Having woken up feeling absolutely shocking after a night on the goon, we finally arrived in Airlie Beach at 9am after a very very long 15 hour overnight bus ride. We were staying at a place called Backpackers by the Bay, about a 5 minute walk from the centre of town. We quickly indulged in a well earned shower and then went into Airlie to get some brekkie. It was a scorching hot day and we met up with Luke and Sarah (the Canadian couple from our Fraser Island trip) and went to the Airlie Beach lagoon. There is a beach there but at the moment we are in 'stinger' season - there are some potentially fatal jellyfish in the water at this time of year so unless you are wearing a very sexy all in one lycra 'stinger suit' you'd be mad to go into the sea water. The four of us sat by the lagoon most of the day relaxing and trying to find shade as it was so hot!
That evening we met up for drinks and had some Greek kebabs for dinner, then hit a bar called Magnums...a place for the crazy and party-orientated 18 year olds. There was a huge foam party going on there...
We were up early the next day and down to the port we went, so excited about the next few days ahead! Our home during our trip was called the Waltzing Matilda - a 14 man tall ship, really beautiful!
Although the rain came pouring down whilst we were sat waiting to get onboard, it cleared up within half an hour and left us with the most beautiful day. We were shown on board, armed with a small bag and our alcohol and met the rest of our group - 12 of us (2 english, 2 Austrian, 2 Irish and a family of 4 from Canada). Tom and I luckily managed to get our own cabin...I say cabin....it was just about big enough to fit Tom and I standing next to eachother, but not to move around in...cosy!
The first day we sailed for about 2 hours to our first snorkelling stop. We donned our sexy stinger suits and in we got. I think the captain said the water was about 28 degrees! I've never seen fish or coral like it in my life - the colours were absolutely stunning and everywhere to be seen and I couldn't put a number on all the different types of fish we saw, again, of the most amazing colours. It was really breathtaking and we absolultely loved it!
Whilst sailing to the bay where we were to set up camp for the night, we spotted a pod of dolphins. It was incredible - they came up to the boat and were swimming along beside us!! There must have been about 15 of them at least - we'd never seen them so close up and it really was breathtaking to see them only a couple of feet away from us as we were all hanging off the side of the boat trying to get a better look. Our captain said it was a pretty rare thing to encounter so we felt really lucky to have seen them so close, an awesome day!
That night, we all relaxed on the boat and got stuck into some beers - we were the last to go to bed with the irish couple - trust the Irish! We hit the sack at about 1am, looking forward to what tomorrow would bring. Except that we were still awake 3 hours later...to say that our cabin was like a sauna would be an understatement - we couldn't get any fresh air in as there wasn't any breeze and the only thing we had to keep us cool was a tiny little fan which basically just moved the hot air around...it was hell. At 4am, we'd had enough so took our pillows and went and snoozed on deck for a bit to try and cool down...it worked, but was bloody uncomfortable!
Our second day arrived and we headed off to another snorkelling site in the morning. Again, we were surrounded by beautiful coral and fish, but the water was a bit murky which made things hard to see. Then, the hilight of the trip - Whitehaven Beach. There are no words to describe the beauty of this place - the water goes as far as the eye can see, it's the most incredible bright turquoise colour with sand spits running through it. From up high, there is a look out and you can see the stinger rays and reef sharks swimming around in the lovely warm shallow waters. Sadly, it was a touch on the cloudy side when we were there, but none the less, it is impossible not to be stuck by how stunning it is.
Having been up to the lookout to get an overall view of the beach, we headed down to get a closer look. Tom and I left our stuff with two of the girls and went out along one of the sand spits to see if we could see some sting rays close up. Disaster then struck! We climbed up onto a small rock to get a better look at where they were, and we didn't realise how slippery the rock was. I lost my footing and came crashing down and in looking around to see if I was OK, Tom then did the same. There were lots of very very sharp oyster shells implanted into the rock which pretty much acted like cheese graters and left us hobbling back down the beach, leaving blood behind us as we went, to try and get back to our boat. Luckily, the guys on the boat had all sorts of devices to get the sand and grit out of the cuts, along with plasters and iodine to disinfect them. Although not life threatening, it means that we're still hobbling around 4 days later! However, nothing that a good many beers and wine couldn't cure that evening, so we were sat on deck whilst the Captain (Johnny) played his guitar and had us all singing along to some good old classic songs.
The following day was Australia Day so we were roused from our sleep by Rolf Harris blasting on the ipod - not sure how grateful I was for that after a carton of wine the night before. We had spent the previous night in a place called Manta Ray bay which was just beautiful and there weren't any other boats there so we were on our own snorkelling the next day which was again stunning.
It was then time to head back to the mainland sadly. We had one pit stop along the way but otherwise cruised back to Airlie Beach having made some really good friends and some great memories!
That night back on Airlie Beach we met up again with Luke and Sarah and treated ourselves to cocktails and a Mexican supper - after 3 days living in the cramped confines of a boat (I can tell you, that trying to shower whilst only being able to stand on one leg, with a rocking boat and being limited to only 2 minutes of water, is anything but ideal!) - we thought we deserved a treat! Then off we hobbled back to our hostel before heading off to Townsville and Magnetic Island the next day.