Realizing a pattern at this point and accepting the fact that we get up at the crack of dawn for every trip, I got up at 5:15 to make our 6 am train to Sydney and catching our 11 am flight to Hamilton Island. The flight was per usual, I booked later than the other girls so I sat alone, but to my amazement I got the entire row to myself. The lady across the aisle was a little cramped so the attendant asked if I would take window seat so she could have a bit more room.
The airport on Hamilton Island reminded me of our little airport back home in Houghton, but much warmer and more exciting to be in than ours. Becca, Kristen, Marissa and I checked in with our ferry and waited about 45 minutes till our boat arrived to take us to Airlie beach. We were so excited to be in tropical weather again we checked out a few shops on our way to the hostel, getting excited to throw some money around at some cool souvenirs and cute thing. Once checked in and settled in our room we ventured out to have a snack, continue shopping and grab some dinner at Cactus Jacks.
Looking seriously at some swim suits earlier we grabbed ice cream at New Zealand Natural before going to try some on. Recently making a deal with myself to start being better about not eating dessert every chance I get, I got the mango sorbet in a cone to make myself feel a little better. Failing to find swim suits we liked we headed to dinner. At dinner being our usual selves we scanned the menu and helped each other order food and drinks. Getting very irritated with the service we were receiving not only here but across Oz (tipping isn’t normal at restaurants so service tends to suck) we flagged down our waitress to order our drinks and food. I got the quesadilla and a side of grilled corn. Very satisfied with my order I slurped down my frozen strawberry margarita and we waited forever for the check until realizing we pay at the counter, not the typical American way. After we were full and tired we decided the only other thing we needed before going on our sailing trip tomorrow were snacks and some goon (Aussie term for boxed wine). We grabbed what we needed and headed back to our room to finish getting ready for our sailing trip and call it a night early.
Being the worst morning person, I got up later than the others and got my things together while they ate brekky. We weren’t really sure where we were headed, so we made sure we left enough time to get lost and buy some sunscreen at one of the shops that would be opening right before we shoved off for our sailing trip. Making our way we ended up confused and almost taking a wrong turn, but thanks to a stranger, we were pointed in the right direction and made it to the docks where we had time to relax and buy a bottle of sunscreen to share. Soon after a lady welcomed us and gave us the run down of what to expect on the boat for roughly the next 48 hours. Excited and ready to go we boarded the boat and made ourselves comfortable on the bow tanning as we left the docks for our trip.
I couldn’t have been more excited to be on this trip, regardless of feeling like the odd man out. I had never been sailing in my life and always wanted to, but without any real opportunity till now I wasn’t going to pass this up. We hopped on board, putting our things away under the deck in our tiny living quarters at the front of the boat, so tiny it was less than 10 square feet. But we managed, regardless of bumping into one another multiple times. I couldn’t have cared less because I was so happy to be back in the reef. I had a nice cup of black tea and some cookies before laying out to enjoy the views from the boat as we left the docks. The water was a crystal clear blue and the sun was shining. Once we got out of the bay, the crew opened the sail and we started cruisin’. The waves were a little bumpy, but nothing to terrible, so we just kept relaxing and soaking up the sun. Until coming into some rougher waters and we began to get soaked. Believing this was happening to everyone, we just took it, until finally couldn’t take both being wet and cold any longer and made our way to the stern of the boat. Figuring out that we were the only ones getting wet, we laughed at our stupidity and dried off in the warm sun before Doug (deck hand/cook) finished making our lunch. Lunch was great, I’ve learned to love dining hall food and take what I can get, but Doug made some great food for us including potato salad, keish, and a salad. We ate our food on the deck, while enjoying the view and still very excited about where we were headed.
Before we knew it we were at our first stop and I was not prepared for how gorgeous this would truly be. We dropped the anchor in Tongue Bay to visit Whitehaven beach for a couple hours. Doug handed out wetsuits for us to use at the beach to protect us from the stingrays and jellyfish we might encounter, just as we all piled onto the dingy to head to shore. We couldn’t all make it on the first trip, so we stayed on the boat with Jesse (skipper) and spotted a few turtles swimming past our boat. Once Doug came back with the dingy for the rest of us piled on and make our way to shore where we all got our shoes back, since shoes aren’t allowed on the boat (safety). On shore I picked up a couple shells and we made our way to the lookout over Whitehaven Beach. Walking through the bush on steps carved out of the landscape and wooden walkways to the most beautiful and secluded place I think I have ever laid my eyes on. The beach was small, but the colors in the water were breathtaking, sweeping like a slithering snake, the colors of blue spanning from a light clear blue to a deep turquoise where you could see the white silt sand sweeping through the range of colors. Surrounding the beautiful water is the greenest foliage that accentuates the color pallet even more, making it more gorgeous than any picture could ever capture. Walking through the bush to get a closer look after listening to Doug explain the science of it all and take some photos from this vantage point.
