Whitsundays & Airlie Beach – day 304

Up before even the crew, I had the upper deck to myself and the sea air filled me with life. Katherine was slowly waking up while I sipped a coffee and watched the clouds change from a steely grey to a magnolia white. The usual brekkie of toast, cereal and fruit shared between the pair of us was no longer a solitary affair with others now knowing of our secret dining area. Still, we were finished, changed and ready for our dive well before the crew were ready for us or the other passengers had begun to function. 
With the weather being a bit against us on this trip we were asked if it would be OK to dive where we were moored. An exploratory dive in uncharted waters… A MASSIVE YES from myself with a big of skepticism on Katherine’s part. But, once I had assured her of what depth the instruments in the wheel house had been reading coming in to the bay, something the crew was surprised I had noticed, we were revved up and psyched for a dive along an area of coastline in what we later discovered to be Stonehaven Bay. 
Backward rolls in to the water in perfect harmony, we descended with corals and fish all around us and we struggled to find a passage through the rock formations to a navigable dive route. The branching corals were massive. They were so big as to be described as underwater Christmas trees, hiding juvenile batfish and hogfish in their frameworks. A much healthier ecosystem and dive site it was clear that no one comes to this place for diving. Unsuitable as a DSD area and predominantly exposed to the elements we did hear a bunch of dolphins and only whales once. Something that I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog was the sheer volume and frequency of humpback whale calls throughout the dive. Every intake of breath was a mini orchestra of song and it was missed only slightly on this dive. The flora and fauna however did make up for it quite dramatically. 

Finding a mask to go with the snorkel I found yesterday, the only other sign of human impact was a massive lot of fishing line. Bex did a brilliant job of tracing it back through the area, untangling it from coral and collecting what must have been an entire spool of really tough line that had fallen off the back of a boat. It would never have been needed or used so close to the shore and yet it would do unspeakable damage to the corals and trap dozens of turtles before finally being buried or covered in coral and algae growth to become visible to wildlife. 
Back on a more stable boat Katherine turned in to a 4yr old at a water theme park. The slide was set up, the pool noodles were littered on both the deck and sea and there were people whizzing about on the paddle boards. It was like a puppy eager to try and jump up its first steps and I’m not really sure I had any say whatsoever in letting her off. Up and down the slide, apparently she was told she used it more in the time she got back from the dive than anyone else did all morning. So we had slide, a cannon ball from the plank and a momentous occasion on the paddle board standing up and paddling a bit, to the applause and amusement of the entire ship while I took photos of our little hitchhiker. With quick showers all around and the crew stowing away everything that could budge an inch we were on our way home. With the bribe of hot dogs for brunch snack, beds were stripped and clothes packed. For some reason in section C everyone decided to put their bags on our bed and not strip the beds. So while everyone else on the both was huddled in the galley put of the wind and sea spray, section C were cuddled up in bed and the two of us were forced to sit on the floor with our stuffed pillow cases of linen for some comfort. On the way back, I was ‘roped’ in by the crew to help dock the yacht…Back in port and a few goodbyes to various people and crew we collected our bags from the agency and continued to our hostel in Airlie Beach. It was nice to have the room completely empty on arrival as we needed to repack and organise bags for laundry and generally sorting ourselves out again. Down to Woolies for some food we ended up with a late lunch / early dinner. Kat put away dried clothes while I had the tedious affair of trying to upload some blog photos that are piling up. We tried to watch Zoolander 2 on the netbook, but with neither of us in the mood for that type of humour so we called it a night. 

Saturday 6th August 2016

Airlie Beach & Whitsundays – day 302

The effects of the last few nights of late nights and heavy drinking became apparent on the night bus – we both slept so well, comparatively to any other time we have tried to sleep on a night bus!! Woke up a couple of times during the night, mainly when the driver stopped for his compulsory break or when the long distance transistor radio crackled with jokes between truck drivers. At our 7am break stop, I jumped off the coach to get us some coffees, managing to find massive bottles of iced coffee for the same price as small ones – we were so buzzed for the rest of the journey!! Arrived in Airlie Beach just before 10am and made our way from the coach/yacht terminal to ABC Travel shop to pay the remainder of our cruise around the Whitsundays. The list of rules about about could and couldn’t be brought on to the yacht was comprehensive, including red wine and bags with zips (due to bed bugs?!?). So we sat in the travel agents along with several others re-arranging our bags into shopping, duffle and tote bags that had no zips. All organised (and slightly stressed!), we crossed the road and spent some time chilling out in the shade by the side of the lawn surrounded swimming lagoon. Was great to see so many people, locals and tourists using the lagoon – you could tell the difference by the attire and amount of sunblock used!! chatting for ages and generally people watching, an hour or so passed by quickly so we got up and headed to the local pharmacy to pick up some ear drops as a precaution for my ears that were definitely going to suffer with being in sea water for three days in a row. I wasn’t allowed to buy my usual drops over the counter as I didn’t have a prescription (and I wasn’t prepared to visit a doctor to get one) so I bought their homemade versions with tea tree oil and anti-inflammatories. Fingers crossed it keeps any infection at bay!! We then quickly used and abused the free wifi outside of McDonald’s (along with several other tourists) before I treated myself to a new sundress and we got some lunch bits in Woolworths. We walked back to the lagoon to have some lunch, using the picnic tables and shooing away seagulls that came too close.

After lunch, we began walking to the second town marina to catch our yacht out to the Whitsunday Islands. Surrounded by very young people all holding shopping bags full of alcohol (and not much else!!), we both began to feel very old… Waiting for the staff to turn up we listened to various stories of people’s travels/drinking games around Australia, embarrassed to share our culture tour of UNESCO treasure hunting with them. Having given the staff a couple of dollars each to buy ice for our drinks (Jayne and I sharing a half full goon bag whilst everyone else had a full one each), we made our way to the yacht and climbed onboard. 

Turns out that the other yacht that usually sails is out of action hence the high number of people on our yacht for this cruise. Think I overhead one of the crew say 33… It felt crowded!! We all sat upfront for the usual safety briefing, including where we were and weren’t allowed to go and what to do if someone fell over board. After that we were allocated our rooms. Fortunately, we were placed in section C which means we only had 6 other girls with us – sections A and B had up to 16 people in them! The other bonus is that where our double bed is positioned, there is no one above us and we have the only plug socket!! With the party in full swing on the bow of the boat, we opted to sit inside the cabin and play some cards. Managed to get half way through a game of ‘Backpacker’ before the crew asked us to teach them. Removing the trickier cards from the pack, we taught Bex, Eileen and Evan the simple version first. It soon became competitive and, had we had longer, we would have reintroduced the harder cards and all ganged up on Evan!! As the crew went back to sailing and getting dinner ready, we sat out at the stern of the boat, enjoying the scenery and the gentle rocking of the boat. 

We ate dinner of fish with mashed potato and coleslaw at the back of the boat with a glass of wine accompanied by Alex and Vanessa (the other older couple of the boat) as the party got into full swing up front. Watched the sun set and decided to get an early night, especially after the night bus and Bex saying that they wake everyone up at 6.30am in the morning…

Thursday 4th August 2016