By Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).
As my time in Brisbane drew to its close, the speed of life kept gaining momentum. The last couple of months were particularly intense, filled with exams and essays, fitting in travelling, discovering the hitherto uncharted parts of Brisbane and spending a maximum amount of time with people I cherish and whom I knew I had to leave in the near future. I appreciated every single second. Bizarre realisations of living the moment, yet knowing its fugacity and its inescapable turn to memory emerged during more quiet moments.
No clichés here; studying in Brisbane was, hands-down, an incredible, thought-provoking, life-changing experience. The beautiful moments lived with great people provide ample material for further meditations.
From road tripping to doofs, to more conventional bus trips to some of the world’s most ancient rainforests; from Dingos on Fraser Island snooping around your sunset snack, to cassowary stories in the Daintree and wild kangaroos well over 2 metres peacefully nibbling on grass and greeting you on your way to the beach. The wide range of episodes and colourful people provide awesome memories.
A short pre-exam trip to Byron Bay, that turned out to be quite a sleepy town during the week, introduced me fully to the intricacies of geocaching – a kind of real life GPS Easter egg hunt. Part of the ubiquitous marvels of nature that abound in that corner of Australia, was one of Australia’s top dive sites that lies just a couple hundred metres off the coast of Byron, at Julian Rocks. We were only too keen to get out there, and rightly so, as we were greeted by colonies of Wobbiegongs, a few loggerhead turtles and a kaleidoscope of fish.
I had two standard exams and one take-home exam that proved to be a great alternative to a more conventional exam configuration. It basically worked the same way an essay does. I received the questions on Monday, the deadline was on Thursday, as all the while exams were happening simultaneously.
Once exam time was behind me, I left Brisbane for camping at Noosa Heads. We managed to catch some sunshine, a few waves, and, once we set foot in the city, some great Malaysian food. It turned out that the nights get pretty cool come June-July, so we decided that our next stops after Fraser should be a few hundred miles further up north.
Camping out in the Heads
Red River on Fraser
Indian Heads on Fraser
We returned to Brisbane for a day, to re-pack and catch a flight to Cairns. On the day of the flight though, a couple of hours before, I took it upon myself to move out. I had no use for my room in Brisbane any longer, since I would leave Australia, coming straight off the east coast trip. So I brought all my stuff over to my girlfriend’s place after she had helped me clean the place and packed my stuff, with the always generous landlord’s wife driving. So, in a well-organised hurry, about 2 hours later we were on the plane on our way up north, towards the Reef and Cape Tribulation.
Considering the way politics has been going the last 30 something years, allowing for destruction of up to 40% of the reef, the priority the government gives to the expansion of pre-existing coal ports as opposed to reef protection, and the pressures exerted by climate change, I had conflicting thoughts of our visit to the Reef. It was bizarre to marvel at the splendour of its rich marine life and its diverse manifestations and colourful expressions, and know at the same time that this very spot might be dead bleach in a couple of years to come. The ecosystems obviously were very much alive and showing off their vitality with vigour, yet, we also heard from the crew that some places they had headed for in previous years would need some time and support for regeneration. Ostensibly though, boats and unexperienced divers kicking coral do not quite compare to the larger aforementioned threat.
Returning to the city, Cairns seemed a lot more like the countryside than Brisbane with its large roads, even larger cars and surrounded by mountains of untouched rainforest. This seemed to be the frontier, the stop before heading out on the dirt roads to Cape York. No passing through without a four-wheel drive, if you want to head up the track north of Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation.
Back from Cairns and Daintree, I spent one more night in Brisbane and headed for the airport the next day, spontaneously closing my bank account on my way. I had actually planned to pay the taxi driver with coins, yet he preferred the paper version and it turned out that over 100AUD in round metal pieces had accumulated in my ‘coin-bag’ over the time – a very welcome surprise.
Alas, I left Brisbane…
Brisbane did not only invigorate me with a new-found love for markets with its Greek-themed fairs, noodle-markets, the West End market and colourful East-Street market, where I fully endorsed the indispensability of a poncho. I made friends from across the world, got some insights into new languages thanks to embracing the proximity to Asia, and, all in all, just got to live, see and learn about a previously unfamiliar land and its people.
It left me with a hunger for more and a motivation to study harder to keep rewarding myself with experiences of a lifetime. The intensity of the moments that I lived, created a desire to keep hold of my principles and philosophies that were moulded and developed also during my sojourn in Australia. Amongst others these included continuing saving material as well as non-material resources that can be made available for travelling. I feel like I learned so much. Also, the courses at UQ and the discussions with students were in many cases inspirational, helped me chart my future academic and career plans by defining my interests further, and offered me a wide range of new perspectives where to draw from and relate to.
It was an amazing, time that was energising to its core.