Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Midwest Chronicles - Hefflinger Cup 2019: Staring into the abyss

The Cricket Association of Nebraska (CAN) and Simply Play Cricket (SPC) co-hosted the 2019 Invitational Hefflinger Cup in August 2019. Nine teams were divided into three groups with the top 4 teams making the knockout. Here are the exploits of the Nebraska Cricket Club (NCC).

2019 Invitational Hefflinger Cup
Group C game: Nebraska Cricket Club versus Titans
Venue: Hefflinger Park, North ground, Omaha, Nebraska

Nebraska CC Players: Anoop Reddy, Ashish Sathyan, Asif Iqbal, C S Manish (wk), Dikshant Saini, Mojib Afghan, Phillip Blake, Saumil Patel, Sriram Surapaneni, Suresh Gorantla (C), Vijay Reddy

Titans Players: Abdul Khaliq Shaik (wk), Akash Vemulapalli, Amarendra Dasari, Avinash Gurram, Hiren Tummala (C), Jithin Pavuluri, Ravi Teja Gadde, Rohit Kashyap, Sampras Manpoor, Sandeep Reddy Palle, Vishnu Gude

Overnight showers had left behind a damp carpet and the NCC captain, Suresh Gorantla, had no hesitation in asking Titans to bat first. Ashish Sathyan, trundling in off a shortened run-up took his time getting his radar organized, with 4 wides in the first 3 balls. His third legitimate ball was the stuff of which fast bowler's dreams are made, a rapidly climbing delivery that forced the batsman to flinch and turn away, resulting in a simple, loopy catch next to the square-leg umpire. Practice catches don't come easier than that and Suresh Gorantla made no mistake.

Sandeep Reddy Palle  c Suresh Gorantla b Ashish Sathyan  0 (2b, 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
3 for 1 in 0.3 overs

In walked the titan of the Titans batting line-up - Avinash Gurram. Avinash began as if he were batting on a different pitch - unruffled, untroubled, and looking in ominous touch. Dikshant Singh Saini bowled a spell filled with impeccable outswingers that kept the batsmen quiet. At the other end, Ashish mixed in the wide balls with unhittable bumpers to keep the scoreboard and the batsmen hopping around. Dikshant was bowling a great line and length and had the batsmen reaching for his outswingers when Suresh removed the cover fielder and moved him to midwicket. Dikshant immediately lost his line and gave two wides and a four in the next 3 balls. Avinash hit a trademark boundary to extra-cover and decided to pay heed to Ravi Shastri's sensible advice by taking a single off the next ball. The only mistake he made was to hit it straight to point. Ignoring his partner's cries, Avinash raced to the non-striker end. Unfortunately, his partner did not make is safely as Anoop rifled in a throw that detonated the stumps.

Ravi Teja Gadde  run out (Anoop Reddy)   6 (9b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
29 for 2 in 3.5 overs

Avinash continued on while his partner, Abdul Khaliq, was less composed but still managed to pull Dikshant to the midwicket fence to bring a frown on the fielder's faces. That frown was quickly transformed into a smile when Abdul swung hard at Ashish and managed to connect only with air.

Abdul Khaliq Shaik  b Ashish Sathyan  9 (12b 1 Fours, 0 Sixers)
41 for 3 in 6.1 overs

Ashish Sathyan bowled his 4 overs in one spell (4-0-26-2) and at the other end Dikshant stopped after 3. In the 8th over, Suresh brought himself on to control the flow of the increasingly dangerous-looking Gurram. The fourth ball was pitched fuller, inviting the drive, but moved enough to take the edge for a regulation catch at first slip by Phil Blake. The Big Fish had been snared!

Avinash Gurram  c Phillip Blake b Suresh Gorantla  19 (19b 1 Fours, 0 Sixers)
48 for 4 in 7.4 overs

NCC suddenly felt like the match was in their hands. All season long the fate of the Titans was linked with Gurram's scores. A low score meant a certain defeat for the Titans. But no one seemed to have told Rohit Kashyap and Vishnu Gude that. The duo mixed defense (by Rohit) with aggressive hitting (by Vishnu) to keep scoring runs at a steady pace through the 10 over drinks break. 62 for 4 in 10 overs.

