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The Great Barrier Reef

Yorkeys Knob, Australia


Early on in our 4 month trip down under, I received an email from my mum about a place that she’d found for us to stay while we visited the Great Barrier Reef and rainforest around Cairns. It looked nice enough: self-contained apartments; swimming pool; short walk down to the beach, and set in a quiet little town a short drive from Cairns itself. For some reason the main selling point for my mum however, was the towns name: Yorkey’s Knob. She said it seemed an appropriate stopping point for someone from Cockshutt. Feeling slightly nauseous, I advised leaving the booking until the last minute when we would be sure of the dates we’d need.

Sure enough, we ended up booking the place my mum had originally suggested while we were in Hervey Bay, and spent our first day in Yorkey’s Knob relaxing and catching up on sleep after the previous days’ flying, driving, off-roading, swimming and whale-watching. Me and Dad decided to hold a summit meeting with our friendly host to sort out all the things we’d need to book for the next few days. Angela and my mum stayed back in the apartment and probably talked about boys and make-up.

Seeing as we were planning to go snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef, I’d thought I’d take the opportunity to ease my parents into the experience by holding a little practise session in the evening. The water was already too cold to hold the nursery in the swimming pool, so I filled up the kitchen sink with warm water. I was amazed when my mum actually agreed to put the snorkel on and practice breathing with her head in the sink. The limitation of this technique was the lack of view (the bottom of the sink), and the constant danger of the tap above your head. The culmination of this brief foray into the underwater world was practising clearing the snorkel of water. My lack of forward planning meant that I hadn’t considered that this manoeuvre would spray water all over the kitchen.

Our second day in Cairns was my dad’s birthday, so to celebrate we went to the Great Barrier Reef. We were warned beforehand that the winds were likely to be 20-25 knots, so the 1 ½ crossing to the Reef itself could be a bit rough. Not even my dad was quite sure exactly what a knot equated to, so we were a little taken aback by quite how rough the crossing turned out to be in the end. The general advice once on board seemed to be; take an anti-seasickness pill about half an hour before you travel. Failing that, Ang suggested going outside, holding onto the railing and looking at the horizon. However, Ang was the only one among us who had never really been seasick before. But if it worked, it sounded like a great solution to me. With the ship tumbling about in the waves, I’d make my way out onto the deck because I’d be feeling like I was about to hurl, but to everyone else it’d look like life wasn’t harsh enough for me in the protected little cabin. No, I wanted to go outside and battle the Sea eye to eye; fight the waves as they attempted to wash me overboard and laugh in the face of danger.

As it happened, when I eventually went outside to join my parents who had taken an early exit, I was joining the majority of the people on the ship. It was a bit more like a walking into a doctor’s waiting room rather than waging war against the elements. Groans from sickly people emanated from above and to the side, and the occasional (bio-degradable) bag of vomit would fly over my head to land in the waters behind us.

When we finally arrived at the pontoon (where we were to be based for the rest of the day,) everyone was looking a little bit green. But there was no respite for mum and dad, as (despite the comprehensive training I’d provided,) they’d decided to join a beginners snorkelling group and had to get kitted out and in the water straight away. Me and Angela decided against joining a group, and went in on our own with an underwater camera we’d hired for the occasion. The Coral was teeming with all sorts of colourful fish of all shapes and sizes, and we spent an hour either side of the buffet lunch we were given in the water, taking lots of pictures of the sights around us. I spent a good ¼ hour chasing a massive, metre-long fish (which turned out to be a Mauri Wrass) and eventually managed to get a good picture of it. This particular fish was apparently quite famous amongst the people working on the pontoon and even had a name; Wally. At one point in the afternoon, chasing a free meal, Wally swam right up and beached himself on the snorkelling platform at edge of the pontoon. I can only imagine Mauri Wrass don’t taste very nice.

The crossing on the way back was a lot better, but we were still all glad to get back on dry land in the evening. We went out for my dad’s birthday meal at a boat club near our apartment, and the next evening he finally got his birthday (cheese)cake, which came complete with candles. His delight at this treat was all too apparent.


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permalink written by  olliejohnson on August 20, 2007 from Yorkeys Knob, Australia
from the travel blog: A Brit and a Canuck Down Under
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