“It’s good for the spirit to be reminded as an individual or a community that there will always be something bigger, older, richer, and more complex than ourselves to consider” – Tim Winton, Island Home: A Landscape Memoir.
In the last week, I’ve truly experienced Australia the way that most of the rest of the world pictures it to be: koalas and kangaroos, red dirt for days, and starry night skies that take your breath away. That’s right folks, I finally experienced Australia Zoo and the Outback (and I’m not talking about the steakhouse). And what an experience it was.
So two Mondays ago it was a public holiday (Labour Day) here in Queensland, and what better way to spend our day off from uni than a trip to Australia Zoo?! Yep, you heard me, I finally went to the home of the Crocodile Hunter. If you thought my level of excitement to be in the Butterfly Sanctuary in Cairns was high, you should’ve seen me Monday morning. Bouncing off the walls is definitely an understatement.
I have never been to another place quite like Australia Zoo. In the U.S., all the zoos I have been to have been crowded, noisy, and very city-esque. This one was sparse, tranquil, and felt as though we were actually in the wild. Some of the animals even roamed free from their exhibits with their trained handlers — such a strange occurrence! You wouldn’t see a dingo being walked down the sidewalk in proximity to patrons at the Philadelphia Zoo, that’s for sure.
Growing up watching Steve Irwin as the Crocodile Hunter on Animal Planet as so many of us did, it was unreal walking amongst his legacy at Australia Zoo. The passion that oozes from his memory and the staff is palpable, and it makes you excited too. This is the Australia that I always pictured from my childhood, this wild and untamed side that invokes all the images of deadly snakes and riled crocs. I even got to hold a koala and walk among kangaroos and wallabies in “Roo Heaven.” SO EXCITING.
Now take that and add in our trip to the Outback this past weekend, and you’ve got the full experience. I can go home now. Just kidding, because I NEVER WANT TO LEAVE.
But seriously, the Outback trip was AMAZING. It was a class excursion, so the whole group of Americans went. It was 10 hours of driving to get to Bonus Downs, the farm that we were staying at just past Mitchell. This farm regularly hosts large groups and is run by Madonna and Lyle, the sweetest old farm couple you will ever meet. It was a nice weekend away to sort of just chill out, get some peace, and reconnect as a group. We slept in a sheering shed and under the stars while we were there, sat around campfires, and ate TONS of food, a personal favorite of mine. Pretty sure we had a full meal every two hours (well maybe not but it felt that way!).
And can I just say that I love camping?! The smell of the fire, the fresh breeze that
caresses my face in the evenings, the stars shining brilliantly in the sky, the freedom of having no schedule and just being able to sit around chatting and sipping on coffee, singing worship songs, and just feeling God’s presence hovering over us all. Takes me back to my favorite place on earth, Roxbury Holiness Camp, where I’ve camped with my family every year since I was in diapers. There is no place where I feel more at peace or more connected with God than out in His Creation. Praise Him for this beautiful, magnificent, diverse world!
Among other things, I also learned how to crack a whip (and I would recommend staying a safe distance away if I have a whip in hand), I shook hands with the prettiest horse ever, held some yabbies (crawfish), took some solid naps, and went for long walks in the red soil with the flies swarming (I had a whole heap of them just sitting on my back — if you don’t like bugs, the Outback is NOT for you just an FYI).
The last night, I also slept under the stars despite the cold (yes, remarkably and to my utter shock Australia does get cold at times!). I remember waking up at probably around 4am and catching my breath as I peered into the dark night. Tim Winton, a famous Australian writer, best describes the experience of the Australian night sky in his memoir Island Home:
In the desert the night sky sucks at you, star by star, galaxy by galaxy, until you begin to feel you could fall out into it at any moment. In Australia the sky is not the safe enclosing canopy it appears to be elsewhere. It’s the scantiest membrane imaginable, barely sufficient as a barrier between earthbound creatures and eternity … you feel a twinge of terror because the sky seems to go on forever.
And it does indeed go on forever, I can attest to that! The night sky does a remarkable job of reminding you how unimaginably small you actually are, and makes the hairs on your arms stand up when you consider that despite the smallness, there is a great big God who knows us personally and CHERISHES us with an unfathomable and inconceivable love! Embrace the smallness friends, because within it the glory of God is revealed. I wish that I could take pictures that would do justice to everything that I am seeing with my eyes so that you all could feel the way I feel as I look upon God’s handiwork. How breathtaking. How marvelous. How awe-inducing. He is good. SO GOOD.
Carry this sweet reminder of God’s greatness with you this week. Take a moment to look at the sky and drink in the wonder of His presence. Thanks for reading.
*Fun fact: did you guys know that 80% of Australia’s population actually lives in their top 20 largest cities? Hold this up in comparison to the U.S., with only 10% of our population in our 20 largest cities. We think of Australia as being a country full of crocodile hunters, when actually the majority of the population is comprised of city-dwellers. Pretty mind-blowing, hey?
Cover photo credit at the top goes to Alyssa Migliaro!