable!!

I did go on this tour alone but while we were at the animal sanctuary, I actually met two IU students who just arrived in Australia! So it was really nice to talk with them about my experiences and their upcoming adventures. It’s amazing who you meet on tours here!

After the animal sanctuary, we made our way to the mountains. We saw the Three Sisters which is a rock formation with a few different stories behind them. The gist of it is that the sisters were being protected from boys and were changed into the stones.

We also climbed 45 minutes down the mountain and then 45 minutes back up! Myself and two other girls somehow got separated from the group and somehow made it back to the top before the rest of the group but we did meet up with them again!

Here are a few pictures from the hike and the Three Sisters!

After that we made our way back home and again, I think I slept for twelve hours!

If you would like to see more pictures from my trip be sure to check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/erin.hoodlebrink/media_set?set=a.1290577097692806.1073741832.100002215852650&type=3

Hopefully I’ll have some more adventures coming up for you guys sooner rather than later!

Erin

About Erin

Hello there! My name is Erin Hoodlebrink and I am a senior Biochemistry major studying at the University of Wollongong in Australia for the semester! I will be sure to take as many pictures of kangaroos as possible for you all!

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