Tuesday 11th November – day 16

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Sadness lingered in the back of our minds as the trip drew to a close today. Good times were remembered and reflected upon throughout the days activities. Waking up to a beautiful morning gave us a positive outlook on the day, with most of us looking forward to discovering the desert environment at the Alice Springs desert park. We learnt in our own time about the sand, river and woodland habitats which can be found in the arid lands of Australia!!! An amusing birds of prey display was on offer for us today and without a doubt probably a good chance to take a rest from the heat under the big sails.
Anzac Hill was a particularly important part of our day as it marks a place for us to come to remember the fallen soldiers in WW1 on Remembrance Day today.
The Royal Flying Doctors museum and base was a relevant part of our trip today as Jacob fell ill in Uluru and was evacuated to Alice Springs just a week prior to the visit to the museum!! A great service it is and plays an important part in Ausralia’s healthcare system. Great thanks go to all the staff, doctors and pilots who serve the community through RFDS!!
Next on our relaxed agenda today was the School of the Air! Learning about how learning occurs in the outback makes us look at education from a different perspective. We observed the unique classroom activities undertaken via the internet whilst receiving an informative talk from the great staff they have there!
An evening full of speeches and reflecting upon our wonderful trips with all the ups and downs anyone would expect, created a lively atmosphere to finish off our last night and we headed off into bed!
By Jacob Riley and Mel Weddell


China Pandas – Day 17

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Today was a long day of travel.

It began in Xi’an where we were woken up at 5:45 am to drop our bags down at reception. We then checked out of the hotel at 7:45 am and headed to the airport to fly to Shanghai.

After a two hour flight we jumped on a bus and drove to the 492 meter tall Shanghai World Financial Center. We caught the lift up to the 94th floor, and wow, what a view!


But it wasn’t long before we were back on the bus to the airport to catch our flight home.

We checked in, got on, ate dinner, had a sleep, got woken up for breakfast, landed, went through customs and caught a bus back home.

WHEW !!!

China Dragons – Day 16

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Today we managed to get a late start to the day which everyone was happy about, before heading off to another market. This was the biggest market we had been to and there were lots of interesting trinkets and gadgets to get. Most people spent most of their remaining money here, as there were a lot of good gifts to give to family, friends and for ourselves.

After an excellent lunch (possibly the best lunch on the trip), we headed off to the Shanghai City Planning Centre which boasted a huge wooden model of the entire city. There was also a virtual reality film which took us on a tour of what they want Shanghai to look like in the near future. Shanghai is madly preparing for the World Expo in 2010. 

After visiting the Centre, we were all glad to hear that we had a couple of hours to relax back at the hotel before heading off to dinner. This relaxing time was much needed as everyone was starting to doze off during some of the tours and on the bus. As the hours went by fast, it was time to head down for dinner where we had lunch earlier on the trip.

Following dinner, we were all excited to be seeing an acrobatic show which went for an hour and a half. It was amazing to see all the tricks that they could do, and how many different types of skills they learnt.
They performed a wide variety of skills including tightrope walking, juggling, chair stacking and various other skills. It was amazing to see how flexible some of the acrobats were.

As tomorrow is our last day in China, we will be visiting a DVD and CD store for some last minute shopping before heading off to the airport via the Maglev train prior to going home. We have had a great time here!

Nick Bosler and Kirsten Rizos

The Chairmen of the Bored! (waiting for a bus)

The Chairmen of the Bored! (waiting for a bus)

At Shanghai’s Lyceum Theatre for the acrobatic show

At Shanghai’s Lyceum Theatre for the acrobatic show

Acrobats balancing on chairs

Acrobats balancing on chairs

Acrobats flying…an amazing show

Acrobats flying…an amazing show

China Pandas – Day 16

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This morning we set off to see the famous terracotta warriors. On the 90-minute bus trip, our Xi’an tour guide, Minnie, gave us very detailed and colourful stories of the history behind them. They had been built by the first Emperor of the Qing Dynasty as an army to protect him in his afterlife. Each warrior was copied from one of his actual soldiers, so they were all remarkably different. The emperor was hated for his cruelty, so much so that when he died suddenly, his terracotta warriors were smashed by a peasant rebellion, which vandalized the emperor’s mausoleum. Farmers who were digging a well accidentally found the site 30 years ago. Since then, archaeologists have pieced together thousands of remnants of these soldiers, and still more are being found and restored today.


The soldiers were divided into three pits, the first pit being the main force with 6000 soldiers, the second being the cavalry with 1900 or so soldiers and the third being a ceremonial group consisting of 100 high ranking officers with ornamental weaponry.

img_2921There is, of course, a shop selling terracotta warriors of greater quality and greater price than the street vendors outside. Amazingly, one of the farmers who discovered the site is still alive at 80 and although he is uneducated, he has learnt to sign his name in striking calligraphy, which he will do if you buy a special book featuring very detailed pictures and information. Unfortunately those books were quite pricey at 120 Yuan ($30).

We had lunch on site, which was an interesting combination of buffet and table served meals, which included a chef preparing ‘home-made’ noodles. Then we proceeded to a small area showing two solid bronze chariots, which were also part of the mausoleum.

We left the museum and headed to a cave site where people still live in caves. Many of us were quite excited to see the Coober Pedy of China, but it was quite a let down. We spent five minutes there and all we saw was one impoverished room in the side of a cliff face.

