Sailing the Whitsundays and the Evil East Coast!
Airlie Beach, Queensland
I have to admit, I know I love a good moan but the East Coast so far isn't really doing anything for me. Whilst I had a brilliant day on the reef, Cairns as a town didn't offer much more, particularly as we couldn't afford a rainforest trip. We had a nice little 10km walk in Mission beach but it was a bit too windy to sunbathe, and I was very upset we didn't see any giant cassowarys! When speaking to other travellers about the East Coast the first thing they mention is how pissed they were the entirety of the time, something I like on the odd occasion but I'm past the time in my life when I want to be wasted every hour of the day, that's what Uni was for! As a result I feel too old to be here in the party towns. Thus, so far the places we have visited have been a bit dull and it feels like we've just whiled away the hours waiting for our next trip to come around. A shock to the system really after such a busy time in Asia, the West Coast and Uluru, and meaning I'm starting to get itchy feet.
We're currently in Airlie Beach, the drop off point for tours of the Whitsundays, and again there isn't much to do apart from sit around the hostel. Now I know I probably sound ungrateful, but I'm truly not, I'm just wanting a bit more to see and do, especially for the money I'm paying to be here! Hopefully the cities and Great Ocean Road will have more going for them than the beaches of the North.
Anyway, I'm currently sat outside our hostel room in Airlie Beach, having returned from a 2 day and 2 night sailing trip and still feeling like I'm riding the waves. Our two roommates are Irish lads currently playing some r and b music out of their ipod - my favourite! Those of you who know me well will know that is sarcasm. I just hope that they are more considerate than our last roommates, 2 guys who kept us awake most of the night holding very loud conversations outside the room on the balcony, banging in and out of the fridge to get more Jim Beam, and then, when finally deciding to come to bed at half 6, having a conversation in the room with a friend, and snoring so loudly the windows shook (I don't exaggerate) thus meaning both Nina and I got around 5 hours sleep for the two nights before our trip.
Anyway, moan over, I'll get to our sailing trip around the Whitsundays. We had booked to go on a 2 day and 2 night tour on the 'Broomstick', an ex-racing vessel that I don't think won anything of note, but now has a happy retirement here at Abel Point Marina. 25 of us trooped onto the boat, everyone wondering how exactly we were all going to fit on the boat with any modicum of comfort. The answer was: there wasn't much comfort but a good time was still had. We set off mid-afternoon to our first point, False Nara, where we partook in a little bit of snorkelling, but even with stinger suits on it was damn cold, and the water was pretty cloudy so we didn't stay in long and preferred to get back on the boat and into warm clothes! Compared to Cairns there wasn't much to see anyway. In the evening we had some pretty darn tasty roast chicken, veg, stuffing and mash, which I was very pleased about and even managed to snag seconds! The group was a nice enough bunch, largely younger than us and thus in more of a party mood, so Nina, myself and a few others dropped off to sleep to the sounds of some drinking game I never quite found out what the rules where - 'Red Light', 'Amber Light', Green Light'…zzzz. Now when I mention sleep, this is a figurative term and doesn't really describe what Nina and I experienced that first night. Let me first paint a picture of the boat for you - plenty of space up top for everyone to sit around in the sun, a nice little galley kitchen with just enough space to cook for 29 people (including crew) which also contains 6 beds along one wall, a tiny fore-cabin with 4 beds squeezed in there, and a marginally larger aft-cabin with (I am totally making up these sailing terms by the way. Ellen MacArthur I am not) 12 beds in. When the wet towels and swimwear was hung up it was pretty claustrophobic and much more than the two nights we stayed would have been a bit much for me I think. The 2 toilets for all 29 was also a little stifling, especially when one kept breaking and you could only shower for 1 minute due to limited water (totally understandable but jeez was I desperate for a shower when we got back). Anyway, Nina and I found ourselves in little berths alongside the wall, luckily we had managed to get lower bunks as the condensation from the ceiling dripped on you on the top, haha. We had little sheety sleeping bag things and a little blanket but it was pretty cold on the water and even with big socks and 2 tops on I think the low temperature contributed to my sleeplessness. This was exacerbated by, firstly, the noise from the goon-happy kids on the top deck (what a grumpy old granny I am) and then the world's loudest snorer who sounded like a chainsaw drowning in a bowl of water. I was very concerned at one point that they were going to drown in their own mucus it sounded that bad. Never found out who it was to recommend a doctor either. All of this would have been a lot less irritating had we had full nights sleep the previous two nights. The morning brought a very sleepy and irritable Becca to the galley for breakfast at 6am.
The morning of our only full day was spent at Whitehaven beach, apparently the second most beautiful beach in the world but that is not a fact I have looked up online so I can't confirm if that is an official statistic or just the opinion of Andy, our deckhand. Granted it was gorgeous, sand so white it looks like snow, pale turquoise waters and sandbars peeking up from the depths, stingrays basking in the shallows and tall islands rising across the bay. My only disappointment was the amount of leaves and debris strewn across the main body of sand, obviously because it's autumn and the leaves are falling but I kind of hoped for pristine sand since we were the first people on the beach. Nina and I sat for about an hour with a stiff breeze causing goosebumps on our arms and legs before we gave up and decided to go for a wander. Now this was very fortuitous since about 5 minutes round the corner there was a PERFECT secluded bay, sheltered from the wind and where no one else on the beach had yet found. This cheered our mood up a lot and we lay in the lovely sun for a couple of hours before we had to return to the boat. One comment that both of us have noticed has become somewhat of a motto of the East Coast - 'it would be lovely if it weren't so windy'. We really do need to get used to colder weather as we're going South as winter continues so winter woollies are on the agenda for our arrival in Brisbane.
After Whitehaven beach there was another opportunity for snorkelling, but what I'd seen so far hadn't impressed me as much as Cairns so we stayed on the boat and relaxed. Good job too since I had a headache, probably from too much sun on my freckly skin! Rob, the Captain, took us all over to Langford Island to watch the sunset with nachos, which was a beautiful little place - as it was high tide it was literally a large sandbar in the middle of the ocean, very Pirates of the Caribbean. There was a particularly gregarious seagull named 'Geoff' who seemed to like the nachos and entertained us all for a solid half hour. Simple things!
We spent the night anchored at Stonehaven, relaxing, chatting and eating and managing to get a much better nights sleep with the addition of another layer of clothing and my scarf. I think exhaustion had also set in by then! The next morning we set off to Airlie Beach, with a quick snorkel stop on the way, and some nice bird spotting, a nest of the white breasted sea eagle and some red kites, absolutely beautiful in flight and a nice end to the trip. Not quite a falcon but you can't have everything.
I think I've had my share of the sea and boats for a while now, I'm definitely a child of the land and keen to get this feeling of swaying out of my system!
I suppose I'll just end this post how I ended many of my Asia posts, with a rundown of what I have learnt so far in Queensland.
1. Don't bother buying cheap suncream - it's like painting your skin and is nearly impossible to wash off.
2. Essex boys seem to be the predominant traveller out here, and good God are they annoying.
3. Nina and I apparently look and sound Dutch, Swedish and German (OK I can kind of understand the last one).
4. If Aussies get drunk enough they will buy you Maccy D's. WIN.
5. The East Coast is windy.
6. Free internet is a thing of the past unless you go to Maccy D's (there is a theme here somewhere…)