Trip Start Sep 09, 2011
Trip End Jun 29, 2012

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Where I stayed
Nomads Airlie Beach

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

As we pulled into the Airlie Beach bus drop off, it started to rain, and then it started to pour, and so for about 20 minutes Bec and I were stood on benches, watching the muddy water flow underneath us. Once the rain had reduced, but not stopped, we decided we had to make a bit of a run for it, so sloshed our way through the flowing rivers, and headed to our hostel.

Not sure entirely why we bothered, because the hostel felt like a crappy holiday village for teenagers. I realise I am about to sound like a disgruntled old lady, but some of the younger British travelers are seriously irritating... they just seemed to have transplanted their typical lives of drinking and dicking around to another continent. I don't know how they can afford it either, as beers are between $8 - $16 on an average night. I am assuming that they are quintessential 'gap yaaaar' types, and are being funded by mumsy and popsicle.

They are also so loud and obnoxious... no silence. They don't seem to understand the beauty of it.

There is a really excellent quote, written by Nicholas Sparks, "We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken us a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash, and impatient must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox."

Now I'm not classing myself as old, and I can be brash and impatient with the rest of them. I can talk for England (I was reliably told this by someone we met traveling... with fondness and near admiration, but none the less). But I have started to really sense the peace of not having to always have noise. It is a wonderful thing that Bec and I are comfortable enough with each other to sit not saying much in comfortable and easy silence. Although I still prefer to have the TV on in the background where possible... that's just common sense. You might miss some quality programming if you leave it off too long.

Putting aside the noise and clatter of youth (bless 'em), Airlie Beach was kind of cute. Lazy, chilled out... but really just used by most travelers as a stepping stone to the Whitsundays. Which is exactly what we used if for too, but not before a souvenir purchase.

There is a shop called 'Opals' run by an absolute beefcake of a man whose family apparently have mined for years. Bec and I both bought ourselves some 'investment pieces' at excellent prices, and then were invited back for a free didgeridoo lesson that afternoon.

It is actually not an easy thing to do, and I'll be honest, I don't think it's something that I'll pursue. I don't think that I am a natural didgeridoo-ier... or whatever you would call someone that plays the instrument. I also think it sounds a bit, now don't think me culturally insensitive or ignorant here, but a bit... well, ridiculous. It sort of makes me think of someone hiding behind a corner blowing into a tube and throwing their voice a bit. Something I can imagine Dom Joly doing whilst balancing a massive mobile phone on one shoulder.

After buying our opals and playing the didge, we booked our Whitsunday's trip and returned to the filthy squalor of the hostel kitchen to make dinner. We abandoned that very quickly and opted for a Subway. The deliciously fresh sandwiches have been our saving grace so far, in that they only cost $5-8 dollars, and as everyone knows, are scrumptious.

The next day we were picked up and taken down to the docks to board the Derwent Hunter, an Eco-tourism tall ship, and our transport for the day. It was built in 1946, and was the first oceanographic research vessel in the 1950's. It has been fully renovated, and was all gleaming brass and polished wood. It was a beautiful ship, and we were able to pull up the main sails and be part of the whole sailing experience, which was brilliant. (Bec and I pulled up the 'throat' of the main sail, whilst another couple had the 'peak' side. We know lingo like this now. Impressed?) 

The skipper, 'Woz,' was also the owner of the company, and was a proper salty sea dog, complete with shaggy hair, earring, and open-at-the-neck loose cotton shirt. Our guide was a young Australian called Katy, and she was excellent, telling us all about the marine life and facts about the Whitsundays.

We sailed out first to Bali Hai (the Black Island), and wearing stinger suits (remember those afore mentioned incredibly dangerous stingers) we snorkeled around the Caves Cove stretch of water. There was some really interesting fish around, and it was a beautiful sunny day. We then headed over to Langford Reef. As we were snorkeling here, I suddenly saw in front of my mask a tiny translucent jelly-fish. Not knowing whether it was an Irykandju or otherwise, I quickly tried to alert Bec, who then shortly afterwards saw it too, and we swam away.

Katy asked us some questions about it, as she wanted to know whether we had seen an Irykandiu or just a small jellyfish of a different species, but to be honest with you Bec and I didn't really hang around to stare at it much, we just hot-finned it away from there!

The Whitsundays are really beautiful... a group of 74 islands which are in fact the tips of mountain tops jutting out of the Coral Sea. They were discovered in 1770 by Captain Cook, and although he named them after the day he found them (based on the liturgical calendar) he had unknowingly passed an international time-line, and so it was really Monday.

Katy told us about some of the fish and marine life as we sailed back towards Airlie Beach, and some of it was really interesting. Couple of examples for you: 

The parrot-fish in the water chew the gritty sand and then 'release it' so the second snorkeling site; the gritty sand beach at Langford Reef was essentially made of parrot fish crap. Nice. Parrot-fish also create large mucus bubbles which they sleep in overnight to minimise their scent thus protecting them from predators. They then eat it in the morning to free themselves. Delicious.

Turtles have 4 lung compartments which allow them to stay underwater for 30 minutes when hunting or 8 hours when they are resting. Turtles are able to decide on the sex of their babies; they lay them in different sands (which have different temperatures) to guarantee all male or all female babies. A huge part of turtles lives are in fact unaccounted for... no-one really knows where they go when they are not breeding, So some marked turtles have been documented and then disappeared for many, many years and then suddenly reappeared in the same location again. Like Harold Bishop when he fell in the sea in Neighbours and then returned back to manage the Coffee Shop. Just like that.

We had such an amazing day... perfect sailing weather, amazing food, good snorkeling. Both Bec and I decided that we could get used to having our own boat. Nothing huge, just a mid-sized yacht with a minimal staff: chef, deck-hands... masseuse. That sort of thing.

We were due to leave the next day at about midnight, catching the greyhound bus down to Agnes Water. As we waited in Nomads, a British lass called Charlotte turned out to also be catching the same bus, so we went and hung out in McDonald's eating chips very slowly and using the free Wifi.

Charlotte was a cool chick from near Liverpool, and we have been lucky enough to hang out with her a bit more since. More of that later :o) 



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