On the road…to Great Barrier Reef

Seda: We are a silly couple who wouldn’t mind taking a massive detour just to go to a village called “Gin Gin” because it sounds funny and so that Andy could share it with his gin loving friends. Ok it was funny but not as much as my favourite Pindi Pindi though!

Our next destination was Rockhampton…

This is where we have finally seen the elusive koalas. Still not in the wild but in Rockhampton Zoo that’s nestled within Rockhampton botanical gardens. Many other native Australian animals are among the residents and would you believe that the council doesn’t even ask you to pay for the privilege…it’s free admission to both gardens and the zoo!

Flightless or flightfull (I’ve just invented this word), Australian birds are amazing, just look at all these colours and shapes….

After spending the evening at an Airbnb in the quiet town of Lammermoor we headed for Mackay, where we met our host for whom we would be doing the 2 weeks house-sit over Christmas. It was good to meet him, the animals and the boxes! They are just moving to this house and because 2 kids, 2 cats, a big dog, a new house the week before Christmas and preparing to fly to see their families was not challenging enough, they also invited us for a BBQ on their last evening if we could turn up a day early. It changed our plans slightly about how far north we would be driving to but this couple clearly wanted to check out the potential weirdos who would look after their pets and house for them while they are away. We also wanted to meet the rest of the family too! So we said we would.

Andy: Our next destination would be Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. This is the start of the Great Barrier Reef, and somewhere we just had to go.

There was literally one small high street in Airlie Beach with lots of bars, souvenir shops and tour operators. We quickly figured that there’s not much here, apart from the marina which gives you access to the Whitsunday Islands. 

Seda: Airlie Beach is a backpacker heaven but we feel we can’t really be a part of the vibe and consider ourselves backpackers anymore. This is not just because we are 20 years older than them but also because we have a car now. Zach is doing all the carrying of backpacks and various junk we have acquired knowing we don’t have to carry them.
A bit of “Posh-packing”!

Andy: We were only planning on staying 2 days and so tried to get a tour booked straight away for the next day. It quickly became apparent that this was not going to happen as there was no availability on the tours at such short notice, so we had to go for the following day, and extend our stay also. 

So, we took a drive the next day to a place called Hydeaway Bay. Lovely name we thought. It took about 40 minutes to get there at a leisurely pace via winding country roads.

Hideaway Bay was recommended to us so we had high hopes. When we got there it was ok, but I wouldn’t go crazy over it. It had lots of volcanic looking rocks on the beach and the water was very shallow so swimming would be difficult. What else do you do on a beach then?

So, we took a walk along the beach, sat in the shade a while, walked back to the car and left! We really aren’t beach people! You might ask what on earth we are doing in Australia then…the fact is, there is so much more than beautiful beaches to Australian life which we very much enjoy!

The next day we went on our boat tour to the Whitsunday Islands. It was a chance to see the iconic Hill Inlet on Whitehaven Beach, but also do some snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Firstly we had to try on a stinger suit. It’s like a wetsuit, but it’s designed to protect you from jellyfish stings as just by luck, it’s stinger season here! They were a bit, shall we say, fetish wear! But, if they protect us from the agony of a sting, then who am I to question the look! 

Seda: It was disappointing to wear a stinger suit, in fact it was disappointing having to wear anything on top of our swimming gear. We had been spoilt in Philippines where enjoying wonderful marine life was much easier. Even the lunch was disappointing compare to The Philippines. There, we had seen our guide catch a massive fish in El Nido and pose with it to the cameras the night before and there that fish was on the menu the next day when we went on our boat tour, cooked on a bbq onboard. We had fish, prawns,chicken and all sorts that day. This time though, we had pasta salad, great!

Andy: So, once the comedy of several people trying on dodgy looking full body zip up suits was over we got on board and off we went at great speed. Our first stop was the lookout point at Hill Inlet on Whitehaven Beach. The guides kept going on about the sand, and how pure it is. We just thought “yeah yeah, it’s sand, it’s soft, we get it”. After a short walk up some steps to the lookout point, we were blown away by the beauty of the place. It really is breathtaking. You just can’t take enough photographs and of course you have to jostle your way into the best spots. 

After that we walked down to the beach to chill for a while up until lunchtime where we found the sand to be incredibly soft! I mean seriously soft, they weren’t joking. You could brush your teeth with it! We had a bit of a paddle in the lovely clear waters, but mostly sat in the shade as it was sun was very powerful. 

Seda: Our guide was bragging about this fine white sand and was saying that you could exfoliate your face with it and look 10 years younger. “Ok” I thought, “I’ll do it”. So I did it 3 times which means I’m only 10 now. If you don’t believe me see the below before and after pictures!

Andy: After a light lunch on the boat we headed off to our first snorkelling spot. This was a truly amazing experience seeing colourful fish swim within inches of your face. There was also some larger fish in the area too which was such a fantastic sight.

She sometimes photographs bigger fish

Onto the second spot, which was more of a chance to see the the reef itself rather than fish. We had snorkelled in the Philippines and seen amazing things, but to actually see The Great Barrier Reef below you was a sight to behold, and something I’ll never forget. Some of the coral was so brightly coloured and on such a massive scale, but of course that was just 100 metres of hundreds of miles. 

Seda: I have to mention one last thing before we move on that we met another train driver or operator in the Airbnb house we stayed in. There were 2 other rooms in this house and one of them was occupied by a Canadian colleague of Andy’s! How about that eh?! For all of you out there in Birmingham, let me tell you that it seems you get it much better than your Canadian mates….I’m just saying!

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