After a pretty good sleep on our greyhound we woke up to watch the sun rising over mountains adorned with lush rainforest. I was back in FNQ; I was back home.
Photo courtesy of Dave and Becki!
We checked in to our hostel and grabbed an extremely nutritious breakfast (maccas) then quickly donned our swimmers and set up shop by the lagoon. The weather was absolutely beautiful, as befits an FNQ winter, and we quite happily sunned ourselves for hours.
That evening we met up with our friends from Magnetic Island Emma and Clem, treating ourselves to a $13 steak deal. I was feeling ill (damn you, germs!) so I hit the hay early thanking the stars for my ear plugs as our other roommates for the night were two very inebriated Aussies... Everyone else followed not long after and once again we tried to sleep through our excitement!
Our first day dawned bright and blue and we set about the important task of buying alcohol and hats. If you know me well you'll be aware that I have a HUGE head. Like, I-wear-men's-glasses-because-it's-so wide huge. Hysterically (I was crying inside) the only hat in the shop that fit me was a 'Captain' hat; being the cool kids that we are Becki, Hannah I and I bought one each. Equipped with our bags, sun protection and enough booze to last us a few days we headed on down to the marina to meet our home for the next 46 hours.
We were sailing on Avatar, the main boat that Dave and I had sold during our time at Wicked Travel (and consequently the one we got everyone the best deal on!). Hannah, Helen and I were assigned the 'Pammy suite' which was essentially a hole with a double mattress in and a very 'vintage' poster of Pamela Anderson on one side. We liked it instantly, especially when we discovered that a deliberately draped towel actually gave us something resembling a door.
The crew consisted of: our skipper John, the grumpiest man I've ever met who really didn't like the fact that we were wearing Captain hats; Sam our awesome cook who had dreads adorned with sea shells and Eric our hyperactive ranga hostie. Everyone on board seemed friendly and we cheered people on as they helped raise one of the sails!
Sadly we seemed to be sailing in the wrong direction - towards the clouds!!! But we didn't let a little bit of bad weather get us down and soon everyone was drinking and chatting. Our group for this trip was amazing and we all bonded right away.
Looking pretty cool in our hats, yes? Yes.
It wasn't long until we arrived at our first snorkel spot and we couldn't wait to put on our super sexy outfits...
It did mean that Helen had to reveal her secret identity though. I've known her for years and never realised that during her spare time she masqueraded as Super Hevs!
Jumping off the boat was SO much fun, although it was irritating not having fins in the water. As I'd been told (and had told people...) because around the islands it's only the fringing reef the snorkeling wasn't even close to what I'd seen before our of Cairns but it was simply fun to be around friends, splashing about to our hearts content.
After getting out we were told that our next snorkelling part was cancelled as we had to go and rescue one of Oz Sail's other boats Spank Me who'd been having engine problems. We took this to mean it was now okay to continue consuming alcohol (John kept telling me I was too drunk to snorkel despite my only having had three 375ml cans of cider in around 4 hours...) and settled down for some fun.
And obligatory 'Titanic' photos too, obviously.
Now, you'd think Spank Me would have been happy about getting rescued right? Well one of the guys decided to moon us. In retaliation a few of us (not me Dad, honest) mooned back. They came back at us with a few more naked behinds so we, naturally, assembled all but four of us to do an insanely big flash.
It was a pretty proud moment, I'm not going to lie. Especially as they clearly reaised they couldn't better us and gave up.
Spank Me looking all defeated. HA. Spank these!
After that there was nothing to do but party and enjoy the sunset. Our evening was so much fun and we all got to know each other, told stories and drank our little hearts out before the knowledge of a 6am wake up call persuaded us to call it quits.
We got woken up before the sun had even risen and managed to stumble into our bikinis while shoving toast in our faces and glugging coffee. Some of us looked and felt better than others (mentioning no names...Becki) and by the time we arrived at our anchoring point for whitehaven beach we were ready to roll.
Our first bit of nakedness came behind the famous national park sign. The boat record is something like 22 people naked which we didn't quite beat but we still gave it a bloody good go.
Then it was time for a bushwalk over the top to hill inlet, home to one of the most beautiful views in Australia...
Even though it was cold and grey we could still see how white the sand was; imagine how blue the water would be in sunshine!
The sand on Whitehaven beach is almost pure silica and feels more like flour than sand. It's also extremely valuable - NASA mined 10,000 tonnes of it to use in the making of the hubble telescope.
As we we the first boat to arrive our view wasn't spoiled by footprints or people foliciking. I dread to think how many families caught a flash of someone's bum when we went swimming...!
