Great Barrier Reef and a Ruby Wedding

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
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Trip End Feb 26, 2011


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Where I stayed
On a Free Campsite hopefully

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Thursday, September 16, 2010

So 15 years ago today I managed to miss most of my Mum and Dads Silver Wedding Anniversary by writing off my car on the way to the party. The next major celebration is the Ruby Wedding, which is today and well, I don't think I'm going to make it, we have been waiting for the bus for about 40 minutes but they all seem to be domestic buses and no international ones to the Northwest of England.

Anyway its just a quick blog today just to say...... Mum and Dad have a fabulous day, sorry we can't be at home with you on your special day. We promise to be there for the Golden Wedding Anniversary, completely drunk and unruly and try and keep James up till 6am ruining the rest of his week.

Todays proper blog......

Title was going to be .... When Lady E Met Lady M

I got up at about 5:45 fired up the stove and started our remaining sausages cooking for breako. By the time the lady got up and had finished tidying the van they were nearly cooked and we enjoyed our first hot morning meal in days. It was freezing though still about 13 degrees C which is the coldest temperature we have felt for about 6 months and we just can't adjust to the cold.

We managed a cup of tea then headed off to get on the boat to the reef. We were a little bit concerned that the trip would be a bit of a let down but we jumped on board and were soon motoring out to sea. The morning was perfect and another day with not a single cloud in the sky, by about 8am we could take our jumpers off and we had about 1.5 hours heading out to Lady Musgrave Island, one of the top snorkelling sites in the Great Barrier Reef. We were scouting all over the horizon for whales although were advised it was getting towards the end of the season. We saw quite a few flying fish though a creature which always amazes every time we see them. We also saw about 4 turtles as the boat started to slow down. Our fellow passengers despite the fairly nice weather and sea conditions were vomiting into the sick equivalent of the traveljohn (a portable urination device for either sex otherwise named by Col as bushjohny).

Despite no whales we were amazed by the sheer beauty of the island and more than anything the natural lagoon that is made up of living coral that so far out at sea provides a remarkable contrast in colour.  We pulled up at a pontoon in the lagoon and Erica and I decided to get the boring bit out of the way first and do the walking tour of the island. Well how boring was it..... not in the slightest, the island is made up entirely of deposits of dead coral, the local bird population have then managed to deposit some seeds of their favourite trees onto the coral which have then grown attracting more of the same birds and therefore created a really quite unique eco-system. We ventured across to the campsite and were gutted that we didn’t have a tent, to be staying on an uninhabited island right on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef many miles off shore would have been perfect and remember we still hadn’t seen a cloud. One side of the beach the coral had been worn down to sand so you also had a beach, with no provisions on the island or near by the amount of water the 7 people camping there had was huge. Col and Sonja would have a field day loading all there camping stuff onto the boat. (Guys it really isn’t cheap but I would strongly suggest you try camping with a major difference). About 5m from the campsite are the grounds where the many many turtles come to lay their eggs at nesting time. As we were reviewing this area we looked up to see 10’s of black tip reef sharks some as close as 5m from the shore line, that eerie view of the fin working its way through the water. These sharks were a lot more timid than the ones we swam with on the Perhention Islands as when anyone entered the water they quickly disappeared (I guess just because it is so shallow. We then saw a really colourful sting ray which was amazing about 1m off the shore edge. So as well as a campsite in the middle of nowhere you have miles and miles of reef snorkelling right in front of your tent.

We continued around and found our pick up boat to get us back to the pontoon. Oh yes we forgot to mention it was a glass bottom boat so we could see the coral and were shown some of the turtle cleaning spots where turtles go to get their shells cleaned by tiny reef fish (it’s a bit like the fish massage we had in Cambodia I suppose). We were amazed at the variety of wildlife we had seen on such a small island and the wildlife is simply everywhere not merely a birds nest here and there, the 'noddies’ that live on the island nest and eat the sticky seed of the Pesonia tree which kills up to half of them as it gets in their wings and they can’t fly. Talk about death by chocolate. We had lunch then decided to quickly go on a semi submersible boat tour before we finally went snorkelling. This was quite novel really as we hadn’t done anything on our trip like this and gave a different way of seeing parts of the coral and fish life.  Unlike so many spots in Asia they try and draw the fish to you by the constant feeding of fish pellets which no doubt increases the number of fish in the area but I think I prefer it the natural way, occasionally we would have had half a slice of bread for a boat but never the reams of pellets thrown everywhere.

We then jumped into the water with our underwater camera (thanks again Cheryl and Siong) and went for about an hour and a half snorkel. As all the Aussie’s, French, Spanish, Americans and Japanese (we will come back to them later) donned their paid for wetsuits the lady had got cold feet about entering the water without a wetsuit, typically this was met by an understanding male comment of "for gods sake woman you come from a hard working class coal mining area where we are lucky to have 20 bloody degrees of air temperature never mind sea temperature, its 22 degrees.... its warmer than the water when I have a bath...... mumble grumble etc". Thankfully for once she listened and we were glad we hadn’t paid the money. The water whilst refreshing was not too cold and he headed off to play with some fish. After not too long looking at some nice big pieces of coral we found a turtle and followed it for probably about 10 minutes reeling off what we hope are some good photographs (we will add them to the blog when we find somewhere to download them to cd (assuming that technology exists or is it called a scanner?).

