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Published: October 11th 2006
Our return to Cairns was filled with less scuffling than our previous encounter, this time our decision to seek out the local caravan park echoing a point Lucy had raised at the Parkview Guesthouse only a week earlier, ‘I’d rather sleep on the floor than in this s*#t hole!’ After pitching our tent we were shortly followed by Clare, Matt and James who were brandishing spanking new Didgeridoos that to the displeasure of the rest of the campsite were used to make an array of continuous noises synonymous with the outback. Dave’s valiant attempts that only managed to create noises synonymous with farting were applauded, but sadly he was left in the shadows by two-hour veteran didgeridoo players James and Matt. Although Dave prides himself in gaining a Degree at University, his technology based course had neglected to teach him the functions of basic mobile phone use, as after arranging to make a call that night to his friend Lisa from home, who now lives in Australia, he proceeded to delete all the messages on the phone, including the one with Lisa’s number. Luckily she realized that the lack of communication was most likely due to one of Dave’s cock-ups, and
after her phone call later that night which began with the opening line ‘Where the bloody hell are you boy?’ arrangements were made to meet up at a bar in town. Meeting with Lisa it was great to catch up and discover that she had gained herself a slight Aussie twang, but after seeing her fondness for brandishing pints and talking the hind legs off a donkey had not left her, it was clear that you can take the girl out of Essex…
After a few hours of chatting and moderate consumption of Australian Lager, we discovered that our caravan park was on the same street where Lisa was staying with her friend, so decided to fork out for a cab instead of walking the 3 kilometers back to our tent. The next day we bid an emotional farewell to Matt, Clare and James, and promised to meet again in New Zealand or back at home in Blighty. Meeting up with Lisa and a couple of her friends for a laze around in the sun was planned for the afternoon. We moved ourselves into a new and spotlessly clean Guest house in town and booked up a tour out
to the Barrier Reef for the next day. After saying goodbye to Lisa who was heading back to Townsville, we prepared ourselves for the trip out to the reef that was promised to be ‘an experience of a lifetime’.
Upon arriving at the Pier, the first question asked by the boat representative was ‘the weather is a bit rough today out on the reef, would you like to change your trip to another date?’ Having already booked a flight to Adelaide the next day, there was no chance of a date change, and after concluding that the phrase ‘a bit rough’ probably means ‘you’re going to see your breakfast again.’ Lucy turned an not so attractive pale green and began quietly shoveling sea sickness tablets. For most of the journey out to the reef Lucy had her eyes fixed sternly on the horizon, refusing to let go of the handrail, and more than likely spent a lot of that time cursing Dave for dragging her onto another flamin' boat. The first reef location was spoilt some what by the reduced visibility, and due to the large swell most of our time in the water was spent fighting the current.
An hour later we were called back to the boat for our ‘free’ scuba dive where we were to be guided around the reef by one of the dive instructors. After a briefing where we were told that the most important thing is your breathing, really? most of the vast amounts of information went in one ear and out of the other, we were kitted up and taken into the depths. Lucy proved once again that her hatred for everything nautical was justified as she had a problem equalizing her ears to the pressure, and as this could result in a burst ear drum, she had to be taken back to the boat to try again at the next dive site. Dave continued on and was treated to an array of marine life that was sheltering in the deeper waters away from the top of the reef, and managed to remain mostly calm whilst experiencing the alien sensation of breathing under water. Back on the boat we headed for the next dive site, and whilst Dave was hunting Nemo fish, Lucy was striking a deal with the helicopter company who run flights back to land from the reef. After experiencing
the boat lift out of the water more than once as it pounded across the waves, Lucy was somewhat comforted to discover that there was one last place on the chopper, and although she didn’t have enough money for the trip back, the guy had taken pity on her and was going to let her fly for half price. Dave began to wonder if there were any ‘incentives’ for this bargain offer provided by Lucy whist he was drifting below the water with oxygen tanks strapped to his back. At the second dive site Lucy’s ears were still not corrected so Dave got to take the second dive. After finding some clown fish hiding in the coral, ahead in the distance it was possible to see two dark silhouettes. As we got closer the sunlight lit up the dark green backs of two turtles that hung around just long enough for us to swim with them and stroke their shells and fins. The aim of every snorkel trip so far has been to swim with these creatures, and for the remainder of the day it was difficult to wipe the smile from Dave’s smug face. After Dave’s highlight of the
day it was Lucy’s turn to show off by boarding a helicopter and getting a guided tour around the reef from 500 ft, leaving Dave to sit it out on the less than smooth return journey back to port.
After our flight to Adelaide the next day we were met by another relative that Lucy was yet to meet in the form of Kath’s (who we stayed with in Brisbane) sister. We were driven back to her house where she lives with her husband Peter, two sons Mark and Damien and dog Max. On the way we learned that Peter had been admitted to hospital the previous day with chest pains and Damien was hauled up in bed with suspected appendicitis. Feeling like our timing couldn’t have been worse we were welcomed to the family home by Peter who had been discharged that morning. Mark kindly gave up his bedroom to us and took to sleeping on the lounge floor. We spent the next week in the company of Liz and Peter who showed us around the local area and cooked some of the tastiest meals we have had since being away. We were taken by Liz to the
local wine region of the Barossa Valley, famous for producing wines such as Wolf Blass and Jacob’s Creek. As Liz was driving it was up to Dave and Lucy to make up the numbers and drink for three, so with little attention to detail a number of sparkling/ still reds and whites where knocked back with as little talk about bin numbers or vintage as possible. Dave enjoyed the trip home so much that he managed to fall asleep in the car to the amusement of the car’s female occupants. We also got to meet Liz’s brother, also called Peter who is a veteran of the Vietnam War. He has written four books on his experiences as a ‘Tracker’ on the front lines with the K9 squad sniffing out the Viet Cong. He found it amusing that we had found the Vietnamese to be a hostile bunch at times, and was quick to point out that ‘at least they weren’t pointing guns at you!’ He managed to pop in for lunch whilst getting ready for a trip over to England. One of the highlights of our stay was spending an evening in their spa, where Liz provided the atmosphere by
lighting some candles and Peter supplied the alcohol with a couple of cans of beer. Needless to say we felt a million miles away from our lives as backpackers, as the spa bubbled away around us. We also got to indulge in our first fry-up in over 7 months, and Peter cooked us a fantastic BBQ with cheese filled sausages and pork chops, garnished with Liz’s superb potatoe salad, all washed down with a bottle of Barossa’s finest. Our stay was a real treat and we were made to feel completely at home by the whole family. After our taste of ‘the good life’ we were dragged kicking and screaming to the airport for our 6 am departure to Melbourne.
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