Monday, May 15, 2006

Town of 1770 to Yeppoon to Great Kepple to Rockhampton to Airlie Beach to Whitsundays to Townsville to Tully...

After leaving Bagara we headed up the coast a bit to Town of 1770. Very cute little place which is basically the start of the places that do trips out to the Great Barrier Reef. They do a trip to Lady Musgrave Island, which we had been warned off due to the fact that so many people have been there and have dived there, it's a bit shit. We really wanted to go to Fitzroy Reef. Only one company goes out there, three times a week - they are the only company allowed out there (at the moment!) and they only take about 10 divers each time. So it has a reputation of being one of the better places to dive on the reef. Unfortunately you have to pay a bit to get out there and prior to getting to 1770 we had already ruled out the option of diving there, due to the fact it's $135 to get there and then $60 for two dives on top of that. But with nothing else to do once we got there we checked it out anyway and found out that if you are a backpacker and have one of the three cards (VIP, Nomads, YHA) you get the boat trip for $80! Bonus, so we booked for the next day and had some fish and chips to celebrate!!

Up early the next day and off to the reef - we were lucky enough to happen on some dolphins just as we got to the reef, I even got a couple of photos which makes a change! The first dive was better than the second (first dive was outside the reef, second was inside the reef) but both were definitely worth doing. We saw a crazy amount of different things on the first dive; Lionfish to nudibranchs to massive bull rays about 3m nose to tail. The second dive was good for the nudibranchs and fish life - and it's so refreshing to see so much healthy coral, so much coral in general really.

Rod (or anyone) - any ideas what this is? About 3 inches long and very, very quick - hence the bad focusing!! Can't find a decent fish ID book out here. Juvenile Barramundi maybe??

After 1770 we skipped through Rockhampton to Yeppoon (gateway to Great Kepple Island). This campsite was so nice we decided to stay a couple of days and take the opportunity to sort through (i.e. throw out) some of the crap we have accumulated in the car, which as each day passes it gets closer to resembling an old blue skip. We set the tent up so that we could have the door at the back open, which gave us a cool view of the beach and the Islands just off shore.
Both mornings we were there, the noisy cars from the road did us a favour and woke us up in time to see the beautiful sunrise.

We dumped the car and got the ferry over to Great Kepple Island, a very nice place to do a bit of exploring, sunbathing and snorkeling for a couple of days. It was very quite, but nice. The snorkeling was awesome once you got over the shock of the cold water! I saw a little shark - I found the name of it at some point but didn't write it down so it's lost until I get my hands on a fish book again. The last morning we were there we went to the closest snorkeling point (shelving beach) so we'd be back in time for the ferry and we were lucky enough to see a turtle! Following the rules and not chasing it, it soon got too curious and came and checked us out getting some air at the same time. Very nice way to end our stay on GKI. If you can - go there.

From the ferry port we picked up the car and headed into Rockhampton for the night to have a steak in the 'Beef capital of Australia'. Very nice steak, though there was an obscene amount of it! It was also 'Beef week 2006' so there were plenty of bulls, cows, horses and cowboys/girls around. Always good for a giggle!

From here we headed up to Airlie Beach to see what sailing trips were on stand-by for the next few days. We had our eye on a maxi-yacht that did diving as well as a trip to the outer reef. Unfortunately it came with the name "Spank me". But you can't have everything! Lucky for us - it was on stand-by so we got a nice $150 off advertised price and jumped on the boat the next day!

This is my second Whitsunday trip and I have to admit I enjoyed the first one better. When I was here last Prosail were the big company to go with, but now they appear to have been bought out by a company called Oz Sailing Adventures, which is who we went with. Prosail do apparently still operate as a separate company so I’m not sure if they are as good as they were. Having said that it was an awesome trip, and so great to see that even though so many things have changed in Australia, the Whitsundays have not.

The Bad Points: If you've done a lot of sailing, you may well be disappointed with the boat and the amount of sailing you do, though I guess safety regulations have been tightened and things like that so I suppose they did what they could. Unfortunately we didn't put in one tack or jibe in the three days... Sleeping was a very warm experience, though I think you fair better if you are in a single bunk rather than a double. The diving operation wasn't very well organised, and although I appreciate how difficult it must be on a boat that is in no way set up to accommodate divers, there was definitely room for improvement. Though the dive instructor did get praised for being good with intro divers, I wasn't too impressed with the way he handled the certified ones.

The Good Points: The big sail we did was on a reach back from the outer reef, and even with our baggy baton-less mainsail and ripped jenny the power of the boat was amazing! This is the fastest I’ve been (and possibly ever will go) on a monohull. The group of people we had were really fun and everyone got on with one another - surprisingly the majority of the group was British, with Americans coming in a close second. We were fed enough that Rob only said "I’m hungry" 3 times in the whole 3 days which I think is a record in our entire relationship. :) Whilst I was catching up on my sleep Rob was prancing around on the bow (as he often does on yachts) and a dolphin came right up and played in the bow wave about 2 foot below him for a good few minutes. Unfortunately my camera was asleep with me. We also got to see dolphins a few other times, though more a few fins in the distance than a close-up flipper experience. I counted about 7 turtles (though it could well have been just two coming up again and again) coming up to the surface for a breath and a look about. The diving was great, a nice shallow, long dive, with plenty to see. Some great nudibranchs and fish - we found a fish I’ve yet to get a good photo of because it's super shy and tends to put tail first to the lens which is weird as most shy fish head to a hole and then stare at the camera! But I did get a video of it, so hopefully get an ID on it sometime soon. You got the chance to dive on the outer reef too - Rob and I didn't, because it was a choppy surface and an hour past high tide and I’m too much of a lazy diver to deal with current and all that and the faff of getting kitted up on that boat! Also I don't think you saw much more diving out there than we did snorkeling.

The Photos:

The famous Hill Inlet.

Rod - again any idea what this is? i have a video of it if that will make it easier!

Back on land we all met up at Beaches for a few drinks in Airlie - Sara took most of the photos there with her camera so I’m waiting to steal hers... And here she is!

Our plan was to get up early and do the big drive (6 hours?) to Mission Beach, our next stop to go white water rafting, but after some much needed shopping for some much need items (mainly a hammer, yes we have been camping for 2 months without one!), and finally finding somewhere that would change the oil on the car it was dark by the time we got half way (Townsville) so we stopped there for the night before a bit more shopping (and some car pampering, runs much better with new sparks and HT leads!) and the rest of the drive. Because we had a bit more time we stopped off at one of the waterfalls marked - Jourama Falls, just south of Innisfail. It was just a short 1.2km walk to the lookout point so neither of us took our swimmers as it was very buggy and not that hot. By the time we actually got up to the lookout and had seen the water (lovely fresh waterfally water) we backtracked to the rock pools and went in in our underwear for an invigorating (for invigorating read f-ing cold) and refreshing swim! It was worth buying the car just to be able to do this!!

Next stop - WHITE WATER RAFTING - yeah! :)

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