Reefer Madness!!

Alert, alert. The guy with the sticks just told us that they left snorkeler behind the other day on the Great Barrier Reef. We’re going to have to pay strict attention on our day in the water!!

So…here we are post-reef as it were. What a day. We met the bus at 8:00 a.m. just outside the time share condo place we’re at…we just rented a 2 bedroom apt. and it happened to be at a time share property. Nice. Clean. Fans in every room. A kitchen. But who the heck has time to cook. There are places to go and people and fish to see.

But I digress. The bus ride to Port Douglas where we met the catamaran took about an hour plus 30 minutes. Since we were the first to be fetched, we saw the outside of many resorts as we were on a full-sized bus and it stopped at least 6 times. One time we waited 10 minutes as the passengers had gone missing. We finally pulled away and at the next stop down the street about a block, a woman was almost crushed by the closing bus door as she beseeched the driver to allow her and her brood to board. There were 5 in her tribe. All in their seats, we continued toward to Port Douglas. The driver gave us a bit of history. The lower plains are home to crops of sugar cane. Port Douglas was named after a fellow named Douglas who hiked there and said, “this looks like a place to settle”. Today, it is a cute little berg that is getting bigger. Cairns (pronounced Cans) is bigger and less quaint and it’s beaches are mud flats, really. Because Cairns is on flat land, the international airport is located in Cairns and actually has been here quite a long time. The entire area is supported by tourist and sugar cane. We passed a paddock(fence bit of property?) of wallabies today. Don’t know why they were all together in one place…but there they were (small kangaroos is what they look like).

It rains here from Oct. thru Dec. generally. It gets hot and muggy in a month or so. We came at a very good time. And today in particular was glorious. Very little wind, copious sun…perfect. The water was cold. That surprised me but we were glad because with the warming ocean come the jelly fish and they can kill you here. So…just as well, mate.

Speaking of Australian english, it is a hoot. To go food is called take away, auto body shops are called smash repairs. Need some limb lopping on that tree in the front yard? There was a classified listing in the yellow pages…Slivering snake removal…any snake, any time. The Aussies have a keen sense of humor and we have had a great time visiting with them. As an example, today we sat down facing David and Julie from the Gold Coast (Brisbane). They were taking the trip for their granddaughter, age 11. He was recovering from knee surgery so he couldn’t do anything so he volunteered to watch our stuff while we frolicked in the reef. The trip out took 90 minutes…going fast. It was quite a distance to the outer reef so there was plenty of time to visit with David and Julie. What are the chances we would meet someone that had been in the Oval Office? yes, THAT oval office. He worked for the gov’t down here and was involved in planning head of states visits. Had some great stories but I had a hard time hearing him, understanding his accent when I did hear him…and I couldn’t keep my eyes off his lower teeth. There was one or two that stuck up funny and while I was attempting to lip-read, I kept being distracted by those teeth. Such is the life of a hard-to-hear person. I mean, were his teeth always like that? Did he get kidded at school or work? Does he have a dentist? I say all of this in jest. He was a great guy.

But I digress. Does and arm and a leg have any meaning to you? The outfitter for this adventure charged an arm and a leg. And everything was extra. Just for the transportation (bus and boat), it was almost $300 a head. Then there was the swim with the marine biologist, $47/each. And then the “hire” for the digital underwater camera, $67. VERY expensive. However, we figured this was it. Our one and only trip here so why hold back? In a word it was fabulous. The colors of the coral was much better than the pictures. The fish were pretty but the coral was fabulous. The clams were enormous. The tour with the marine biologist was informative if you could hear him. He kept diving down as seen below.
So I tried to dive down too. The third time I got kicked in the head by one of my compatriots…so after seeing stars finally stop circling…from then on I lagged behind taking pictures. We all looked alike in our lycra body suit and wetsuits. And the wetsuit made it impossible to go down and stay down…you couldn’t drown if you wanted to. So, it went like this. I would head down, kick the air with my glamorous flippers, struggle to get my feet underwater, take on sea water in my snorkel and then resurface after achieving a depth of about 2 feet. No Esther Williams here. So, I asked the guide and he explained the flotation tendencies of the wetsuit and so I gave up. Ray as far as I know never tried. Not sure about Bernie either. There were about 8 or 9 of us on the “tour”. Luckily we went from some deep water to really shallow water that allowed me to snap some of these pictures.



This is a giant clam…about 4 feet long…Below is Ray showing you a piece of dead coral. And below that our guide diving down…he was not wearing a wetsuit. Then Ray in his lycra. My feet.





Above this fish is Ray not drowning. There were fish everywhere but they were extremely hart to photograph as they actually SWIM.


The catamaran delivered us to the “station”. A big platform in the reef. It had closed screen TVs, a bar, a full buffet. You could take a submarine ride, a helicopter ride, you could don big helmets and walk down an underwater plank to see fish without losing your hair-do or your make-up. There was an underwater observatory. Scuba diving was also offered. Many, many ways to spend a delightful day on the reef, stimulate the Aussie economy and meet people who had been to the Oval Office. Too many people? We understand, no, they only brought one catamaran full of people…high season they bring two. Yikes. An observation. The travel pictures on their website show about a maximum of 3 people in the water. As you can see from the pictures…that was a big sales pitch. It was a zoo but very fun anyway.


In order for us to snorkel away from the platform, we had to fill out out a medical questionnaire. Because of Ray’s heart condition, red flags went up. And they suggested we take the beginners tour rather than the advanced tour. And they outfitted him with a snorkel with a red tip so they could keep a good eye on him. He was miffed. The IDEA. Happy to report there were no problems.

The only disappointment I had was that we didn’t see any manta rays, sharks, or other bigger fish…or turtles. On the flipper side, we didn’t see any jellyfish or great whites either. Soiling your lycra and wetsuit would not have been pleasant!!
The big fish up close and personal.

When we returned to base camp, it was after 6 p.m. So, we had some wine and appetizers and then headed out to Barnacle Bill’s where Ray and I had shrimp and bugs for dinner. The bug was like a lobster/crayfish thingie. Sweet and mild. Good. Fresh. Bernie had tempura and chips (fries). Dinner was picked up by Bernie. Thank you Bernie. And we picked up the cab rides which cost $30 round trip. Everything is expensive in Australia.

Tomorrow it’s the rain forest.

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