Swimming with stingers

Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
Trip End Mar 23, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Saturday, March 9, 2013

Airlie Beach, the first place in weeks where we arrived, stayed and left without getting soaked by rainfall - well very nearly!

Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and the plan was to arrive, find a day trip - an overnighter was not possible due to time constraints - and then find somewhere to stay. So we drove straight into town where Helen's first job was to buy a dress - yes a bloody dress in the middle of a camping trip! - in the local market. Having negotiated the market, we arrived on the main street to find it dug up with roadworks along it's entire length. Such a pity for all the tourists who were having to sit in their streetside cafes and restaurants with a view through Heras fencing to a hole where the road used to be. At least, it being a Saturday, there was no noise emanating from the hole..

The second thing we noticed was how many wrinklies there were wandering around. Then we saw the cruise liner parked in the bay and realised they'd all been chucked off that to give the crew some respite. This time, for a change on my travels, it wasn't the Celebrity Solstice.

The next thing that we commented on was how strange it was to see this lovely (apart from the roadworks!) seaside town with a beautiful warm torquiose sea lapping the shore and absolutely no-one swimming in it. On account of the box jellyfish, of course. Makes you wonder, when you're in town to book a snorkelling trip to the islands just how you're going to get on...

Well, we found a trip with availability for the following day that was good for us. A fast boat (four 225 HP outboards on the back) out to a lump of coral to snorkel at, followed by lunch on Whitehaven Beach. Ticked all the boxes. (As the trip we have booked ex Cairns is a sailing boat which will provide a different experience). It was great. BUT..... as we were awaiting our transportation, the lady checking us in was heard to say that they'd had a lady stung only last week on Whitehaven. Gulp...

We got utterly drenched by the walm water of the Coral Sea as we sped across to the islands, causing much merriment amongst us, particularly amongst those at the front who weren't getting a soaking... The snorkelling was better than the only other time I'd viewed coral (in the Caribbean) though Dan says it wasn't a patch on their previous experience in Indonesia. The only issue was that I've clearly become (more?) deformed as I couldn't find a mask that sealed around my chops - until Helen donated her personal one to my cause and took one of the faulty ones!!

Then off to Whitehaven Bay for lunch. Both were beautiful, the bay probably slightly more so than the lunch. The sand is white and just so fine. Apparently (according to our excellent and witty guide) it's 95% pure silica (not silicone Helen!) and it (allegedly) was used for the manufacture of the lens(es) for the Hubble telescope.

Had a little walk through the forest to a lookout overlooking the bay. Only difficult part was building up enough courage to walk past a three foot long goanna perched roughly at head level on a tree trunk right next to the track. Very daunting - but we survived - and no, we didn't turn round and go back the way we came....

Have to say that the second soaking, on the way back to Airlie, wasn't quite as amusing as the first one had been! A great day overall though..

A walk into town for a quick schooner or two of Tui's New before a takeaway pizza finished the day off a treat!

The tents were already equipped with their waterproofing measures (tarps) and it was SO HOT that night that I really thought I wasn't going to be able to breathe! Hope it's not too much hotter when we travel the next 700km north to Cairns....

Oh, note the stinger suits that feature on the photos. $7 is not too much to pay to take away the concern that you're swimming with potentially lethal seven metre long tentacles. You do sort of wish though that the suits had socks, gloves and helmets attached...
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