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Published: February 6th 2008
Monday 28th at Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach has been a bit of a washout so far. We'd booked a three night sailing tour of the Whitsunday Islands, which was cancelled because only four people had booked. We were put on to another boat, a schooner, that left on Friday. Tuesday was fine and I spent a pleasant hour or so by the lagoon with a book and suncream. Wednesday and Thursday it rained virtually all day, the kookaburras looked drenched and there was some sort of wading bird paddling through the campsite. Within five minutes walk there are shops, bars, cafes and interent, but no cinema - not for 50 kms. Sitting in the gazebo under light rain is fine, but a deluge produces a fine mist inside - not comfortable.
Friday dawned cloudy but dry and we boarded the Whitsunday Magic with 22 others - from the UK, Eire, Sweden, Korea, USA, Canada, Germany and one Australian. There is a crew of seven, one of whom is a chef adn the food is wonderful - cooked breakfast, elevenses, lunch, tea and two-course dinners.
We snorkelled and dived - my first proper dive (apart from a taster in a swimming pool some years ago) and I managed the breathing quite well (I'd had my panic in the swimming pool and you just have to believe that the oxygen will keep coming and remember deep Yogic breathing. I couldn't seem to get the balance right and several times I rolled over on my back like a turtle. Four of us went down with dive master Thierry (En reef as Kev named him) who was reassuring to Kev and Aisleyne who were a trifle nervous, holding their hands through the whole dive. Thierry was such a dish I wished I'd felt nervous too. Gary and I followed behind managing to avoid irrevocably knocking each others breathing apparatus out.
The coral and fish were colourful and abundant, though I felt I saw more when snorkelling as on the dive I had to concentrate on not going too fast, or too slow, not too high or my feet came out of the water, not too low in case I hit the coral.
Our fellow sailors were interesting and varied - more over 50's than we've come across before and on the shaded rear deck or the sunny upper deck we discussed retirement, sabbaticals and second careers as well as the usual 'Where have you been? Where are you going next? How long for?' There was an Irish couple on a six-week honeymoon, and the young Korean guy wanted to propose to his girlfriend and had brought the ring along on this trip. He proposed while they sat in the bow of the ship and celebrated afterwards with beams and champagne.
We sailed round several of the islands, disembarking on South Mole Island for a bush walk up to a lookout on a high rock, and Whitsunday for Hill Point Lookout and Whitehaven Beach - a long stretch of white silica sand, made of quartz and so fine it was used to clean the lens of the Hubble telescope. I used it to exfoliate and it left my knees and elbows silky smooth.
The weather was mostly fine, just raining one lunchtime when we had to sail through a cloud, and once at night.
The boat looked magnificent in full sail - nine sails in all - which several of us helped to haul up.
Swimming form the boat was fun too, leaping off the side, though the stinger suits we had to wear were revoltingly clammy to put on and though black and tight fitting, looked nothing like Emma Peal's outfit in the Avengers.
We saw several sea turtles from the boat and squid feeding on bait fish. Under the water the squid look orange, and can swim backwards as well as forwards.
I can now identify the Southern Cross constellation and Orion's belt. Can recognise Orion though, only his belt.
Monday 4th we returned to Airlie Beach and still swaying about on sea legs, set out for Townsville 300 kms further north. Townsville was founded by Robert Towns, who captured and enslaved the South Sea Islanders to work on the land, though his memorial on the banks of the River Ross attribute this story 'to his detractors', and say it is an 'unfounded rumour'. Hmm! Otherwise Townsville is a pleasant town, with a good Reef aquarium. though Kev, having been to Seaworld in Florida wasn't impressed. Saw Cloverfield at the cinema and rather wish I hadn't as we'll be in New York in two months. Perhaps the memory will have faded by then.
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