Well hello everyone!
The saying goes that every cloud has a silver lining and thankfully that was the case for us. We have just had 2 incredible days after the fiasco at the petrol station. After staying in Aye we decided to travel to Airlie beach, but it took us 1 hour to get 2km due to flooding and so we weren't holding out much hope. The next 2 hours driving were smooth sailing and we drove up a hill to look over a vast marina with hundreds of yachts, blazing sunshine and a golden beach.
We parked up next to the beach and ran to dip our toes in the sea, we were in awe! First plan of attack was to book scuba diving, it took us 10 minutes so we then enquired where is a good place to stay which happened to be a place called Magnums two buildings away. We checked in, parked the campervan and treated ourselves to a pizza. All three of us fell in love with place, it's filled with young travellers, very vibrant and fun :) we all freshened up and went for a wonder around the town, we bought a few tops to replace some tattered ones and Chris finally bought a new belt so no more moaning from josh telling him to pull his pants up!
Magnums is right in the centre of town and we soon realised the most popular place to be :) there are spaces for campervavns, tents and approx 30 villas all of which is next to the onsite pub and club. There is free wifi in the middle of the villas and to get there it's like walking through a jungle, with a stream, palm trees and wildlife. We then went to the pub which is all outdoors and had a live band playing, we chatted and drank for hours until we headed into the club where we watched a girls jelly wrestling competition - I don't think I need to elaborate on that. There were no girls from England but I felt no urgency to represent, it was a great laugh and we kept the party going back in pub where we played pool and met some Australians. We met two guys called Gary and Felippe who shortly after meeting them said I talk to much - I knew we were going to get on great :) so we all chatted until 2am which considering we were getting up at 6.30 to go scuba diving was not the best idea, always living on the edge.
We woke up feeling excited and a little bit sensitive hehe we were picked up and driven to the marina, there was a total of 24 people in our group 2 other Brits some French, Swiss, Aus and American. We sailed for an hour to Whitehaven beach which had white sand, turquoise sea and a warm breeze. All three of us wore our wetsuits and ran into the sea, josh made a sand castle and a sand angel. I couldn't believe I was really there, it looks exactly the same as the postcards. Back on the boat we had lunch and sailed an hour to a cove which had perfect diving conditions, another group dived first whereas the rest of us snorkelled. The diving crew threw bits leftover from lunch and hundreds of fish swam up to where I had my feet dipped into the sea. We all jumped in and I clung onto the boys, I was hyperventilating as all the fish scared me haha i kept squealing so the skipper pulled me out and sat me on a little motor boat. He reassured me and gave me a float to cling onto in the sea which made me feel tonnes better. We swam in closer to the beach and a whole new world opened up. Every colour fish imaginable, black and white striped, fluorescent green, blue with yellow tails and huge bluey green ones that looked like they were made out of sponge. The coral was spectacular, swaying with the current and again every colour of the rainbow. All three of us dived deep to swim inches away from the coral to see the fish feeding; in the water it sounds like the crackling from a bonfire with all the fish nibbling on the coral. I saw schools of fish one after the next, one of which came right up to my mask!
We snorkelled for an hour and the got prepped for scuba diving. We had a training session, learnt what to do if you get water in you mask, if you lose your regulator etc. And there we were, under water swimming with the fish in the Great Barrier Reef - one of my life's goals that can be checked off. Our leader was a year younger than me but very skilled and a great teacher, he said that if any of us need to hold his hand under water that's fine but only on the understanding that once we reach the surface the relationship is over. On the return journey the sun was setting and we saw dolphins riding the waves, we also had a little nap :)
Got back to the campervan ate our left over pizza, Chris watched the Formula 1 qualifying, did some laundry then went to bed. Airlie beach has by far been my favourite part of Aus and I made Chris promise me that we will come back one day :) now we are on the road to Rockhampton, approx 460km, the half way point to Brisbane. Only staying one night and then do another 8 hour drive to Brisbane where we will have 5 days to squeeze in Wet 'n' Wild, White Water World and Movie World. Oh it's nearly my birthday!
Love to all, Love Jess and Chris xxx
It's day nine in our tour in Australia. You've been a great audience. Since we arrived here we've had to flee from the elements. Trying our best to out run the rain, bugs and aged locals (with criminal records). At last we had a break through. In a happy turn of fortune the sun finally shone for us, and the bugs took a leave of absence, and we befriended some bright young Australians (who have yet to build a criminal record). In the coastal haven of Airlie Beach we got down to business and ticked off some serious boxes on our 'Australian to do list'.
Thanks to some good timing, we were among the last persons who signed up to do a dive on the Great barrier reef on a vessel called the Mantray. It was fan-dam-tastic. If you didn't want to be us before, and there are ample reasons to feel so; now you can wish it because we race with tropical fish around avenues of 600 year old coral reefs under water in the warm Pacific. Outstanding people.
I would like to give some pedigree about the roads out here. We do a fair bit of driving, and in our time we come over some bizarre sights. The signs for instance, range from 'Slow Down Stupid', to 'Survive This Drive', to 'Rest Or R.I.P.', and my favourite 'No Hard Shoulder For 200km'. The GPS on board is slightly worse when it says things like 'Beware Of Sharp RightTurn In 320km'? The roadside is like a Road Runner cartoon. It goes, field, hill, creek, then field, hill, train track, creek. Then field...
Our experiences with the Australians themselves has been mixed. They all appear to fit into one of either of two categories of people. Their are those who are free living and laid back, and then there are those who are rule happy and up tight. Nowhere was the contrast more noteworthy than in Airlie Beach. Where folks are content to swim with sharks and killer jellyfish but afterwards have a fit about seating assignments for people who wish to either eat or drink. We watched in general disbelief as two ladies were ejected publicly from a bar at a cost of great personal humiliation for just such a mishap. I too was nearly man handled by a bouncer for the same questionable error. Who knew a plate of chips would award you more attention than an approaching Great White? Hmm. Must of been the Leeds United shirt.
There's something to be said about eating in the outback too. I'm afraid the idea of there readily being packets of crocodile crumble or tins of shark soup being stacked on Australian supermarket shelves, is a little far fetched. We enjoy homely food even on the road, and only rarely do we eat out. Most of our meals are cooked right here in the campervan, we save a great deal this way. Our menu includes but hasn't been limited to, pasta, BBQ, omelettes and sandwiches. To some bemusement, I've learned I eat better in the bush than I do at sea. But as always, this no criticism.
And now a word about immigration. Now that we've seen the country first hand has it gained our appeal, and would we move here? Certainly they'd have us, and there is more than enough space. The thought had crossed our minds, especially after seeing the house prices in an estate agents shop window. You could buy a palace with a pool here for the price of a studio apartment in Broadstairs. There's more sun and less news. Mmm. It does sound good, but a big problem with that idea is our kids would grow up to be Australian. Urgh. Also, could we leave Middle-Earth to its fate, and let you lot stand alone...
Ron and Hermione have got a little sunburnt. I'm getting a healthy tan to disguise my unhealthy bug bites. Today we have to put lots of lotion on due to the long drive we've got ahead. O look a creek! We're anxious to get South quickly to make up for lost time on the road. There are some wicked theme/water parks outside Brisbane that we're gunning for. Ideal venues for thrill seekers like us. The idea is to do surfing and sky diving in Byron, possibly with Calum.
I'd say more, but I understand that Jess has already addressed just about everything there is. Please direct your questions to her, I'll be in the spa. :)
All the best,
Love Josh x