After bowling 2 overs for 11 runs and the all-important wicket of Gurram, Suresh inexplicably took himself off and gave Vijay Reddy the ball in the 12th over. The need to get the 5th bowler's overs out of the way is an over-powering one for captains at any level of the game, it seems. The first ball was a dipping full-toss that was called a no-ball, a marginal call but understandable. Unfortunately, Vishnu pulled it hard and flat into Ashish's hands at square-leg. It could have been a wicket but instead it was a free hit. The next three balls were bludgeoned for 4,4, and 6 and the momentum was back with the Titans. Asif Iqbal, threatening with every ball he bowled, brought some control back with a 3 run over.

Suresh then turned to Anoop Reddy's off-spin and, barring one 6 off an errant delivery, the off-spinnershowed he'd be a threat on the pitch. However, Suresh decided to bring himself back for his own brand of dibbly-dobblers. Those who have not played Gorantla are often fooled by his doe-like gait and short run-up. The mistake they make is to underestimate the accuracy and control that he has. With the big hits getting increasingly difficult to come by, Vishnu swung really hard and was horrified to find his stumps all over the place.

Vishnu Gude  b Suresh Gorantla  32 (20b 3 Fours, 2 Sixers)
103 for 5 in 14.4 overs

With just 32 balls left, the gameplan for both teams became simple. Rohit Kashyap had been batting sedately, content to swim along in Vishnu's wake during the 55 run partnership. But with time running out, he attempted an extravagant drive off Anoop, only to give C.S. Manish a chance to take a sharp catch standing up to the wicket.

Rohit Kashyap  c †C S Manish b Anoop Reddy  18 (29b 1 Fours, 0 Sixers)
104 for 6 in 15.1 overs

Hiren Tummala does not waste time or do anything in half-measures. The first ball he faced was bludgeoned to deep square leg, where Mojib Afghan made a valiant effort to take the catch but just missed it for a boundary. The follow up ball was short and flat coming from Anoop and short and flat going to deep square-leg for a thundering six. The next over was Gorantla's last and he got a wicket off the first ball when a mistimed hit went only as far as Phillip Blake waiting for it at the boundary. Phil turned an easy catch into an exciting one by bobbling it three times before collecting it.

Akash Vemulapalli  c Phillip Blake b Suresh Gorantla  0  (4b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
116 for 7 in 16.1 overs

Suresh should have had another wicket in the over but a carbon copy of the previous dismissal was botched by Phil who, this time, could not collect the rebound and Tummala survived. But not for long. In the next over, Tummala's hopes of hitting a six off Asif only cost his team a wicket.

Hiren Tummala  b Asif Iqbal  15 (8b 1 Fours, 1 Sixer)
123 for 8 in 17.2 overs

Jithin Pavuluri is a hustling, bustling batsman who hares between the wickets and converts ones into two and threes. He began to do just that when, unfortunately for the Titans, the other batsmen decided to take matters into their own hands. First Amarendra Dasari's eyes lit up when Anoop flighted one. Had the zing bails been used here they would have lit up, too.

Amarendra Dasari  b Anoop Reddy  2 (5b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
130 for 9 in 18.4 overs

And two balls later, Anoop completed a good day on the field by pinning Sampras LBW when the batsman went back and across and missed a straight ball.
Sampras Manpoor  lbw b Anoop R  0 (2b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)

Jithin Pavuluri not out 8 ( b, 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)

130 all out in 19 overs

Ashish Sathyan: 4-0-26-2
Dikshant Saini: 3-0-19-0
Suresh Gorantla: 4-0-20-3
Asif Iqbal: 4-0-21-1
Vijay Reddy: 1-0-19-0
Anoop Reddy: 3-0-24-3

A good start is half the job, they say, and getting the Titans all-out for 130 definitely buoyed the NCC hopes immensely. Anoop Reddy and Vijay Reddy began in enterprising manner, thumping away good and bad balls with a straight bat and a high elbow. Jithin, Vishnu, and Avinash bowled different lines and lengths but did not trouble the two batsmen. Both of them hit boundaries over and past long-off and after 4 overs the target was brought down to double digits and the NCC bench began to relax. It appears, so did the batsmen.

