First week of volunteering – a break down

I recently came across my journal from when off galavanting in Australia and it brought backso many good memories, so I decided to share most of it with you in hopes you’ll get a better idea of what it was like to be a conservation volunteer for two weeks. Since it will probably be way too long to write the first two weeks, I’ll split it up and do the first week, and later I will blog about my second week volunteering.

Day One: Landed in the beautiful city of Brisbane (locals call in Brissy) around 7am and it took us awhile to get through customs and receive our luggage, but once we did we met Jane who was our project leader, and Kate who is a volunteer leader through CVA.  Nine of us piled into their CVA van and we headed to the office to fill out some paperwork and meet the Conservation Volunteers of Australia’s staff.  After about an hour of gorging myself on cookies and delicious Australian cheesy bread, we left for our accommodations which ended up being a Boy Scouts Den on a beautiful piece of land. We set up our sleeping arrangements on swags and headed into town to the mall to pick up some supplies. I think people knew we were Americans, everything was fascinating us, especially the flat escalators. Later in the day we played football while getting to know each other, took a hike around the property where we saw a wallaby. The night ended with us all tasting Vegemite. Yuck!

Day 2: Time change is a little bugger! Woke up at 6:45 and got to FaceTime with my sister and nephew. Then we had a hearty breakfast and our first meeting, and then headed into Indoorpilly to the Organic Farmers Market where we made up a little scavenger hunt which made things interesting. Also did wine tasting at noon which started the rest of the day off wonderfully. I had the best Moscato wine called G-Spot, I wish I bought some. Awhile later 7 of us volunteers got dropped off downtown and went to The Fox for the famous $2 steaks and some beer. XXXX Gold and Sundown are both Australian beers and they were good. Later that day a  couple of us decided to go on the Brisbane Ferris Wheel which gave spectacular views. I could see miles away into the rolling hills. Afterwards we walked through a street market and ended up at The Plough where they were playing live music, mostly American. Around 9pm a couple of us decided to be brave and conquer the forest at nighttime – I think a pack of Wallabys were surrounding us at one point.

Day 3: Today was the first day of our volunteer work.  After going over the safety rules, we got to work for about an hour pulling weeds and then about an hour later we drove to a small park and had tea time in the middle of a baseball field. The sun felt so good, and STRONG. You can tell we were under the hole in the ozone. We went back to the city park to pull more weeds until 2pm when we called it a day.  We drove to the top of Mt. Coot-tha and ate our lunch on a gazebo overlooking the city of Brissy. Had my first taste of real gelato and it’s amazing I came back home weighing less than I did when I left. Half our group took a walk down the mountain side while a couple stayed at the top looking at the wildlife. Back at the Den, a boy scouts troop (which includeds both boys and girls here) came over and made dinner for us.  We had damper for dessert and lamb and potatos for dinner. I learned that Australians travel ALOT. Most of those kids had been to America and they were only like 7. A couple of the girls giggled when I asked for ketchup, they call in tomato sauce. When they left, I taught a couple people how to play dice.

Day 4: We went back to the same park as yesturday to finish weeding.  As I blogged about yesturday, I was pulling weeds when a funnel web spider came out from under them, I still get shivers thinking about it. When we were all done for the day at that site, Jeff went around and weighed the 10 piles of weeds we had throughout the park, and it was about 260 pounds. That is a lot of weeds.  We ate lunch and went to another park to continue pulling weeds there.  At this site there was a plant called Madira (spelling may be wrong) and those things are littler buggards! At one point in the day I happened to look up towards the mountains that were a little distance away and it looked really hazy and then I could hear the rain hitting even though it was nowhere near us. Jane yelled and told us to get in the car and seconds later it poured like cats and dogs. When it stopped, there was a new river flowing through the park that came down from the mountains. It was one of the coolest things ever. Around 2:30 I went into town to use a payphone but I couldn’t find one so I met up with the boys and we got coffee, which is a lot stronger than American coffee.  When I got back all of us girls sat on our sleeping bags reading my Cosmopolitan magazine, talking and having a good time.  We made spaghetti for dinner and then played the Australian version of Taboo.

Day 5: Today we got to plant some vines and plants. Between the 9 of us, we planted 140 subtropical plants along the Toowonga Creek.  There were a bunch of large Orb spiders on the rails and signs.  I also found a skink under a rock, I thought it was a snake.  After we were done at this site we went to a coffeehouse and Meghan got stung by something. We finished the day off at the same park as yesturday pulling more weeds.  Jane and Teresa, another CVA leader, suprised us by moving us out of the Scouts Den into a hostel, so we rushed back, packed and took all our stuff to Brisbane Backpackers. We had 2 seperate rooms, and 2 bathrooms now, and BEDS! Everyone was so excited. No more spiders crawling around at night.  Tonight we walked into town and ate at a fancy Chinese restaurant. I got to drink Jacob’s Creek Moscato sparkling rose wine – best wine ever. Finally able to do laundry (it cost $5 for the washer and $1 for every 8 minutes to dry). The hostel had a bar so we hung out downstairs, talking and playing pool, drinking beer.

Day 6: Left the hostel around 8:30 and didn’t reach our destination until 10.  We were out in the countryside today and it was absolutely gorgeous. Everything was so green and beautiful.  We were working on an older couples property today and switched between pulling weeds and planting Lamandra for a couple hours. So many Huntsman spiders out here. The couples garden was amazing – pineapples, bananas, chili peppers, passion fruit! So much good food. After we ate lunch we drove up to a property on the same road and ripped out weeds from the side of a hill, and then planted a mixture of plants.  When we got back to the hostel I decided to take a run through the city with the guys and ended up getting lost.  I made a wrong turn in a park. It was getting dark and I saw a bunch of people around a fire with signs like “Australia is a crime scene” and I definately wasn’t comfortable.

Day 7: It’s FRIDAY and rainy! We went back to the work site we were at a couple days ago to pull weeds and making it look nice.  Around 1pm they called it a day because it was raining too much.  We got back to the hostel and packed up again because they wanted to move us into the city to a hostel called The Bunk. Best. Choice. Ever.  Kelsey, Lauren and I walked around because we were now right in downtown Brisbane. Tonight we went to a Thai restaurant and it was a BYO booze, so I split a bottle of Jacobs Creek with Lauren.  Anthony also let me try his beers -White Rabbit, James Boags Premium Lager, Stone Wood and Four Wives. Good stuff here in Australia. When we finished eating, we headed back to our rooms to get ready for the night.  We started the night in the club Birdees which is attached to Bunk.  The bouncer told us we had to have closed toe shoes to get into any clubs, so I had to wear Ashley’s stilletos. After that we went to Family which had 3 floors and it was the best time ever. Tequila shots, Jack and Coke and lots of beer throughout the night. Around 3am, Lauren dragged me from the club after we lost touch with everyone else and stopped at McDonalds. Finally made it to bed around 4:30.

Soo… there is the first week of my volunteer week, and although we did put in some good hours volunteering, we definitely got to explore and see so much of the city.

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