Back in Xi’an, we headed to a supermarket down the road, and many of us stocked up on some snacks to last the long plane trip ahead of us, as most of us don’t exactly long for the taste of plane food. Dinner was a buffet held at a twentieth floor revolving restaurant showing us the night lights of Xi’an, and many dishes were enjoyed by all.

We headed back to the hotel where we had some time together as a group to reflect on the trip, which is now, sadly, coming to its end. We discussed what we enjoyed, what food we enjoyed, what we would change and what we have learnt and will remember. Many laughs were shared, as well as careful consideration about the cultural differences between Australia and China. We were then left to our own to finish our packing and get a small amount of shuteye before the early start tomorrow and a long day ahead.

So long from Xi’an!

Dale Peters and Ruby Maddison



The 2008 Big Experiences are nearly over and I hope you have enjoyed reading about the many amazing adventures your children, friends or relatives have had.

This year was the first time the Big Experience blog was implemented so it would be great to get some feedback on how you have found it.

Please leave a comment on this post to share your thoughts. Your comment will not appear on the site immediately but rest assured it will be read with interest.

Thank you.

Mr. Barlow

China Pandas – Day 15

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This morning we woke up at the chalet and said goodbye to the Xinxing kids. It was really sad to leave them but we were excited to be going back to Xian.

We caught the small yellow buses to the train station where we took the bullet train back to Xian. The train took about an hour travelling at up to 200kph. It was a quiet and comfy ride as we travelled first class.

When we arrived in Xian we met up with Joyce and Minnie (our previous tour guides) who then took us back to the hotel where we had some time to have a shower after three nights without hot water or bathrooms!

Lunch was at a 5-star restaurant where we had a western buffet as a reward for the very simple food we had eaten for three days at the chalet. Talk about a journey of contrasts!

After an hour of non-stop eating we caught the bus to the Big Goose Pagoda. It was a Buddhist temple and it was really interesting to walk around and look at all the places of worship.

Enjoying incense at the temple

Enjoying incense at the temple

After that, we took the bus to an unexpected (unwanted by some and loved by others!) trip to the park, to work off our lunch on the exercise equipment with the local senior citizens. After that we took a walk back to the hotel for some free time before dinner.

The locals at the park

The locals at the park

The lads at the park

The lads at the park

We then piled on the bus to go to dinner and took a walk down Muslim Street to the markets for some last minute free time for shopping.
Muslim Street

Muslim Street

We met up again at 8:30pm and headed back to the bus, and now we’re heading off for a good night’s sleep.

Mallory McDonald and Conor Maguire

China Pandas – Day 14

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Today was a very busy day. It was the last day we spent with the children. This meant it was an early start getting up at 6:30. We got ready by having a Wet-Ones bath in a bathroom where the toilet didn’t work. It was very cold so we put on all of our clothes and headed to the main dining room for yet another interesting breakfast with the Xinxing kids.

Then it was off to a local middle school in Baoji. When we entered the school, we were greeted by hundreds of schoolkids at the gate. It was amazing to see so many people we didn’t know so excited to see us. Once we managed to pass the kids, we had a small tour of the school, entering an English class of around 58 students, a biology and chemistry class.

A 58 student class

A 58 student class

After a brief tour, we headed to the music room where the students treated us to some performances. There was plenty of singing, dancing and talking in both Chinese and English. As a group we then performed some Australian songs: ‘Aussie Jingle Bells’, ‘Home Among the Gum Trees’ and Matt S, Mallory and Dale sang ‘I am Australian’. These were very much appreciated.

After the concert, all of the St Leonard’s students were allocated in pairs to go to a Chinese student’s home for a banquet lunch. Most of the kids were around thirteen years old. Once everyone had a family to go to, we walked to their house, where we were treated like royalty. We were given a very large lunch which the family and kids watched us eat, they put food on your plate for you and they gave you gifts. It was truly a unique meal.

After being at the students’ houses for lunch, we headed back to the school. Some walked, some caught crazy taxis and others caught the bus. Yet again children who attended the school surrounded us. We were asked for photos to be taken and for our e-mail addresses so that we could become friends. It was super cold outside so some of us played basketball and table tennis to keep us functioning.

Eventually the games finished and we all had to say our goodbyes while taking photos and exchanging even more email addresses. Then it was off to a ceramic place where we were meeting the Xinxing children again. Here everyone got the chance to either make something out of clay or make a pot on the potter’s wheel.  All the pottery we made is going to be fired and painted, then sold in Australia to raise money for the children’s centre.

Mixing with the Baoji kids

Mixing with the Baoji kids

Going to a local park was our next adventure. We played a massive game of Octopus that was really good fun, until someone destroyed our game by telling us that we weren’t allowed to walk or sit on the grass! So we just waited for the buses so that we could go back to the ‘cosy (!)’ chalet. Soon after arriving we went into the dining room for dinner with the kids.

Many ‘thank-yous’ were made after dinner and the children were allowed to pick three toys from all our donations.

img_2881To finish the night, we had another bonfire where we held hands around the fire and danced to some more Uygar (a minority group, whose music sounds Indian), American and Chinese pop music. It was a great night and I think we will all miss the kids.

img_2889Sophie Toogood and Adele Percy

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