Phew that was even closer...!!
Trip Start Nov 09, 2011
71Trip End Ongoing
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the marina was new and well set out with the usual modern bars and cafes.. with a beach front,nicely maintained park and harbour for large ships near by... we then drove on to one of the northern beaches of the town , a secluded little bay with no tourists just a sandy beach, very nice for a slow stroll at the shore edge..
on leaving mackay we passed a sign telling us we were 1053kms from Cairns so just about half way... yippee..!! the road to airlie beach was a little greener with plenty of sugar cane growing in the fields both sides of the road..but little else to see for the whole 150kms.
we were sooo lucky again.. on arriving at airlie beach, one of the centres for our camper van company, the van broke down, a warning light on the dashboard indicating all was not well (it turned out to be a broken alternator). They had no replacement..we were only about 500m from the garage which fortunately was almost next door to one of the best camp sites in Queensland... blessed again..
With no indication of when the replacement part would arrive next day we decided to book a day trip of a life time and leave them to it....!!! So next morning we took the van to the garage first thing and waited to be picked up for a full day trip to the Whitsunday Islands. Would it be as good as it looked in the brochures? We were about to find out....
The minibus picked us up around 8:30 as scheduled and took us down to the harbour where we joined around 40 other travelers on the Whitehaven Xpress. Once settled on board we headed out to sea for a 90 minute sprint to Hamilton Island. At one point as we slowed to negotiate a narrow gap between two inner islands we were almost drifting between the rocks and the coral the lay just below the surface
Once again we slowed to a crawl as we approached Hill Inlet. We stopped some way from the shore and the crew lowered a small craft from the roof, with an outboard motor and inflatable sides it was similar to the inshore lifeboats used by the RNLI. In groups of about 12 we were transferred to the shore. Carrying our shoes we waded ashore and were led through the bush land up to a scenic lookout for our first view of Whitehaven Beach on the other side of the Island. What a sight lay before us. The white silica sands stretching into the distance, the sea shades of blue reflecting the sky above with the white sands clearly visible below the surface. Behind the beach what looked like jungle. Everyone's idealic view of a tropical island. What a sight.
Then the trek back to the boat and on we went around the Island for an 'Aussie' BBQ behind the spectacular beach. Once again we stopped offshore. This time we had options to swim ashore or wait to be transferred on the smaller craft. We opted to transfer by boat, though we took with us a 'stinger suit' each as apparently we were still in the jelly fish 'season'. Once ashore we donned the suits and took to the warm waters
Then we lounged out on the silica white sands whilst the crew brought ashore everything needed for our forthcoming BBQ. If you have never been on silica sands then it is something you must do. Normally sand in blazing sunshine is almost too hot to stand on. But silica sand is different. It is so fine and so white that the suns rays are reflected back off it. The sand is cool even on the hottest and sunniest of days. The crew had told us that because of this the turtles that lay their eggs all along this coast don't use these beaches as the sand is too cool to incubate their eggs.
Some time later we were called to gather round the BBQ. What a spread there was, one of the finest I have experienced. Massive aussie stakes, snags (that's sausages to you pommies), salad, rolls and all the trimmings. The only difference between this and my previous experiences of BBQs was the significant number of goanna lizards that were clearly intent on getting anything they could of our BBQ. About 18 to 24 inches they were some of the largest I have seen. The crew did their best to keep them at bay so we could enjoy lunch
As the crew packed up the BBQ and made way for another group who had recently arrived we settled once more onto the beach. We donned our stinger suits and when it was time to return to our main boat offshore I swam out in the clear, blue warm waters to the boat while Annie opted for the boat option.. Once we were all aboard and the smaller craft and the BBQ equipment had been stowed we were off again at speed to Mantaray Bay. Along the way the crew explained about the use of all the snorkeling equipment (flippers, goggles and mask), the signs we would need to communicate, and the best way to enter and exit the waters. After about an hour we arrived at our destination. My first experience of snorkeling and Annies second, In the crystal clear waters we could see the many colorful fish and the variety of coral that lay just below the waters.
What another awesome experience on our Great Adventure. One that will never be forgotten. All too soon we were heading back to Airlie Beach. It would appear that we were probably on the fastest boat as we seemed to leave the other excursion boats in our wake.
Would we have gone if our 'van hadn't broken down yesterday? Who can say. What I can say is that we were in with hindsight so glad that it had, otherwise we might have missed a (day) trip of a lifetime.
And if you were wondering I am pleased to report that when we got back just after 5pm our 'van was ready and waiting for us to continue our journey on to Cairns. But more of that later. Thank you for reading about our Great Adventure. This was certainly one of the highlights.
more details of this excursion can be found on www.whitehavenxpress.com.au