Sea and Soft (Sand) Porn

Trip Start May 19, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Saturday, September 4, 2010

Things were looking bleak in the North, and the firmament wasn't about to have a change of heart.  It took two days of saturation by drizzle and goon for us to decide that our only option was to try to overtake the cloud.  So, we headed South, with me driving, Jess sharing far too much about her carnal desires, and Miriam and Ben arguing about politics and then making up over sodoku.

But next up was a turn-off that we could all agree on - to Airlie Beach, a town perched at the mouth of the Coral Sea.

Sure, it was tourist central - and the prices reflected it.  But competition means room for bartering, and after the vacuum  of the last few days we suddenly found ourselves on differing and strict tourist agendas, all overseen by tough New Yorker Miriam, a girl with such boundless energy and enthusiasm that on the rare occasions she sat down her right foot took on a life of its own, tapping away like a phantom limb transplanted from an Olympic sprinter.

Jess and I headed out, finally, to the reef.  After three hours at sea, with swell that would challenge even the strongest of stomachs, suddenly the waters calmed.  The deep blue hue of the ocean transformed into aquamarine, peppered with the indigo and lime green coral of the Great Barrier Reef.  Even before plunging into the water, it was simply breathtaking.  The large pontoon perched on top of it for the benefit of tourists could only be described as an abomination. 

Our guides reassured us that the company's green-friendly policy meant that the generators powering the place were switched off at night, which led me to the conclusion that the deafening roar during the day would drive off any sealife that cared to shimmy past.  I was half right.  After a good hour of snorkeling I'd seen a turtle but the sharks and rays remained elusive.  But then perhaps being a human Jaws repellant is no bad thing.

Meanwhile, Jess spent three hours on the pontoon in the most expensive sunbathing expedition Airlie has to offer after deciding that open water was simply not her thing. 

Back on dry land, we only had an evening to recover before heading out to sea once again - this time to the Whitsundays.  As typical backpackers, Jess and I had opted for the cheap version, and didn't hold out too much hope for the good ship Camara and all the cash strapped seafarers who sailed on her.  A few hours in, though, and I'd discovered that the free booze involved airline-style mini bottles of Jacob's Creek, and decided to cash in my prepaid tourist dollars - a principle that I also apply to flights but which invariably leaves me green around the gills but with the comforting knowledge that 'at least I've got my money's worth'.

Of course, we stopped at Whitehaven beach.  The rulebook meant that each boat was only allowed to anchor for an hour, which made it feel a little like a loathsome package tour, but we made the best of it.  Despite the grey cloud, Jess and I lazed on the snow white sand and became momentarily energetic for photo opportunities (yes, the camera does lie).  Then, as our time in this idyll drew to a close, I polished my silver jewellery in the sand whilst Jess crafted an impressively proportioned phallus.  I guess in Paradise, there's something for everyone.

We sailed around the islands before stopping at a secluded cove where I jumped into the chilly ocean for another round of marine voyeurism, with the lifeguards looking concerned that I'd opted to don a life jacket.  Every time I bobbed up to the surface, the guide raft was never far away, but before long they'd told me I looked like a pro.  Sure, part of me thought they were impressed by the fact I'd managed not to knock myself out with my vest when I hit the sea, but I also really wanted to believe that for once I didn't look like a fish out of water. 

Once again, I found myself utterly seduced by the ocean, and its mesmerising kaleidoscope of colours.  But somehow, this time, I wasn't afraid, because somewhere along the way, buoyed by the waters of Jacob's Creek, I'd found my water wings.

Dragging ourselves away from Nirvana, we hit the Highway once again before making a pit stop in Hervey Bay, a seaside town with all the visual charm of Bognor Regis.   After bedding down in the local bat-infested Caravan Park, we awoke the next morning to hit the waves again.

Here, time stood still as we sat, patiently, waiting for the great Humpback whales to come to the surface.  They teased, and frolicked, and, once in a majestic while, threw themselves out of the water to breach, leaving behind a raincloud of spray and a boat of smiles.

And then you realise that terra firma is only the tip of the World's awe-inspiring iceberg.

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