Some parts of the coral were really nice and we did see some nice fish. We went back to the boat and spent a few minutes with a cup of tea and a scone with jam and cream just loving the Japanese people. It was kind of like a Japanese carry on film, with only one of a group of 20 speaking English, the crew were trying to explain that they had to keep the snorkel in their mouth to breath as they were all coughing and breathing in water. It was like many of them had never seen the sea before so odd for an island nation, there were screams and wild splashing when they put their faces in the water when they would be flying back out of the water losing fins, masks, noodles (a floating device) and snorkels in the process.  The crew were screaming at them as the objects sank away. They ended up sending a boat to get the interpreter who’s only comment amongst the screams and splashes was “Everyone is amazed that the water tastes like salt!  It is too salty!”. We were just in hysterics at the whole situation and it kind of took us back to China where we would have conversations with the Chinese who were trying to tell us things but we would no doubt have continued regardless with a big smile and “thank you driver”.

The day was brought to an end and still without having seen a cloud in the sky we headed for home. We were gutted to be leaving such a lovely place, but then we heard on the speaker that one of the crew had seen a humpback whale on the west side of the island. We started to get very excited for our first ever potential whale spot. To our disbelief it was there in front of our very eyes a mother and baby. We watched for about 10 minutes whilst an ex whale spotter from Hervey Bay talked us through everything that was going on. The next second there was a huge Manta Ray on the other side of the boat and everyone was running around delirious. We then started motoring on again and after about 10 more minutes we found another pod of whales, then we saw a pod of dolphins, then more whales, more dolphins and another pod of humpback whales. We even lost count in the end of how many whales and dolphins we saw. The boat was somewhat behind schedule and in the end we were just motoring past shouting “whale” and everyone would look. I have to say not taking anything away from the magic of seeing these fantastic creatures we didn’t get any of the amazing pictures we would have hoped for i.e. the great tale shot, I think it was because the males had left just leaving the mothers with the babies who were very protective it sounds a bit like Manchester really).

After an amazing day the beauty of the clear blue cloudless sky and sun reflecting on the ripples of the open water and no land in sight we thought was a great end to an amazing day. We got off the boat jumped in the van and headed for the headland to try and catch the sun setting.. Obviously the East Coast of Australia isn’t going to be the best spot for watching the sun set in the world, but you know what, it was the best sunset we had seen on our whole trip. The peninsular must go out and return on itself so we had the most perfect sun setting over the sea. An amazing finish to an amazing day. Whilst the snorkelling was not the best we had done, it was very good and the visibility was great, but the day in the whole will no doubt be amongst our favourite days on the trip to date, a list that is getting quite long.

We headed back into the village to get something on the blog to my Mum and Dad to wish them a happy Ruby Wedding anniversary Skyped them as well before heading back to the pitch black ‘free’ campsite’. Cooked our last couple two chicken thighs with some left over pasta sauce, with loads of garlic and had a gin and tonic from the duty free left overs. Tonight we were not as badly eaten by the Mosquitos but after one gin and tonic Erica seemed away with the fairies, she claimed a spider as big as her hand dropped on her at the taps, started knocking over drinks and then when we heard the pan behind us moving we found a possum licking the pan, although Erica was adamant it was a wallaby so I had to concede defeat it was most definitely a wallaby, the picture is attached look for wallaby?  Erica edit:  Ok, that one gin and tonic just went to my head, it must have been the events of the day, or the huge measure that you put in my glass added to the fact that it’s import strength!  Oh and yes I think it is a possum.

After about 20 minutes chatting to a spitting image of David Ballamy another full time grey nomad (who unlike all the others didn’t have a caravan he had a tent..... not that strange well it is because he didn’t have a car either nor did he sleep in his tent). He explained how he travelled up and down the coast by plane, taxi, bus and walking carrying all his life belongings. He was quite an eccentric character to say the least but a very interesting man. He left Australia once to go ..... to Bali (well there is no surprise) and we chatted about the spots he recommended to us. We asked about Fraser Island something we remained unsure about and he had been there, however he hadn’t done anything as he hasn’t got a drivers license except wait at the ferry terminal to go back to Hervey bay. After a while I decided in my own unique way it was time for the conversation to be over and according to the lady just announced mid sentence “well it’s been very nice speaking to you, good night”. I do not believe I can be so abrupt!!! We wandered back to his tent got his sleeping bag and wandered off explaining he didn’t sleep in his tent but preferred to sleep either on the beach or in the bush and had never been bitten or stung by anything but a mosquito. We never saw him again.
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Comments

mum and dad on

Thanks great to hear from you today. It sounds a great day. Looking forward to tonight and our little celebration will miss you. love mum and dad

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