When Seattle’s Rain Follows You To Sydney

Hey, a vlog! My very first; though, getting creative has a cost. In loving tribute of my camera — because I left Seattle’s rain only to get water damage elsewhere — here is the first, and last, video it took.

The video was taken on the poor thing’s dying breath [a surefire sign not to flatter myself in front of a camera], so I’ll be reflecting further as I expand on the trip mentioned above.

The Royal National Park near Sydney is where I found myself this last Sunday. At least two common factors were shared between all passengers of the bus I was on: international student visas, and enrollment in the Learning in Outdoor Education unit that had gathered us at 9:00am on a rainy Sunday morning for our first hike.

Ah, I found the third common denominator – the collective apprehension of the weather we were to confront. Having been basking in sun for weeks, the weather turned sour the week of our trip and carried through to the weekend. Talk of cancelling the trip wasn’t to be had though, and we headed out in a timely manner.

Upon arriving, we were randomly allocated a group. Hoods were put to good use in the rain, backpack straps tightened, faces set, and off we went. Our hike started down at Wattamolla, took us up to Marley Beach, and finished up in Bundeena — what was, in all, a roughly 8 kilometer trek.

I realized the futility of my raincoat by midday. We started off sidestepping puddles, but soon were so drenched we would wade through ankle deep creeks without hesitation. I was soaked to the skin through the jacket and multiple layers, and my hike-mates weren’t much better off. Our apprehension of the weather had become manifest; there was every chance of the hike turning miserable.

“You get out of it whatever you put in,” our instructor had said earlier, speaking to our mindsets and attitudes. Her words had stuck. Our ragtag group from Colombia, Norway, Austria, Korea, and all over the states plodded on without serious complaint. We huddled agreeably under trees [marginally less wet] for lunch and tottered over cliffs being pelted by raindrops made painful by the intensity of the wind. We played games and sharing secrets reminiscent of middle school sleepovers [because why not?], and made our way through washed up bluebottles on Marley Beach. We wedged eucalyptus leaves in our nostrils as the Aboriginals did to clear our heads, and shared our stories as we walked along.

The ornithology interest that I’ll admit to was rekindled here, as whipbird calls spilled out onto the trail and feathers peaked out through the brush — I’d be more than interested in coming back to further explore the birds of Eastern Australia. In fact, it wasn’t just the birds. Everything was foreign, from the wildlife to the foliage to the land itself.

Plants flowered in ways I never would have imagined possible outside of Avatar, and the trail under our feet was nothing like the moist bark and dirt in Washington. The sandstone underneath was ever-changing, in hues so vivid it was as if caramel had been drizzled over the cliff edges, with the occasional strain of chocolate syrup.

In other words, both social and intellectual interests were piqued over the course of the day. There were, in fact, ample learning opportunities that fall into either category, strengthened by experiencing them as a part of a group.

I’ll also say that this wasn’t my first excursion of the sort. As my first in Australia though, it served a special purpose. Even with a healthy dose of belief in oneself, a reminder every so often goes a long way. As we sat on the cliff edge and reflected back at the end of our hike, I realized that the day had served as one such reminder for me. Nature has a way of delivering you to yourself.A moment to reflect..

The ultimate proof of the success of the day for me though is as follows: from disgruntled to tiredly satisfied, despite conditions being polar opposite of what I had expected and hoped for, the day embeds itself into my memory cache as an entirely positive experience. Having persevered despite it not being ideal made reaching the end even more satisfactory. We hadn’t just made it back, we had earned it.

We hadn’t gone on a hike; we had gone to battle with nature, and had made peace with her by the end, such that the sun actually did come out at the end. It was only as we were climbing back into the bus that the rain thinned and stopped, and warmth rolled down on mild sunbeams for the first time that day.

Alright, I imagine the sun said, almost fondly. You non-Aussies aren’t half bad. I suppose you can stay.