Week Thirty Three - Tropical Queensland

Trip Start Aug 26, 2003
Trip End Aug 24, 2004

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Thursday, April 8, 2004

I forgot to mention last week that we are now, officially, in the tropics having crossed 'The Tropic of Capricorn' last Friday. The weather doesn't concur.

Day 215 - Tuesday 30 March

Well Nicola wasn't entirely right. The boat was launched in 1961 when I was minus 3 so we were both approaching middle age. Unlike myself, however, Enid acted her age most of the time. We were the only passengers out of twelve who had their own cabin. The American couple, Steve and Jeannie, had been told that they had booked a private cabin but ours was the only one. They weren't overly impressed and slept both nights out on the deck. As usual on these trips the rest were a mixed bunch. Stuart was an English fellow teaching English in Japan for the last 3 and a half years. Erin, English and her mate Penilla, Swedish, have been working on luxury yachts in the Med with Bono as there most famous passenger to date. They said that he was lovely by the way. Alexi was also English and was the founder of a scholl for dyslexic adults in London. The two Swedish girls Sandra and Lisa were students. Lastly were a Swiss couple, Daniel and Daniella which was handy for remembering. The boat was crewed by Dave, Skipper, Tristram, Deckhand and Rob, Host and Cook. It was windy and overcast as we left harbour. The boat gunwales were submerged on the way out to our first snorkeling stop at Dumbbell Island. Luckily the bay was sheltered and we saw plenty of fish and coral. After lunch we sailed on to the northern end of Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island which is ranked in the top three beaches in the world. We spend the night drinking and listening to music. When we go down to bed our cabin is roasting and after nearly chopping my finger off, eventually get some respite from the little ceiling fan overhead.

Day 216 - Wednesday 31 March

Up for brekkie at 7.30 then Tris takes us over to the beach for an hour. All the other boats that moored here overnight are doing the same so the deserted beach is soon full of people playing volleyball and Frisbee. The sand is truly pure white powder. Although it is warm it soon begins to rain and we huddle for shelter under the palm trees. The launch picks us up and we go back to the Enid for tea and biscuits. Next we motor down to the southern end of the 3km long beach. From here we go ashore and walk over the island to the famous Tongue Point viewing deck. The views are often used in promotional material for The Whitsundays and it isn't hard to see why. Back to Enid for lunch then sail to Hook Island and snorkel in Madeline Bay. The coral and fish here are the best so far. A large blue Maori Wrass is the main attraction and he turns up on cue. Large batwings also impress with their size and grace. This is spoilt a bit when we swim back to the boat where the crew point out that the Batwings hang around the yachts waiting for toilets to be flushed. We move on to the next bay where we anchor for the night. After dinner everyone is more chatty and we stay up swapping stories of food poisoning in Asia. Stuart wins with his stories of passing blood in India. Everyone agrees on the virtues of sleeping bag liners, travel towels, Maglite torches and the pleasure of finding 'Boots' in Thailand. At midnight our cabin is a little cooler and I manage to sleep most of the night although Nicola doesn't.

Day 217 - Thursday 1 April

We awake at 4am to a horrible crunching noise to find that we have dragged anchor and have drifted onto the rocks. The high winds make it impossible for the crew to motor off the rocks and they have to send out a mayday message on the radio. The boat gets battered on the sharp rocks and is soon letting in water fast. We grab our bags and huddle on the deck in driving rain waiting for rescue. Luckily we all soon realise that it is April Fools Day and sit down to breakfast of honey on toast. We don our damp Stinger Suits which we hired for $10 for the three days. I don't know what the difference between these and a wet suit is but I think that these are just slightly thinner. Box Jellyfish are the main reason for wearing them and although it is very rare for anyone to get stung, it is a requirement that we wear them. We jump off the boat and snorkel over to the rocks. At first there isn't much life about but then five massive, blue Lumphead Parrotfish swim by. The noise of the beaks crunching the coral and the sheer size is amazing. These guys are about four feet long and four feet deep. As we start to swim back to the boat, the rain starts to fall. Nicola then spots our first shark. A small grey Reef Shark circles us before disappearing into the gloom. As small as it is, it is still a scary sight to see one of these predators so close looking like it just wants to bite something. We swim rather faster back to the boat. The deep water between the coral and the anchorage is frightening. When you can't see the bottom you just expect Jaws to loom up at you from the murky depths. Thanks Spielberg. We scramble a little uncool-ly up the ladder onto the boat. The hatches are battened and we motor over to Langford Reef. The weather clears up into a beautiful sunny day. Beside this small island and sandbar there is an island called Hayman Island which is home to one of the top resorts in the world. Helicopters and seaplanes come and go as we pass. The launch drops us off at the sandbar where turtles cruise up and down. We walk across the sandbar which is partially submerged to the island as a helicopter takes off. By the time we walk back the sandbar is fully exposed. This is more like the Whitsundays that we had expected from the brochures. Back on board we have lunch then sail for home. The wind picks up and soon Enid is screaming along at 13 knots. We get back into harbour and, after saying our goodbyes and taking the group photo, get the bus back to our van. We are tired and, after a sandwich, decide not to go to the bar where everyone has arranged to meet up. We sit in instead and manage to get a ropey picture of My Restaurant Rules to catch up on our favourite program.

