Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Airlie Beach & Day 1 Sailing in the Whitsundays

Ok so I've had a nice long break from the blog, owing mainly to my parents, brother Mike and his girlfriend Ashley coming to Australia for a visit. We visited Hobart, Sydney, Melbourne (of course), Apollo Bay, The Whitsunday Islands and Port Douglas over the 4 weeks they were here, and I am going to attempt to write about all these places before we start back at school in less than two weeks. This first post is about Airlie Beach and our first day of a two-day sailing trip through The Whitsundays Islands. The day after New Year's we flew into Proserpine airport from Melbourne and from there got a shuttle bus ($18) to Airlie Beach. Proserpine is probably the best airport to fly into if you are visiting the Whitsundays as it is the closest to Airlie Beach, or you can also fly directly into Hamilton Island, which is the most popular island in terms of resorts etc.

We stayed at Magnums Backpackers in Airlie Beach for the nights before and after our sailing trip. We booked our trip through them which meant we got one night free. I was a bit wary when we first entered Magnums through their huge outdoor bar and entrance to the nightclub (advertising Jelly Wrestling that night) thinking it would be really noisy at night. But, I was pleasantly surprised by this place. The rooms closest to the bar were the dorm rooms, and then the double rooms, where we were staying, were a little further back. They were (crucially at this time of year) air conditioned, and every 3 rooms share a bathroom, which isn't too bad. 

Rum Tasting
After dropping our bags off in our rooms we decided to get dinner, and using my trusty Urban Spoon app, we decided on a place called Fish D'Vine. What a find this place was! I highly recommend it, delicious fish and seafood that you can pick out yourself from the counter, and within the restaurant was a Rum Bar, which boasts 200 different types of rum. My dad, Andy and Mike basically drank rum non-stop this whole trip, so they were in their element here, and we spent the evening tasting different rums.


The view from our room in Magnums - rainy morning!
The next morning we woke to torrential rain - not a great start to our sailing trip! Thankfully it cleared a little by the time we boarded the boat. The forecast had called for non-stop rain for the whole time we were in the Whitsundays, so we were trying not to get too despondent about this, as out on the islands the weather can be very different to on land. The company we booked with were called iSail Whitsundays and we were sailing on the Iceberg, a racing sailboat that raced in the Sydney-Hobart Yacht race in the 90s. There were 12 people on the boat, a family from Germany and a couple from Switzerland, plus the two crew, Mark and Sean. 

Day 1 of our trip was less than perfect, to be honest... but this was mainly due to the weather. Although it wasn't constantly raining, we did have periods of rain and it was a bit cold above deck. Once we hit open water the water was pretty choppy and I went below deck for a while to get out of the rain. This was a big mistake as I was then feeling pretty seasick so had to go back up top. After quite a few hours of being on the boat (we weren't able to sail at this point as the winds weren't blowing in the right direction) we had our first stop on Whitsunday Island. I was pretty happy to get off the boat at the point, although that was short lived. As soon as we stepped on the island we were attacked by monster flies... we later found out they are called March flies, and they bite you looking for blood just like a mosquito does. The six of us were the first lot to be dropped off on the island while Mark went back in the speedboat to get the other six from the Iceberg.  We must have looked ridiculous, dancing around trying to swat at the constant flies. Mark and Sean advised us to let them land on us and then whack them, they are pretty stupid and easy to kill once they have landed, although it takes a little time to get used to letting them land on you. I think it would have been nice if the tour company had advised us to bring some bug spray, as we were totally not expecting this!

More rain in the distance

Anyway, we hiked up the island for about 10-15 minutes to Hill Inlet lookout, giving a breathtaking view of Whitehaven Beach. Whitehaven Beach is regularly voted one of the best beaches in the world, due to the pristine white sand which is so fine it felt like you were walking on silk. We were dropped off at the beach for 2 hours which normally would have been heaven, if it wasn't windy and raining!! We were pretty much the only people on the whole 7km stretch of beach and had no idea what to do for 2 hours in the rain on the beach! The water was pretty warm at least (28 degrees) so you could still swim, and the rain did stop so we ended up just walking up and down the beach. Its a bit of a disappointment when you visit one of the world's most beautiful beaches and it's raining, but it is the wet season in this part of Australia so we should have been expecting something like this might happen.

The view from Hill Inlet lookout

After Whitehaven beach we headed back to water that was protected from the wind and waves and had dinner on the boat under the stars. We were actually able to sail during this part of the trip, and Mike and Andy got involved in putting up the sails. Dinner was pretty nice, and we were very impressed with the food that Sean made for all our meals on the boat. Nothing fancy, we had Gnocchi and salad, but it was pretty tasty. We did have to be prepared for "Bullet" winds however, these huge gusts of wind that would come out of nowhere through the funnel created by the two islands we were docked in between. We also had a bit of rain in the evening, and would have to race around the boat closing all the hatches so that our beds wouldn't get wet down below. Thankfully though it didn't rain throughout the night, as if we had had to sleep with all the hatches closed I think we would have suffocated down in our tiny cabins all night! I actually had a great sleep that night, which I was totally not expecting, rocked to sleep by the gentle waves and cooled off by the breeze off the sea. 

Captain Andy!
Stay tuned for day 2 of our sailing trip, my mom being hit on by a bunch of guys on a stag do, and our dreadful drive from Airlie Beach to Port Douglas.

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