Hiren Tummala is a bowler who would have been deemed aggressive no matter which era he bowled in. Coming in off a long run-up he likes to bowl really fast and focuses mainly on smashing the stumps or the batsman's head. The greater pace he bowls at, compared to Jithin or Vishnu, was accentuated by the low bounce of the pitch which made short-length balls not rise above the stumps. The pace also caused batsmen to stay on their back foot when the bounce required them to move forward. Vijay paid the price of that folly, being pinned on the thigh in front of the stumps. And the first breach had been made.

Vijay Reddy  lbw b Hiren Tummala  8 (16b 1 Fours, 0 Sixers)
33 for 1 in 4.5 overs

Mojib Afghan, on NCC debut, came in with a burgeoning reputation as the new wunderkid in the Heartland Cricket League (of Iowa). On this day, his exuberance got the better of him. Eager to make an immediate impression, he tried to launch the first ball he faced straight over the bowler's head. On a normal day, on a normal pitch, against a normal bowler, he'd probably have connected. But on this day, he was batting on the North pitch at Hefflinger Park whose much lower bounce was compounded by the damp pitch. On top of it, he was up against the faster pace of Tummala. In two balls, Hiren had changed the complexion of the match!

Mojib Afghan  b Hiren Tummala  0 (1b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
33 for 2 in 5 overs
98 runs needed in 15.0 overs (90 balls) with 8 wickets remaining.

The situation called for a calm and clear mind and, generally, you'd expect NCC's senior citizen - C.S. Manish - to provide plenty of both. But he went in to bat with a mind cluttered by off-field incidents of the previous week, determined to not let the opposition get the better of him. The first legitimate ball he faced from Amarendra hit him flush on the pads but was definitely missing leg stump. Unfortunately for Manish, it wasn't missing the middle stump. LBWs are rarely more clear cut than that.

C S Manish  lbw b Amarendra Dasari  0 (1b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
37 for 3 in 5.2 overs

The Titans had not only pried open the door to victory, they were now threatening to blow it away. The rest of the over went by without much incident as Saumil Patel calmed some nerves with a straight bat to Amarandra's increasingly pacy offerings.

 93 runs needed in 14.0 overs (84 balls) with 7 wickets remaining.

Hiren continued breathing fire at the other end and the Saumil-Anoop combine gently eased their way to 4 singles in the over. But this was just a prelude to the carnage that was to follow.

 89 runs needed in 13.0 overs (78 balls) with 7 wickets remaining.

All game long, Saumil Patel had been talking about the low bounce being generated on the pitch. Unfortunately, he appeared to have let that get into his head but did not heed his own advice, getting comprehensively bowled by Amarendra who, by this time, was bowling as fast as anyone has bowled in Omaha this year.

Saumil Patel  b Amarendra Dasari  3 (9b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
44 for 4 in 7.3 overs

Anoop Reddy is an enigma. As a batsman he has no discernible weakness and his preferred hitting area is the V but oddly, with a tennis forehand-like shot that is not a crossbatted slog. All through the season, he has settled in, gotten a start and then thrown it away in an effort to manufacture a boundary where none existed. Having watched Saumil perish, Anoop took the fight to Amarendra's doorstep, smashing him to the boundary when the bowler overpitched. But, in his enthusiasm to dominate, he overlooked the danger of playing loosely, and lost his stumps. The Titans were in the driver's seat and in no mood to let up.

Anoop Reddy  b Amarendra Dasari  22 (20b 2 Fours, 1 Sixers)
49 for 5 in 8 overs

 82 runs needed in 12.0 overs (72 balls) with 5 wickets remaining

The noose was tightening and the NCC batsmen were not helping matters by choking. Both teams knew that while 5 wickets were down, the Universe Boss of NCC - Phil Blake - was still at the crease. The Titans needed his wicket and needed it badly. Four balls into his third over, Hiren stuck pay dirt in the form of the Jamaican's pads. The collapse was well and truly underway. Iceberg!!

Phillip Blake  lbw b Hiren Tummala  1 (4b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
50 for 6 in 8.4 overs

At the end of the over, Hiren's analysis was a mind-boggling 3-0-5-3 while Amarendra's 2-0-12-3 was not too shabby either.

 81 runs needed in 11.0 overs (66 balls) with 4 wickets remaining

Suresh held back his last trumpcard, Asif Iqbal, and sent in NCC's most improved batsman -Sriram Surapaneni. Sriram and Dikshant applied the breaks and carefully played out Amarendra's thunderbolts.

