I guess it's not all bad..
I shouldn’t whinge. I mean, I REALLY shouldn’t whinge. Some people work their whole lives to charter a boat for a week in the Whitsundays, to sail from isle to isle through aquamarine water looking for the perfect anchorage where steep, tropical-green mountains meet powdery white sand beaches; all the while keeping a lookout for sea turtles, manta rays, dugongs and, at the right time of year, whales.
But I – I am not that impressed. And I really don’t know why. I honestly can’t tell if I set my expectations too high or if I just have a shitty attitude, if I was deceived by the stunning aerial photos or my vision is clouded by desire for crystal clear water and/or waves. But I can tell you one thing: I am incredibly spoiled. I am the first to admit it. However, as you are my friend and confidant I am sure you won’t mind if I vent for a bit.
We arrived in the Whitsundays almost a week ago after a quick overnighter during which we were nearly run over by a freighter but saved thanks to my quick, evasive action. The next afternoon we were greeted by the beautiful sands of Whitehaven beach, known for having the purest silica sand in the world – so pure in fact that sand from this beach was sent to the U.S. in order to make the lens for the Hubble Telescope. (I am not sure if this is actually true, but it makes for a good story and was told to me by a tour guide.)
Once we set the anchor I went for a paddle in the kayak to get the scoop. You see, the Whitsundays are an excellent cruising ground and are also a charter boat hotspot. You might think that the fact that people who have no idea how to sail whatsoever are anchoring right next to us might have put me off, but really it just made things a bit more interesting. I could have also been put off by the heaps of tour boats dumping 30 snorkelers in the water with foam noodles to ensure their survival, but again, that was pure entertainment.
Not joking or exaggerating.
In fact, and you might be surprised to learn this, but I was a bit hesitant to go in the water at first. You see, both the box jellyfish and the microscopic Irukandji jellyfish are both incredibly painful stingers that can be fatal, and they are known to reside in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. So I decided to ask the tour guide if it was safe to swim in the water. “Oh yea mate, no worries this time o’ year! Although, people been stung all times of the year, no rhyme or reason to those buggers. You’ll be ‘right though.” Thanks for the reassurance. Don’t even tell me about the tiger sharks.
His reassurance was enough for me and for the past few days Mom, Mary and I have been enjoying some pretty good snorkeling. To be fair, Mary was blown away by the coral – the staghorn coral surrounded by bright blue tangs, the lettuce leaf coral being munched on by parrot fish, soft corals galore… And if I hadn’t snorkeled and dived Vanuatu and Chesterfield Reef I would have been blown away too. It’s just… after diving with 100 feet of visibility and pristine coral, 20 feet of visibility is kind of disappointing. Like I said, I am spoiled. I prefer crystal clear water, steep coral walls and lots of big fish swimming around.
However, I have high hopes for the outer reefs of the GBR, the outer atolls. I have been told (mainly by Aussies) that the northern GBR surpasses anything they saw in the South Pacific: bigger fish, more pristine coral and so on. So once again I have very high expectations, but as part of one of the biggest marine reserves in the world, I think they are warranted.
But we are still in the Whitsundays and I am really trying to enjoy being here now. Today Mom, Mary and I (Dad’s arm is still hurting so he has not been joining us on expeditions) went on a nice hike through the bush. I came across a three foot goanna (giant lizard) as well as a giant spider which must have been six inches across. I think I’ll stick to the water – I would much rather encounter weird ocean creatures than weird land creatures.
Unfortunately all good things (and not-so-good things) must come to an end. Mary flies out tomorrow afternoon and we will head north, probably stopping in Townsville. It has been great having Mary on board – she keeps us all in good spirits, is always keen for a swim and does the dishes frequently – all good qualities of a guest/crew.
And so, moving on! I hear Townsville is a really stellar place and I am sure you won’t hear one more peep of negativity from me. Thanks for listening.