Monday, March 31, 2008

And the Volunteering Begins

En route to Orpheus Island (Feb. 3 - Feb. 4)

Toward the end of traveling through New Zealand I decided I needed to slow down, do something more substantial, find a purpose, a goal that all of this traveling achieved. I thought that as soon as I graduated in December that I wouldn't want to work for a long time. I guess a long time was only a month. I began searching online for volunteer opportunities, specifically positions at marine research stations. I applied to be a volunteer research assistant at about 4 or 5 places. I finally got a positive response while in the Blue Mountains with my mom. Orpheus Island Research Station said that I could do maintenance volunteer work at the station for 2 weeks - not exactly what I had in mind, but I was ready to accept anything at that point. The deal was that I would work for about 4 hours per day in exchange for a bed (I had to supply my own food). I also had to find my own transportation to Taylor's Beach by 9AM Monday, where someone from the research station would meet me to take me to the island.

Taylor's Beach is remote, about 4 hours south of Cairns by car. I arrived in Cairns on a Sunday morning. I had about 3 hours to get from the airport to the Greyhound bus stop, where I would catch a bus to Ingham - the closest town to Taylor's Beach - and stay the night there. Stores in Australia close early. Especially on Sundays, if they are open at all. I decided to use my 3 hour layover to buy 2 weeks worth of groceries (after a lot of encouraging by my dad; and he was right as usual), just in case no grocery stores weren't open in Ingham when I arrived. It was hot in Cairns. And I had a huge backpack - not something I wanted to drag around the town or through a grocery store. I first went to the bus stop and luckily a girl was camped out, working on her computer with lots of bags. She agreed to watch all of my stuff, which was such a relief. I practically ran to the grocery store, got 2 huge bags of food, and speed walked back. Back at the bus stop all of my bags were there, and I still had about 30 minutes to spare (and to stop sweating before I got on the bus).

The bus ride was uneventful. And much longer than necessary. Bus drivers in both New Zealand and Australia love stopping frequently, and at least one of those stops is a 30 - 40 minute break. Maybe a break of that length is necessary on an 8 hour bus ride, but not a 4 hour one. Especially when there are bathrooms on the bus, not to mention I can easily hold it for 4 hours.

I stepped off the bus into a completely dead town. Ingham's streets were empty and the stores were dark. I quickly realized I had no idea where the hotel I had booked was in relation to the bus stop. I started walking up and down the sidewalks aimlessly until I saw a sign for a taxi company, which I immediately called. The cab driver picked me up about 15 minutes later and was such a nice old man. I told him that I was going to volunteer on an island for 2 weeks and had bought some groceries, but still needed perishables, like eggs, cheese, and milk. Did he have any idea where I could go? Of course he did! And he took me there for free, waited until I got what I needed, and then took me to my hotel.

I love reaching a destination. It's such a relief and usually quite amazing how well things work out. Around 8AM the next morning, I took (a really expensive) cab to Taylor's Beach and almost immediately boarded the boat to Orpheus.

No comments: