Thursday, May 31, 2007

Australia - Whitsunday Islands

After a good nights sleep in a bed again, we left Hervey Bay early in the morning to drive 900km up the coast to Airlie Beach. There wasn't really that much to do in between Fraser and Airlie, so we decided to move on up without stopping. It was a long drive but Peter and I took turns so it wasn't so bad. We arrived in Airlie Beach around 21h and checked into a backpackers resort at the far end of the beach.

The next morning we registered for a 3 day Whitsunday Islands sailing tour. At lunctime we went down to the marina to board our vessel the "Broomstick", an ex-racing sailboat. We brought the necessary supplies which mainly consisted of beer, goon and water... The next 3 days and 2 nights were spent on board the boat with about 25 other people from various parts of the globe. During the daytime we sailed around the islands and stopped to do some snorkelling around the reef. The visibilty was fairly good and we could see many brightly coloured fish and turtles. I saw one shark, but luckily 5 minutes after we had got back on the boat. Before entering the water we had to put on "stinger suits", a full body lycra outfit resembling a thin wetsuit. The reason for this is that the water contains box jellyfish, whose sting can be lethal, so the suits were for our protection. On the second day we anchored and took the zodiac ashore. From here we walked over the headland to Whitehaven beach, a white silica sand beach said to be one of the most beautiful in Australia. We were not dissapointed, it was absolutely stunning. The sun was blazing down as we lazed around on the sand, and the factor 30 sun screen was applied every 20 minutes to avoid severe sunburn. Unfortunately we couldn't really cool off in the clear turquiose water due to the jellyfish. However we did wade around up to our knees, with stingrays gliding past only a few metres away. After a lazy afternoon we returned to the sail boat and continued on. In the evening we had a barbeque and a party to finish off the goon in style. The last day was fairly overcast and the wind picked up to make for ideal sailing condidtions. The skipper unfurled the sails and we speed off very fast in the direction of Airlie beach. Everyone was sitting high along the left side of the vessel as it tilted into the water. the right side was submerged almost to the railings and a few times it was pretty scary. We were convinced it could capsize at any moment, but I guess the skipper knew what he was doing because we got back safe and probably in record time.

After we got back to the mainland we spent a while wobbling around on our "sea legs" before going to lunch with some of the group. As we were having lunch outside we bumped into Maria, Paula and Thomas who had been with us on the Fraser Island trip some days previous. Small world, but that happens a lot going up the east coast of Australia. Indeed it has happened to me in every country i have travelled in so far on this trip. I keep bumping into the same people...