Continuing to have a blast travelling down the east coast of Oz. Went on a beautiful 3 day sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands on a flash million dollar racing boat.
Also went on a 3-day self-drive 4x4 tour around Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. As my mate Mick says, it's the closest thing you can get to legalized joyriding, driving through sand dunes in a big Toyota Landcruiser with wild dingos running all about and shark-infested waters crashing on the "highway". Wicked! Pictures coming soon.
I'm now making my way down to Sydney, where I'll probably spend a couple of weeks and have a few reunions with mates from home and that I've met along the way. Then it's most likely on to Bali by the middle of August. Hopefully the spending will drastically decrease once I reach Asia. Otherwise I will be forced to come home much earlier than anticipated. But I can't really let that happen now, can I? Not when there's so much more of the world to drink in.
OK, I gotta say I've been enjoying my time in Australia a bit more as of late, partially by adopting the philosophy of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em". So I've been joining in on the debauchery to a certain extent. I've been in and around Cairns for the past couple of weeks. It's beautiful lush tropical coastline that I love so much. It is also the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. So after much comparison shopping of the various dive packages I signed myself up for a liveaboard dive trip that goes 240 kilometers off the coast of Cairns and includes a shark feeding dive. It was pretty spectacular. They promised visibility of 30 meters and many of the dives lived up to that, if not exceeded it. In other words, we're parked above the reef, the bottom is 100 feet down, and you can see the fish and coral formations on the bottom. It's like swimming around in a gi-normous swimming pool, except there's also sharks swimming around with you. Unfortunately, much of the reef is badly damaged. According to our divemaster there was a bad occurance of unusually warm currents that destroyed much of the coral in 1996. There's global warming for you. I've heard some predictions that the entire Barrier Reef could be destroyed if current trends of global warming and pollution continue. It's pretty damn scary.
The voyage out there was quite an adventure. It took about 18 hours cruising on open seas to get out there. That meant the boat was rocking and rolling over 3 meter (that's 9 feet to you and me) waves all night long. Having been forewarned, everyone stocked up on seasickness pills, but unfortunately for some, they were not completely effective. Luckily for myself, they worked well enough to prevent any vomiting but I definitely felt a bit queasy. Also, I managed to bash myself up a bit when I was knocked off the stairs leading to the lower cabin and did a face plant onto the floor. You might be able to notice I've got a bit of a shiner in this photo.
The shark feed itself was pretty intense. They skewered up a bunch of fish onto a long rod like a fish-kebab. We then entered the water and swam to a spot about 10 meters from the boat and sat on the bottom, which was about 7 or 8 meters deep. When everyone was in position, they lowered the bar into the water and all hell broke loose. Besides the sharks (White Tip Reef Sharks, Grey Whalers, Oceanic Silver Tip) there were also huge ferocious fish called Trevallys. They were more agressive than the sharks probably. Our divemaster warned us not to try and retrieve anything we might drop when going back to the boat because they've seen one of those Trevallys eat a camera whole.
So once the bar was lowered, all the fish were hell bent on getting their piece of the action and then they'd zoom off again to digest and go in for another pass. The sharks would just go and lie on the bottom behind us to digest. This lasted about 5 to 10 minutes during which time the water got murkier and murkier with fish parts, blood and whatnot. The most exciting part, however was when we were going to get back on the boat. They had people return to the boat a buddy pair at a time. When it was me and my buddy's turn to go up, a large (3 meter) shark seemed to be circling around wondering if there were any more scraps to be had. The divemasters just had us wait on the bottom while one of them kind of did his best to scare the shark away. Anyway, it was definitely an amazing experience and if anything has made me want all the more to go in a cage with Great Whites. Apparently South Africa is the place to do that so I'll definitely be aiming to get there on this journey.
So I'm off again tomorrow, riding once again with my Irish buddy Mick and a few other people we've picked up in Cairns (another Brit and a Danish girl) down the coast towards Brisbane, probably stopping to do a sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands and a self-drive 4x4 tour around Fraser Island. I've also got a few contacts to look up going down the east coast (thanks again to all who offered up contacts). Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in some work somewhere, as well, to help offset the huge vacuum that Australia is putting on my savings.
Until next time...