Monday, 25 April 2011

North Queensland

Wow! What a couple of weeks it’s been. On Monday afternoon I and a couple of other people joined a tour that had been making its way up the east coast. From the hostel we went down to the harbour and got onto a racing Yacht for our sail around the Whitsunday Islands. It was a little strange for me and my fellow travellers, because we were joining a tour that had already been going for over a week. Fortunately the four others who joined with me were really lovely people, so I hung around with them for most of the time. The rest of the group was pretty good too, but it was a little large, so very hard to really get to know everybody.

We started our sailing trip with a sunset sail out to Heyman Island, which was absolutely incredible. The sky was absolutely clear, so we got a beautiful red sunset over the ocean. Once the sun was down we had an absolutely incredible view of the stars. So good, in fact, that I decided to sleep out in deck that evening. Unfortunately it was actually pretty cold at night and very uncomfortable.

The next morning we went for a snorkel just off Heyman Island. There were hundreds of fish and some beautiful reef. I just wish I’d been diving down there, rather than snorkelling. It was a great taster for the diving I was going to be doing a little later in my trip. After snorkelling, we went out to Whitehaven beach, which absolutely deserves the label of the best beach in the world. The water was crystal clear and beautifully warm, the sand was pristine white. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. After leaving paradise, we went for another sunset sail back towards the harbour, which was even more beautiful that the first. We anchored up for the night before sailing into port the next morning.

The weather for the sail was absolutely perfect; warm and sunny, without being unbearable. There wasn’t much wind, which meant we didn’t do too much sailing and were using the motor most of the time. The boat was a world championship winning sailing yacht, so there wasn’t a lot of room or luxury, but it was a really interesting experience and you soon got used to it.

After we got off the boat, we got onto the bus and drove pretty much all day to get to Cairns, with only a short stop for lunch in Townsville and a couple of other little stops.

On Thursday we had a free day in Cairns, with a bunch of optional activities to choose from. I decided to go White Water Rafting on the Tully River, which was great fun. The Tully is supposed to be one of the best places in Australia to go rafting and it really lived up to its reputation. I’d never actually done any white water rafting before then, but having done it, I’d love to do more.

Friday was the last day of the tour and we went up to Kuranda to the Koala sanctuary up there. We got to hold a Koala and have a photo taken with it, and feed some kangaroos. It was a really lovely way to end the tour, especially in the rainforest setting. We came back down to Cairns in the afternoon and said goodbye to the tour guides and all went out for a meal in the evening to say goodbye to everybody. All in all a really good tour and a great way to start my trip.

After a relaxing day in Cairns on Saturday I went up to Cape Tribulation for two days. On the first day we went to a wildlife sanctuary and saw some hundred of birds, and with some crocs and a few other things. Then we went for a boardwalk in the Rainforest, which was really beautiful. We saw some of the local wildlife, like a Southern Cassowary, which is very rare in the wild, as well as some beautiful butterflies. I then actually left that particular tour at lunch time and had the afternoon pretty much to myself in Cape Trib. A had a really relaxing few hours by the pool winding down. I wanted to do a guided night walk around the rainforest, but they were all booked up, unfortunately.

On Monday morning I went ‘Rainforest Surfing’, where you fly through the canopy on zip wires. It was a really interesting way of seeing the rainforest from a completely new angle. It was also a nice little adrenaline rush, especially when I was flying upside down! I was picked up after lunch and rejoined the tour back to Cairns. We went down to Cape Tribulation beach, which is the only place in the world where two World Heritage Listed Areas (The Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest) meet. It wasn’t quite Whitehaven Beach, but it was pretty impressive. We then went Croc spotting up the Daintree River. We saw four crocs, but it wasn’t as good croc spotting in Northern Territory.

Then it was back to Cairns again. Tuesday was another quiet one before my Diving trip.

Early on Wednesday morning I got on a boat to go diving on the Great Barrier Reef. After a very turbulent two hours to get out there, we arrived at out first dive site. Because we were doing eleven dives over three days, we got into the water as soon as possible and got diving. The first dive was a little tricky for me, because I’d not been diving in quite a while, so it took some time to get back into it. Fortunately, by the second dive I’d managed to get the hang of it again, so the rest of the diving that day was much more fun! Each dive took between forty minutes and an hour, depending on depth and air consumption, so overall I had eight or nine hours diving! The first day was intense, given that we were doing four dives. Basically we would get out of the water, eat, have a short break, then get back in! In the evening I did my first ever night dive, which was a really interesting and surreal experience.

Thursday was a little less intense, but even so it went a little like this: wake up, dive, breakfast, dive, lunch, dive, dinner, dive. Exhausting! We had a little bit of free time between dives, which was usually spend resting, relaxing, playing cards and generally try to do as little as possible!

Friday was the last day of diving, so we only did three dives before heading back to shore. I then had a relaxing afternoon in which I almost went to sleep, I was that exhausted! That evening we all went out to a local pub for a meal and a drink to celebrate the end of our diving trip.

The diving on the reef was truly incredible! There were simply hundreds of fish, including some very beautiful butterfly fish, some hilariously ugly Parrot fish and some other truly bizarre varieties. Over the three days I swam with turtles and sharks, found Nemo a couple of times and generally had a great time! I hired an underwater camera for the three days and tried to take some photos. It’s very hard to take good photos underwater because the lighting is very different from the surface. Even so I think I got some decent ones. I also took a fair bit of video, which probably came out a little better.

To round of my stay in Cairns I did a 50 meter bungee jump on Saturday, which was incredibly scary, but a lot of fun! I flew back to Sydney yesterday morning at about six. I met with a friend from school who’s also doing a GAP year. He’s been in New Zealand, but came over to Sydney for a holiday. I am meeting with another friend who’s living out here for a couple of months later today as well, so the next couple of days should be good fun. I’m travelling back to Orange on Wednesday, for work to start on Thursday. After such a great couple of weeks, I’m not at all looking forward to going back to work! I’m not sure these two weeks have done anything but tire me out even more, so I expect that these first few weeks will be a little tough!

No comments:

Post a Comment