Diving in NE Oz
Trip Start Jul 11, 2006
47Trip End Mar 16, 2007
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Whitehaven is noted not just for its picture postcard natural beauty but also for its sand, said to be the purest in the world. The sand here has less than 1% impurity (it is actually 99% silica) and is so fine that rubbing it on tarnished metal and jewelry can restore them to their original polished and clean state. Ridiculous as it sounds, it is actually true as some of the girls in my disposable group-of-friends-for-the-day proved when shiny bracelets and necklaces emerged after just a few seconds of sand "treatment".
Unfortunately, my bad luck with the weather continued and, as you can see from the photos that accompany this blog entry, the day was overcast and it even rained on several occasions. This certainly contributed to the reluctance of most of the passengers to go swimming although tediously repeated warnings about the threat of jelly fish (despite the fact that this is not jelly fish season) undoubtedly contributed too. I had planned to do a dive tour once i got to Cairns but, having not dived in nearly 4 years, i thought it prudent to get a single "refresher" dive done whilst in the Whitsundays. It turned out to be a dreadful dive - freezing water, inadequate dive gear, poor visibility and an incompetent dive guide who seemed intent on breaking off what little remained of the inner Great Barrier Reef's coral. However, despite this, it still served its purpose of returning my diving confidence and reminding me of diving skills and techniques.
My aim had been to stop off in Townsville, a sleepy seaside town in between Airlie and Cairns, to dive the Yongala, considered Australia's most famous (diveable) wreck. However the weather, once again, did me no favours. Strong wind and rain had prevented any Yongala trips from going out in the two days prior to my arrival in Townsville and although the weather turned when i got there, there was already a considerable backlog of divers waiting patiently for good weather and I could not get a space on any of the boats
As a result, I elected to speed on to Cairns where i managed to get the last space on a 32-person liveaboard heading to the outer GBR. For those that don't dive, a liveaboard is, as the name suggests, a boat tour spread over multiple days and nights during which you live on the boat. Not having to return to port every day allows the boat to visit dive sites that are considerably less frequently dived than the overexposed inner GBR. 32 people sounds live a crowded trip but in actual fact, the boat was large enough to make the journey surprisingly comfortable and, combined with good food and an interesting and varied mix of learner and more experienced divers from all over the world, the tour proved enormous fun. The diving was also excellent. 11 dives (i did only 10) were offered as part of the package taking place on a variety of reefs. The highlight was a night dive to see Brian, a 100+ year-old female (she was named Brian before her gender was confirmed!) turtle who sleeps under the same coral outcrop every night. Brian is probably the most impressive creature i have ever seen with a head to feet length of around 2m and a gargantuan shell that could probably stop a tank shell. Smaller turtles, rays, sharks, puffers, barracudas and myriad corals proved fascinating dive viewing on the other trips. Unfortunately, Sony neglected to include scuba dive features on my omni-functional camera-phone-mp3-player so i don't have any undersea shots to illustrate any of these underwater marvels
We returned to Cairns last night with the dive crew and passengers heading out en-masse to seek pub-supplied cures to our wobbly sea-legs. My evening was somewhat disappointing as, following an unpleasant first encounter with an Australian delicacy - crocodile (terrible, rubbery chicken texture with a bland taste) - I failed to convince a night club bouncer, after extensive queuing with the tour crowd, that i was over 18 (not a problem so far in Oz) and was forced to retire early. I suppose i should probably take that as a compliment..
I leave for Micronesia (via Guam) this evening for 8 days of hard-core diving in one of the worlds most famous (and difficult to reach) wreck graveyards. I will be staying on a tiny island called Chuuk (AKA Truk) where i am unlikely to have internet or mobile access.
Finally a quick rant about Man Utd selling Ruud (we spend years trying to find a consistent goal-scorer then sell him for a pittance) then spending 50% more than they got for him to buy yet another unproven mid-fielder in Carrick. What is Fergie thinking? Also, for AFL followers, can someone explain how did the Lions got thrashed by bottom of the league Essendon?