Day 218 - Friday 2 April

It's raining again. Nicola sleeps on while I am sitting outside under the canopy typing up this entry. There is only one fag left in the box so I better go and get the bus into town for some more. It is too much hassle to pack up the van and drive in. Back soon. Discovered Bottle Store within walking distance which was handy. 75 Winfield 8s, some more wine and Mid-Strength Carlton Beer purchased. Watch some TV then after showering we have couple of glasses of wine then walk out to the bus stop to join 20 others for transfer to Shute Harbour for the half hour ferry across to South Molle Island. The boat is fairly full and we enjoy some drinks on the way across. The ferry stops off at the beautiful looking Daydream Island to pick up more revelers. At SMI we walk into the resorts bar/club/restaurant. The much vaunted seafood buffet is mediocre at best. The Polynesian band do some covers for a couple of hours before the main show. They play traditional music from islands such as Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii etc whilst the three male and three female dancers do their thing. They then get members of the audience up to do a turn. Luckily we aren't picked. The highlight of the evening comes at the end when a skinny bloke falls down the steps breaking at least three pelvi. All in all 2 out of 10. The boat back is full of drunks. An English guy with his fat Aussie girlfriend comments that it is nice to see the Irish still drinking on the way home. I reply that I would rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. That shuts him up. Thanks to Tom Waits for the line. We get home at midnight somewhat the worse for wear.

Day 219 - Saturday 3 April

Its lashing again today. During her morning shower Nicola is joined by a large cockroach from the shower curtain. Luckily she remembers her towel before screaming out of the amenities. Hitchcock didn't produce the scariest shower scene ever. He should have tried showering in a Queensland campsite amenity block. Giant moths, roaches, mantises, grubs and spiders seem to love a good shower. We sit watching TV until tea time then order Thai food to be delivered to the van. It is delivered direct to the van and the food is excellent. We eat up then, afterwards, sit watching 'The Monarch of the Glen'. This is the second Saturday night in a row that we have found ourselves watching this strangely compulsive, crap show. Gotta get a life.

The Air Con
Car adverts in Australia often carry the strap - 'Now available with free air'. At first I thought it was a bit tight sending out new cars with flat tyres before realising that they meant free air conditioning. Our campervan has two air con systems. One in the cab and one in the cabin which runs off the mains once we are plugged into the powered site. At first we switched the air con off when we went to bed. Now though we leave it on all night. This doesn't please the bearded, tree-hugging lesbians in the tents beside us but we reckon that there is plenty of environment in Australia. ( I just did an English (US) spell check on the word 'environment' which I have never liked the letter 'n' in. Surprisingly the yanks still spell it with the 'n'. There is a job for President Bush. Take the 'n' out of environment. After all, he has managed to take the 'f' out of 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' - that nearly works apart from the letter 'f' in 'of'.)

Day 210 - Sunday 4 April

Up at 6.30 and pack up the van. We have 600kms to cover today to get to Mission Beach which only 120kms south of Cairns. An uneventful six hours later we arrive in rainy Mission Beach. After checking out the various sites in town we decide on Hideaway Village Caravan Park. Although the site seems fullish there is hardly anyone around. After crossing the road to the beach we are unimpressed. The beach is strewn with flotsam. We wander into the small village and go online to book our accommodation in Port Douglas. We get a five star luxury apartment for ₤60 per night as opposed to the advertised rack rate of almost ₤200, booked through 'Rates-To-Go'. Next to 'The Shrubbery Bar' to take advantage of Happy Hour where a local musician is playing. She is quite good in an 'angry lesbian' sort of way. On the way home my flip-flop breaks so I dump them and walk home jaggedly to the van. Flip-flops are called 'thongs' in Australia. We sit supping, chatting and listening to Zen (the MP3 player) until eleven.

Day 211 - Monday 5 April

Woken by heavy rain at six which persists until we get up at eight. There is no water left so we have to drink the tap water until I walk into town and get some bottled stuff along with breakfast material. The campsite is still strangely deserted. We think that it is the bungalows which gives the place a depressing feel. They give the place a deserted army camp sort of feel. We are leaving tomorrow to go to Kurrimbine Beach which is just up the road and which some Aussie had said is supposed to be the nicest beach in Australia. We'll see. We walk around the town a couple of times then go online and book accommodation in Darwin, again with Rates-To-Go, for ₤35 as opposed to ₤100 per night. Good news from back home that we have won the family Grand National Sweep (thanks to Lorna for posting the ante). So bored are we that we rush back to the van to watch 'The Bill' at 2pm. We don't leave the van again for the rest of the day. I make the nicest Spag Bol ever then we watch more TV. As I sit here typing in front of 'The Simpsons' the rain has begun to fall steadily again. At least back home you expect it. Tomorrow has got to be better. Tune in next week to find out.

Happy birthday to my dad for tomorrow.

Note: The magnificent underwater fish photos will be posted as soon as we have the films developed. Maybe next week.

And finally....I wonder how successful U2 would have been if they had called themselves 'You Too'?
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