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April 29th 2016
Published: April 29th 2016
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R : Our flight from Brisbane landed on a beautiful sunny Monday afternoon at Proserpine, which is the industrial city near the Whitsunday coast. Around the airport were Wallabies, everywhere, hopping about enjoying the sunshine. We headed into town on a shuttle that took a huge amount of time, so by the time we got to our accomodation it was nearly dark. We chatted at length with reception about the tour possibilities, knowing that the weather forecast for the week was looking a bit bleak! Being a public holiday, a large proportion of the shops and restaurants were shut, so we headed to a pub for a semi-decent and vastly overpriced meal. Australia is hugely expensive to us now, given the gradual slump in the AUD v GBP rate - both Cate and I remember a time when it was 3:1 whereas now it is 1.8:1. Ouch! This has got worse and something we have noticed since Mr Cameron called the referendum is that the pound has sunk further against every other currency.

Anyway. Next morning we headed to the lagoon which is next to the sea, but not in the sea. This area is full of jellyfish and as such isn't safe to swim, so they have constructed a free public lagoon pool down in the town where you can sit out and enjoy the sun or go for a swim. We started early and gradually as we sat there, more and more hungover backpackers started to emerge into the sun with the shades on. The weather in the afternoon deteriorated, so we began deciding what to do the next day.

We decided on a tall ship adventure. We got picked up at 6:55am and headed to the port. It was a lovely old ship, and there were about 20 or so of us on there, so a nice number. We were issued a "Captain Birds Eye" style yellow Mac when we got on. We joked that it was pessimistic but actually it turned out to be very prudent. As we set off, the heavens opened and there was nowhere else to sit. So we just grinned and bore it! Well, I grinned. Cate did not. Eventually it gave way and we headed to Tongue bay at the Whitsunday Islands for our first explore. When the sun was out it was actually very hot and strong and we
Across Hill InletAcross Hill InletAcross Hill Inlet

At high tide, so the colours aren't as bright as usual
did get a bit burned over all. From tongue bay we took the tender over to the beach and headed up to Hill Inlet lookout which is where the stunning photos of this area are always taken from. Sadly, the cloud made it difficult to see, but the occasional burst of sun gave us the views we were after. We then went down on to Whitehaven beach which is 6km of bright white sand, some of the finest on earth, and is so good that the glass companies are banned from using it, so it doesn't get used up. As we were padding about a humongous storm blew in and we got drenched. Definitely not the experience we came here for. It passed over quickly enough, but not until we were cold and soaking again.

On the way back we headed to Dunbell island for some snorkelling on a reef in one of the bays. It had an amazing array of fish (brilliant rainbow parrot fish) and quite colourful coral, though the visibility was poor due to the rainfall. The Great Barrier Reef is currently suffering a bleaching period as the change in water temperature is forcing the colourful algae out of the coral, so we weren't sure what to expect, but actually much of the coral was still pretty vibrant. We had stinger suits on for this bit and we were glad we did - several jellyfish bobbed by while we were in the water. Soon it was time to head back to the mainland. Our motor lodge accomodation comes with a communal BBQ so we fired it up, but sadly, didnt have a shrimp to put on it.

We faltered a bit on what to do next. The weather had been bad so we decided not to spend money on another boat trip incase the weather was no better. And we were glad - the next day was pretty awful weather too. We took a walk to Cannonvale shopping centre and had some mediocre sushi for lunch while trying to get to grips with the plethora of Australian cell phone companies and their SIM cards - as I will be taking our only phone home with me when I go. (Cate has a old one donated by Shannon to use while she is in Oz). We had a look at the brochures in the afternoon, and decided to go for broke on a scenic flight over the reef and Whitsunday islands, and crossed our fingers for better weather.

We were rewarded. Today we went on a 8 seater plane flight over the Whitsunday islands and reef and it was stunning. The sun was out which made all the colours really vibrant from the air and we went over the same bits we had been to on the boat - but in the sunshine! We flew over the national park which is heavily forested as well as Hamilton island, Daydream Island, Hook Island and looked at the various bays and brilliant blue sea. Then we headed 8 minutes further which got us to the outer reef which is supremely colourful. We saw the pontoon where you can take a boat too for snorkelling (which costs more than the flight!) and the heart shaped reef which we flew over twice, just to make sure you got the photo! The coral and water were beautiful colours and you really get a sense of the size of the reef from being in the air.

On the way back in we flew over Hamilton island which looked quite developed with big tower blocks (which you don't see at Airlie beach) and Whitehaven beach where you can see the 6km uninterrupted white sand beach in all its glory, leading to Hill Inlet where the freshwater meeting seawater causes the brilliant swirls in the sand and water. Sadly, then it was time to go back, and after a slightly turbulent landing, we were back on the ground.

After quick stop in Dominos ($8.95 for pizza, garlic bread and drink! =£5, the only bargain to be had here) we headed back to join the beautiful people in the town lagoon for our final sunbathing afternoon. We decided to end our trip with a nice meal out at a fish restaurant / rum bar in town with celebratory Mojito.

And so our trip together had come to an end. Tomorrow I fly to Abu Dhabi, and Cate flies to Cairns. We spent most of the evening reflecting on the "bests and worsts" of the trip and struggling to comprehend that it's already been 6 months.

I will update you from Abu Dhabi, while Cate will continue to post some of her activities from the rest of Australia, so don't give up on the blog just yet...


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