I spent 22 days with 22 people on the beautiful continent of Australia on an Adventure and Leadership trip through the Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) at Ohio State University. We experienced front-country and back-country elements of the land down under. From urban Sydney to the remote Alice Springs to the tropical Cairns, we explored the beautiful landscape while learning technical outdoor skills and valuable leadership skills.

We started off with an Amazing Race in Sydney to learn about the city, then we moved to Pittwater Bay where we sea-kayaked, hiked to the highest point of the Kurungai Chase National Park, surfed, and went stand up paddle boarding. Then we proceeded to the Blue Mountains, the Grand Canyon of Australia, where we undertook a nine hour hike through the canyon valleys which culminated in a 800 step climb back to the top. After the Blue Mountains, we visited Alice Springs in the outback where we did some mountain biking and camped under the southern hemisphere stars. From Alice Springs we went to tropical Cairns where we were able to go out to the Great Barrier Reef and do some snorkeling and scuba diving amongst the beautiful coral. We also went skydiving and culminated the trip with bungee jumping.

My thoughts section.

Since this trip was very long, instead of splitting it up into days, I have decided to divide it into sections based on the general areas we explored.

Arriving in Sydney

22 students packed 100L of bags and amassed at the Outdoor Adventure Center on the evening of May 13. None of us knew each other that well and the conversation was sparse, but all of us were extremely excited for the next 22 days we were going to spend in Australia! After dividing up group gear amongst the group, we got dropped off at the Columbus airport from where we connected to Dallas Fort Worth. A quick dinner and we were on our way to board the first double decker plane of my life, an Airbus A380. We settled in for a long flight to the other side of the world and lost an entire day from our lives. NOTE: Quantas Airways food is of surprisingly good quality.

Baggage reflection

We arrived in Sydney early in the morning and were able to take in the beautiful skyline with the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge being the main highlights. As we were departing the plane, we convinced the friendly flight attendants to give us a tour of the first class cabins located on the top deck of the plane. From the airport, a bus took us to the Bondi Beachhouse YHA hostel where we had private rooms and shared bathrooms. It was a really nice hostel with a lounge, ping pong tables, laundry, and it helped that it was a two minute walk from the beach!

Anthony and Marina

We freshened up and got ready for the beautiful coastal walk along the water with stunning views of Bondi beach and the cliffs. I had a flashback that I was walking the coastal walk in Cinque Terre, Italy and I knew I was going to enjoy every bit of this. After an hour or two of walking, with numerous stops for taking pictures, we arrived at Coogee Pavilion, an eclectic restaurant with a great bar, and a playroom! They had table tennis, bowling, wall scrabble, a play area for children, and also a mini art gallery. We indulged in delicious wood fired pizza and cups of coffee and played a few rounds of ping pong. After walking around town for a bit to exchange some cash and visit the local grocers, we returned to our hostel and relaxed for a bit. Then we went out to dinner at The Bucket List, another great restaurant on the beach where I enjoyed a delicious lobster roll with creamy mayo. Most of us called it a night around 9pm, tired from time traveling across the planet.

Amazing Race

I woke up at 5:30 and went for a morning run along the coast, stopping for breathtaking views. The sunrise was covered up by the clouds but it was still gorgeous. Someone once told me that “a cultured gentleman starts his travels with a hot macchiato and a cool attitude.” So I stopped by a coffee shop for my dose of macchiato and came back to the hostel for a breakfast of cereal and toast with vegemite. Today, we were going to explore Sydney via an Amazing Race. Anthony explained the rules and provided us with maps and Opal cards for local transportation. And we were off! Our first stop was the Bondi beach mural wall to look for some clues. On the way, we stopped to admire the art and conversed with some locals. Then, we found a bus stop after paying a quick visit to the farmer’s market. The bus took us to Watson’s Bay Wharf from where we proceeded to the Hornby Lighthouse, passing Lady Bay Beach (nudist beach). The views from the lighthouse were beautiful! We walked back to Watson’s Bay and caught a very windy ferry ride to the Circular Quay which yielded us spectacular views of the Sydney skyline, the Opera House, and the Harbor Bridge. We ended up in a neighborhood called the Rocks, which was the first original European colony establishment in Australia. We proceeded to the Rocks Discovery Museum and stopped by the Visitor Center. As we were walking back, we realized the we had left the group camera on the counter at the visitor center. I volunteered to run back and get it because I just wanted to sprint through Sydney like I was in a movie, dodging cars, strollers, kissing couples, and large crowds of tourists. After the blood was pumping, we took a free bus ride to the Queen Victoria Building, a giant exorbitant mall. The city center of Sydney was full of old buildings juxtaposed with new modern structures. We walked through Hyde Park to the Archibald Fountain and proceeded to the Art Museum of New South Wales. At this point, we were already last in the race because we were taking our time to enjoy the scenery. The museum is one of the better ones I have ever visited and had some amazing art installations. One of them that really caught my eye was a series of portraits of a face. On the left was just the face, as it moved to the right, more calligraphy tatoos were added to the face. By the end, you couldn’t tell what ethnicity or gender the face was. A message about equality and social justice that I appreciated. The museum also had an installation of Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagrah speech written out along the walls by using bones for letters. After the museum, we took a walk along the coast and through the botanical gardens to arrive at the Sydney Opera House, which was a majestic piece of architecture! Close to the Opera House was the Government House, which housed the governor of New South Wales and the Queen when she visited. It was designed by the same architect behind the Buckingham Palace and was another beautiful specimen of architecture. The Governor was actually driving in as we were walking out, and although the windows were heavily tinted, I’m sure he responded in kind to our enthusiastic waving. We returned to Bondi and after a quick dinner, we all fell into our beds exhausted from the day.

I woke up early again because I am in Australia and want to make the most of my time. I took another long walk along the coastal path and ended up at a smaller beach where I played volleyball with some locals. After anothe macchiato from the cafe across the street and breakfast at the hostel, we loaded up the bus and drove to Pittwater Bay, with a ferry ride depositing us at the foot of the Pittwater YHA hostel. We stopped to get groceries on the way as the hostel was completely to ourselves and we were responsible for our own food as a group. This hostel was perched on the edge of the mountain with spectacular views of the bay, the mountains across the bay, and the perfect direction to view the sunrises. We unpacked and half the group went kayaking while some others went hiking. We were in Kurung-gai-chase national park. Our hike took us to the highest point of the national park with more beautiful views. This is when I realized that I absolutely love climbing higher and higher, the perspective it provides you of the world and of yourself is staggering. Marina was the architect of a delicious dinner of cheese turkey, squeaky cheese, potatoes, chicken, and a dessert of pavlova. Over dinner, Anthony and I explained the rules of cricket and with a perfect split of 11 v 11, planned to have a match before this trip was over.