Airlie Beach – Tourist for a Day – 30th August

Katie all sorted for the big off on Monday morning, kit ready and head in the right place hopefully!) I just couldn’t leave the Great Barrier Reef without doing something ‘touristy’, so how best to tick the boxes?. My friend Google pops to the rescue again with a ‘GBR tour’ and up pops exactly my cup of tea, a one hour flight over the reef (got to be some photo opportunities in that one me thinks) and the rest of the day out on the water exploring the Whitsunday Islands by a boat with a big engine…..where do I sign up!. Sorted.
So new pink and blue board shorts in hand (seriously the only pair I could get in a 30” honest!) and new ‘thongs’ fitted (best left to Aussies to explain that one) off I head for a classic day.
Collected by the usual mega friendly Oz mini bus driver from my digs early doors we arrive at the airstrip around 8am. Quick briefing and familiarisation with our 6 seater plane and we are in the air heading out over the Whitsundays. Snap happy Ian is clicking away at anything that might look ‘arty’, more in hope than considered skill if am honest. Well as the pictures (and Adobe Photoshop) proves, take a 100 and one must surely be ok?. Seriously though, seeing the sheer beauty of the reef, islands and pristine white sand from the air was pure class. Good call that one and many thanks indeed to seriously professional, class act.
Post flight off we are packed for the rest of the day in a RIB with big motors, appropriately entitled ‘Wild Thing’. So me, a dozen backpackers (a message there?) and a few oldies, yes me as well despite the cool Quicksilver Board Shorts!, head off for a day in the sun. The two kids (must have been all of 12!) driving the rib were seriously good fun, archetypical Australian I every way, Baywatch eat your heart out. After hammering out for an hour we drop the pick next to one of the islands for our reef snorkel. What a laugh watching all sizes and shapes pulling on our wetsuits, did I say there were a few backpackers?, mmmmm!. So here’s me, ex professional Mine Countermeasures Clearance Diver, ex Falkland’s veteran thinking this is MY bag. Well 30min later with 1” thick Vaseline pasted over my face I still couldn’t get a seal on my facemask and at risk of drowning for the sake of looking cool I decided sunbathing may be a better option !. Never mind, seen one reef seen them all. Next on the stop list was a hike (well a short walk up and over a miniscule island to get some phots) on one of the Whitsunday islands. Lunchtime now and surely there is a beer somewhere? Well true to form we are dropped off on what was described as the world’s most pure coral sand beach at Whitehaven. Simply amazing……I’ve been on a few beaches but that one defiantly lived up to the billing and to top it all YES beer (albeit at $5 a pop) and a surprisingly good picnic lunch served up by the crew. I now know why there were so many backpackers….free lunch time! Shit it was like a bunch of seagulls at Blackpool!.
All chilled out we then hammered back to Airlie Beach and my date with Magnus and the team for our pre trip beers.
Arrived at Magnums Bar Airlie Beach that evening for a couple (got to be on my best behaviour) and introductions to my teammates for the next two weeks. Having met Magnus a couple of day’s before and hit it off with the guy straight away it is always good to see a familiar face in the bar and even better to meet another Brit, Magnus’s lovely wife Wendy. So beers sorted in drifts the team, Kevin another Brit (albeit from Cheshire, will excuse that one mate), Travis (no not Pastrana) from WA and John (thank god there is someone older than me) from NZ. The footnote was classic. The 5th member of the team, another Aus from Darwin, was nowhere to be seen so mid second beer Magnus starts to get a wee bit concerned and calls the guy. No answer but up pops a text. ‘Sorry mate but can’t make it, not been on bike for a while, too busy playing compute games’….WTF ! . Well down goes our first casualty.
Just one beer later with everyone thinking what the hell have I let myself in for we head off with heads thinking tomorrow will be a big day, oh yes !.

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