After snapping lots of pictures we walked down to the beach to try and make some new stingray friends!
The rays were very curious and swam around our feet - I caught this one on camera as it floated over my foot.
The water is unbelieveably clear and is so pure that it's actually a blue colour. It almost looked like someone has sprinkled food colouring in.
No trip would be complete without a group photo! Shame about the people on the end not jumping at the right time...ahem.
Our cook Sam did tell us that this was the best pyramid he'd seen in a long time. Everyone on the bottom two rows was thankful for this after slight delays meant that it took quite a while to get the last few people up there...
Then it was time for us to frolick freeley. Becki was still slightly drunk from the previous night but still gave cartwheeling a damn good go.
Dave, not to be outdone, joined in too.
And then we all got naked.
Ok, so not quite naked here. But lets just say that four girls not actually flashing anything can turn in to a third of the boat skinny dipping faster than you can say, "Felix stop jumping up to catch the ball we can see your PENIS and there are CHILDREN over there!"
Unfortunately it was bloody freezing (the worst day of the year apparently, c'est typique) so after braving the elements for a nautical themed photoshoot it was time to head back to the boat.
Obviously the best thing for a hangover is hair of the dog...
I can't remember what our first snorkel spot was called, but our second was the famous Manta Ray Bay. We didn't see any mantas but we did see a whole heap of Maori Wrasse and laughed at the snooty French girl who shat herself after seeing a 'shark' that was in fact just a giant trevally...
We were all pretty cold and tired this point and started to flag a little...even hair of the dog wasn't saving us.
Thankfully the arrival of 'Shazza' the sea eagle perked us all up!
Over the course of a few years she's been trained to fly down when she hears a whistle and catch pieces of meat thrown into the air.
It was pretty impressive!
Before long we arrived at snorkel spot number 3: Turtle Bay. By this point it was so cold that only four of us opted to snorkel.
The spot here required us to swim off a beach so everyone else sat on the sand drinking as we went off in search of turtles.
Unfortunately the vis was terrible and no turtles were spotted...and Dave and I were so cold that we actually sat neck deep in water until the tender came to pick us back up.
Asking Hannah to kindly pass me my towel I forgot to mention that my camera was wrapped up inside it to protect it from the sand. It wasn't until I heard a 'splash' that I realised my mistake...poor Han felt so bad even though I pointed out that it couldn't possibly have been her fault in the slightest!
The last picture my camera ever took
Nevermind - we had more important things to do than taking pictures. It was time to drink the boat dry!
As Avatar is a trimaran there are two 'netted' sections between the three hulls. For some reason half of us sat on the side of the boat with a light and half of us on the side without it... This lead to a deadly civil war, with each side competing for full occupancy. After a tense game of rock, paper, scissors the side of darkness emerged victorious. Muah ha ha! Although most of our glee was purely down to being able to shout 'come to the dark side' at everyone.
Sam introduced us to the drinking game 'koala' which is very safety conscious. It's played parallel to another drinking game and at any point if someone shouts 'KOALA' you have to jump up and koala hug another person; the person can't be someone sat next to you. (You lose points if at any point rugby tackling/running around leads to you falling off the boat in the darkness and into the 3 knot tide running underneath the boat).
The set the tone for the evening and everyone got progressively more drunk and had quite possibly the most fun any of us had had in our lives. There was attempted skinny dipping, but we were all persuaded that it might not be the best idea to jump into deep water, inebriated.
Luckily for our livers we actually managed to drink every last drop of alcohol on Avatar by 1am and slowly everyone passed out/crawled into their beds.
The next day all we managed to do was pack up our things and say some goodbyes before we got back into Able Point Marina at 9am. The sun, typically, was shining and we all enjoyed a last bit of sea breeze in our hair to blow away any remaining goon fumes. Those of us who were staying another night in Airlie made plans to reconvene at the lagoon later on and schlepped back to the hostel (via Maccas for a healthy and filling brekkie) for a much needed shower and sleep.
Even though the hostel let us check in our room hadn't actually been cleaned yet; it's a measure of how tired we all were that we actually still passed out until we were woken up by the cleaning team. I don't know about you but I've never seen anyone use a blowtorch on the bedframe as a part of their bed making routine... We took that as our cue to move our laziness to the lagoon.
The good thing about small places like Airlie is that eventually you'll bump in to people and so over the course of the afternoon our group grew in size as more of our Avatar crew wandered past. The evening was spent drinking and eating pizza, celebrating having the time of our life with amazing new friends.
Next Stop: Magnetic Island