We are Sailing

Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
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46
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Trip End Sep 06, 2010


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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hello again,

If memory serves I last left you when we were at the Asylum (and if you didn't read the previous entry that must sound quite strange but should teach you a lesson for just flicking through the photos – haha) Our next adventure was to make it to Airlie Beach where we would be taking our sailing trip on the Whitsundays but to get there we took an overnight coach trip to save on accommodation. In the morning we both complained to each other that we had not been able to sleep at all and yet the driver then informed us that we were two hours behind schedule after the breakdown in the middle of the night which neither of us could recall, I can only assume we did get some sort of shut-eye after all!  Arriving in Airlie was like being dropped off in the desert and we had to lug our bags all the way to the hostel from the station which made me swear I would be getting rid of half my packing once we arrived

Desperate for some food we headed straight to the hostel kitchen where we got a shock in the form of a Guana patrolling the area for his lunch too.  A Guana is a huge lizard type creature, about a meter and a half nose to tail and can move incredibly quickly.  After being cautious around it for a while hunger took over and we gave up waiting for him to leave and started cooking around him.  Some poor girl left her kilo block of cheese out for a minute and it got swallowed in a couple of painful looking gulps by the now even bigger Guana.   Airlie Beach also has a lagoon like Cairns so we relaxed here again for most of the day before retiring to our hostel to get some sleep in an actual bed instead of a coach seat, of course as we are so at odds with the other 'backpackers’ here, bedtime to us translate as ‘partytime’ for them so we had a group of four young English guys getting drunk in the dorm room which I managed to ignore long enough to get to sleep but then was woken up with a start by the nice Dutch girl in our room screaming as the guy in the bunk above her had woken up drunk and mistaken her bed and her for the urinal!!  It was disgusting and what’s worse when I have told people here that story they all seem to have had equal or worse experiences in the dorms too.  It’s so different to New Zealand where the hostels were all outstanding and the traveling crowd were about our age or older so showed respect for other people and wanted to see the country they were in too.  Here it seems being over 21 makes you ancient and if you aren’t so drunk you can’t find the bathroom you are the odd one out!  I would understand a bit more if it was cheaper than New Zealand but in fact it is quite a bit more expensive so it’s hard to stomach.  If we had known that this stretch of the coast we planned to travel was specifically the ‘party’ section of Australia then I think we would have planned a different route but amongst the madness there are amazing things to do and we had just the right activity planned to escape as we set sail for three days and two nights aboard the New Horizon for a sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands.

We had paid for a more expensive boat to try and price out the drunken rabble and were pleasantly surprised to find that the rest of the passengers on our boat had thought the same thing so whilst we all indulged in a few drinks during the trip our beds would stay dry!  Sailing out to the islands on the first night was quite choppy and I’m so pleased we invested in sea sickness pills so instead of my usual sailing position of leaning over the back of the boat I was actually able to stand right up at the bow and pretend to be a pirate as we bounced around in the two meter swells with waves crashing over the sides of the boat.  When we got anchored at an island inlet it was a lot more stable and as the sun went down we proved we weren’t completely past it by cracking open some booze ourselves.  In an attempt to blend in with the rest of the community here we bought a box of Goon (although I’m not sure it deserves a capital letter) this is the drink of choice in all the hostels here, essentially it’s boxed wine but it actually is called a ‘wine based drink’ and comes in 4 litre boxes for $10 so you can tell it’s not even in the running for the Tesco wine sale.  However we managed to find a box that wasn’t too stomach rotting and joined in the merriment on board that culminated in a great dinner under the stars of barbequed fish and lots of trimmings.  Our boat also had a ‘dolphin light’ which lit up the water at the side to attract dolphins and general marine life, sadly no dolphins emerged while Steve and I were avidly watching but there were enormous fish who were hunting tiny neon fish.  Essentially the big fish would make menacing circles under the water before making a break for it and bursting out of the water to catch the tiddlers, this would then make the whole shoal of small fish also jump out of the water but skim themselves like stones while flashing their neon colours so it looked like a fireworks display coming out of the water.  Given my new found appreciation for fish I was in my element and as this was one of those sights that I could not capture for you on camera I made sure to take in every moment so it could never be forgotten. 

