End of an era

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December 26th 2012
Published: January 19th 2013
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Where to begin this post now? Lets see... from the last post in early December, I was on and off at work; December was a quieter month than usual (although right after X-Mas, it picked up again). It was good to have days off and just chill, especially on the hot, humid tropical weather of Far North Queensland.

The last month I spent in Port Douglas was quiet in terms of going out and it was pretty much a collection of random hangouts at friend's houses, so I guess that's what I'll write about.

One night I was invited to Tahn's house (a guy who I worked with on Poseidon Reef Cruises) for a poker night - boys night out, no girlfriends that day - There was Tom, Charles, Chad, Nick and Dave. I had only played poker (texas hold 'em) once before. Before we started playing, we had a proper barbecue and beers and then we moved inside to start the card game. We may have started at around 9pm and the game went on past midnight. We each put 10 dollars and we were 5 playing, so the prize was a decent 50 dollar pot. As the hours went on, players started losing and at the end it was just Charles and myself, with Charles having a very clear advantage. At one point he offered me to forfeit the game, take my 10 dollars and he taking the rest - to which I refused, so the game went on until I finally won it (don't know if it was beginner's luck or just a very good poker face and shameless bluffing). Great night.

On another night I was invited for dinner at Bruce and Giselle's, along with Kane and Alex (my friends from Calypso Reef Cruises). It was good getting together a few days a week, because I wasn't seeing them as much then. In all, it was a very pleasant evening with good food and good company.

Roberto Marino (Robbie), also from Calypso, and his girlfriend Astrid moved to a new house and invited us for a very Italian dinner a few days after that. Pretty much the same crowd, this time with Anthony and Melina as well. Bruschetta, "Fetuccine al Fungi", wine and cupcakes for dessert. Another great chilled evening with our host "il vapo miracolo" (internal joke which I just wrote so I don't forget it in the future).

During that time I finished reading my grandftaher's book (a self written autobiography that was released in July 2012). I had asked a copy of it and got it via friends of my parents that went to visit Port Douglas. I was very looking forwards to reading it and I wasn't dissapointed. It talks about his early years, describing the society of the time in the north of Chile (beginning in the 1920's) and then through his naval career describes the family's history and the social and economic changes in Chile during the last century until the late 80's. Most interesting to see all of this "through his eyes". I called him after I finished the book to congratulate him.

X-Mas was finally upon us. We had a fully decorated house (I described this in one of my previous posts), mainly due to Melina's enthusiasm for these holidays. She also loves hosting (and is very good at it) and organized the X-Mas dinner for which we had a big group of friends invited, including: Melina, Anthony, Lauren, Rob, Lachie, Peta, Bruce, Giselle, Julie, Kit, Andy, Alex, Kane, Peggy and myself.

We started early, at around 6pm. It was a very hot afternoon, so as people arrived they starting having drinks and getting in the swimming pool. From then on, it was drinks at the pool, go to the house to get food (everyone brought something and there was a LOT of food) and then back to the swimming pool, and so on...

My main contribution to the vast amounts of food and drinks was 7,5 lts of a Chilean drink called "Colemono" (monkey's tail), which is sort of like a home made Baileys and usually drank during X-Mas time. I've got to say it was pretty succesful. Melina made some very nice labels for the bottles.

It's been one of the most unusual and fun Christmases I've had. At midnight we opened presents (we had organized "Secret Santa"), so everyone got a present (inclding Kosha, Bruce & Giselle's dog). I received a bottle of Chivas Regal, not too bad (we had some of it by the end of the night). I also received a letter (and so did Anthony and Melina), from Jessie, our ex-flatmate. I've got to say she's one of the most interesting travelers I've met so far, with VERY cool stories; I've actually tried to get her to write a few, unsuccesfully so far. In her letter she wrote about her stay in the Phillippines and India and as always a lot of fun to read about her adventures. She also sent a painted cloth which shall have a special spot when it gets back home.

Not too much happened between X-Mas and New Year. New Year was actually a quiet one. The same bunch of close friends gathered at our house for drinks and we all brought a few things to eat (as usual it was more than enough). Everyone was working that day (except 1 person), so we had a very, very chilled evening. Most of us were pretty tired and a few of the girls fell asleep on the couches before 10pm and we had to wake them up at midnight. Not really too much to tell there; we called it a night at about 00:30. There were fireworks, but we didn't bother to get up from our seats and go to the beach.

