Of all the adventures the SFS Australia program facilitates, the adventures I have gone on during non-program time have been among my favorites. The opportunities that we have during non-program time are especially valuable because the majority of our time is dictated by the program academics. As such, we have endeavored to make the most of every trip into town, weekend hike, and free weekend.
The Yungaburra Market is a must when journeying in to town. Many fruit vendors have samples of the locally grown (exotic to us) fruit. The chocolate vendor has tasty samples as well. Many of the vendors also have great trinkets and bobbles to gift to friends and family at home. Coffee and Clay is also a fun place to stop for some good coffee and fun pottery painting. Be sure to paint your mug at the beginning of the semester because it needs a couple weeks to set!
If you participate in SFS Australia during the fall semester, you may be lucky enough to volunteer at and attend the Yungaburra Folk Festival. I was stationed at the SFS stall in the children’s tent teaching kids about volcanoes and recycling. This year hosted many fabulous musicians. There was so much crazy fun dancing and I even bought a CD.
During mid-semester break, a couple friends and I visited the Daintree. Visiting the Daintree is part of the program, but visiting during non-program time is a must if you are if you are interested in fantastic hiking. We completed two long day hikes, Manjal Jimalgi (aka the Devil’s Thumb) and Mt. Sorrow, and a bunch of short hikes. Mt. Sorrow is famous for its difficulty and amazing views. While Mt. Sorrow was worth the hike, the Devil’s Thumb was by far more challenging and more rewarding. Fern forests, panoramic ocean views, and giant exposed rock faces rewarded us for the 9-hour hike.
There are also many great hikes closer to the SFS center. Hiking to the Cathedral Fig tree is a necessity for your first weekend at the center. It includes one awe-inspiring tree, two completely legal fence hops, and many friendly cows. Millaa Milala falls is a great place to spend a morning swimming under a beautiful waterfall and checking out the columnar basalt. Hikes on center property are also great options. Morning runs on the access road help keep me sane when the semester gets busy.
There are only a few free days left in the semester, but I am looking forward to the adventures we have planned. Many of us are looking forward to scuba diving in the outer reef during this upcoming Cairns weekend. There is also the possibility for a sunrise hike. The SFS Australia program has taken us to so many cool places, but my non-program adventures have played a big part of making my SFS experience unique.