Australia Day 12

It was an early rise again today as we headed out on our Quicksilver Outer Great Barrier Reef Tour. The weather was still tropical and full of heavy rain bands, but we still held out hope that we would get a break out on the reef. Our driver informed us that there was a high wind advisory and that would translate into heavy surf. We picked up the rest of the busload of people and headed up to Port Douglas to catch our catamaran. Our driver informed us that there were 277 people on the boat out of a possible 450. We arrived at the pier and I was amazed at how crowded the boat was considering that it was not even at full capacity.

We set off onto the approx 1.5-hour voyage to the edge of the barrier reef. There had been lots of warnings from the crew before we left about the big swells on the Coral Sea, but no one changed their mind. Once past the protection, the boat began to roll. I decided that instead of sitting in the sure-to-be-vomit scented air of the interior, I would try and tough it out up on the top deck. It was not bad at first, but I ended up getting pretty wet. I could not figure out why my eyes kept burning. I thought maybe my Target brand sunscreen was getting into my eyes, but then I figured out that it was salt water..Duh. I took the cameras downstairs to where Mom and Gary were holed up, and then rode the rest of the way up there – save for a couple of heavy downpours which forced me to the back patio of the ship. I liked being up there by myself (there was another couple, but they were sitting out of sight on the ground out of the elements, so I pretended to be there on my own) it gave me a chance to just clear my mind and enjoy where I was without any worries of reality.

The Quicksilver VIII arrived at the moored pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef in thankfully calm conditions. All around us you could see massive storms dumping rain, but I was determined not to let it spoil my time. Mom was a little woozy from the journey, so I was on my own in the Semi-Submersible. This reminded me of the Subs at Disneyland so much! I took some photos to bring back to show people at work. Due to the fact it was cloudy, there was not that much color on the reef. To me, it added to the sense of this looks like a Disney re-creation of the GBR and not the real thing. I think some people were certainly disappointed, but I loved every minute of it. After my 20-minute ride, it was time for lunch. They had a huge buffet set up for everyone. Basically, the pontoon is rigged to the bottom of the ocean and is two stories tall and features showers, a changing area, gift shop, buffet line and ample seating. It also had all the boats attached to it, a room to walk down and look at the reef fish as well as places to get snorkels or SCUBA gear – depending on what your fancy was.

I ate my lunch and then climbed into the tightest lycra outfit imaginable. This suit only looked good on about 3 people on the entire pontoon and everyone else looked like some sort of freakish blue seal. I popped on my flippers, mask, and snorkel and headed out onto the reef. It was a bit scary at first, but once I relaxed I was OK. I even managed to get some shots of the Gorn in the water. I had an underwater camera, so I hope these pics come out and not get destroyed like the Tahiti ones. I really had a great time. I do wish the weather was postcard perfect so I could see all the colors of the reef, but at the same time how could I not enjoy the fact I was snorkeling in one of the greatest places on the planet?

After a good hour in the water I was pooped. The weather started dumping rain again and the current was getting too strong to maintain a good position in. Before I got out, I had Gary go get the camera and snap a good photo with the digital camera of me in the water with the Gorn. I then lumbered into the pontoon and dried off. Mom had secured a better spot on the lower deck for the long slog back to the marina. I knew it was going to be a tougher trip back because the weather had gotten nastier. Sure enough, once we were off the reef we were rocking and rolling big time.

About an hour into the return trip, crewmembers were running around frantically with motion sickness medicines and first aid to one person who twisted their ankle. Then it happened. I don’t know who started it, bit someone got sick on the lower level and it just cascaded through the entire ship. I noticed a few full bags starting to be carried through the ship and then I saw the nice Irish ladies who were sitting at the table ask for sick bags. I then decided to make a break for the upper deck and some fresh air, lest I get caught up in the whole moment. I made my way up the first flight of stairs and then the boat took a HUGE lurch to Port side sending me off balance into a Japanese family. The dad tried to push me away as I was being slammed into his table knocking his food off the plate all over the floor. Then like some bad Star Trek episode, we lurched starboard and I went flying back the other way. This nice English gentleman grabbed me and told me to sit down before I got hurt. I was determined to get outside to avoid the sick bag, but the boat would not let me. I took a seat next to him and held on for dear life.

It turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. I started talking to the man. He and his wife were on holiday from the UK and were heading out to Uluru on Wednesday so I told him my thoughts on the whole area. He and his wife were a delight and it kept me focused and not inclined to toss my cookies. Thankfully the torment came to an end as we pulled into the harbor and marina in Port Douglas. It was a trip to remember for sure! I went back downstairs and discovered that the two Irish ladies as well as my mom all tossed their cookies in the onslaught. I am sure glad I bailed before I got it too. Our bus ride back to Cairns was nice and uneventful and gave us all a chance to get our land legs back. We decided to lay low tonight and got some fast food and Baskin Robbins to make us all feel better. I finally got the net to work on my laptop, but only in the lobby of the hotel. So as I type this update, there is the ever present MUSAK that churns out the latest from the 70s, 80s, and today as well as some German Soprano who is belting out tunes from “The King and I” as well as some random German songs. I honestly do not know which is worse.

I think tomorrow we are playing it by ear. There is some desire to do the skyrail/train trip up to the rainforest, but we are all getting a bit money weary with all the extra trips we have decided to do while we are here. I really want to rent a car and drive again, so we will see how it goes.
Oh and a big shout out to Hans-Jorg who I met and chatted with last night and found the site.