The one thing that caught me off guard that evening was a very special present I received. While we were having drinks, suddenly someone handed me a card which was signed by 6 of my closest friends: Giselle, Bruce, Melina, Anthony, Alex and Kane. They had decided to give me an early going away present: an engraved Leatherman multitool knife. The inscription says "Bon voyage faccia di patata" (Have a good trip potato face). The "potato face" part is an internal joke we had in Calypso. Very original engraving (hard to forget) and an excellent souvenir of my friends from Port Douglas.

My friend Julie Remp (also a very cool traveler with a lot of stories) who works as a photographer for Quicksilver Cruises had been organizing games at the ANZAC park on Monday evenings after work. She wanted to get the different boat crews to get together more often, but so far I don't think it's worked too well. She tried something else and organized a game night at her house. About 8 of us showed up and we ended up having an excellent time. We played a game called Mafia (which is played as a whole group, no matter how many people there are. Everyone gets a role; either a member of the mafia, cop, doctor or townspeople. No one knows the other person's role and it's about trying to find out who the mafia are before they "kill" everybody else. A moderator controls the game. The second one we played doesn't really have a name, but it could be called "everything goes". Everyone writes 3 things in English on pieces of paper (it can literally be anything) and there are 2 teams. The first round, each team had to guess whatever it says on the pieces of paper, by one person describing it. On the second round, the teams have to guess the same words, but the person describing whatever the paper says can only say one word. On the third round, the same words have to be guessed by doing charades. We had a great time, good laughs and it was well worth it.

The last weeks of work were average I guess. I wanted them to end, mainly because that meant hitting the road again. I worked with Poseidon Reef Cruises the last few months and I've got to say I really enjoyed diving new sites in Agincourt Reef; being my favorite sites Barracuda Bommie, Castle Rock, Harry's and Gary's Gut.

A video of the "Marina Mirage" of Port Douglas

Looking back, when I arrived in Australia, I wasn't sure what I was going to do for a whole year. Diving came as an option in a decision made in literally 5 minutes. That took me to do the Instructor Development Course and then the Master Scuba Diver Trainer internship. After I completed all that in a period of about 10 weeks, I went to do 2 weeks of volunteer work on Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, where I met James Nikitine, who at the time was working on Calypso in Port Douglas (a town I had never heard of). He invited me to stay at a house where he was renting a room and I crashed in the living room for about a week. I applied for jobs in different places and by coincidence I got a job in Calypso as well. After James left, I

also ended up staying in the same house, for 8 months. After my 6 months in Calypso were up, I had to change jobs and spent 2 months working for Poseidon.

During my time working there, taking certified divers or beginner divers, I met a lot of cool and interesting people, a few with whom I've remained in touch. To mention a few: Robert Hacking, Dave and Steph, Ben and Naomi, Laurent Humbert, Joe Klingelhoffer and family and a few others.

During those 8 months I gained a lot of experience as a diver and as instructor (mostly doing Discover Scuba Diving programs). It was a great thing to finally be able to have the time to commit to an activity I've really enjoyed.

also during those 8 months I made some very good friends, especially with the crew from Calypso, that being the most rewarding experience of all. I'll thank in this post Melina and Anthony for having me at their house those 8 months; it was a really great place to stay. Also Bruce & Giselle, Kane & Alex, Peta & Lachie, Robbie & Astrid and many more for their friendship. I'm mentioning here the people I hanged out with the most, but there were many others.

A couple days before I left, I took 2 days off work because I wanted to do the SS Yongala dive (which will have its own post).

The 3 previous days before my departure in January 16th, I got together with friends for drinks (on the 13th), then we had my going away thing on the 14th (last Chilean barbecue and signing of my travel flag).

One last bbq

The next day I got together with 8 of my closest friends and we had a few drinks at a place called "The Tin Shed". There is a giant grouper there which supposedly comes out to get fed at around 5pm every day, but that day was not the case.

Then we went to our house and had pizza and beers/wine. And that was it. At 4:30am Melina drove me from Port Douglas to the Cairns airport and so it was the end of 8 incredible months in Port Douglas - the end of an era. No work for me ahead in the near future, at least for the whole year of traveling (hopefully).

From Port Douglas I flew to Sydney and thus began the second part of my 2 sabbathical years: the travels.

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