Feeling a rush to arrive at the beach, I took the lead, out of pure excitement and wanting to have as much time as possible on the beach itself before we had to meet back up on the other side of the island to ride the dingy back to The Waltzing Matilda. Our time spent on the beach started with simply laying out and relaxing, but soon converted into curiosity of what was in the water around us. A mixture of small school fish and sting rays where a given, but when someone said the words shark, I sprang up and was on the prowl looking for what they thought they had seen. There were a few small sharks, about half a meter long swimming around eating the schools of fish we were aware of. I tried getting as close as possible in the shin deep water to get a good photo both with my phone and the GoPro, but came up short because of the not so subtle movements I was making. Waiting for another chance patiently, but never getting one I laid back down on the sand to relax. After such excitement and trying to get back to relaxing we were antsy. We had a photo shoot using the Australian flag towel and messing around to get some good shots before we had to leave. Still with plenty of time left, we finished up our photo shoot to really relax when I wandered off to see the sting rays with my wet suit on and maybe see more sharks. No luck on the sharks, but the sting rays were plentiful. I didn’t realize how far into the water I had gone, until it was over my waist and unsure of what else the water held I turned back to be safe. Removing my wet suit, I laid out to dry off, finally relaxing and not having a care in the world.
Finishing up our final moments on Whitehaven Beach, I wandered off for some alone time. Spotting the little crabs we were told about, the ones who burrow little holes in the sand, leaving small piles of sand beside them. I found a few shells among these itty bitty marble sized holes. Picking up the unbroken ones that caught my eye. Heading back to the girls, I stopped to write in the sand. It being Mothers Day, I wrote, Happy Mum’s Day (Aussie) before running back to the girls to take a photo for me. The girls loved the idea and had me do the same for them. With our photos captured and ready to send home to our mums, we collected our things in a rush to get back to the pick up location before we were late. Checking the time, we knew we would be late, just hoping they wouldn’t leave without us or get angry.
Back on the boat and ready for our next destination, we spotted some dugongs off the side of the boat, as we took to the sea and opened the sails heading for Nara Inlet to get settled for our night on the boat. Near docked, we watched as the sun set over the horizon for the night and changed into some warmer clothes. Happy to be settled in one location, even if the boat was rocking from the rough waters. Spending a night on a boat for the first time, I took in the beautifully starry night that reminded me of home and how much I missed doing this along with my friends at a camp fire on the beach. The girls advised me that they had never seen this many stars in their life, giving me the idea that they were definitely city folk. The skipper, Jesse, joined us for some drinks from our box of goon under the starry night trading stories from our travels and what we had in store for our futures. Jesse, being from New Zealand, and all of us having plans to travel there in the near future, gave us the opportune moment to ask questions and have a contact (social media at its finest) to ask any in the future as we planned our trips. Bringing our blankets and pillows up from our itty bitty room we were all cozy under the stars on the deck for the night. Jesse, making mention of a moon rise, the girls and I laughed and said there’s no such thing. I myself, from the country, had never heard of a moonrise. Joking and waiting for such a thing, we watched our first moon rise, as the moon gold and full, rose above the tops of the mountain peaks surrounding the inlet. Finishing off our goon and calling it a night, we were gazing up at the starry and moon lit night as we closed our eyes on a beautiful Whitsunday night.
Woken up in the middle of the night shivering, I grabbed my blankets and pillow to rest in our cabin out of the wind for the remainder of the night. Realizing one of the other passengers took my bed, I moved Marissa’s things off hers and crawled into bed for a few more hours of rest. Officially woken up by the engine starting on the boat, Jesse and Doug took us form the Inlet to Blue Pearl Bay. Jesse woke everyone up to enjoy Doug’s brekky on the last bit of our journey to Blue Pearl Bay. Enjoying some black tea to give me a jump start to my morning, along with some sustenance, I was ready for whatever awaited us. First on for today was some snorkeling. Jesse informed us that the location we would be snorkeling in, is just off the coast of where the wealthy vacation, including Penelope Cruz just a weak prior. Eager to go, but cold and worried the water would be colder, we hesitated causing some tension. Jesse pushed us to get into our wetsuits and get our butts in the water because it would be fun and a great experience. Caving, I got my swim suit and wetsuit on, before we were loaded onto the dingy.
Off and ready with our masks, it was time to jump off the dingy and into the reef for some snorkeling. Not sure how to get off, I turned to Jesse. Before I knew it he had pushed me off and I was taking in water. Laughing and a little annoyed that, that was the absolute opposite of how I pictured getting off the dingy. Looking up at him laughing at me, I laughed at myself for not just jumping off. Off to the races, with the girls, we put our faces underwater to see what was below us. Being part of the Great Barrier Reef, I was excited to see more of what I had seen in Cairns diving and snorkeling. With the support of my mask, I was able to see the array of colorful fish that swam in, out and around the coral and myself. Blues, yellows, oranges, and all the colors in between, along with every possible size from a stick of gum to a pizza box. The fish were beautiful in every way and what was to come duplicated my joyous feeling by ten. Jesse, still floating around on the dingy after bringing the second group out, threw out pieces of bread, mere inches from where we were floating. The fish began to swim in pursuit of the bread, leaving us with a magnificent show and even touching the fish as they raced by us to get to their snack. Jumping for joy on the inside and reminding myself to not smile because the mask would have let in heaps of water, causing for yet another choking stint. Utterly joyous swimming and floating through the skools of fish, we were warned about not having much time left. I honestly could have floated in that bay for hours, only taking a break for some lunch. Jesse finished up the bread causing the fish to dissipate in time for us to be pulled back onto the dingy and return to the boat.
