The drive from Townsville was only a few hours, I stopped at Ayr and Bowen on the way through, both fairly mundane farming towns surrounded by mile after mile after mile of sugar can it was at this point that I realised that North Queensland like much of Australia so far was a whole lot of nothing with not much in between.
Still I pulled in to Arlie Beach, which seemed to be a fairly buzzing town.Only small, but with the biggest marina close to the Whitsundays and the hundreds of backpackers that seemed to make up the entire population of the town it was a refreshing change from the small farming towns that I had endured so far.
Between the main street and the sea, there is a man made swimming lagoon, completely free, life guards on duty 7am-9pm, free BBQs in the picnic areas, free wifi, showers etc. Brilliant.Anyway I was strolling across the lagoon, slightly distracted by the hundreds of bikini clad ladies & the fact that I had drunk two litres of water en-route and was going to burst if I didn't get to the toilet, so distracted that I nearly walked passed five lads that I had been travelling with in Vietnam & Cambodia.Small world huh!So we spent the afternoon catching up exchanging stories and disasters.As a treat we decided to go for fish and chips, the chippy had crocodile on the menu, as this was my closest encounter so far I of course had to try it.It took every ounce of restraint I had not to say to the guy behind the counter "crocodile & chips, can you make it snappy"!
As the boys were in a big group they had manage to get a good deal on the Whitsundays Sailing trip, unfortunately they had just come back from their trip, but we all traipsed up to the travel agent and I managed to get the same deal.
In fact I managed to wangle two nights on the boat (Matador) rather than one and a dive!All of which I didn't realise until we had left the harbor. So I was a little short on booze, but it was probably a good thing witnessing 20 hangovers the following day!
Matador is a retired racing yacht, forty odd feet long, she was absolutely beautiful but with no wind she was also pretty useless!We motored out to an island a few hours off shore and anchored for the night in a gorgeous little bay.The sun had just set as we reached the bay and with not a cloud in the sky it was totally crammed full of stars.
The following day we made an early start and were one of the first boats to reach Whitehaven Beach.The charter boats have all agreed to moor on the opposite side of the island so as not to spoil the view.After the fifteen minute walk across the island we reached Whitehaven Beach, without a doubt the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.The sand is pure white, it is 40% silica so it is like walking on flour, and it is so soft that it squeaks underfoot!The sand is so fine that you can clean your teeth with it or even polish your jewelry.The water is crystal clear, stingrays and tiger sharks swimming in the shallows easy to see why it is an UNESCO world heritage site.
We had a few hours on the beach before heading back to the boat. The side of the island where the boat is moored is a giant turtle breeding ground and we were fortunate enough to see four or five turtles swimming around the boat.As we made our way to the afternoon dive site, a reef an hour or so from Whitehaven a couple of dolphins joined us, swimming alongside the boat for five minutes or so.I've seen dolphins in the wild a few times, they are such magical animals that they always get everybody really excited - a good omen for the dive!
After tiger sharks, sting rays, turtles & dolphins the dive had a lot to live up to.It was a small drift dive, so we headed out on the little rib and did the cool backward roll off the boat.Unfortunately that was the most exciting part of the dive, the visibility was about half a meter, there was tons of coral and there were fish but nothing exciting.We had definitely been spoilt before we had got in the water!
We headed back to the same island that we had moored at the previous night, as the boat was a bit of a cattle train there were no enough beds on board so four of the guys had to camp on the island, thankfully I got a bed on the boat.It was one of the crews birthdays so we had a few beers in the bar on the island.Needless to say it all go a got a bit out of hand and everyone ended up being thrown in the pool fully clothed, I was amongst the few that went in with my camera, wallet etc. in my pocket.Thank goodness my camera is waterproof, some weren't so fortunate and the skipper ended up dolling out for a new camera!
We had to take a little 8 man rib from the boat to the island, amusingly the crew and the designated driver got so drunk that managed to leave 4 passengers on the island over night and managed to fall in the sea whilst trying to drive the rib back to the boat!
A few more hangovers the following morning, I was being smug as the hangover monster didn't manage to catch me.Having not learnt our lesson we went out for a few beers that night, well the skip on the boat had arranged for 2 free pints for all so it would be rude to say no!
Prior to the beers I had been collapsed in the back of my camper, parked on a little side street where I camped on my first night in Arlie and where it had been left for the past three days.When a nice lady warned me that the police were going to have a purge that night & fine everyone camping.I reluctantly booked myself in to the local camp site. I parked up and thought I'd make the most of the hot showers, no such luck, cold showers, dirty toilet blocks and no power.I did my disgruntled from Southend act, got my money back and camped at the marina ten minutes from town.When the public toilets are all spotless with decent showers they are made to think anyone would pay for that!!!
I walked back ten minutes in town along the gorgeous bicentennial timber walk way that hovers over the rocks along the shore, the sun was setting, I had just opened my first beer it was going to be a good night and it was, a few free beers, a live band and boogie with some Swedish girls that I had toured Uluru with and randomly bumped into at Arlie - small world, a very small world!
I really wasn't looking forward to the 900km drive down to Hervey Bay and I knew the Hangover Monster wouldn't be so slap dash in dealing out his punishment this time.