The final stop on the Oz trip with Stonge led us to Airlie Beach, which is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and subsequently the Great Barrier Reef. The Whitsundays are at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, and I believe there are 70+ islands in the Archipelago. We really only had one choice in terms of a boat to take, as there was a cyclone a few days earlier in the area that delayed all trips from going out, combined with the fact that it’s summer. We ended up taking the Condor, a racing maxi sail boat, in fact the boat still races, and has been for 30 years now. It has the guinness record for the most races won in the world.
This was my first true sailing experience, as I have been on a small sail boat along the Hudson River as a kid, but this boat was moving at a good clip, and those times that we were really moving, the boat was at a 45 degree angle with one side riding in the ocean.
The weather was quite good for sailing the first day, but not great for soaking up the sun. We got a decent amount of rain, but with that came a good amount of wind. We ended up settling down in a calm bay, and got shuttled to an island where we were shown some cave paintings from an Aboriginal tribe that made the Whitsundays their home.
The next morning after an abysmal nights sleep in cramped quarters we made our way to Whitehaven Beach. The beach was absolutely beautiful, and completely made the trip worthwhile. We also had great weather which certainly helped. The beach is made up of 98% pure silica, and so fine that NASA used it in the Hubble Telescope. I’ll let the picture speak for itself, as this is consistently rated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world.
Later in the day we made our way to this bay where we got to Snorkel, it was pretty fun, but up in Queensland, it’s necessary to wear stinger suits, which protect you from the deadly jellyfish that roam the ocean in that part of the country. The particular place we went snorkeling is aptly dubbed the fishbowl due to the concentration of fish that populate the area, and probably why our captain took us there to snorkel. The visibility wasn’t great, but it was still worthwhile to say I’ve snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, although I do wish I got to see more of it up around Cairns.
After we all made our way to the boat we caught a pod of dolphins playing in the water. It was really cool, and actually something pretty rare. One of the crew members on the boat had been doing this for four months at this point and had never seen dolphins, while the captain said in all his time he had never seen a pod that large (roughly 20-30).
Airlie Beach really wasn’t anything special, although the guidebooks all said it had a good backpacker party scene, but we really didn’t see any signs of that while we were there. On a completely unrelated note we missed Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in town going out for dinner, as they are down in Australia while Angelina Jolie films a movie. The town is only 2-3 blocks long so it made front page news a few days later in town.
From here Stonge and I split up and I made my way to Brisbane for a couple of days to hang out with a couple of friends who live there.