Days 10, 11, 12: On to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Well, I’ve been slacking with the blog post again. Actually, we’ve just been really busy doing a lot of cool stuff. So, today is a three for one day!

Day 10

Day 10 was mostly a travel day. We checked out of the hotel and got some good news. Apparently we are Marriott rewards members, so they comped all of our internet usage. At $20/day, that came out to $80 – not bad for first thing in the morning.

We got to the airport a bit early and tried to upgrade out of coach, but we were denied and had to sit in the cattle section. Unfortunately, I can’t download movies to my Kindle Fire while outside the US, so I was thinking it may be a long flight. However Quantas had free on demand video in coach – I still got to watch a movie.

It was a fairly short ride from the airport to the hotel. We got all checked in, and went to the concierge to plan our next few days. After that, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and were off to bed.

Day 11

Today was our day to go ride ATVs. A bus picked us up at the hotel and took us about 45 min out into the rainforest. There were actually two options ATVs or horseback riding, and Kim really wanted to ride ATVs (most people were horseback riding). We didn’t get a lot of pictures because they confiscated all electronics when you arrived (so they can sell you overpriced pictures). But I did get a nice picture of the restroom greeter.

 

There were a total of 4 people doing the ATV tour and two guides – the main guide was explaining to me and Kim that they were going to evaluate our skills and if everyone seemed to be near the same level, she was going to send the second guide home (it was supposed to be his day off). As soon a she was through with the story, the japanese lady in our group veered off the road and into the grass and got stuck. So, the main guide just grabbed me and Kim and went 🙂 It turns out she was a 45 yr old grandmother and was the manager of the whole place – for another week, she is quitting and moving to Brisbane.

I actually found riding an ATV pretty difficult. I wanted to ride it like a motorcycle – and that just doesn’t work. No matter how hard you lean, it does not turn. This caused me all sorts of problems.

The actual route was on a big farm – there were trails all over. We started out easy, and got harder as time went on. Lots of rut avoidance and picking the right line down the trail. Eventually we went down some gullies that were barely wider than the ATVs – would have been really cool to have the helmet cam.

When we got back to the room, we did laundry (although we did not get as muddy as I thought we would). It was raining outside, so we hung out on our deck and read our books for the afternoon.

Day 11

Diving day, yay! Went to check in for the boat at 7:15a and there was quite a line. The boat we were on was 20m long and was jam packed with people 60ish maybe? We had signed up for one dive – an intro dive to get back in the swing of diving, and we had an option for a second dive if we wanted. We were filling out the medical info when we ran into a problem – Kim had asthma after she had pneumonia last May, and had to use an emergency inhaler. She put this down on her medical clearance and told them the last time she used the inhaler was 4 months ago. They went back and forth with the doctor over the phone several times and ultimately decided that she would not be allowed to dive – which was a bit of a bummer since she is more of a diver than I am. The boat was also a snorkel boat, so she would still be able to do that.

It was about a 45 minute run out to the reef we were going to be hanging out at. I still did the first dive, and was in the first group that went out. The ratio was 2 divers to a divemaster – they do this for all the intro dives, in fact, the intro divers hold the hand of the divemasters the entire time. Since I’m certified, they had me do an extra drill in the water (regulator retrieve) and let me dive w/o holding hands. My buoyancy control sucks – but I never ran into the reef. The dive was pretty easy – went down to about 25 feet max, which was good for me. We saw a giant clam and some clownfish, and a lot of other things. I will say that I was paying more attention to avoiding the reef than I was looking around. I did get some videos though – the dive videos typically did not have as much color as the snorkel videos (due to being in deeper water and no light).

After the dive, I waited for Kim to get back from the first snorkel group. When she got back, we went for a ride in a glass bottom boat that they had there. The boat ride was interesting, but it wasn’t that impressive compared to snorkeling or diving.

We then did a drift snorkel – they took us upcurrent of the boat, and then let us drift back. The highlight of this snorkel was swimming with turtles. There were two or three that we saw.

Grabbed some quick lunch, and the main boat moved to a shallower section of the reef. I opted out of the second dive so I could snorkel with Kim. The fish in this area were much larger, and the colors popped out a bit more since the water wasn’t as deep. Got the closest I had been to a turtle yet, but the battery on my camera was daed, so I didn’t get a video. There was an area where the water got so shallow that we took our fins off and walked around a bit – pretty cool for being out in the middle of nowhere.

 

Turtle Video

 

Clownfish

 

Giant Clam

 

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