Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef and Kuranda rain forest
11/03/2008 - Cairns area
Hello from a wet and windy Australia!
We have now moved further North, and are currently residing in the Cairns YHA (and very nice it is too). We've spent most of the past few days on the ocean, 3 days on a wonderfully fast Trimaran racing yacht, and yesterday out on the great barrier reef both in some rather choppy waters!
Day 60 Waterfront Backpackers S20.2690 E148.7206
We arrived early morning in Airlie Beach after a long and mostly sleepless night on the train. Thankfully each seat has its own TV and radio system, so we could pass the time that way. Cameron took the opportunity to watch The Simpsons Movie for the 6th time this trip, and still laughs out loud, much to Nicky's tuts! As we were too early to get into the hostel we meandered around Airlie Beach for a few hours and found nowt much other than it being the main harbour port for the Whitsunday Islands. Waterfront Backpackers hostel is no 5* job, no atmosphere and a pretty dingy room (but hey - we only use it to sleep). Same old mooching around for the afternoon, before grabbing an early night to catch up on lost sleep!
Day 61 Whitehaven Beach S20.2945 E149.0538
Lunch Stop S20.1539 E148.9609
Woke up to lovely blue skies and sunshine which looked great for sailing, and headed down to the Marina to meet our boat and ship-mates for the next 3 days. Avatar is a 67ft Trimaran (3 hulls) and is very fast and pretty stable compared to some other boats. There were 18 of us and 3 crew aboard for our trip, (representing UK, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Canada, Sweden, US and Australia.) Winds were strong, 25-30 Kts as we set sail for the Islands which made for some exciting fast sailing, together with some hard bouncy-bouncy action on the waves! The good weather didn't last, and the day was punctuated by short, sharp downpours which made most people head into the small cabin (fine as long as you didn't mind hot and cramped conditions, or suffer from sea sickness!) The best option was to stay on deck and get wet! We stopped in the afternoon at Whitehaven beach which is the most famous beach of the Whitsundays, and considered by many to be the best in the world, the sand is white and as fine and soft as talcum powder. However with the blowing wind all that meant was that the stuff got in everywhere and you were sharply stung as it blew past! We're still finding sand in bottom of bags and in clothing a week on! Had a lovely spag bol for dinner cooked by Sarah our host, who did a fabulous job of looking after us all with some spot on food choices. We had hoped to sit on deck in the evening and watch the stars as we supped a few beers, but instead we just got wet AGAIN!!
Day 62 Hill Inlet S20.2426 E149.0228
We kept waking in the night to shut the air hatch above our cabin as the showers kept kicking in and the water dripped in! However, at least our cabin (in the loosest sense of the word) had a curtain to shut it off from the main cabin, most people were just on bunks at the sides - on double matresses, and some with brand new sleeping buddies! We were ferried ashore for a morning walk up to a viewpoint high above the Islands. Nice jaunt through a rainforest but predictably we got rained on again! The view was good but we all agreed would have been much better in the sunshine, and without the highest tide of the month. As we waited for the tender to take us back to Avatar we got wet again, and this time there was no where to hide, and we were all drenched! Back aboard we changed in to swim suits (well doesn't matter if they get wet!) and put on our very sexy lycra stinger suits to protect us from jelly fish stings. The snorkelling was really good, and we saw lots of multi-coloured fish and some fantastic corals along the rocky shore. At a different site later in the day we met Albert, a Maori Wrasse fish weighing in at around 50KG, over a metre in length, and hungry for the food the crew had thoughtfully provided. It's very strange to PAT a fish!! Some stars came out this evening in between the showers, and a much bigger shelter was rigged up on deck to sit and enjoy our beer in the fresh air! As the night progressed there was much singing and dancing aboard Avatar, a cracking good nights entertainment all round.
Day 63 Bairds Point S20.1076 E148.8939
Mantaray Bay S20.1181 E148.8870
More rain in the night (surprised?..NO) but was dry when we woke up. Nicky took a lovely dip off the back of the boat before breakfast, principally to rinse off and refresh as the showering aboard is limited to 30 SECONDS per person per day! With no shampoo as it harms the fragile reef eco structure, so we all smelled bad together! We motored to another bay for a last snorkel, but the visibility was poor compared to the previous day. More interesting was the sailing ship "Romance" which was shipwrecked on the rocks, having been caught up in the violent storms a few weeks ago when winds reached 80mph. All passengers and crew were rescued, and the ship (and pax luggage!)abandoned. After lunch we hoisted the huge sail for one last time and made for port. We had the wind right behind us and the sailing was fantastic, Avatar got airbourne frequently, and came crashing back down sending spray over everyone, some people tried to stand on the trampolines between the hulls and see how long they could manage it - we preferred to take photo's and laugh at them! We got back so fast we had overtaken many other vessels, and actually had time to tack and sail around a bit longer before finally mooring up (We're sure the crew were playing chicken/taking the mickey out of the other boats by aiming at them, and just turning away at the last moment as we raced up to them!). The shower back at the YHA was probably the best shower the world had at that moment in time when we got back! Most of the group got together for some food and beers in the evening before splitting up and heading our separate ways. Guys, to you all thanks for a wonderful trip on Avatar! We have some great memories and its fantastic to see so many photos up on Facebook already!