Climbing back onto the dingy seemed like a no-brainer, but Kristen was unlucky. Jesse reached down for our hand and with a strong grip, we would be pulled over and in. Kristen, on the other hand, made it up and into the boat, but Jesse pushed her back in. I thought she had just fallen out, but he was messing with her. He did pull her back in before we left to climb back aboard the boat for our second snorkeling spot nearby. Back on the boat, it was time for some more snorkeling, but not until we arrived at Langford, just around a few small islands and bends. With the sun higher now, we were ready to get back into the dingy and into the water for more snorkeling before lunch. This time though, I got out on my own and the reef in these parts wasn’t nearly as vibrant and exciting than the last. Regretting leaving the last section, we tried to find some turtles or something interesting. Coming up short and with my second pair of googles not cooperating with me, we heading back to the dingy for some much needed food on board the boat.
Calling it quits on our snorkeling adventures in the Whitsundays, we returned our googles and decided that we would jump off the boat a few times messing around with our wetsuits on before returning them and drying off. Jumping and getting thrown off the boat by Jesse, we had a good time, but it came to an end in time for everyone else to come aboard for lunch. Dry and with some clothes on, we were ready for some food after a good adventure, we gathered around the table under the deck to pick out some buttered bread, pasta with marinara sauce, coleslaw and a little bit of stuffed turkey. Taking my time to enjoy my food, enjoying the view of the wonderfully blue water and sky dotted with while puffy clouds. The meal wasn’t anything special, but with that view it amplified the flavors and feeling while I ate. Clean plate and increasingly becoming aware that our trip was coming to an end, as we only had one destination remaining, the docks in Airlie Beach. Finishing up before heading back, we discussed the various marine life we had encountered, asking questions and having them answered by Jesse.
With everyone full, educated an laying out on the desk, we soaked up the rays as much as we could before we had to return to land. Time may have been dwindling, but we made the most of it. Talking to the crew and volunteering to help out more, we laughed and enjoyed our final hour on the boat. Jesse had mentioned how people ask to drive the boat at various pointing on the tour, but no one had asked and we were hesitant as to what time would be the best. No time is better than the present, right? Jesse moved over from driving with his feet to sit by us and teach us how to drive a sailboat. The girls and I, plus one of the other passengers went before me. Saving the best for last, I got complimented for how good I was. Jesse had pointed out what landmark to keep level with, as we headed towards the harbor to dock. Everyone was doing alright with a little guidance from Jesse. I gave my complete attention and focus to that landmark and feeling the waves rock the boat. Not really sure how I did it, but I kept the boat steady and headed in the direction of the harbor as Jesse asked me to do. Impressed he told me I should get my sailing license. Disagreeing and laughing, little does he know I’m not a very good swimmer and would definitely go down with the boat if anything bad happened. Promising, I would think about it and possibly join the sailing team at my uni back home, it was time to give complete control back to Jesse and Doug, to enter the harbor, dock and disembark for one final time.
Entering the harbor, Marissa volunteered to throw the rope down to Doug, for docking. She threw the large rope hard, but with a major fail the rope landed in the water. We laughed as Doug had to reach into the water to make sure we were properly docked before we could collect all of our things and leave the boat. Back on land for only the second time in 48 hours, we were a bit wobbly at first. I felt like I was still rocking from side to side as I walked down the dock and back onto solid ground. Sad to leave, I looked back at the boat for one last mental photograph and deciding what would be next with our short time remaining in Airlie Beach. Walking back the way we came just a short time ago, we took a pit stop at the lagoon to lay out and relax. As soon as I closed my eyes I felt my body sway from one side to the other, as if I was still on the boat. Unsure when that would subside, I moved onto my other side and tried resting my eyes before the girls decided to head back to our hotel to check in and ready ourselves for dinner.
Dinner on our last night in Airlie was at Beaches where the crew informed us that we would be given a discount. Collecting our things we went off to dinner to have some chicken schnitty and a cider. Jesse and Doug talking us into having more drinks, we shared a couple pitchers before calling it a night our final night in Airlie. Come morning we were to pack up, have a bite to eat and head to the ferry for our trip to Hamilton Island where we would make our way ‘home’ to Newcastle for yet another week of class, while reminiscing about the amazing sailing trip we had in the Whitsunday’s.