Sunday, January 27, 2013

Travel: Day 4 - Australia - Cairns, the lagoon, and an ecology lecture on the Boardwalk

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to one's heart. 

In January 2011, I taught Tropical Ecology  and, for one of the class activities, I took a group of students on a 10 day trip to Puerto Rico. (Click here to read about the trip to Puerto Rico). 

This January (2013), I am teaching Ecology of Australia and, naturally, it entails a field trip to Australia! What follows is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we have seen, the things we are doing, and the lessons we are learning while exploring a land far removed from home.

(You can the previous posts in this thread here).

After an exhausting and fun-filled three days in Sydney, it was time for the "meat and bones" part of the trip.  We woke up early in the morning and took a taxi ride from hell to the airport, this time we were headed to the domestic terminal for a flight to Cairns.

(Hannah Steen 2013)
We had our obligatory conch photo at the airport before boarding the flight. (I am not exactly sure what Alexa is up to, though!)

(C.S. Manish 2013)
Approximately 1500 miles from Sydney, the flight to Cairns took about 3 hours or so.

(C.S. Manish 2013 - from Google Maps)
Cairns airport reminded me of a lot of the West Indian airports I had been to.  It's a small airport, nestled among the mountains, with an approach path that takes you over the ocean.  The vegetation is perfectly tropical and the humidity and heat hit you as soon as you step off the plane.  And the smell of the ocean and rain-soaked ground is very evident.

(C.S. Manish 2013)
 A short taxicab (van) ride to the city was just the tonic we needed to get ready for Cairns!

(C.S. Manish 2013)
(Note: In order to conserve space on the blog and make it easier to scroll through, I am condensing how much of  the post is displayed.  To read the rest of it, simply click on the "Click here for the rest of my jaywalk" link below).
Our home for the next 7 days was the Nomads Esplanade Backpacker's Hostel.

(Angie Proctor 2013)
It is conveniently located opposite the Cairns Lagoon and within a few feet of the ocean and is a typical hostel catering to transient folks who are roughing their way through Australia.

(Kinsley Shoup 2013)
The city of Cairns is sandwiched between the Great Dividing Range (mountains) to the west and the Coral Sea (which is loosely separated from the Pacific Ocean by the Great Barrier Reef.  While the city itself is not as popular as other Australian destinations (such as the big cities or Uluru), it is gaining in popularity due to the proximity and ease of access to the Great Barrier as well as the tropical rainforest to the west.

(Emily Kinder 2013)
It has a tropical monsoon climate with rainfall almost everyday, concentrated more in the summer months from November to May.  Cyclones (hurricanes) are fairly regular, though not as frequently as in Florida.

(Trey Cusick III 2013)
After a quick lunch, we wandered over to the Ciarns Lagoon to cool off for a little while.  The Lagoon was built by the city of Cairns as an alternative to swimming in the oceans or using the beaches that dot the landscape.  The reason for banning the usage of beaches - those friendly Australian crocodiles!

(Katherine Lederer 2013)
The lagoon is a 4800 msaltwater swimming arena set on the Cairns foreshore overlooking the Barrier Reef and Trinity Inlet.  

(Victoria Vollmer 2013)
The saltwater is pumped from the Trinity Inlet and filtered to meet Australian standards.  Adjoining the lagoon is a boardwalk that parallels the coast and offers plenty of benches and tree-lined areas to sit down and take in the scenery in the shade.

(C.S. Manish 2013)
While at the Lagoon we experienced our first rain shower of the trip - a 10 minute drizzle that is typical of tropical coastal locations.  It did little to dampen our enthusiasm and it passed by very quickly.  

(Trey Cusick III 2013)
Apart from serving as a distinctive and decorative addition to the lagoon, the fish also serve as "showers" where folks can cool off.

(C.S. Manish 2013)
The Lagoon has sandy edges where folks can build castles and play in shallow water. Or, in the case of some foreign students, a place to bury a classmate and convert them into a sand mermaid (check out the tail).

(C.S. Manish 2013)
One of the hazards of traveling to Australia is the high amount of ultra-violet radiation that makes its way through the atmosphere, especially in Australia due to ozone depletion in the stratosphere.  Every place we went to had these useful signs that told tourists to use plenty of sunscreen and to cover up when in the sun, if possible.

(C.S. Manish 2013)
Now that the students were well-rested and relaxed it was time for an educational experience.

(Katherine Lederer 2013)

(Katherine Lederer 2013)
The Boardwalk and bicycle pathway that parallels the coast is lined with trees from the region (and some exotic ones).

(Katherine Lederer 2013)
It gave me a perfect "classroom" setting to introduce the students to tropical plants and flowers, the climate and weather patterns of the region such as the orographic effect, and the adaptations that plants have come up with to adjust to and succeed in the environment.

(Sandra 2013)

(Sandra 2013)

(Sandra 2013)
Some of the flowers and plants we observed along our walk were:

(Victoria Vollmer, Stephen Spanel, Trey Cusick III, Katherine Lederer, Sandra, Angie Proctor and C.S. Manish 2013)

(Victoria Vollmer, Stephen Spanel, Trey Cusick III, Katherine Lederer, Sandra, Angie Proctor and C.S. Manish 2013)
On the walk we also saw plenty of coconut trees and a few mango trees, laden with some fruit.  What I had not expected to see were fruit bats hanging around in the mango trees.  And they were hanging about in the thousands!  Just after dusk all of them took off and it was a marvelous sight to behold.

(Sandra 2013)

(Katherine Lederer 2013)
I believe this species of fruit bats was the Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspicullatus).

(Trey Cusick III 2013)
With that the walking tour of Cairns came to an end and we broke for dinner and went to bed early.

I'll leave you with two photos that best captured the day for me.

(Jessica Sztaimberg 2013)

(Jessica Sztaimberg 2013)
Coming up:  Day 5 - The Great Barrier Reef!

4 comments:

MC said...

Enjoyed it. now waiting for more

mindquest said...

Well done Manish! Looks like a fun-filled, education-rich experience!

Devashish said...

nice pics - would love to see occasional posts by your students commenting on experiences from their perspectives too.

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