After leaving Rockhampton, Dad drove again further North, the scenery changed quickly and the area became barren and dry looking, there was not a lot on the way although we managed to stop at one town Sarina for a sandwich and to stretch our legs. We then came to Mackay another big town, but we carried on to Prosperine, here we turned off of the main highway towards the coast and the town of Airlie Beach the main gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. We parked up and had a look around the main centre, 1 main street. As the water here is not safe to swim in because of the jellyfish and as there is not a main beach, a massive lagoon has been created as a substitute. The area is clean, has a grassed area all around it, changing rooms and amenities and a lifeguard on duty. It was quite a bright day so there were a lot of people lounging around and making use of it. We had a walk around the lagoon and then stopped of a bookshop so that we all had something to read on our cruise around the islands. Then off we went on the accommodation search, it was a lot more expensive here than we had thought but we managed to get a room for 1 night on the terraces just about the town, We also found a lovely apartment to rent but they wanted a minimum 2 night stay so we booked it for when we returned, this was in the next town along the bay.
We checked in to the room for the night and then went to use the internet and have a drink in the bar. It was tea time by the time we were sorted out so we all walked down to the front firstly to check in for the morning boat departure and also in search of fish and chips, there was a little takeaway place that had some seats outside we ate there out of the paper. Wayne and I went to buy some wine and beer for the boat as it was bring your own. We picked some cans of lager and a box of wine as not bottles were allowed to be taken on board. When we got back Mum and Dad weren't about so we went back for a walk, we met them on the main street they had been for a drink and Dad had a new hat in tow. We all then went to Beaches bar, it has a backpackers attached but it was still early so not too noisy. They had a guy playing guitar and singing, he was pretty good, Mum and Dad headed back, but we liked the live music and the beer so we stayed for a few more.
On Thursday we made out way after breakfast down to Abel Point Marina, we all sat down a bi nervous as there were lots of young backpackers milling around. Ezza one of our crew came out to meet us and check us in, it seemed there was another family around our age, 2 Dutch and a Mother and Son from the Czech Republic, so it was a bit of a relief all around. Our bags and alcohol was taken on a trolley down to the boat, Summertime, and we followed on foot, we then had to take our shoes off and they were put in to a massive duffle bag, no footwear was permitted on deck. We were waiting for 2 more people that we booked on with us, but they did not turn us so we had extra food and room. The crew introduced themselves, Dave the skipper from England and 2 Aussies, Ezza the dive master and Sarah and Justine the Hostess'. They also went through all of the safety information and all the important stuff that we needed to know including the "3 P" rule for the toilet, only pee, poo and paper is to go down it!
We set off and were given morning tea, coffee, tea and cakes, we were then shown to our bedrooms, Mum and Dad and Wayne and I had the 2 rooms at the front these were the private doubles, it has a single on the bottom and then a double as the top bunk, there was not a lot of room, but we were only on a small sailing boat. The others were all outside in bunks with curtains for privacy. We sailed towards the islands it was a nice sunny day so everyone could relax and just watch the world go by. For lunch there was some lovely salads, cold meats and bread, to make with, whatever we wanted. It took about 2 and a half hours to reach our first stop, Tounge Bay, we anchored up and then we had to get wet suited up so that the kayaks could come out. Ezza took us out on the kayaks with the camera in tow. We all paddled along, it was fairly easy going and I think I have got better at it. Mum and Dad were well off, they must have god co-ordination, god knows where I get my lack of it from! Ezza then directed us all towards the beach so that we could have a rest and have a group photo, this did not go as planned.
Wayne got out in the shallows and started pulling me towards the beach, but he kept sinking in the mud, it was amusing for me. There was still quite a way to walk when I got out and I sank straight to my knees, it was funny everyone was struggling one of the ladies just crawled through it to the beach, then my whole leg was in the mud. I made it and looked back Mum and Dad had started on their way, Mum was sinking and falling over, Dad was trying to pick her up and all you could hear was Oh, oh, ohhh. Funny but she did not like it one bit, she was scared of getting stuck. So then we had to make our way back out to the kayaks, the same sinking feeling occurred! We finally got back in and were able to cruise around the bay in search of turtles, the ones that live here are apparently big. It was not long until we saw some ripples and a turtle shell slightly protrude from the water as it sped away. We all sat still and waited, Ezza spotted some more and he was right they were massive, their shells bigger than dustbin lids. As we got close they sensed us and shot away although we saw a lot of them and we were able to get up close to them, Ezza even managed to stroke ones shell, he got that close. When we got back to the boat mini pies and sausage rolls were waiting for us as we got ourselves changed and dried, these were the pre dinner snacks. It was nice to be able to sit around and have a drink, it had turned a little bit cooler but still pleasant. For dinner we had Chicken, Salad and potatoes, it was all lovely. After we had all finished we were called down in to the saloon, where there was a TV screen and the photos that the crew had taken that day were shown to us on a slide show they were all good. After that everyone was sleepy so most went to bed early, it must be the sea air.
