Cairns loomed and we awoke to a stormy day, humid with heavy clouds on the horizon. Second visits were often disappointing and the place had changed. Last time it had a frontiers feel. This time it felt more mainstream and touristy. We’d been to Green Island and loved it. This time I was prepared. I’d snorkelled in Pete’s pool and in the shallows at South West Rocks – I figured I was ready for the big time! We set off along the dock to check out the boats to get us to the outer reef, negotiated a fee and we struck out for the outer Barrier Reef to sashay with sharks, tickle turtles, fondle fish and carouse with coral!
For hours we bounced, rolled, whacked, rocked and belted our way out to the reef. The storm had upset the sea. Sick bags were provided but we did not succumb.
We made a brief stop at Fitzroy Island, a lush green tropical island stuck out there in the inner reef. But inner reefs weren’t for the likes of us. We craved the outer reef facing the huge rollers, the bastion of the great whites and hammerheads, stingrays and sea monsters that could swallow boats whole.
I’d mastered flippers, wetsuits, goggles and breathing apparatus (snorkel). I was a master, twenty Dan, black belt. I’d only started snorkelling two weeks before and on my third attempt I was on the fabled reef with the most glorious corals, fish, turtles, jellyfish, whales and sharks imaginable. I was up for it. As it happened I didn’t actually see any sharks or whales but I knew they were there! The corals made up for the lack of great whites – the colours were rather lysergenic – like a Pink Floyd light show! Wonderful!! And the water was warm!!
After hours powering around my feet ached from the flippers and I was thoroughly knackered but buoyed up by the thrill of chasing luminescent rainbow fish and looking at the amazing colours of the canyons of coral below. It was like floating in space over an alien planet. I’d hired an underwater camera to record it. – amazing.
While I was gamely tootling about over the reef a great storm ripped through and huge waves assaulted my snorkel which was a bit scary. Rain deluged! It was as wet out of the water as in! But I survived!
All too soon it was time to get back and repeat the raucous bouncing on waves which had the consistency of rock.
Still reeling from a combination of the mad dash across the ocean and the exhilaration of the incredible world of colour we sauntered into town as sun set in search of the tree of bats and Ibis that I remembered so well. We did not find it but found we had no need. In the evening, as the sun set and the sky turned orange, the place was alive with raucous huge flying foxes!! Surreal!! Outside the library the noise was enough to burst eardrums as they screeched and chattered, impossibly launching themselves into the air and zooming around. There were bats reeling about in the sky, hanging from branches and heading off for supper.
The next day was quieter as we settled back down from the highs of coral and bats. I swam in the lagoon, had a cool shake to cool me down, and strolled around while Liz shopped.
Next stop Darwin (probably renamed by the mad creationists!!)