After arriving in Airlie beach on Friday, we started looking around at the various different cruises that were available and settled on a smaller looking boat that promised good food, great views and a truly relaxing experience. What more could we want???
The only thing that we still needed to do was find somewhere to stay for a couple of days until the boat set sail as nobody fancied sleeping in the car for that long! Luckily enough we were recommended a place by the travel agency / information centre place that was confirming our cruise (you have to book it in one place and then confirm it in another for some reason??), and when we got there (up a bloody big hill) it was fantastic. The apartment itself was amazing enough, but the view from the balcony was even better as it looked out over the whole town and out towards the Whitsundays, where we could see all the boats leaving from and returning to the harbour. There was also one of those infinity pools that has the water going right over the edge so when you're swimming it looks like you can just swim right into the sea!!
We spent a couple of days relaxing by the pool and finding somewhere to leave the car while we were on the boat, and then the departure day finally arrived.
We took the car to the underground car park and despite the fact that the engine cut out whenever there were no revs (which meant that the brakes and steering didn't work either) we managed to push / park it relatively safely, and headed off to the marina.
We arrived at the docking platform with our small rucksacks for the three day / two night cruise, and immediately filled up on the one essential that we had all forgotten. Alcohol! Once we were all checked in and everyone was shown to their cabins, it was time to get started and we all went up to the deck to catch the breeze.
The first day was spent sailing around, getting to know the other people on the boat, the captain and his mate. There were only twelve people on the boat including us, and we all soon found a place to soak up the sun. We sailed around some of the islands in the area, although for all we knew we could have been doing circles all day, and stopped for some lunch around 2:00pm. We had some really nice pasta and salads and then lay back in the sun for the rest of the afternoon before pulling into a little bay for the night. That evening the water was really calm and after dinner everyone enjoyed a drink or two before heading to bed. Out of all the people on the boat, it was only us and an elderly American couple that stayed in the cabins as everyone else slept on the deck to get some breeze.
The next day we set sail quite early, and soon stopped for a bit of snorkelling. The only problem with this was that the water was pretty murky and we couldn't see much at all, so we were all back onboard after about half an hour to enjoy our breakfast and make our way around to Whitehaven beach, which promised to be one of the highlights of the trip.
When we got there we moored up and were taken to the island in the tender, before walking up to the lookout on top of the hill. The view was truly amazing, as the water was so clear that we could see some stingrays swimming around and the sand was so white that it almost looked like snow. As great as it was from the lookout, we didn't stay too long as we wanted to get down to the sand itself, so we headed back along the track and out to the beach. When we got down there it looked even better and once we had found somewhere to leave our bags, we headed out to the water for a splash around. It was just like playing around in bottled water, but after just an hour and a half we had to leave behind our new favourite place and head back to the boat before we got stranded on the island all night.
Once we left the island, we made our way around the front of the beach so we could see where we had just been, and started to think of where to spend the night. The captain suggested we stayed at Hamilton Island, and despite nobody being particularly keen, we ended up at that very place. It soon became clear that the captain wanted to go out drinking with a mate of his and had told each of us that everyone else wanted to go to the island, so that we would all go along with it!!
We pulled up into the harbour between two boats that were each worth upwards of $800,000 and felt more than a little out of place. Everyone slowly made their way to the public showers while dinner was prepared and then it was back to the boat for the evening. It wasn't until after we were all fed that we started to talk and realised that we had been conned into coming to the island, but by then it was too late. However, it didn't all turn out as the captain had planned as he had to come back at 3:00am and try to fix the boat that was taking on water. It turned out that there were three bilge pumps on the boat and every one of them had broken, so a drunken captain was covered in oil and dirt trying to keep us afloat.
The next day we had a little time to look around the island while the boat was fixed properly, and we discovered a restaurant where we could have a fry up breakfast and one of the waiting staff would bring out a koala that would sit on the table while we ate!! We decided against that, and settle for another great brekkie on the boat. The rest of the day passed fairly smoothly and we got a chance to be behind the wheel ourselves, as well as seeing a few turtles poking their heads out of the water (probably wondering why the boat was veering from side to side).
When we were back on dry land we headed back to the car and somehow managed to get it back up the hill to the apartments. We stayed a couple more days as it was such a nice place and got the car fixed (gotta love the Aussie way, it only cost us a crate of beer!!) before heading south again along the coast. We arrived in Yeppoon this evening to be met by a raving mad Irish woman, and tomorrow we are continuing down to the town of 1770.