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At one point, as the barbed-wire vine ripped into my shin yet-again, I did question my decision to tramp through the unforgiving forest, on a volunteer basis, for hours on end. It was a fleeting thought, but my shins were already pretty banged up and I had just come face to face with the biggest spider I have ever seen…and yes, spiders this big are, indeed, big enough to have distinguishable faces.
I think this one winked at me as I screamed.
I’m not actually scared of spiders, but I challenge you to find me a person that doesn’t scream involuntarily as they feel the web and the spider brush against their eyelashes…yeah, it was quite the Australian experience.
I had been lucky enough to be invited along on a trip to a place called Rainbow Beach (north of Noosa and south of Fraser Island). We were with Conservation Volunteersand we had six days of forest-walking ahead of us. Our mission: locate and destroy the invasive species called bitou (BIT-oo). In total, we covered over 700,000 square meters of Cooloola National Park. This park, along with Fraser Island, makes up the Great Sandy Region, the biggest landmass of sand in the world.
We made our way over fallen debris and hidden sandy holes and we did it all with smiles on our faces (maybe they were grimaces at times?). We were working from a track, out towards the edge of beautiful sandy bluffs (if you haven’t picked up on it – ‘sand’ was very much the theme of the entire trip). These are the cliffs that line the postcards in the souvenir shops. Every other time we completed a line, we were greeted with stunning views of the ocean from 200 meters.
How many people had actually seen the view of Fraser from this angle? How many people had looked down the cliffs and noticed the bitou that need be removed? How many people knew what bitou was? (note* – probably about 50 of you now!)
The only other time I had done anything remotely resembling this, I was tree-planting back in BC. And although I was being paid good money to plant those blue spruce, I could see the uniqueness in the experience at hand.
I think the hard work was good for me… it helps to clear the mind. I’ve had two months of ‘hard’ travel and I’m guessing a little routine has got to be good for the soul.
As the permanence of my (real-life) situation sets in I can feel the weight of a million thoughts upon my shoulders. They are heavy. The non-permanence of my surroundings helps to keep me balanced. I truly believe this. Although I feel lonely at times, I know I would be even lonelier if left to ponder my thoughts by myself without an ever-changing road ahead of me. I do not want to even imagine what, or how, I would be doing at home right now.
I think I’m going to have to do a bit more with this volunteer work – it’s really great to get my hands dirty (and my knees, and my face, and virtually every inch of my body, in fact).
Conservation Volunteers is a national group with offices scattering the country. There are many opportunities to lend a hand out there. I would recommend the experience to anyone wanting to help and/or experience a different perspective of a local area. I know I could easily be coerced into more than a week of this!
Theme Songs of the Day:
You’re a Wolf – Sea Wolf, from the album Leaves in the River
Kicking the Heart Out – Rogue Wave, from the album Out of the Shadow
Lola – The Kinks, from the album Lola Versus Powerman & The Moneygoround