80 runs needed in 10.0 overs (60 balls) with 4 wickets remaining

Hiren then took himself off to save an over of his (presumably) for Asif Iqbal. His replacement, Akash Vemulapalli needed just one ball to make an impact - castling a laden-footed Sriram.

Sriram Surapaneni  b Akash Vemulapalli  2 (5b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
51 for 7 in 10.1 overs

Suresh Gorantla promoted himself up the order, reminiscent of MSD's move to come on ahead of Yuvraj Singh in 2011. The end result was just a few runs different. Three balls later Suresh played outside the line of a ball that cut back into his pads and NCC was on the brink of an ignominious defeat.

Suresh Gorantla  lbw b Akash Vemulapalli  0 (3b 0 Fours, 0 Sixers)
51 for 8 in 10.4 overs

Many teams have collapsed spectacularly over the years but this one has to rank right up there with them. 18 for 8 in 6 overs in a T20 game with no fielders involved has got to be something special.

 80 runs needed in 9.0 overs (54 balls) with 2 wickets remaining

The margin for error was almost non-existent. Two mistakes by NCC and the match (and tournament hopes) were done.

What followed was a period of exceptional batting and bowling. Bowler after bowler targeted the stumps and the batsman. With around 9 runs required per over, conventional wisdom (i.e. MSD school of finishing wisdom) says you tap around for ones and twos before launching the big shots in the last couple of overs. Dikshant Singh Saini and Asif Iqbal adopted a very different template.

In the 48 balls the pair faced, they played 21 dot balls. Any ball that remotely looked like a wicket-taking one was patted back to the Titans, In the 48 balls the pair faced, they hit 3 fours and 6 sixes. In the 48 balls the pair faced, they hit 48 runs in boundaries. Aided by singles and a few wides that leaked as the Titans got increasingly desperate to get them out, the pair added 70 runs in just 8 overs for the 9th wicket.

While the previous paragraph says a lot of things it does not do justice to the counter attack launched by Asif and Dikshant. Each six that was hit would have been a six on any ground anywhere. All of them were hit with a straight bat. In fact, in both innings, this narrator is hard-pressed to recall a single slog or cross-batted hoick. But even then, the quality of the hitting by this pair was breath-taking.The arc from cover to long-on was the target, and with no room for error the duo did not miss.

When Hiren came back to try to get Asif out, the response was a straight six so long, it stopped the match on the South ground as the fielder in the other game had to scurry to fetch the ball. That shot, of all the shots hit on the day, suddenly made everyone at the ground realize that something special might be possible after all.

The progression of the scores will tell you the tale....

77 runs needed in 8.0 overs (48 balls) with 2 wickets remaining

69 runs needed in 7.0 overs (42 balls) with 2 wickets remaining

59 runs needed in 6.0 overs (36 balls) with 2 wickets remaining

49 runs needed in 5.0 overs (30 balls) with 2 wickets remaining
28 runs needed in 4.0 overs (24 balls) with 2 wickets remaining

22 runs needed in 3.0 overs (18 balls) with 2 wickets remaining

11 runs needed in 2.0 overs (12 balls) with 2 wickets remaining

***** The key over in the midst of all that was the 16th over, bowled by Avinash Gurram, that Asif took for 21 runs with 3 sixes, each one sending a deeper strike into the Titans hopes.

Suddenly, the scales had tilted in NCC's favor. Just 11 runs needed in 12 balls with the two marauders at the crease. Jithin took it upon himself to bowl the pivotal 19th over. He began with a nervous wide (1 runs in 12 balls) and then, after a couple of dot balls, got Asif adjudged caught behind off the 3rd ball of the over. The Titans were BACK!

Asif Iqbal  c †Abdul Khaliq Shaik b Jithin Pavuluri  35 (27b 1 Fours, 4 Sixers)

10 runs needed in 1.3 overs (9 balls) with 1 wicket remaining

Ashish Sathyan walked up to the crease with a thousand instructions ringing in his ears, the foremost among them being - don't get out. A nervous waft off the first ball had a hundred heartbeats being skipped on both sides. The second ball he faced deserves it own paragraph.

