09.12.2010 - 13.12.2010
If there is one thing they seem to do well in Australia, it is their outdoor space. Boardwalks running along the coast, outdoor pools with excellent facilities, not just toilets and showers but gas BBQs, gazebos etc. The BBQs used to be coin operated but since people kept breaking in and stealing the loot, now they run many of them for free.
Airlie beach is our jumping off point for a 3 day catamaran cruise of the Whitsunday Islands. So far on our trip we have (with the exception of the odd train journey) had private rooms. This cruise would be our first time sharing, and in close quarters too. When we arrived on the cat, we were given our briefing and then sent to our rooms (cabins?) and were delighted to discover that we had been allocated a private double. Not even the furnace like temperature and 6” fan whose noise could outgun a Boeing 747 could challenge our relief or dampen our enthusiasm.
The first afternoon was spent sitting on deck in the sunshine, a little snorkelling and generally being patronised by the two girls that were running the show on board. We came to the conclusion that a few seasons of work on the budget boat (56 drunken backpackers to seven tour guides) the girls were only capable of treating their charges like children, even if they happened to be 12 upstanding members of the community like our good selves. We were very forgiving though and got our revenge by refusing to do any diving. They got a little irked by this, being certified divers and choosing an “adventure” trip which specialised in diving they saw us as a nice little earner.
The snorkelling was good but we didn’t see anything new or exciting but it was very pleasant and a welcome opportunity to cool off.
After a couple of quiet beers we settled into our cabin / hot box for the night. At first we were just too warm, unbearably so, but then the waves picked up and our cat was being thrown around with doors flying open and slamming shut. At about 4.30am our skipper decided enough was enough and fired up the engines to find some calmer waters to sleep out the rest of the night.
If the heated accommodation couldn’t dampen our spirits the weather on day two certainly could. The rain didn’t really affect the snorkelling but between trips into the water there were few opportunities to dry off and get warm. Any attempt to enter the inner sanctum of the boat was met with an abrupt scolding from our newfound surrogate parents.
Our jaunt on shore to see Whitehaven beach was a particular highlight. Given the wet weather and lack of rain coats we found ourselves hiking through the forests on the island in wetsuits. Whitehaven beach itself was beautiful in the rain so must be absolutely stunning in the sunshine which is supported by all the postcards we have seen subsequently.
Back on board we discover rough seas and a broken engine – fortunately we still had one functioning so we set off again in search of still waters. This took a little time, meanwhile everyone was beginning to feel a little nauseous. Sniamh to the rescue with the travel sickness pills picked up in Vietnam. Sniamh, Ryan and Oonagh all dosed up and washed our medicine down with a couple of beers. Oonagh was the first to note that we all had saucer sized pupils and that she felt a little strange, so much so that she had to go and have a little lie down. God bless Vietnamese pharmacists – I certainly wouldn’t use the word stoned – pleasantly relaxed and a little chilled would sum it all up rather nicely – would someone please pass the munchies.
The next day the seas were calm and the sun was shining as we chugged back to Airlie Beach with one engine. Safely back on land we spent the rest of the afternoon at the lagoon before catching our bus to Hervey Bay.