As my third week in Australia officially comes to a close, it is amazing that we have already been here for three whole weeks, and that time is flying by so quickly. Yet somehow I also feel like I have been at the Centre for so long and am already so accustomed to living here with this group of people. It is crazy to think about all of the adventures we have fit into a mere three weeks! Every day is always something new and unpredictable. For this blog post I will focus on my last few days, since they have been my favorite days of the trip so far.

On Friday morning the students split into three groups to go to various tree planting efforts around the area. I was lucky enough to get to go to the TREAT nursery in Yungaburra, one of the leading organizations in rainforest restoration in the Wet Tropics. We learned all about the organization, sent some love to the baby trees by removing weeds near their roots, and talked with some locals during “smoko,” the traditional Australian coffee break. Needless to say, it was a great way to start the morning.

After TREAT we had lunch, did a bit of cleaning, and then met up with our host families for a homestay weekend! This was the first time our group has actually been split up for a significant period, and it was nice to have some time to decompress from each other, though of course we all rejoiced when we were reunited on Sunday.

Hewson and I stayed with a couple, Terry and Viola, in one of the surrounding Atherton towns, and it was such a wonderful time. I wish I had enough room to write all of the things we did, but I will stick to the main highlight. On Saturday afternoon, we hiked out to a waterfall deep within a patch of rainforest near Milla Milla, and this place just had this energy I had never experienced before. The forest was so ancient and alive, with strangler fig trees, huge buttresses and massive tree ferns everywhere. When we finally reached the waterfall, my jaw dropped. You could feel the sheer force of the water in the slight trembling of the forest floor. We decided to go for a swim in the surrounding pool of water and got as close to the falls as we could, the whole time just laughing as the mist sprayed against our faces. It was a moment I will never forget. As we were leaving, Viola made a comment that I think encapsulated the experience. “I like to think that nature has the ability to protect some places on its own.” Now I like to think that, too.