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Published: September 4th 2009
Day 12- Wed Sep 2
I feel an obligation to warn other travelers. If someone offers you a tday rip to Knuckle reef in the Whitsundays, run like hell in the other direction. Out of practice in relying on my intuition, I had let the lady at Peter Pans talk me out of a sailboat snorkeling trip where someone had told me "if you don't see at least 200 fish, you don't have your eyes open". In exchange, I booked this all day trip to the outer ribbon reef where a pontoon is mored with a waterslide. Sounded nice enough, but ended up being the biggest waste of money in Australia! Damn.
It took 3 hours to get there. The only good thing about that was that we stopped off at Daydream Island and Hayman island to pick up passengers, so i got a chance to have a look at both of them from the boat, which were both lovely. When we got to the pontoon, I grabbed snorkeling gear and headed out. An Italian girl, also traveling alone, came up to me and asked to be buddies. So we jumped in to find only a very small section of water open to us to snorkel in. The roped off areas kept us only around the outer perimeter of the coral, so there was almost nothing to see. Plus, it was deep and murky. I felt a little conflicted about this. It was better for the reef to keep snorkelers away from the coral, but after what i'd seen already, this was such a disappointment. After about 20 minutes, we got out and wondered what we were going to do for 4 more hours. The underwater viewing chamber had about 2 little fish to be seen, and the waterslide was fun for about 15 mintues. After that we laid out on the deck for the rest of the day. And that wraps up FOUR days on the reef without a turtle sighting. I'm SOOOOOO sad about this.
While "sunning" ourselves on this cloudy day, I turned and introduced myself to the lady next to me, with the familiar lack of accent, and sure enough, she was from Vermont. In what turned out to be quite a magical encounter, she told me all about her travels. She is traveling for TWO years with her FOUR children, who are 15-19. They were amazing. Wow. She told me how she wanted to buy a sailboat and take tourists out and never go home. It was definitely one of those moments were I felt the universe was talking to me. She was like a mosquito in my ear, re-awakening my gypsy spirit and calling me once again to the magic of the open road. Sigh. We talked for most of the ride home, while the sky opened up and poured on us.
As Valeria and I got off the boat, we met a couple traveling together- a guy from Sydney and another guy from Italy. I had told them about my fish and chips find, so we agreed to meet for dinner that evening. So for the first time this trip, I was out on the town with some company. It was so nice. The guys were very nice and we had a great time. We walked around town, which they were closing up at 8 pm around us. (Airlie Beach is different from Cairns in that a) they close up the city at 8 pm except for a few bars and b) it's way colder at night so there aren't many people just hanging out). We ducked in a bar where a guy was singing an awesome version of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car". Just after the song ended, the entire town went dark with a power outage. (It had been out for 5 hours earlier in the day from the storm). Good thing we didn't stay because it'd be 2 hours before it went back on.
We made our way back to our hostels. They insisted in walking me up to my faraway hostel, which was funny because the boys were all jumpy and afraid of the dark! We exchanged emails and facebook stuff and off we went. When I climbed the stairs to my hostel, I found Nick entertaining the hostel crowd by singing and playing guitar. He was surprisingly good! It was quite nice actually. The Irish had descended upon the hostel. 7 VERY boisterous Irish, one of which was celebrating his birthday, dominated the crowd and had us each stand up and introduce ourselves. Nick had an enormous flashlight which he pointed at each person as they spoke. It was quiet nice. Even better when they all followed him downtown for "free alcohol". I didn't know the particulars but didn't think I could keep up with them, so i stayed behind. Good thing, because they didn't come back until 3 am, when they very loudly announced themselves by singing throught the hallways.
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