Only living thing that can be seen from space – here we come!! We arrived nice and early only to discover – the boat was broken. We were leaving for Darwin the next day. Umm…..great. The options the company offered were 1) book another day – not possible, as mentioned above, or, 2) go on their other larger boat to different sites – even the employees of the company disuaded most people from this option. So, I forlornly stood in line to cancel and beg for a refund while Courtney and Monica raced to each of the other companies housed in the same building hoping for a miracle. And the horseshoes up our asses seemed permanently lodged! Monica and Courtney casually strolled back to me to whisper that they’d finagled us onto a boat down the hall but it was leaving ASAP. When we finally got to the counter the three of us put on our sad faces to explain we couldn’t change dates due to travel plans, would like to cancel, and it’s okay, our hostel is close enough to walk back to, sigh, so we don’t need to book into the shuttle this morning. Poor us. It was everything we could do to walk, not sprint gleefully, out of the packed-with-disgruntled-tourists office until we got into the hallway where the lady from the other company was craning her neck around the corner to see if we were coming yet. ZING down to HER payment counter and a full-out run to our new boat – with more employees craning necks and barely waiting until the last flip flop was off the dock before pulling out. WE MADE IT!
Yes, we made it…just in time to catch the end of the morning announcement suggesting, “You should have taken motion sickness medication half an hour ago to ensure effectiveness; today is very windy and one of the roughest days we’ve had.” Ohhhhhh superb. We grabbed a couple of the free ginger tablets they were handing out, but by the time I’d finished completing the ‘permission slip’ for the trip, my eyes were locked on the horizon and the air on the boat seemed to be getting staler and staler by the nanosecond. Outside I went. Found a bar to steady myself against, a mountain peak to focus on, avoided looking at or listening to those already hit by sea sickness and began to marvel at the calm, patient, and caring nature of the Aristocat’s staff. I can’t imagine many of them applied for a reef job in great anticipation of heaving biodegradeable barf bags over the side of the boat and actually ‘swabbing the decks’ of tacky tourist vomit. After a few check-ins, a cup of water, and a “just-in-case” bag I succumbed to the motion of the ocean. 😦 But, BOY, did I feel better afterwards!
We made it to our first reef stop and after a quick orientation we had to get down to our bottom layer and face the wind before leaping into the… WARM…water! It was much better IN the water than OUT. Our first outing showed us just how strong the ocean can be! I’m a pretty strong swimmer but barely seemed to move no matter how hard I swam. From site one to site two lunch was served. Really? You want me to put food into my heaving stomach that is fighting against my full body shiver from sitting in a wet bathing suit wrapped in a wet towel. Mmmm, bread and water. That’s about all I could handle!
At our second site Courtney did an introductory dive and Monica and I managed to get a few photos in the sunlight – what a difference that made (though still not great… I am no expert underwater photographer! Don’t judge too harshly, haha)!
Huddling wet inside the boat doing everything I could to hold my cookies wasn’t all that appealing, so I spent the next fifteen minute chug from the second site to the third site outside. While the whipping wind nearly ripped the towel from my hands, I did feel a little bit like a caped crusader and dried my towel and self a tiny bit in the process! At the third site we were able to swim around an entire section of reef, but when the currents got too strong and started pushing too many people into the reef we had to pack it in and head back to the sheltered side with the boat.
The warm-shower-dry-clothes-hot-tea-slice-of-chocolatey-cakey goodness experience was indescribably luxurious. As we started the long journey home (Courtney and I took motion sickness pills at lunch in preparation this time!) we all stood up to rock with/against the boat’s swells and find that horizon line. I was okay for about half the trip then journeyed back outside with Courtney joining me shortly after!
Our Great Barrier Reef adventure ended with finding the daytime resting place of the thousands of bats we’d seen flying at dusk the night before and enjoying the yummiest, largest, most inexpensive Australian restaurant meal in six months! Thank you HOT POT! Stay tuned for our self-guided Northern Territory adventures! Whoop!