Airlie Beach, Australia (17th Feb 2008)
On our way into Airlie Beach it was clear why the area had been so unreachable the previous few days. Driving through Mackay, which was hit the hardest by the floods, we saw all kinds of objects scattered by the roadside, the most bizarre being fridges that had most likely been washed away from nearby businesses. We saw parts of roads that had collapsed under the pressure of the water and railway lines that were piled with leaves and twigs that had been washed over them and gotten stuck. As we got closer to Airlie Beach a lot of the surrounding fields were still flooded and occasionally the water encroached on the road but was no-where near as bad as it had been. The rain was still pouring as we reached our destination, 'Koala's Backpackers', part of the same chain we stayed at in Noosa. We had to walk a fair distance in the rain to our dorm room and then when we got their most of the sheets hadn't been changed. After a fair few visits to reception and back we were officially soaked to the bone and we figured there really was no other option but to jump straight into the pool fully clothed and have a bit of a mess around as the rain continued to fall and what sun we could see began to set.
In the evening Fiery had booked a table for us all at the nearby Beaches backpacker resort so after finishing off a few glasses of the infamous goon we all put on our emergency ponchos (well Kara did, Mark already had his waterproof jacket) and braved the weather for the promise of free alcohol. Most of the bus load was already there as we had arrived late after getting carried away with the goon drinking back at the hostel but we quickly found some seats, got ourselves some food and waited for the free drinks to appear...which they soon did in the form of big jugs of beer, perfect! With the free alcohol flowing and the excellent live music in the bar we quickly got quite merry and before long we found ourselves meandering back to the hostel ready to collapse into bed!
Originally our main reason for coming to stay in Airlie Beach, and the reason most people visit, is to take a sailing trip out onto the Whitsunday Islands and the fringe of the Great Barrier Reef. The boat we had booked had already set its departure date back by a day and so when we were offered a full refund (most people were told they had to go through their travel insurance companies to get any money back) we took it straight away as the weather didn't look like it was getting any better anytime soon anyway and who wants to see such beautiful scenery when the weather isn't perfect??
Our second day in Airlie beach was as wet as our arrival day so, nursing a bit of a hangover; we trudged down to Domino's pizza for a much needed greasy dinner. Again the day didn't really get any more eventful except for hearing a rumour that a repeat of a football match would be played in one of the hostel bars. Not wanting to be holed up in our dorm room all day we ventured out again in the rain to Magnum's bar only to find out there was a football match on but it wasn't the one we expected. This didn't put us off so we got in a few pints and settled in, taking refuge from the rain. After a few hours drinking we went back to the hostel where Claire and Paula were drinking the Goon with a few other people so not wanting to be party poopers we joined in...Which lead to some funny behaviour in the stream outside our hostel room later on in the night!
On our last day in Airlie Beach the sun decided to come out and shine down on us. We took this as a perfect opportunity to have a wonder around the town and see what it's like without rain blurring our vision. It was a pretty non descript place and as many of our drivers have said, people who come here do one of two thing, either sail or drink and after not being able to go sailing we realised this was very true. We managed to get booked in to do our Dive Medical which was a little harder than we experienced. We thought it was going to be a general check up but we had to blow into tubes as hard as we could three times, make our own ears pop and then stand with one foot in front of the other, cross our arms over our chests and then stand there with our eyes closed for 60 seconds. It's not as easy as it sounds we can tell you that now! Anyway after a few more general checks and Mark getting his 'bits' felt we were given the all clear and declared fit to dive. In the evening we went for an Indian for tea which was much hotter than expected but a much needed change to the usual backpacker food we had become accustomed too, this was followed by a few drinks in Beaches Bar before an early bedtime.