Paradise. Found it. Wasn't down the back of the settee, or in the glove compartment, or in the cupboard under the stairs, but about 20 kms off the coast of Queensland. It's the Whitsunday Islands.
After a long drive from the farm, buoyant with newly acquired cowboy skills, we rolled into Airlie Beach on Wednesday. Couple of brewskis then on Thursday morn boarded Providence IV, a gaff-rigged Gloucester Schooner sailing vessel (got the lingo eh?). She's a beaut. The 3 of us teamed up with 4 Germans, 2 Canadians, 1 Frenchman, 1 Swiss and a Yank for 3 days and 2 nights of sailing, swimming, snorkelling and general lazing aboutness.
On our way out to sea a pod of dolphins had a play alongside the boat, racing it and then diving out of site. Judging by the oohs and aahs of all on board, I wasn't the only one who'd never seen them in the wild before then.
Abi and me buddied up for our first trip into the big blue, and approximately 1 and a half seconds later we come up, spluttering, unable to see anything because I didn't do the mask cleaning thing properly. Anyhow, vision equipment optimised, under we go again. The water is a kind of crazy amazing transparent turquoise colour, and the fish and coral reef are every imaginable hue. Purples, blues, vibrant pinks - and that's just the speedo trunks of the Germans. The coral forms all these weird shapes, some like big orange shrubs, others like big blue brains and yet others resembling green giant clams. You gotta love nature, she's so random. And dangerous, as it's razor sharp as I found out when I dragged my foot along it. Result - foot looking like it had a disagreement with a blender.
After some ace grub created by Dave the chef, ably assisted by Becks the deck hand (who I'm positive is the strongest person I've ever met, single-handedly raising all the sails on the boat in the blink of an eye), we all sat around on deck drinking wine and talking rubbish. It was warm enough to sleep on deck, and there's something surreal yet very cool about laying on your back under a blanket, watching the moon nod to and fro with the mast, silence everywhere. I could just make out this contented grin on Abi's face, it matched mine.
On day 2, after visiting Whitehaven Beach (the one in all the famous fotos, you know the ones, of white sand and azure water - it really is that stunning), we moored up for the night and saw these big fish by the side of the boat, batfish apparently, about the size of huge dinner plates. So in we leap, snorkels and masks in hand, Abs and me and one of the Germans, and there's about 10 of them swimming around us, taking the bread from our hands, cruising right past our faces, letting you touch their scaly bad selves. For one horrible second I thought one of them might mistake one of my nipple rings for a tasty morsel, but they'd clearly got more intelligence than to munch on my man boobs.
The boat was great, the wildlife incredible, the gang was cool - best activity in Oz so far, by a mile. We're lazing about today as got hammered last night. We're a couple of 32 year olds trying to keep up with the drinking capability of da yoof so the hang today has been fairly monumental. Tomorrow's a big drive up to Cairns so speak to you then gang. Love and smooches, C x