In May 2008, I went travelling on my own for the first time and was out of England for a month. Along the way I took in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand before coming home. I kept a journal of my time on the road, so here’s a day by day account of my trials and tribulations that has the undeserved title of Dave’s Odyssey.
Day 23 – Cairns – The Great Barrier Reef
There seems to be a curse amongst our group at the moment. The poor dear that fell awkwardly at Walpa Gorge chose not to go to the Barrier Reef as did her husband. Then another member of our group – Derek – was taken to hospital suffering a bad reaction to some medication. Alex informed me that he would have to go to the hospital too and that I was head of the group on his behalf! He never told me exactly what I needed to do as leader so my philosophy was to let everyone do whatever the hell they pleased.
Alex dropped us off at the docks and we quickly set sail on the catamaran. Most of us opted to sit on the deck and admire the scenery. It was slightly overcast in Cairns and very breezy out on the ocean, so much so that Valerie – one of my adopted grandparents – lost her hat. I couldn’t keep my cap on and this would later prove to be damaging.
Due to the unpredictable weather our tour was amended slightly. Our first stop was Upolu Cay, a natural sand island used as base for those going snorkelling. They were taken out to the island on a glass-bottomed boat while the rest of us relaxed on deck. The sun was out but struggled to break through the clouds at times meaning sunbathing was pointless.
After a delightful buffet lunch I opted to take a ride aboard the glass-bottomed boat and it was a memorable voyage, I must say. While we watched the bottom of the shallow sea give way to the coral reefs we had some commentary detailing a few facts and figures about the Barrier Reef. The surprising thing was how dull and monotonous it appeared colour-wise but this was explained as a result of the depths the reef is at. The lack of a myriad of colours surprises most tourists it seems. We saw plenty of fish, starfish and giant clams so it was more than a worthwhile trek.
I didn’t feel bad about not snorkelling on the reef, especially after hearing accounts from others in the group. The conditions weren’t ideal, they didn’t see many fish and most were in the water only a few minutes before they had to surface, as their masks were quickly filling with water. Even in the shallows at Upolu Cay I think that would have put me off.
The journey back to shore was as memorable as the rest of the day. I braved the deck once more and sat with a small group from my tour. The breeze was strong, the catamaran was rocking violently and ocean spray was hitting us all. It was fantastic scenery and a great way to set for shore.
The bad luck plaguing or group reared its ugly head before the end of the day. In the morning, two women from our group had felt seasick and a third – Jackie – was having a torrid time on the swaying vessel, so much so that she was hanging onto the nearest rope and looking horrified at every moment. In the afternoon one of the seasick women recovered enough to join us on the deck and was rewarded for her courage by having her trousers completely drenched. Her misfortune wasn’t surprising. Her husband, on this day, still carried cuts on his nose inflicted on a tour outside Melbourne when a friendly bird tried and failed to land on his face. I hadn’t been there to see it, but I imagine it was horrifying!
I was the last to leave the deck and on my return to the lower deck found I’d missed out on free wine while the poor dear who had seemingly recovered from her seasickness had now succumbed once more and filled a few bags in the process. I felt so sorry for her. Thankfully the voyage soon came to an end and we got her ashore.
Back at the hotel I was surprised to find that the top half of my face was bright red. I’d put suntan lotion on the lower half in the morning and assumed my cap would shadow the rest. Since I’d had my cap off for almost the entire journey the top half of my face had been made to suffer. I’d had ample warnings from my group who told me the strong breeze and ocean spray could be just as damaging as the sun. They must have a point because the sun struggled in the overcast skies and we had rain to contend with at times. Oh well, it had been an enjoyable day despite the uneven burns on my face.
Tomorrow promised a free day in Cairns. Looking at the map Cairns appeared to be all shops, restaurants and cafés with nothing much to do aside from further oceanic excursions. I didn’t mind too much. I wanted to email some people from an Internet café. I told family and friends back home that I’d email all the time but had only done so once in 23 days. It had been difficult finding time. So, tomorrow would be uneventful but after the hectic last few days with early wake-up calls and the rough terrain of the Northern Territory that could only be a good thing.
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