If paradise exists on earth, then the Whitsunday islands are possibly it. A group of 13 of us assembled on Monday lunchtime ready to board the 20-odd metre “Pride of Airlie”, and off we sailed (well, unfortunately motored as there was very little wind) to our first port of call, South Molle Island resort. The resort was excellent with tennis, golf and bush walking all available, although after a “hard” afternoon of lazing around on board ship drinking complementary champagne, we decided on the pool and hot tub with cocktails option…
The next morning was a very early 7am start, especially given the amount of beer consumed by the passengers the night before, but after a cloudy start the sun came through just as we were arriving at Whitehaven beach — a picture perfect 6 km of pristine white sand and sparkling turquoise waters — stunning. After lunch back on board the Pride whilst taking in more island views, we did some snorkling off Dumbelle Island. This was amazing: the water was crystal clear, and there were so many fish: a couple of times a shoal would get spooked by another snorkler and would come charging at me like rain drops in a thunderstorm. Snorkling again this morning at Blue Pearl Bay was equally good — so much better than the trip I did from Cairns!
Cruising back to Airlie Beach this afternoon the water was incredibly calm, and the white-bright sun shining on it gave it an unreal sort of appearance that was incredibly beautiful.
Unfortunately it’s back to normality now and a 12 hour overnight bus trip to Hervey Bay to look forward to…
A quick post as I’m a bit short on time, and nasty Internet cafe keyboard, but I’ve reached Airlie Beach! Magnetic Island was very pretty: beautiful bays and beaches, and Townsville was a nice place — it just felt a bit more “real” than Cairns! The weather has also picked up: no more rain, but it’s very hot!
Alas Airlie Beach is another tacky resort-dominated place, but fortunately I’m setting off on a 3 day/2 night sailing cruise around the reportedly beautiful Whitsunday Islands this afternoon so I don’t have to spend much time here!
No, the title of this post is not a sweeping generalisation about Bruce Willis’s acting skills, but actually one of the mnemonics used in scuba diving to remind you of the checklist you should run through before entering the water. Unfortunately, I only got as far as the silly mnemonic and entering the pool, before it became painfully apparent that getting a cold four days before you dive ruins your plans! I thought the cold was better but it seems there was enough of it left around that I couldn’t equalise the pressure in my ears and I had to give up. 🙁
So, reworking my plans, today I went up to Port Douglas and took a cruise out to the reef to snorkle instead — not quite as much fun, but certainly very interesting! Worryingly, my initial thought was: “This looks just like a giant aquarium!!” No sharks, but lots of pretty little fish (including “Nemo”!) , some baracudda and lots of plant life! We went out to three different locations on the reef, all of them subtly different, although I think I got a lot more out of the second and third as the boat crew told us more about what we might see and how to find stuff — there are some lectures/shows in Cairns about life on the reef which I now wish I had found time to take.
Tomorrow I’m leaving Cairns and heading down the coast, first stop Townsville and Magnetic Island. I can’t decide if I like Cairns or not: once you get over the fact that every other shop in the “centre” is selling tours, travel info and Internet access, it seems slightly less wierd, and the place is really geared up for backpackers with pubs offering free meals to hostellers, and cheap beer, but there are also extremely loud and noisy birds that seem to start singing at dusk which I think would drive me crazy after a while! Fortunately there is so much to do around Cairns you don’t have to spend much time here if you decide it’s not your scene!
Since I last posted I’ve been doing some cool stuff.
Saturday morning was spent recovering from exploring Sydney night-life on Friday night — teapots of cocktails was definitely a new experience. 🙂 After sampling some more of Sydney’s fine cafe’s for brunch, we headed over to Bronte beach and walked along the cliffs to the famous Bondi beach. Both beaches were lovely, and it was fun watching all the surfers!
On Sunday, Ed, Simone and myself drove up to the Blue Mountains and discovered “flower pot scones” make an excellent elevenses that kinda rule out the need for lunch… As it turned out, these huge scones meant we had plenty of energy to tackle a bush walk that culminated in a 900-step ascent back to the car; and the views were well worth it. 🙂
Sadly yesterday I had to leave Sydney, Simone and Ed behind and flew to Cairns (a mere 3 hours by plane, north). The city itself is very touristy, no where near as nice as Sydney, but there is a lot to do here: today I explored the rainforest on the Atherton Tablelands, and tomorrow I (as per my instructions from various people ;)) start a 5-day dive course. The best bit of this is that the final three days are living on a boat, so I shall get lots of diving in.