Players from both sides, including the batsman himself, must have imagined, wished, prayed, begged, and hoped for a particular result to happen. No one, in their wildest imagination, would have predicted what actually transpired. The North ground is the graveyard of the technically classical batsman, the tall grass and the uneven ground serving to stop any groundshot from travelling beyond the 30 yard line. Jithin bowled a slightly fuller ball just outside the off-stump - the perfect ball for any batsman from 1 to 11. Ashish Sathyan turned out to be the joker that no one accounted for in the deck of cards, unfurling the most vicious and picture-perfect extra-cover drive that I have seen in my 9 years of watching cricket on the North ground. I still find it hard to believe that the ball was hit so hard that it went all the way, all along the ground, past the (imaginary) fence for the most important four of Ashish's life so far!

6 runs needed in 1.1 overs (7 balls) with 1 wicket remaining

Jithin was rattled enough to bowl a leg-side wide next ball.

5 runs needed in 1.1 overs (7 balls) with 1 wicket remaining

The last ball beat the batsman, thudded into the keeper's gloves, resulting in a celebrappeal from Jithin that was turned down by the umpire.

5 runs needed in 1.0 overs (6 balls) with 1 wicket remaining

The other ace in the NCC deck - Dikshant Saini - was still at the crease and (unbeknownst to the audience) had decided that he would play all 6 remaining balls. After all, expecting Ashish's lightning bolts to strike twice was expecting too much of him!

The first ball from Vishnu was calmly tapped back to the bowler. 5 runs needed in 5 balls.

The next ball was short of good length, outside the off-stump and Dijshant exploded into his favorite shot - the square-drive, high over the gully fielder's head, a couple of bounces later crossing the flags that make up the boundary at Hefflinger Park! 1 run needed in 4 balls. Scores tied!

The way the tournament is set up - a tied game actually worked in the Titans favor so NCC needed a win and nothing else from the game.

Since the previous ball that pitched outside the off-stump had been thumped away, Vishnu overcompensated and bowled a wide down the leg-side and, just like that, anticlimactically, NCC had pulled off the heist!

Ashish Sathyan 4 not out (3 balls, 1 four, 0 sixers)
Dikshant Singh Saini 33 not our (27 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixers)

NCC 131 for 9 in 19.2 overs

Special mention needs to be made of the heroic bowling analyses of these Titans:

Hiren Tummala: 4-0-15-3
Amarendra Dasari: 4-0-16-3
Akash Vemulapalli: 3-1-18-2

In 11 combined overs, they took 8 for 49. In the remaining 8.2 overs (50 balls) NCC picked up 82 runs for 1 wicket. And therein lies the whole tale.

The death defying heist was pulled off by two talented all-rounders. For his spectacular hitting, and incisive bowling Asif Iqbal was adjudged the man of the match. An honor he shares with Dikshant Saini, in my opinion. Each player's contribution was just as vital to the other's success.

All season long, Asif has been searching for a defining inning - one that can launch him into the conversation about the elite of Omaha's all-rounders. Hopefully, this is that inning. It certainly has the pedigree and result to be a launch pad. Dikshant is a proven performer, having established himself as as one of the pillars of the HCL. We have high hopes of the duo for the rest of the season.

Days later the NCC players still talk about the match in hushed tones unable to believe that they actually pulled it off. A tournament that appeared to be done and dusted within just 10 overs of the chase is still well and truly alive. Next up - the second and last league match against the Riders, who are fresh off a victorious, championship winning Nebraksa Cup (T14 hard tennis ball) campaign.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Glasshouse dwellers on notice

So, Ravichandran Ashwin set the cat among the pigeons by Mankading Jos Buttler in an IPL match. Immediately, the spirit of the game was invoked (which the MCC officially shot down very quickly indicating there was no merit to that argument).

The ICC amended the rule concerning Mankading to clearly indicate that the batsman has to wait until the ball leaves the bowler's arm before venturing outside the crease. Ashwin was perfectly justified in doing what he did, legally as well as morally.

If a bowler bowls a no-ball, the umpire does not say, "Okay, that was your first offense so I'm letting you off with a warning." Then why should the batsman be accorded the favor of a first warning prior to being Mankaded?

If I were Ashwin, I would release the following statement before the next match:
From here on, EVERY opposition batsman is put on notice and warned. If you leave the crease before the ball is bowled, ANY bowler in my team WILL run you out. You have been warned so do not break the law by leaving the crease and we won't have to break the spirit of the law to fix your action.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Travel: Day 4 - The Dandenong Range

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 (and 2015), 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). 

