Sunday, September 09, 2007

Australia, Part 3 (finally)

I'm finally getting around to the the third and last part of my trip to Australia. After I left Melbourne I flew to Cairns, where I had a few hours to kill around town before boarding our boat that would ferry us around the reefs for the next 4 days. I've realized that as I get older I tend to be more susceptable to sea sickness, so I brought some dramamine gum and took a couple as we left that night out to the barrier reef. Turned out to be no problem, there weren't really any bad waves, and I slept fine through the journey.
The next morning we got an early wake-up call and a quick breakfast before getting in the water. I hadn't been diving in 3 years, so when the dive master told us to go ahead and hook up all our gear I was hoping I would get it right on the first try. Fortunately nobody noticed when I somehow managed to try to strap my BCD to my tank inside out, and I managed to correct it on my own.
The first dive was a site named "Cod Hole" for the giant Potato Cod that live there. I wish it wasn't our first dive because it was actually really really nice, but I was a little preoccupied with getting everything under control during my first time underwater in three years, like chilling out with the breathing and figuring out the camera situation.
I did manage to get a few shots of these giant lethargic cod that you can just swim around.
I think I did 4 dives the first day. And then it was time for our overnight journey past the barrier reefs, and WAY out to the coral sea. This is why I got on this boat, it's one of only a handful that make trips out to the coral sea, which is a significant ways further out to sea, and promised more excellent diving and the chance to see some of the bigger fish. We were warned that the overnight trip could be a bit bumpy, as we were out in open sea in our (relatively) little boat. Confident from the previous night that there would be no seasickness problems, I eschewed the foul-tasting gum and just got in my bunk.
Well it took about 5 minutes into our journey to realize this was not going to be the same as the previous night. I was in the "budget cabin" located in the bow of the boat, and when we hit these big waves I was literally getting air out of my mattress. So I quickly tried to down a couple dramamine gums, but as I did I already knew that they were not going to do the trick, and I was probably going to be upchucking them before they had a chance anyway. It was that bad. Not long after I headed to the back of the boat outside, try to get some fresh air, try to focus on the horizon, but mainly to pick out a nice place to puke into the sea where the wind wouldn't take it back into the boat. Asd it wasn't long before I was puking. Once, twice..... Three times. The horrible part was that unlike puking when you are sick on land, I did not feel any better after puking. Just as bad. A young woman came out to the deck with her husband to join in the puking. I tried to sit, to lie down, to prop myself in anyway to minimize the pain and sickness but nothing helped. I vomited again over the back. I went one deck up where it wasn't so wet and found a position lying down that minimized the pain. But then it got too cold outside so I headed back to my cabin. Was there about 3 minutes and then had to bolt to the toilet to puke again.

I could go on with the details of every minute of every hour of the night, but it was basically more of the same. Puking, adjusting, drinking water. repeat.
I was eventually reduced to a dry-heaving fetal mass on the bathroom floor. And I'm not exaggerating one bit. It was HANDS DOWN the worst night of my life. When the boat finally stopped I fell asleep and about 45 minutes came the wakeup call for the first dive. Needless to say, I passed on that one.
I did get in on the next one, and actually getting underwater is often one of the best cures for sea sickness. All of a sudden you are weightless, and there's no rocking, no turning. just peace.

Other than that one night the trip was great. I saw alot of sharks on this trip. I think I had seen one little shark before in my life. And then dozens on this trip. Not including the 'shark feeding' dive we did (I'll devote another post to that dive - lotsa pictures) The conditions were close to perfect - no harsh currents, excellent visibility. We also did a couple of night dives - these are often my favorite because of all the neat critters that come out - and also the spooky feeling of being surrounded by blackness - up - down - left -right - and a tiny light to guide you. It's like a treasure hunt, and you use your light to find fun stuff on the ocean floor.
It was strange being way out there in the coral sea. You wake up and you can't see land in any direction. just water. Then you realize you're moored on reefs that come right up to the surface and the coral even sticks out of the water at low tide.
In total I made 11 dives in 3 days - not bad. Each dive is about 30-45 minutes long and between 15 and 35 meters deep. I rented a big high-powered underwater flash to go with my digital camera and underwater case, but unfortunately it only would fire like 5-10% of the time, and I didn't have the patience to sit and take 20 pictures of each single interesting thing. I wish I did though, I really like the few nice pictures I got. We had a photo competition on the boat where everybody uploaded their best photos. I was the lucky winner, but only because it was a crowd-voting scheme and not professional judges. One guy had a real profi rig and had some NICE pictures, but somehow the people weren't feeling it. Maybe because it seemed like cheating when everybody else had their little compact digitals. See the winning picture here.
(Notice how the other expeditions' winning photos are much nicer).
The last night on the boat was cool when we were treated to an Aussie BBQ - which started of course with shrimp on the barbie. (sweet). And didn't end before we were eating grilled kangaroo. Which was actually pretty good.
And then the way back to Cairns was fun too. The boat dropped us off on this little island which is home to some elitist resort - which we were told not to go near - and also a tiny airplace landing strip. Two tiny planes cruised in, picked us up, and flew us down the coast to Cairns. But to make it interesting they took a route low and out over the barrier reefs so we could get a nice view from the air. We even saw a few humpback whales surfacing on the flight!
All in all a nice trip. I hope it's not 3 years before I'm diving again. It's SOOOO nice just to be cruising around underwater. I'm a little afraid my live-aboard days may be over though. Will have to find places where I can get a day trip from shore.

1 comment:

EuroTrippen said...

I am sooooo jealous. This sounds like paradise (even with the puking).

Next to an African safari and/or Kilimanjaro trek and about a month spent in Nepal/tooling around Everest... diving in Australia is pretty much the pinnacle of excitement.