Day 64 Cairns YHA S16.9246 E145.7734 Alt 20m
Early start again for us and a long day ahead, 11 hours on the train up to Cairns. An uneventful journey (Thank God for individual entertainment systems which prevented madness setting in - Simpsons Movie - Woo-hoo!). At one point the train suddenly came to a sharp screeching halt, at first we thought we had hit something on the line as the drivers camera on the front of the train showed a car just to one side of the tracks, turns out it had got bogged down there (WHY???) and we hadn't hit it but managed to stop in time - PHEW! Arriving at Cairns YHA is a delight after the last hostel, nice room and facilities are good too.
Day 65 Fun Ship S16.9051 E145.7635
LIE IN today!! Nicky not out of bed until noon, FANTASTIC! Though we were woken up a couple of times by a tannoy system which is installed in every room (what a shock that was when the voice from above kicks in at 0930!) Kind of reminicent of Hi-De-Hi (without the zylophone!) Nothing planned for today for the first time in ages, so we wandered around the shopping centres, booked up some tours for the next few days and took a lovely walk along the Cairns Esplanade which is 2.5km long, and has frequent signs warning you to keep a lookout for Crocs. How a shoe can hurt anyone we have no idea?
Day 66 Marine World S16.52'16 E146.12'35
Reef Magic tour out to the Great Barrier Reef today. Rough sea conditions as soon as we leave the harbour, so much so that the Captain advises us all to remain seated and if we want to move around the boat get a crew member to help us! After 90 mins we arrived at Marine World, a purpose built platform moored out by the reef from which you can dive, snorkel, watch the fish and take a semi-submersible ride. The YHA had a special deal going that gave us each a free introductory SCUBA dive, Nicky conveniently forgot she already had a diving licence. So first off we changed in to our stinger suits, this time a lovely pinky/red colour - NICE! and got kitted up with SCUBA gear. There were just 3 of us on the dive, which was a good number, and the instructor (from Liverpool!) guided us down a few metres, and once we were all happy with our breathing took us out along the reef wall for half an hour or so. It was a relief to get down under the water as the waves on top made it really difficult to snorkel. After our dive we had hoped to take a short helicopter trip over the reef but they cancelled it due to bad weather and there only being us pair wanting to do it - Boo Hiss! So we went snorkeling, trying out the digi camera we had hired for the day, and also Nicky's new waterproof bag case thing for her camera (Nervous? - her? naw!) The results are pretty impressive we think! See for yourself - the pics in the Gallery are all ours (other than the Scuba one of Cameron)! After lunch it was feeding time for the big fish on the reef, and here we met Wally, another Maori Wrasse - just like Albert. He was only too happy to pose with us for some piccies! We joined a snorkel safari trip before heading home, this took us further out on to the reef but was spoilt by having about 20 people in the water being bashed about by the waves, and all trying to look at the same things & hear what our guide was saying - we lost count of how many flippers were flapped in faces/eyes/groins/etc.!!! On the boat ride back to shore you could see many people using their small paper bags, but thankfully we were fine - we're starting to get gills and sea legs by now on this trip!
Day 67 Lunch at Kuranda S16.8201 E145.6345 Alt 392m
No water today! Apart from a few rain showers anyway. Took the world's longest cable car ride 7.5km up to Kuranda village in the rain forest. We got out at two stations along the way to look at the forest close up and to see the amazing Barren Falls - which given the amount of water we've had recently are in full flow! At Kuranda we headed to the Butterfly sanctuary and spent a happy hour trying to get photos of the little blighters as they flew by. Some amazing colours and designs. Cameron wearing his red/white T shirt was very attractive to them and found a few landing on him mistakenly thinking him a lovely flower! Sweet! Later we headed to bird world and got up close and personal with many native and exotic species. By that we mean they were landing on our shoulders, arms and heads, one little parakeet took a real like to Cameron's head and starting pulling out his hair and chewing on it! Another took a large nibble of his ear which caused him to yell out sharply - haha! The piccie is in the gallery. The bird is in it's grave. All the time Nicky watching very amused and taking photos of the trouble makers. After a spot of lunch and dodging another rain storm, we took the Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns. The journey was superb with great views of Barren Falls, the Barren Gorge and the Cairns Tablelands. Nicky had her piccie taken with the loco (awww!)
So that's it for another one. We are both suffering with colds at the moment, believed to have started with the 3 days on Avatar where we ranged between damp and waterlogged the whole time, bugger! Still we can't let it stop us, off to Melbourne in a couple of days for the Formula 1 GP, fantastic!
NB. The best thing we have found in OZ is their drive through bottle shops (Off Licences!) you simply drive up, place your beer or wine order, they pass it out to you, and away you go! Superb and another idea Cameron is thinking of taking up for his return. They even have a slow and fast lane depending whether you know what you want, or you want to browse - what a genius idea!
Keep a look out for us on TV during the motor racing this Saturday/Sunday - we're in the Turn 9 Clark Curve stand! xx