In January 2013, I taught Ecology of Australia and, naturally, it entailed a field trip to Australia! (Click here to read about the trip to Australia).

In January 2016, I taught Tanzania: Culture, Climate, and Connections and took students to Africa.

In 2018, a group of Midland University students embarked on a learning adventure to Australia for a course titled: Ecology, Environment, and Culture of AustraliaThis is what they gained on their learning adventure.

Click here for Travel: Day 1-3 - Lack of motion sickness

Day 4: Dandenong Range 

Subject Matter Expert - Allison Buehring

The Dandenong Mountain Range is named after an Aboriginal word called, tanjenong, which translates to ‘lofty’. This word has no real origin other than the fact that it was named after the nearby Dandenong creek. 

(Allison Buehring 2018)
This range is found in Southern Victoria, which is just East of Melbourne in the Highlands. These are low mountain ranges that have several peaks exceeding 1,600 feet. Mount Dandenong is 2,077 feet high and is the highest peak in these ranges. 

(Nick Carson, Wikipedia)

This mountain range is very fertile due to the coastal rains and volcanic soils, leaving the vegetation dense in its coverings. This gets twice as much rainfall as the coastal plains receive. 

(Tianna Bertram 2018)
The ranges are mostly comprised of rolling hills, steeply weathered valleys, and gullies (a channels cut into the soil, in hillside formed by running water). The type of vegetation here is a thick temperate rainforest, which contains tall Mountain Ash trees along with dense fern-like undergrowth. 

(Erikur Arnason 2018)
Starting in 1882 lots of the parklands were protected, but intensive expansion created the Dandenong National Park in 1987. In 1997 the ranges were further expanded. These ranges receive moderate snowfall a few times a year, within the months of later winter into late spring. . The drier ridges are where the Eucalyptus regnans (Mountain Ash Forest) are exposed on the northern slopes and are covered by dry sclerophyll forest and stringy barks and box. This range experiences bush fires quite often as they are in the drier portion of the forest. There are 10 plus creeks trialing through these ranges along with two major water falls (Olinda Falls and Sherbrooke falls) along with quite a few summits. The climate is mild and wet with temperatures as low as 1 degree in the winter. Precipitation is common all year round, but peaks between April and October. Heavy fog is common within these ranges. 

Currently, the Dandenong Ranges occupy nearly 100,000 residents and allows lots of attractions with its National Parks. 

(Michael Taddonio 2018)
After reaching the Forest, all of us went for a walk on one of the many trails leading away from the Visitor Center.

(Erikur Arnason 2018)
After the walk, we had some English tea and scones before embarking on a learning tour of the forest along another, longer trail. Along the way, Manish talked about the history, geography, and ecological features of the forest.

(C.S. Manish 2018)
The mountain range is the remains of an extinct volcano that was active nearly 373 million years ago. The composition of it is mostly Devonian dacite and rhyodacite. The topography of this consists of lot of ridges dissected by deep cut streams. As mentioned already, lot of gullies are found in the southern portion of the range. These gullies are full of lots of fern. The drier ridges are where the Eucalyptus regnans (Mountain Ash Forest) are exposed on the northern slopes and are covered by dry sclerophyll forest and stringy barks and box. This range experiences bush fires quite often as they are in the drier portion of the forest. There are 10 plus creeks trialing through these ranges along with two major water falls (Olinda Falls and Sherbrooke falls) along with quite a few summits. 

We stopped briefly for the traditional "squad" picture.

(C.S. Manish 2018)

(C.S. Manish 2018)
At the Visitor Center, for a token price, guests are allowed to feed wild cockatoos that live in the mountains.

(Erikur Arnason 2018)
After a sumptuous meal, cooked on the barbeque pits provided by the facility (a feature we learned was common to most of the sites we visited) we headed back to Melboune. Some of the students went back to the ocean for another dip after which we packed our suitcases, placed them in storage, and got ready for the next adventure on our list - the drive into Australia's famed Outback.

Day 5 - To the Outback!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Travel: Day 1-3 - Lack of motion sickness

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 (and 2015), 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). 

In January 2013, I taught Ecology of Australia and, naturally, it entailed a field trip to Australia! (Click here to read about the trip to Australia).

