Day 2 Sailing and a LONG Drive to Port Douglas

We woke up on the second day of our sailing trip to fluffy white clouds and blue skies, hurray! No more rain! However our joy was somewhat short-lived, as the boat seemed to be infested with March flies. I took my breakfast and tea above deck to try and get away from them but they were just as bad as inside the boat. Breakfast was a less than serene affair, trying to balance my plate of food and swat flies at the same time. The deck of the boat soon looked like a fly cemetery with dead flies everywhere. I could not wait to get the boat moving! A shame as the weather was beautiful, the water was calm, and the view of the surrounding islands beautiful, however I was finding it a challenge to appreciate it all. I know it sounds like I'm complaining too much here about these flies, but they were pretty incessant, constantly buzzing around you and landing on you, and just generally very irritating.

Anyway we finally got going, no sailing again to begin with, heading toward Blue Pearl Bay, on the northern end of Haymen Island to do some snorkelling. Haymen Island has a luxury resort and is apparently where all the rich and famous go when they visit the Whitsundays. Weirdly, the flies were almost non-existent around the island. Our crew speculated that the air is spayed with something to get rid of the flies for the guests staying on Haymen Island. I'm not sure how true that is but it wouldn't be surprising!

In order to get ready to snorkel we had to put on our stinger suits. These look sort of like wetsuits but are not nearly as thick, all lycra with a fleece lining inside. They are to protect you from the deadly Box and Irukandji Jellyfish which are prevalent in the waters around northern Queensland at this time of year. Risk of being stung by a deadly jellyfish aside, the water is absolutely beautiful in the Whitsundays. The temperature is a lovely 28 degrees and so clear you can nearly see the bottom even without your snorkel mask. The coral here is fringing, which means it grows directly from the shore, and the range of fish we saw was amazing. The craziest thing we saw were Mauri Wrasse fish, which were huge, at least a metre long. Andy and I spotted a few and I sort of freaked out and tried to swim away, only to turn around in circles and realize we were surrounded by about 15 of them! Only we weren't really surrounded as they were below us; it's funny how the water doesn't seem that deep when it is so clear.

The rest of the sailing trip was pretty good that day. We had nice weather, stopped at another snorkelling site, and had some pretty epic sailing on the way back to Airlie Beach. The wind was strong and the boat was angled so steeply that as we were sitting on the edge our feet touched the water! Mike and Andy helped to put the sails up again, and I think our captain Mark did something wrong with the position of the boat, as one of the sails was loose and flapping in the wind. A rope at the end hit Sean (crew) on the face and Mike on the back. Sean was not too happy with Mark about that! He had a cut just below his eye that was bleeding and Mike had a pretty nasty bruise on his back. Luckily Mike was not too upset, rather he was very proud of his sailing injury!

All in all I enjoyed the sailing trip, but having bad weather can really put a damper on things. And in the end I was glad we only did one night on the boat instead of two - I'd had enough by the time we got back to Airlie Beach and was happy to be back on land. Recently I read the book Love With A Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche. The author is an Australian who initially has a fear of the ocean but decides, after much deliberation, to sail across the Pacific with her Argentinian boyfriend (it's his lifelong dream). After a harrowing crossing of the ocean, they sail to various islands in the Pacific, and live for months on their sailboat. Although you do read about all the horrible bits, it does sound amazing and I remember thinking "maybe I should learn to sail". This trip totally turned me off of this idea, I now have absolutely no desire to ever sail or live on a boat!

Back in Airlie Beach, where we missed the rain and arrived to a double rainbow, we had dinner at Beaches Bar & Grill as they had a $15 dinner and drink deal. We learned here that you get what you pay for in terms of food and weren't very impressed with our meals, but it was pretty cheap and so I guess you can't complain. Mike, Andy and Dad went to go play Big Buck, this arcade game, and Ashley, Mom and I were left alone at our table... but not for long! A rowdy group of boys (ok, men) found their way over to our table. We found out they were on a Stag do, and they absolutely LOVED it when they found out that we were with my mom! They would not leave her alone, everyone in the party wanted to talk to Barb! Needless to say they were pretty embarrassed when our men came back to our table, and hastily left us!

The next day we collected our rental cars from Europcar and commenced the longest drive EVER from Airlie Beach to Port Douglas. When we were planning this trip we looked at various options in terms of transport for this leg of the trip. Flights would have been good, but they were pretty expensive by the time we looked at them, nearly $400 each if I remember correctly. Plus flights would only get us to Cairns, so we still would have had to rent cars or take a bus from Cairns to Port Douglas, and then back again. There is a bus option as well, but we thought that having cars would be a more flexible option. This was still pretty expensive though, renting 2 cars plus petrol for the drive plus the 4 days in Port Douglas ended up costing just under $1200 for the six of us. Still cheaper than flights though, and it meant we had a car the whole time we were in Port Douglas as well. But the drive was pretty long and boring. The only benefit was that I actually drove about half the time, giving me some good left side of the road driving experience, and a bit more confidence to start trying to drive more in Melbourne again. I don't think I've driven at all since last summer, and the more I put it off the more stressed I get about it. 

We made a stop for lunch in Townsville, which is about 4 hours from Airlie Beach. Not much to say about this place except that our lunch was excellent, at a place called The Balcony. I highly recommend the waffles, which came with grilled bananas, honeycomb, ice cream and caramel sauce. They almost made this drive worth it. Almost.

We were actually making pretty good time until we were about 40 minutes from Port Douglas, on Captain Cook highway. It had started raining pretty heavily and was dark out when we started being passed by police cars and ambulances. That could only mean one thing... there was an accident up ahead. A few minutes later we were stopped by police and told we would have to take an alternate route. Captain Cook highway is a one lane coastal road and there are frequent accidents which close down the highway. The detour around is an extra two hour drive. This was pretty demoralizing, as we were all pretty tired at this point and we were so close to Port Douglas! We stopped at a nearby beach cafe which had just stopped serving food (of course!) but they were so nice and offered to make us some chips and wedges anyway. After refuelling on carbs and coffee we headed back to our cars to make the journey. We ended up arriving in Port Douglas after 11pm absolutely exhausted, but delighted with our accommodation, a three bedroom apartment just off the main street. We pretty much went directly to bed, looking forward to waking up and exploring what Port Douglas had to offer.


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