Australia Zoo Journal-PART 1--PART 2--PART 3-
-PART 4--PART 5--PART 6--PART 7--PART 8--PART 9--PART 10-Australia Zoo Journal - Part 4
At the end of April 2010, deep in a dusty basement, my undergraduate university career was coming to a close.
All of my assignments and exams had been completed, save one. For 16 straight hours, my fingers rapidly assaulted my laptop keyboard as I put the finishing touches on my 28,000 word, 110 page undergraduate thesis.
After a bit of tooling, I settled on the title "Incorporating Conservation Genetics into Management of Bengal Tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) in Nepal"
. For me, it was a particularly difficult dragon to slay and the result of months of stress and hair loss. With a few words, emails and spiral-bound documents sent to my supervisors, the burden lifted.
I soon found the contents of my university room reduced to a few boxes awaiting a trip back home. I queued up a personal favourite meal of steak, sweet-potato fries, and a cold beer to celebrate. Not only was the stress of my senior year behind me, but I also had something to look forward to: a long-awaited trip to the Australia Zoo.
I wouldn't have time to unpack. As a result, the boxes containing my belongings were unceremoniously dumped into my room back at home and disemboweled for a few valuable items I would need for the trip.
The last day of April arrived. I organized my things into a large hiker's backpack and ensured passports, documents and (especially) my camera were in tow. My efforts lasted into the night and coupled with my excitement, I would only manage a few short hours of restless sleep.
I awoke on May 1st in my typical morning mood. Usually, I'm about as cheerful in the morning as a rabid tiger with a bad case of hemorrhoids, though on that day it was hampered somewhat by the prospect of adventure and a few sips of coffee while on the road.
Despite living just outside Toronto, I decided to get to Australia through a much less costly flight out of New York City with an initial connecting flight out of Buffalo. As a result, my trip began in the early morning with a two-hour drive across the border. I was fortunate to have my mother as our chauffeur, dropping us off at Buffalo Airport.
I spent a few productive hours in Buffalo typing up a few overdue letters and eventually, my brother and I found ourselves in a small plane bound for New York City. As the plane accelerated for takeoff, we amused ourselves by looking out the window at the scenery speeding by and pretending to run in our seats, as if racing each other at blinding speed. One of the stewardess' grinned and humorously jabbed, "You don't get out much, do you?". I thought of spending the past few months in a basement doing schoolwork. Laughing, I surrendered, "I guess not".
After a relatively painless flight we arrived at JFK airport in New York City, though our next flight wasn't for a few hours. I found myself staring out many a window and wandering, as one does while waiting for a flight. I also took the opportunity to seek out a delicious dark cherry mocha from Starbucks which, since Thailand 2008, has become my official beverage of happy traveling. Occasionally, I would watch CNN and as the Starbucks high subsided, I found myself apathetically watching my brother playing games on his iPhone.
Woe, airport purgatory.
As the sun began to set on our first day of travel, we shuffled onto a 6 hour Qantas flight bound for Los Angeles, which would then take us to Sydney. The flight, carrying us west across the United States, chased a prolonged sunset, which I enjoyed from my window seat. Although I couldn't sleep, I did take a few amusing photos of my snoozing brother, mouth agape, trying to make the best of our economy class arrangements.
Night fell and I watched serenely as the landscape below moved past. Specks of light, isolated, became whole cities. Approaching the airport at Los Angeles, I was intrigued by the patterns created by city lights. Evening traffic flowed like blood in slithering highway veins, a constant pulse in a human-dominated landscape which stretched to the horizon (See it from the pilot's point of view
). I couldn't determine if I was more fascinated or depressed. Seeing cities from the air gives one a sense of just how much we can transform the world around us. Unfortunately, as the population of the world grows, so does the need to expand and more and more natural places are becoming urbanized; this can destroy ecological systems that have taken millions of years to develop, a transformation that cannot be undone. I felt a pang of regret and sadness as I thought of my own impact, despite my efforts to help endangered species.
Soon after, we found ourselves shuffling slowly out of the aircraft. We had enough time to grab a quick bite to eat and return to the gate. I couldn't help but find my spirits sinking as we returned to our seats, particularly when thinking about the long flight across the Pacific Ocean.
The flight was fraught with boredom. From my window seat there was nothing to see but a dark abyss and even the movies failed to inspire me. Eventually, the dry cabin became a dark abyss in itself as the lights dimmed and a few fortunate passengers fell asleep. I tried to do the same, though I only managed a few restless bouts of semi-consciousness. The hours melted together into a stream of fuzzy thoughts and attempts to pass the time which I can't recall. I began to doubt that old traveler's adage that emphasizes the journey itself rather than the destination; the person who wrote that obviously never flew a 12-hour flight in economy class.
The last leg of the flight to Sydney brought a slow, but remarkable sunrise over the Pacific. It started with a sliver of reds and yellows illuminated the carpet of clouds below. Pale light invaded the sky and the clouds grew tall and white. We passed a few thunderstorms, though the clouds eventually broke apart in early morning sun. As we descended mercifully into Sydney we caught a brief glimpse of the famous Opera House silhouetted against a shimmering, golden bay.
The dreadful dullness of the flight from Los Angeles gave way to haste and stress as we attempted to navigate immigration and the corridors of the airport for our next flight. Due to the timing of the next flight to Brisbane, we were expedited by Qantas staff in a hurried panic; if we missed our next flight that would throw a wrench into our schedule. However, we made it with a few minutes to spare. I was happy to have been brought out of the lethargy from lack of sleep. The excitement of the Sydney airport events, the prospect of coffee on the next flight and, not least of all, the resonating realization that I was finally in Australia all served to restore my spirits. -PART 1--PART 2--PART 3-
-PART 4--PART 5--PART 6--PART 7--PART 8--PART 9--PART 10-