Wow what a day we have had today! We were both completely jiggered after our snorkeling trip yesterday and we ended up sleeping in until lunchtime (I know it's shameful). We got up at about noon and went into the kitchen to get some food when one of the guys from reception came over to us. He told us that he had just had a phonecall from one of the local scenic-flight companies to let him know they had two last minute places left on one of their flights over the Great Barrier Reef and that they were offering the seats at half price. The flight was for an hour and would do a huge loop over a 150km stretch of the reef and then back over the rainforest... the price was supposed to be $240 (£150) each but they were offering it at $120 (£75)
. At this point I am stood in the kitchen still wearing my pyjamas and haven't even brushed my hair and I'm thinking: "No thanks, there's no way you're going to get me in a small plane". Considering that I have a really awful fear of flying (I don't even know how I managed to get all the way to Australia to begin with) I knew that I wouldn't be able to fly in a small plane for an hour so I told the guy from reception that we probably weren't interested. But he brought us a copy of their brochure and showed us their website.... and then I saw the photos of the Great Barrier Reef taken from the plane. I couldn't believe how beautiful the views over the coral were and I suddenly decided that now is as good a time as any to truly face my fear of flying and to try and overcome it. I have done so many things during this trip which have scared the pants off me, but I think the scariest thing was getting on the plane at Manchester for our first flight because of my phobia. I figured that I have already achieved so much by flying all the way here that I should try my hardest to overcome my remaining fear of flying on small planes. All this happened in the blink of an eye and before I knew what was happening we were paying for the two remaining seats on the plane. We asked what time we would be getting collected and were told: "They'll be here in 5 minutes". Well I won't tell you what words came to my mind but I realised that I wasn't even dressed or had brushed my teeth. So we both ended up running around like headless chickens for the next 5 minutes trying to get ready
. A few minutes later a mini-bus came to collect us and 4 other people who were doing to the flight with us.
On the ride to the airport I was starting to feel incredibly anxious and began to think that I had made a huge mistake by signing up to this. We arrived at the airport and went into the office to check-in and have a briefing about the flight. I didn't really hear anything that was being said because my head was swimming the whole time and I could feel my heart thumping in my ears. Next we were led out of the office and taken to the yard where all the small planes were kept and I caught sight of our plane for the first time. It was tiny! It only seated 8 people and, to be honest, it looked like vacuum cleaner hose with wings stuck on the side. By this point I really felt like I was going crazy. We posed for some photos in front of the plane and I tried my best to look happy but all I could really think was: "Oh well at least my family will have photographic evidence of the plane which I'm probably going to die in". As we were climbing into the plane the batteries in our camera ran out and we had to borrow some half empty ones of the co-pilot and our camera-phone only had one bar of battery left... we had been in such a rush to get ready we hadn't even checked to see if our cameras had batteries in them. Tom and I were the last ones into the plane and we got the back 2 seats; the plane was so tiny inside I couldn't believe we were actually going to take-off in this oversized baked bean can! We all had a pair of headphones through which we could hear the pilots talking to each other; it didn't make me feel any better having the headphones because, as we taxied out to the runway, we could hear them arguing about what was making a continuous beeping noise, which didn't fill me with confidence. By the time we came to take-off I was in a real state and nearly cut the circulation off to Tom's hand because I was squeezing it so tight
. Once we were up in the air and we leveled off I started to feel a bit better (I even let go of Tom's hand!) but it was so incredibly hot in the plane the sweat was pouring out of everyone, myself worst of all! Within just a few minutes we had reached the Great Barrier Reef and the views were simply stunning. Seeing the reef from the air was an amazing experience; the colours just took your breath away. Just like with the blog from yesterday, I won't describe it too much because I think the photos speak for themselves. As we were flying along I suddenly felt very very proud of myself for having done this and I knew that I would always remember that feeling of being absolutely terrified and yet so happy that I had faced one of my greatest fears. However, there was more to come!
As we were flying over the reef it was really difficult to get any good photos because all you could see were the planes wing. In order to overcome this the pilot told us that he would gently roll the plane from side to side so that we could get a photo of the reef when the wing dipped up or down. When he said this my heart nearly jumped up into my throat and I started clawing at Tom's hand again. When he rolled the plane it wasn't actually as bad as I had expected, however after 20 minutes of rolling it each time we came to a new piece of reef I was really suffering with motion sickness. The heat on the plane had become unbearable and I was literally soaked to the skin with sweat, this mixed with motion sickness meant that I wasn't feeling too great and sat with my bottle of water on my lap, a sick-bag in one hand whilst the other was tearing strips out of the seat fabric
. However, despite all this I was still really enjoying the views out of the window and we even got to see a shark and dozens of HUGE bull rays down in the coral. The sun was shining, and apart from the odd drop of rain, we couldn't have asked for a better day to do something like this. Some of the photos that we managed to get looked like postcards and I was really impressed with Tom's ability to take great photos while the plane was swaying from side to side. After flying over the reef for about 40 minutes we headed back inland and flew along the edge of the rainforest for the remainder of our flight. The pilots had hoped to take us into the mountains to see some of the waterfalls but there was quite a lot of low-hanging cloud which was causing turbulence so we had to skirt around the outside of the rainforest instead; by the way, when you hit turbulence in a little plane it feels like your just been hit by an earthquake, you feel every little bump and jolt ten times worse than when your in a big plane... which didn't help my motion sickness in the slightest. Before we knew what was happening it was time for us to land again at the airport, and thank god we landed when we did, the temperature in the plane was indescribable by this point. We had a nice smooth landing and then taxied back to the yard with no problems. When it came time for us to get out of the plane my legs were shaking and I could hardly walk straight. Tom had absolutely loved the flight, even though I had nearly pulled his hand off his arm quite a few times, and he was really happy that our cameras had managed to last the entire trip, the last battery died just as we came in to land. Back on solid ground I had to try really hard to fight back the tears.... I had done it, I had faced one of my biggest fears! Despite feeling hot, sick and headachey I had flown in a small aeroplane!! Yippee! I felt like crap for the rest of the afternoon but I didn't really care because I was just so proud of myself; the Great Barrier Reef was the perfect place to try and finally overcome the my fear of flying.
Happy New Year everyone! We hope you had a great night and wish you all the best for 2011.