Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Cattle Station (by Bryan Partridge)

While the students type up (or re-type due to my computer breaking), I figured I'd pass along some info on yesterday.

Everyone was up early this morning, partly due to the excitement that the sun was out (and someone accidentally set their alarm for 5:00 am. As I mentioned last night, we were awoken to the shouts of, "hey, you guys want to see a huge snake?"  Not necessarily the way I want to come out of a deep sleep, but needless to say, there was a huge snake curled up under a nearby tree.  

The cattle station cooked us a brilliant breakfast before showing us around the farm and taking us through their daily operations.  First off, we had to milk the cow. I've never seen a group of people more excited about the prospect of milking a cow.  I feel like I've had lots of opportunities to milk a cow and always find an excuse to avoid it.  But this morning, the students were ready to go, wanting to be the first in line.   It's actually surprisingly easy and each student took a turn.  Sean just started milking the cow into his hand and got to taste some of the freshest milk on the market.

The cattle hand Kate (and her three-year-old granddaughter) took us to the branding station and explained the process of why they are required by the government to brand each horse.  Apparently, there can be a great deal of theft with small calves, so they are branded quite early.  

Lastly, we got to learn how to use a bull whip.  Kate brought out a whole box full of sunglasses and bull whips and proceeded to show up how to use them.  She explained that they don't use them on the cattle, but use the sound to motivate them towards what they need them to do.  It's quite humorous to see 17 people attempting to utilize a whip without hurting each other.  I think Kevin wins the prize for mastering the craft in under thirty seconds.

It was quite sad to leave the cattle station this morning.  It was such a relaxed experience, although I'm sure the life of a cattle hand is much different from what we experienced.  

We had a jam packed day full of scheduled events, so there wasn't much time for sitting around.  We had lunch planned at an eco-lodge an hour or so away, so we packed up the van and headed out.  

The Eco Lodge was run by a couple who had been open since 1999. Utilizing all sustainable practices, they have been building up the business over the past 16 years. Starting with one luxury style tree house, they accepted mostly local guests, but with each passing year, the owners added a new tree house to the property, each being a minimum of 100 meters apart from each other, getting the grand total up to 9 tree houses.  They have developed endless trails through the rainforest and one of the perks of the resort is the reality that you rarely see another guest.  They fed us well and provided a good deal of information about the way they are able to utilize sustainable practices, while at the same time marketing to an international clientele. Onward we went after a wonderful lunch and talk!  

Our next stop was the Kuranda Skyrail, a brilliant journey for anyone wanting to witness the magic of a rainforest from above.  It's about a 45 minute gondola ride, taking us over the rivers and rainforest, allowing us to stop along the way to witness the awe inspiring Barron Falls.  Typically, Barron falls is a mere trickle, providing onlookers with a nice view of a small waterfall.  Due to the fact that it is regulated by a dam, they manage the amount of water that is released at any given time.  However, due to the excessive rain over the past several weeks (and the cyclone), the water was overflowing the dam, providing us with quite the view of a raging waterfall.

At the bottom of the skyrail, we were met by a conservationist who talked to us for 45 minutes about the creation of the skyrail, how they managed to build it without disturbing the natural rainforest, and the intricacies of maintaining it with environmental consciousness in mind.  

You would think that our day would be over by now, but alas, we keep it going!  We had another hour drive to Port Douglas.  The wonderful thing about this drive is the fact that it is all along the coastline.  For over an hour, we were inundated with the most spectacular views of the coastline.  Unfortunately, due to the fact that it is jelly fish season, along with the reality that crocodiles hang out by the shoreline, there wasn't much opportunity for swimming.

The students were set free in Port Douglas, a town of only 4000 locals.  It is a beautiful little town, so the students were able to walk around for 1.5 hours before dinner.    Tomorrow is all about the Daintree Rainforest.  Everyone will get a chance to sleep in a bit, allowing for a wonderful start to the day.  I find that it is a bit difficult to sleep in when I'm traveling.  There's an ocean 200 yards away and a sunrise just waiting to be seen, so here I sit at 6:00 in the morning, watching the day begin.

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