In January 2016, I taught Tanzania: Culture, Climate, and Connections and took students to Africa.

In 2018, a group of Midland University students embarked on a learning adventure to Australia for a course titled: Ecology, Environment, and Culture of Australia. This is what they gained on their learning adventure.
Day 1-3:

The excitement of traveling abroad vastly compensated for the really long time (and changes of flights) it takes to get to Melbourne from Omaha. Luckily, all the details of the trip were very well taken care of by an Australia-based adventure travel company, Ozi Expeditions.

And away we go....
(C.S. Manish 2018)

We left Omaha in the afternoon of Day 1. A brief layover in Denver was followed by a flight to Los Angeles, where we completed all our international travel check-ups and boarded the looooooong flight to Melbourne around 10:30pm. By the time we landed in Melbourne it was 7:30am on Day 3, thanks to our crossing the International Date Line. "Day 2" was therefore spent somewhere over the Pacific on a plane and did not exist in our timelines.

Clearing Immigration in Melbourne was not much of a hassle and a relieved group assembled for the first (of many, many) group pictures.

Back row (L to R): Sean Kelley, Michael Taddonio, Tieryn Arens, Paige Kapperman, Tianna Bertram, Payton Coon, Derrick Kruetzfeldt, Allison Buehring, Logan Paasch
Front row (L to R): Erikur Arnason, Fred Wigington, Tanner Swett
(C.S. Manish 2018)

We were received by the Ozi Expedition guides - Damian, Peter, Eddie, and Barry (and the other Peter, in absentia), who also doubled up as our drivers for the trip. Since we were going to be traveling deep into the heart of the Australian Outback, we were also accompanied by a nurse (Jodi) for any emergencies, medical or otherwise.

After collecting our bags, we got into 5 vehicles and went to a youth hostel. After freshening up, we went right back to downtown Melbourne as we had an entire day ahead of us.

We began a tradition that would last for the duration of the trip . The first photograph of each day was a group photo of our shoes

For each day of the trip, a student was assigned the task of doing background research and informing the group about the sights we saw and the places we visited. The city of Melbourne was research by Derrick Kruetzfeldt. Here are some excerpts from his findings:

Settled by the British in the late 1830s, Melbourne has a population of over 4.7 million making it the second most populous city in Australia. Located on the southern most part of Australia, Melbourne is in the state of  Victoria and is a very popular tourist destination.

(C.S. Manish 2018)
Melbourne is a very walking-friendly city and usage of public transportation is encouraged by the government by not charging patrons using the trams in the Central Business District. This significantly reduces traffic since visitors can simply park on the edge of the city and then ride the extensive network of trams for free to get across town for no additional cost.

(C.S. Manish 2018)
A hidden jewel of Melbourne is the street art (graffiti) that is encouraged and supported in certain locations. One such location is opposite Federation Square, joining Flinders Lane and Flinders Street - it is a cobblestoned street closed to traffic called Hosier Lane. Almost any surface is covered with creative graffiti honoring many known and unknown artists and ideas.

Melbourne is known for three very popular sports played in iconic sporting arenas. The Australian Football League and Cricket are played at the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground (commonly referred to by the locals as the G), which can seat more than 100,000 fans.

Melbourne is located on the Southern Ocean but not many people swim in it, especially during the winter months when it can get very cold. The Melbourne’s beach/coastline stretches out for more than over 2000 kilometers and has diverse creatures such as jellyfish, bull sharks, great white sharks, and even octopuses in it.

Swimming in the ocean in the winter is not for the faint of heart but Logan Paasch was definitely not going to be denied. Having never seen the ocean in his life, Logan was determined to take a dip it it no matter what.

After dinner at the hostel, Damian took us on a leisurely walk to St. Kilda beach (a couple of blocks from the hostel), where he sprung a surprise on us - a visit with penguins! The St Kilda breakwater at the end of the St Kilda Pier is home to a colony of Little Penguins. At the end of each day, just around dusk, come penguins swim back to the breakwater, climb out of the water and waddle over the breakwater rocks to their nests among the rocks.

(Tianna Bertram 2018)

(Tianna Bertram 2018)
This was an eminently satisfactory way to end our first day in Melbourne. 

Next up: Day 4 - The Dandenong Mountains and a walk through an old growth forest