After a gruelling 28 hours of travel, I arrived in beautiful Sydney. The harbour is stunning: I think I have now admired it from all the possible angles, including the top of the impressive and iconic Harbour Bridge; and the city as a whole just seems so well designed, with many impressive buildings (from tall skyscrapers to older sandstone neo-gothic “statements”) but still plenty of green spaces (including palm trees!!) and of course, lots of beaches for relaxing. 🙂
I am being very well looked-after by Ed and Simone — I shall be most sad to leave their fine hospitality and “hit the road” on Monday.
Confirmation that I am no longer in Cambridge: today I saw a sign (in the Royal Botanical Garden) saying “Please walk on the grass.”
“Today is the first day of winter. It will be 19 degrees C in Sydney.”
Tomorrow morning I will be leaving Cambridge. I’ve done this before, but four years ago on the same day that I left I learnt that I had been granted funding for a PhD, and so the possibility of me coming back seemed quite likely. This time, after nearly seven years here, Cambridge feels much more like “home”, and I have no plans to return for anything longer than a visit.
Fortunately I have exciting plans to keep me from getting too nostaligic for my extended “student days”! Tuesday evening I shall land in Sydney for the start of a much-needed two-month holiday in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong! After that I shall return briefly to the UK, before moving to London to start a new job with a large bank who are promptly sending me on a three-month training course in New York! It’s all very exciting, and I shall endeavour to keep the readers of this website fully-informed of my travels and experiences.
Now, I guess I should go and finish packing…
I’m blogging this from beneath the English Channel (“La Manche” to the French) from the comfort of a seat on the Eurostar. It’s so much more civilised than flying: more leg-room, a simple X-ray instead of arduous and slow security checks, and it delivers me straight to Waterloo/Paris-Nord instead of over an hour from the City centre. Highly recommended (although no wifi: this will have to wait to be posted until I get back to Cambridge).
Versailles and Paris were also interesting. Versailles it pretty much all about the Chateau — I didn’t get to go inside unfortunately, but the gardens were mightily impressive. As a town Versailles is OK, although the old town where we were staying is rather quiet once the coach parties leave. Similarly work meant I only got to spend an afternoon in Paris, although that was enough time to go up the Eiffel Tower and stroll down the impressive Champs Elysee. I hadn’t realised you could go inside the Arc de Triumphe, but someone said it’s very good so I shall make that and The Louvre (an impressive building from the outside, I imagine even better inside) a priority next time.
Looking through my home directory this evening I came across some notes I made about my experiences in Canada (sadly now over three years ago!). Here’s what I had to say:
A lovely city, very laid back, with “big city” amenities, without all the usual noise, dirt, etc.
Places to stay: The downtown HI is good but lacks atmosphere. Jericho Beach is great if you want to hang-out on the beach for a few days, but it’s a bit of a pain to get into downtown. GVB is clean, central & has a very friendly atmosphere, plus they organise trips to the pub every night! Highly recommended.
Night-life: Good party town (something of the ‘Amsterdam’ of N. America!). The Stone Temple on a Thursday night has hi-balls (shot+mixer) for $1! [Unfortunately I doubt this is still true!]
Stuff todo: For the ultimate ‘Canadian’ experience, you have to go rollerblading in Stanley Park. The views from Canada place are superb & the Lookout tower was surprisingly interesting.
Places to go:
- Whistler: The town lacks any character what so ever, but views from top of mountain are superb.
- North Vancouver: There’s a great indoor market at the sea bus terminal. Capilano Suspension Bridge was a little disappointing but worth seeing (go to Lynn Canyon Prov. Park for same sort of experience on a smaller scale & less comercialised). Climbing Grouse Mtn is a lot harder than it first appears — it’s a very steep climb — but rewarding if you are up to it.
- Seattle: Pretty downtown skyline & generally a nice place, but not a “must see” tourist destination. The Underground History Tour is excellent, as is (so I have heard) the Experience Music project. The HI hostel on Vashon Island is a very cool place to stay, but getting there without a car was a pain.
It seems that lots of people I know will be in Australasia for a good part of 2005. So far we have:
- My sister: Melbourne from 4th Feb
- Abi: New Zealand (Christchurch?), for about
- Chris: New Zealand, 2-3 weeks in April
- GK: Sydney, from February
- Simone: Sydney
I hope I’ve got the details of everyone’s trip right — if not, let me know!! Anyone else going to be in that part of the world next year?
New photos in the photo gallery, including some from my recent trip to New York and Philadelphia, and May Week in Cambridge.
New photos in the gallery, including Jenny and Anthony’s wedding, the Oxford-Cambridge boat race and my travels to Belgium and Prague.