The next morning we were up fairly early most people had, had a good nights sleep except Dad, who felt a bit enclosed in the room and ended up getting some z's up on the deck under the stars. We had cereal and toast for breakfast and then were ushered in to the dingy so that we could all be taken ashore at Toungue Bay, on the Whitsunday Island. Sarah and Justine accompanied us on the short walk over the island to the whitehaven beach, a long sweeping bright white each. We first went to the lookout and had some photos taken, we then had about an hour on the beach, but it was a bit windy. The girls took some more photos for the evenings slide show and we all just relaxed. I cleaned my ring in the squeaky sand, which made it sparkle as we had been told. It was not long before we were back in he dingy and on the boat, where lunch was waiting for us, chicken topped foccacia with salads. We were soon sailing North and on the way to ... the crew did a man over board exercise which was god practice for them as they all had to take on different roles than normal, it didn't go quite without a hitch and a few frustrated faces, but good amusement for us. We made it to ... without actually losing anyone over board which was good, so we were all ready to hit the coral waters of the great barrier reef. We were all to go snorkelling and those that wanted to could also try scuba diving, it turned out that few people wanted to have a go and it split nicely in to 3 groups, the last of which were me, Wayne and Dad, which was good as we could all have a good go at snorkelling first. We all donned our wetsuits again and set off in groups in the dingy armed also with noodles to help us float around and see the fish at our leisure. We were out there about and hour and a half before we were called back to try the scuba diving, Dad decided not to have ago as the area was so busy with boats and snorkelers so he just stayed with Mum snorkelling. Wayne and I also decided not to have a go, but we felt obliged to after they had brought the dingy out to get us, so back we went and put on the breathing apparatus.
We were both quite nervous, Wayne had said previously on the trip that he would never scuba dive, so this was a plus. Four of us set out Ezza, the instructor, us two and Justine one of the hosties, who had just got her diving certificate. Just off of the beach we had to practice some tricks, how to put the purger in our mouth, blow out water and how to put the purger in underwater if it gets knocked out. Wayne did this relly well, but I was struggling and getting a bit panicky, but Ezza reassured me and as Wayne was also OK, we went under, Wayne with Justine and me with Ezza, and all was OK. We got to about 9 metres and 15 minutes in to the dive, which was excellent we saw lots of coral and fish, then Wayne was having a problem with his weight belt slipping, as Ezza readjusted it, he lost focus and got disorientated and wanted to go straight up, we got to the top, Ezza had to slow Wayne down and he was relieved when we broke the surface. We were asked if we wanted to go back down, Wayne's was a definite no, but I surprised myself by saying yes! So off the 3 of us went, I stayed with Justine, while Ezza got the camera out, taking photos and videos of us, which was pretty cool, we also managed to see a lionfish. We got back down to about 9 metres which is quite a lot for a first open water dive so I was really pleased with myself, although after the final 15 minutes I was ready to come back up. It had felt like a long way down especially when I had a wall of coral next to me, that seemed to go up to the surface and I was a bit worried about getting trapped, but it was a great experience for both of us and we were lucky to set suck one on one tuition, I think we may even do a course in the pool when we get home. I got back on the boat, and jumped straight in to the shower to warm up, even with a wetsuit on I was cold. We were still shocked about actually scuba diving by the time the dips and snacks came out. For dinner we had steak, salad and potatoes, which again was excellent, then we had the slide show of the days photos, they were really good, action shots on the beach and also the ones of us scuba diving with a video of me!
We all slept well again, Dad managed to stay in his cabin, but they had the door open to make it feel less confined. We were all woken fairly early as we set off for Blue Pearl Bay at 6am so that one of the girls who was unable to dive the day before, could get a couple of dives in before the trip was up this afternoon. Once we stopped and dozed off and woke again it was time for breakfast, which was a full English, yum. We then had a couple of hours snorkelling in what they call the fish bowl and we were told to look out for Pricilla a large wrasse fish which was previously a male, Elvis. As soon as we put our faces under the water we knew why it was called the fish bowl, there were thousands of different brightly coloured fish and the water was much clearer than the day before. It was not long and a shoal of thousands of tiny fish dashed among us, just after a shoal of giant trevelly fish went by, obviously that's what the tiny ones were swimming from. We also saw Clown fish, yellow tailed fusiliers, nudybrankes, maori wrasse and loser fish, they always travel in pairs, but if one dies the other is on its own. We also saw some interesting coral, it is like a shell, wide open and then if you wave your hand near it, it closed up, the inside is a brilliant blue colour. When we got out we had all enjoyed ourselves, Mum loved it, so after her snorkelling, kayaking and getting stuck in the mud, we nicknamed her Extreme Sue! As soon as I got out of the water Dad and I jumped straight into the hot tub on the back of the boat while we were waiting for the others to finish their swim, snorkels and dives. We then headed slowly back, a sausage sizzle for lunch with some extra steak that was left.
It was the end of a good trip and it looked as though the weather was about to turn, it got a bit colder on the journey back to the marina and out towards the islands some darker clouds were rolling in. As we made our way back we passed a few dolphins which swam on passed the boat and Wayne also spotted a sea snake in the waves. We also brought the CD of the photos the crew had taken on the trip as they were really good and it is a great reminder of what we did. Once back on dry land we went to the car and it wouldn't start, so we had to call the RACQ to jump start it, they think that maybe one of the doors was not quite closed right and it drained the battery, but we couldn't see any of the doors were ajar. Anyway it only took about half and hour to sort and then we were off to Beach Court apartments that we had booked before we went on the boat. The place was lovely, a huge living area, 2 bedrooms and a nice bathroom again with a bath a novelty to us. We were all really tired and decided to get a takeaway from the local shops we had thai and watched a film on the TV.
On the last day, Sunday we had a pretty lazy morning which began with bacon sandwiches and then from our apartment we made the walk in to the centre of Airlie Beach, it was a bit overcast and vey muggy, but a nice walk along the front to the marina and then on to the lagoon. We had a look around the shops, sold some finished books to the bookshop, used the internet and managed a devonshire tea, before we set off on the walk back. We went to the shops and got some groceries and Wayne and Dad got some bait, they then went for a hours fishing in the late afternoon, while Mum and I did very little back at the apartment. When they came back, they were happy, they had caught a couple of fish each (none of the Aussies were catching) and managed to see a turtle, which Wayne thought that he had hooked, but they both insist is was a big one that got away. We had a lovely BBQ for dinner, which was really filling and then watched LA Confidential on the TV.