East coast part 2

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East coast part 2

Updated 15 years, 7 months ago

Hello again. "So soon" I hear you cry, but yes another update is required. The story so far: Dan got to Airlie Beach (Gosh, sounds a little dull). I was staying in a hostel called "Reefo's", no not what you think. As in the "Great Barrier". Just like many backpacker places over here, another "Number 1 party destination" place; if it was, I'd be intrigued to see "Number 2". Not that "party" means much more than going "Ooh, Aah" to that flaming DJ Otzi excrescence in most backpacker places. However, I digress, the main reason for being here was to visit the Whitsunday Islands- a collection of beautiful islands surrounded by coral reef, sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Most of them deserted. Well that's what the brochure said for my cheapo backpacker package (try saying that after one night at "Reefo's"- Number 1 party destination) with Peter Pan's Backpacker Land( I mean honestly. I know most backpackers here are young, but it's like being back in the Nursery. I wonder if they burp you on these package deals. Especially after a night out at "Reefo's: Number 1 lah lah lah".

Okay I won't mention it again, where was I?. Blimey, I blather and go off track like Ronnie Corbett on one of his jokes. Anyway, we had to meet up at 12.30 pm on the first day of our "3 day, 2 night" trip and were told straight off that we'd be back on our last day at 2pm-ish. Right, so it was actually a "2 day, 2 night" trip- not like we were told. Still, it was very cheap so you take things as they come. We chugged out of Airlie on a boat that looked okay, no visible holes and the captain seemed sober, so we were all quite up-beat and keen. We were not even out of the harbour before the captain began making comments about the seaworthiness of the boat. Apparently, it was top heavy, with a really shallow draught and was sure to capsize in moderate swell; the sails were ripped and no use at all, even if there was wind; so we would have to rely on this engine, which could do no more than 5 knots, was pre-war and on its last legs. Now you don't need to know that much about boats and sea stuff to understand that this sounded bad. I noticed people beginning to grip the rails more tightly and look anxiously about for something that may float. He obviously noticed this too as the captain then helpfully pointed out the lifejackets and raft for "when it becomes necessary". "When"?!?! For the next three (sorry, two) days he kept up this critical monologue as we chugged about at five knots, almost getting to "somewhere great, you'll love this, beautiful coral, water views etc", but never quite making it as the boat was too slow or unable to get across that stretch of water as "it should have been condemned"; and I quote freely from our skipper.

There was little to do bar sit and read on deck, soak in the views or sunbathe (I guess I've lost your sympathy now), but one incredible place our "marie celeste" did manage to drift to was Whitehaven Beach. An incredible stretch of the finest whitest sand you've seen, in a bay, flanked by thick forest on a deserted island on one side and beautiful shallow bathing on the other. There were hundred's of rays in the surf, some sting rays were very large and swam straight past your feet! Great swimming, really cool place. We were supposed to get a free dive on the saturday as we desperately chugged to this apparently beautiful reef.

Three things conspired against this excellent plan. Firstly, the dive company's boat broke down so could not meet us on the saturday . Secondly, by sunday morning we were miles from this cool reef place and moored instead in a non-descript bay and we were going to dive instead around the corner near some beach. Thirdly, as it was full moon, the currents and tides were different for some reason and whipped up the sandy bottom to leave the water cloudy with appalling visibility. Down us certified divers went and swam about to a depth of between 1 and 3 metres, normally about 1.5 metres. It was a complete fiasco, like swimming in pea soup (vis was about 1 metre) and you could feel your tank often above the surface, as you desperately tried to make out where your dive buddy was, whilst avoiding scratching across the bottom. Not that it would be hard to find your buddy should you lose him. Lost buddy procedure meant standing up on the bottom and looking for his tank on the surface.

We swam back out to the boat after a ridiculous 20 minutes, surfaced, looked at each other and all burst out laughing. Overall i had a good time, it was good fun just living and sleeping on board, there were some good people on the boat, and we just laughed about it all. With a good fast boat and ideal sea conditions you could see that the place would be a paradise location- it was anyway- but we just had bad luck. Returning to Airlie, slightly disappointed, the rest of my fellow old salts decided to go drown their sorrows at "Reefo's: Number 1 Party Destination" (where else?), but i thought DJ Otzi might just add to them and besides I had a bus to get for 14 hours to Gympie (Yes, really- this is Queensland).

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