Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
Trip End Mar 21, 2008

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Flag of Australia  ,
Friday, December 1, 2006

All our photos are available here

Today's excusion is a sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands. It seems initially like being somewhat similar to yesterday in that we get a boat out to sea, stop for some snorkelling and come back again, but it actually works really well. For a start, there are only eight passengers on board, a little 30-footer. Our boatmates are a couple from Ireland (the guy looks like Jim from American Pie), a middle-aged Aussie couple and a young Aussie/Irish couple. The crew are a motley collection. Miguel is a Frenchman with a huge smile, excited about his first day on the job. Stewart is as gay as Christmas, has one of those weather-beaten sailor's faces and blond hair permanently brushed back from years of sea breezes. The skipper is Josef, a Portuguese-born Californian who moved to Australia 30 years ago and has an accent that comprises all three countries. He has long hair in a pony tail, a muskateer goatee and a sailor's cap to give off that 'salty sea dog' look.

We head off out into the islands and it isn't long before the passengers are all spreadeagled on the front deck, soaking in the 30 degree temperatures and the warmest of sea breezes. A couple of hours of this brings us to Hayman Island. The other side of the island is where the millionaires hang out in their US$4000 per night resorts. Our side is known as Blue Pearl Bay and is renowned as one of the three best spots in the world for snorkelling. There is one other small boat moored when we arrive but they clear off, meaning that, remarkably, we have this idyllic spot all to ourselves. The snorkelling is, indeed, brilliant.

Unlike yesterday, when there were dozens of people floating around and into each other, there is only the eight of us in this little bay. Stewart throws some fish food into the water where we are, causing hundreds of technicolour fish to create a virtual wall in front of us. The coral is spectacular agian, an ecosystem as complex and developed as any city, with inhabitants as diverse and attractive as you can picture. When you snorkel, you can hold your breath for a few seconds and just listen to the fish pecking away for something to eat on the coral. Jane even spots a large stingray, swimming around, minding its own business. This completes the set of potentially fatal creatures Jane has seen in Australia.

Back on the boat, we do this thing called 'boomnetting'. A rope net, such as the one you climb up on an obstacle course, is attached to the back of the boat. The eight of us climb in to the water and hang on to the 'netting' as the boat zooms along. It is quite a challenge to keep hold of the rope so I'm surprised that no one loses their grip.

This may be our last chance for sunbathing for a while, as if we need it, so the rest of the journey back to terra firma involves a lot of lounging and lazing, aided by a big lunch.

We run into the English ladies at the pub again, which is very sweet, then we head to the bus station for our next overnight bus, to Cairns. Today is my 30th birthday, a milestone that always seemed so distant and unrealistic. Ah well, no point in dramatising it - it is what it is. On the way to the bus station, Jane stopped me in a quiet and deserted park and began to serenade me with a fairly lout rendition of 'Happy Birthday'. As soon as she finished, a voice from the darkness called out in a German accent "it is your birsday?" "Um, yeah," I responded. "Oh ja, it is my birsday too!" said the figure excitedly, revealing himself to be a German backpacker, heading to the bus station with his girlfriend. "Vot a coincidence! Ve are birsday tvins! Yay December first!"
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