The adrenaline junkie theme continued when I arrived in Airlie Beach and signed up for a day of Ocean Rafting to the beautiful Whit Sunday islands.
Just a quick note here to say it took me an exhausting 10 hours in an overnight Greyhound bus to get from Agnes Water/1770 to Airlie Beach. The bus ride was not fun. They stopped the bus pretty much every 3 hours so even if you were one of the lucky ones to drift into some sort of sleep it wasn’t undisturbed for long. I on the other hand got no sleep. None whatsoever. I have a very annoying inability to sleep on any kind of transport – planes, trains, busses – I will be the one, wide awake, staring into space, slowing loosing my mind for the entire journey. Great fun. A quick thanks here to Max and also my Sister who helped me play ‘I spy with my little eye’ on Facebook for most of the journey – thanks guys!!
Ok so I arrived in Airlie Beach at crazy O’clock in the morning and sought out my hostel, only to be told I couldn’t check in for another 5 hours. Awesome. There was nothing else for it but to fall asleep, like the vigrant I now am, on the sofa in the rather gross TV room. I didn’t care. I needed sleep asap! Once checked in and after my little nap I went to explore Airlie Beach.
It’s actually a really pretty place, it’s alot like Byron Bay in that it’s very much geared to the back packers stopping off to visit the Whit Sunday Islands, which means loads of cheap places to eat, a huge amount of bars/clubs and a whole load of travel shops trying to persuade you to spend your money doing a tour with them. It also benefits from a really gorgeous man-made lagoon. I decided I quite Liked Airlie Beach.
After a few nights of craziness and a few mornings of “Oh my god what happened???” I thought I’d get myself booked onto a tour and get out to see the Whit Sunday Islands. After speaking to a travel guide I decided to go for the ‘Ocean Rafting’ day tour. Now I had explained to the travel lady my fear of boats and deep water and was assured this was the best trip for me as I’d be in the boat for a relatively short amount of time, as it’s one of the quickest and gets to the islands pretty fast – more time for snorkeling and beaching. Perfect.
So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived at the docks the next day, boarded the boat and received this intro from our driver Cameron (a rather dishy but slightly thick Auzzie – sort of like the surfy Turtle character in Finding Nemo) “Welcome guys, this is Ocean Rafting! Ocean Rafting is extreme, which means you are extreme and you have chosen to see the islands in an extreme way!!! We are gonna go fast, go hard, get wet and have an awesome day!”
Ok so hang on a minuet. This is extreme is it….Right….Bugger…..
Nothing else for it but to hang on tight. And my god did I – this thing flew through the water! No wait, it flew on top of the water. Honestly one of the fastest things I have ever been on, even faster than James’s crazy motorbike. My hair was whipped about all over the shop and we were drenched through after about 2 minutes. The boat bounced over the waves, crashing over each one, again and again and again. “This is stage one” Said Cameron “It’s pretty calm now, but don’t worry by the end of the day we’ll be up to stage 8 – yeah dudes!!”. Bugger, bugger, bugger. Stage one???? Stage Eight??!!! Bugger, bugger, bugger.
He wasn’t lying either. Once we’d cleared the harbour he started doing what I can only describe as water doughnuts, throwing the boat about and making it swerve round in a massive half circles – nearly loosing half the passengers in the process. At this point I had a little word with myself….it went something like this “Ok, so apparently you are an extreme person…who knew?! But you have ridden a motorbike, you’ve snorkeling, faced a shark (a little baby brown one but a shark non the less), you have drunk goon (lethal stuff!), you have done all manner of brilliant, crazy, brave things…..you can totally do this and you will have an awesome time. So just smile, scream that you’re having an “awesome time dude” whenever asked and very quickly you will be having awesome time”.
It turns out I’m quite clever and be quite persuasive…with myself? This little chat changed everything. I went from frozen with fear, breakfast in my throat, thinking about how I might swim back to shore….to screaming at Cameron to go faster, asking if I could drive the boat and laughing my arse off with every bounce, wave and crazy maneuver that came our way. I did in fact, love it!! It’s a funny thing, but if you fake it pretty soon you’re loving it. I’m sure that could be taken the wrong way but I’m purely talking about the rafting!
Anyway when the Whit Sunday islands came into view they literally took my breath away. I’d been waiting a long time to see them – ever since reading about them in my Bill Bryson book “Down Under” – a must for anyone coming out here, brilliant and so funny! I could use words like beautiful, stunning, paradise but that really won’t do them justice…I’ll just pop some pictures in here and hope you can see what I mean…..
I was sharing this experience with quite a few ladies…there was about 10 of us in total….8 Germans, 1 Brazilian and 1 English….we had a blast that day and despite the obvious linguistic challenges we managed to form a tight-knit group which really brought something special to the day. Thats definitely something I’ve learned about myself on this big adventure. I can in fact make friends with anyone. It’s kind of cool to realise but put me anywhere, any situation, with any kind of person and before long we’re chatting away like old friends.
We explored about three beaches in total and stopped off a few times for some snorkeling. Unlike last time I took to the water like a pro…driving straight in, no panic, no fuss, just in the water and on the hunt for some fish. I wasn’t disappointed either. Unlike the murky waters of Moreton Island here the water was crystal clear, the coral was amazing, every colour you can image and the fish….wow! I saw some seriously crazy fish. One was covered in neon stripes….like some 80’s rave dancer….bright yellow’s, oranges, blues, purples and greens. This thing was mental. I think he was my favourite. I saw lots of Nemo’s too (I know my nieces will love that!), some big black fish with blue stripes around their faces, funny looking little pink fish…. and loads of others. It was like being in a giant aquarium in a dentists waiting room…..only better.
After a whole day of rafting, beaching, snorkeling, laughing and posing for about a thousand pictures we headed back to the harbour. I was genuinely sad the day was done and had to giggle when Cameron said to me “I knew you were an extreme girl right from the start“. Yeap maybe I am…..
I could go on to talk about how us 10 ladies met up later that night to party in Airlie but I honestly don’t know how I would even start to share the randomness of that night. It’s best left for another time….over several beers….when I’m brave enough to talk about it.