Our sleeping quarters were pretty good considering 32 of us were all accommodated below deck in bunks my only complaint was that it was a bit hot but this just meant I wandered up onto the deck for a cool down in the night and got to have all the sea and stars to myself which was magical.  The next morning we bounced out of bed knowing we were getting the chance to go snorkeling again but that wasn’t until later in the afternoon so we fueled up on breakfast as we sailed towards Whitehaven Beach for a walk and sunbathe.  Whitehaven is famous for having the purest sand in the world, it’s completely white and the sand is pure silica in perfect tiny balls, it’s the sand that was used to make the Huble telescope and squeaks pleasantly when you walk on it.  We first saw it from a look out from the top of the island and then walked down to feel the powder between our toes for ourselves.  I had a sunbathe while Steve was entertained playing catchy-throwy with someone else for a change.  The water looked crystal clear and beautiful for a swim however once you factored in the deadly jellyfish (known simply as stingers here) and the stingray’s nestling in the sands the appeal wore off quite quickly

Once we made our way back to the boat we were sailing our way towards the coral and we were almost too excited to eat our lunch…almost, if only it wasn’t a buffet we might have shown better control.  Then we were at the reef and kitted up in our stinger suits to protect us from any lurking jellyfish, I spotted a big one from the side of the boat which the skipper told me was completely harmless and not to bother looking, apparently you never see the ones that get you anyway!  I couldn’t really care less, no stinger was going to rain on my parade and minutes later I was hurling myself backwards off the speedboat to get a good look at the underwater world again.  As luck would have it as soon as I opened my eyes I realised I was surrounded by a huge shoal of yellow finned fish who were just as curious about me as I was of them.  We let them lead us towards the coral, as we were dropped off just outside it, where we were joined by another shoal of zebra stripped fish that swam in circles around us much to my delight.  Just these guys alone would be enough to keep me entertained all day and luckily they seemed to take a liking to us too and followed us around on our exploration of the rest of the reef.  We spotted Nemo (or one of his cousins at least) and such a variety of different tropical fish in all shapes, sizes, patterns and colours beyond anything I could have ever dreamed up even on my most imaginative of days.  The speedboat that dropped us off came over to where we were snorkeling and sprinkled some food into the water which caused all the fish in the vicinity to encircle us in a feeding frenzy – it was incredible.  Even more fun when I had a handful of food myself which I released in the water just in front of me and got slapped in the face by a few hundred fish tails during the onslaught.   

All good things must come to and end and after a couple of hours we were back on the boat sailing into the sunset, legs dangling over the side with a mug of goon to toast our fantastic day.  We anchored again for the night and took a trip to a coral beach to watch the sun disappear into the sea before dinner back on board while the skipper pulled out his charts, (not maps!) to show us where we had been and a bit about the history of the area.  We were the only boat in the bay and in the morning we would be snorkeling here which we were told is the same spot where the six star hotel in the area brings it’s guests who pay $6000 per night, can’t complain about that.  Needless to say we were up bright and early for the snorkeling and whilst others were still fumbling with the toaster we were zipped up in our stinger suits and jumping in the speed boat again.  This time we had a specific mission, to find Elvis, an enormous fish over a meter and a half long and about half a meter tall, bright blue and purple with a big quiff-like bump on his head earning him the nickname.  We had only been in the water for a few minutes before we got our first sighting and he really was something to behold, we had quite a while alone playing with him before the scuba divers got some food out and he left us for a more appealing option.  There were plenty more fish in the sea though and we followed a huge bat fish for quite a while that was as big as a widescreen TV, then out of nowhere a massive shoal of silver fish each as long as a leg shot past us from the depths but didn’t hesitate for a photo. We managed to entertain ourselves for hours again and as the reef was a bit lower down in places we found that by just allowing ourselves to bob around being as still as possible meant the fish were quite happy to come and have a look at us without us having to hunt them down.  Eventually we were yanked out the water by the speedboat and back to New Horizon where everyone else was already changed and had reverted to sunbathing on the deck.  We made our way back to Airlie Beach with the wind in our sails, the sun on our backs and hot dogs in our hands.  Just as we were mooring again a huge stingray jumped out the water following it’s prey to finish off our wildlife sightings and then we were back on dry land.  Or so I thought.  I still felt like I was on a boat and couldn’t walk in a straight line for hours, I was bouncing from wall to wall down the corridors of the hostel looking like I was completely drunk!  I feel bad for judging all the drunk people when we first arrived now, maybe they had all just got off of boat trips too, or maybe they were actually just able to finish their 4 litres of goon!

We crossed paths again with a friend from home who stayed with us in Queenstown for a while, she was taking a Whitsundays trip the day after us.  It was really nice to see a friendly face and have someone agree with us about the poor hostels and drunk crowds so we didn’t feel like we were on another planet altogether.  As we had founds ourselves a reasonably priced private room in a fairly plain hostel we decided to stay for another two nights to relax by the lagoon and kill some time on the cheap before making our way down to Rainbow Beach where we start a 4x4 camping trip on Fraser Island in a few days and rejoin the party hostels…

Lot’s of Love,

Amy and Sailing Steve
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