Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Airlie Beach

I want to bed around 9 last night.  Shannon and Ryan stayed out at the bar next door to play in a beer pong tournament...and they got second place!  I don't even know what time they got back to the room.  I was already asleep.

We all slept pretty well last night in our hostel dorm room (Nomads Airlie Beach).  The room was for 6 people, but we got it all to ourselves, which was nice.  Finally got a little view of this hostel we stayed at when I got up.  (It was dark when we got in last night so I hadn't seen anything yet.)





So I got up around 7 and decided to go for a run along the coast.  There is a nice walkway all along the water that was perfect for a jog as the sun was coming up.  It was a little brisk out, but I still ran in a tank top and shorts and was fine.  And then did a little stretching and yoga on the beach.  This whole "winter in Australia" thing isn't so bad at all!  It's been pretty perfect, minus the rainy day in Sydney.

 


 

 

Check-out time for the hostel was 10am, so we all showered and re-packed our bags.  I have a feeling this trip is going to be a whole lot of unpacking and repacking every couple of days.  It gets old fast. 

Anyways, we got our bags semi-situated ... Well, Ryan and I did.  Shannon still doesn't have her luggage yet from the airline.  We shoved our stuff in the storage room at the hostel and took off to find some breakfast.


We went to a little cafe by Woolworths that we saw last night.  The food looked fine, but man it was SO expensive!  So we asked the girl working if there were cheaper places to eat.  She surprised us all by telling us that the cafe was actualy way overpriced and sent us to another spot!  Bad for business (for her) but so nice of her to be honest with us.

Airlie Beach is a tiny little town with almost everything on one main road.  The Sidewalk Cafe was just a couple of blocks away.  Food was still expensive there, but I guess  that's what you get in a tourist town.  I ordered scrambled eggs and an acai fruit bowl thing.  For like $25!  At least it was good food.



Next up on the agenda was to find the "Mr. Travel" travel agency that Shannon booked our boat tour through.  It was basically across the street from the restaurant, but we didn't realize that until we walked all the way to the end of the main road -- the wrong direction.  

While Shannon was having them print off our vouchers for the Anaconda III tonight sailboat, I spotted an airplane tour to fly over the Whitsunday Islands and then out to the Great Barrier Reef.  Hell-to-the-yes.  I love seeing things like this not just for the ground (or water), but from the air as well!  And these two spots were two that were on the top of my Australia bucket list.  It had to happen.  It didn't take too much convincing to get Shannon and Ryan to agree to it, too!  The travel agent said they would pick us all up just down the street at another hostel at 1:45pm.  (Seriously - we all agreed she said 1:45.  This will be important later...)



So we had the whole morning to spare, and Shannon still didnt' have any of her clothes. I mean we HAD to shop, right!?  Ryan was over it after one store and went to the beach to chill out.  Shannon and I walked up and down the main road and shopped in almost every store.




I certainly didn't need to buy anything.  I definitely had ZERO room in my bag...but I stil bought a few things.  A skirt, some short board shorts, and a tie-dye sarong to cover up with at the beach, and another towel for the beach.  (The one I bought last night at the grocery store was for showering.). Shannon found lots of tank tops and hats and swimsuits and hoodies... All kinds of stuff, because she has NOTHING right now.


We finished our shopping extravaganza a little before 1 and went to Woolworths to get some more groceries for the boat trip. I got canned tuna, some chips, apples and granola bars in case the food is really bad on there.  I had just checked out and Shannon had her card in the chip reader to pay when my phone rang.  It was the guy from the  airplane tour saying he was there waiting on us.

(Exact spot I got the call...)

Ummm, what?  I thought we were getting picked up at 1:45?  The lady said 1:45!  It's highlighted on our paper.  1:45!  Nope, that's the flight time.  PIck up is at 1.  It was 1:05.  SHIT.  Panic mode.  He said he would wait 5 minutes and if we weren't there, he was leaving.  Shannon and I were at the grocery store, just down the street fro the pickup location.  But Ryan was on the beach...somewhere.  

I left my bags with Shannon and told her to RUN.  I took off like a bat out of hell and sprinted down to the beach screaming RYYYAAANNNNN the whole time.  He was right where he said he would be, asleep under some trees.  Imagine the shock of waking up to seeing me sprinting at him hollering his name like a mad woman.  Poor guy. Hahaha.  He looked so confused but promptly got right up and took off running behind me like I said.  "Ryan!  RUN RUN!  We're late!"  He probably thought there was a tsunami coming or something the way I was acting.  I'm slightly high strung over the top sometimes. So there we were, three Americans running down the street.  Grocery bags and towels flying.  All in flip flops.  Such a disaster.  But we made it.  I made one more frantic phone call back to the guy to tell him we were coming, and he said, "Umm yeah, I can see you.  You can stop running."  Haha.  I can only imagine how ridiculous we looked.


Funny thing was, Shannon and I had just talked about how the rest of the day might be a bit rushed.  Like the grocery store and remaining 45 minutes we had to go to the beach would be the calm before the storm. Not quite.  The storm came a little bit sooner.  

I showed the guy the highlighted part on the form and we all agreed the travel agent lady said 1:45, not 1.  But right in front of the highlighted 1:45 FLIGHT TIME on the paper was the sentence that said pick up at 1.  It just wasn't highlighted.  Ugh.  Oh well.  The guy was super nice and assured us over and over that it was okay.  I hopped in the front seat along with all the bags of food and clothes and beach stuff we had, sweating like an old pig in the 80 degree sunshine.  

The private Whitsundays airport was just a few minutes away, and thankfully we had a few minutes to sit down and relax in the AC (where I realized I forgot to put my motion sickness patch on for the boat tonight!) before we went out to our little plane to meet the pilot and get a mini safety briefing.


Shannon was so NOT excited about any of this.  She gets a lilttle nervous and doesn't like flying, so getting in this tiny little plane was a stretch for her.  She was super nervous and her palms were all sweaty.


 

 


 

I couldn't help but laugh a little, but I still felt bad for her as the little plane bounced around in the turbulent so as we took off.  She was not amused at all. But she quickly got over it and forgot about the nerves with the ridiculous views out her window.  How could you not when you see this beauty?






The Whitsunday islands looked so amazing from the air. We flew right over the famous Whitehaven beach, which the pilot told us was the number 3 most popular place to get engaged. I think the Eiffel Tower was number 1 and the carriages in Central Park in NYC was number 2 (or maybe vice versa).  Seeing the swirling white sand, turquoise water and green forests was a big bucket list check for me.  I've wanted to see this spot for years.







And it only got better when we flew another 20 minutes out to the Great Barrier Reef.  It sprinkled just a little bit as we entered the reef, and a rainbow showed up.  Seriouslly, it couldn't have been any more perfect!  The Great Berrier Reef is the worlds largest living thing that can be seen from outer space.  It produces more than 1/3 of the worlds coral.  The pilot was full of all kinds of facts about it.  It was just awesome.  I can't even explain or describe how amazing it was to see this from up above.  And we got to fly right over the famous heart shaped reef!  Seeing it all got me SO excited to dive there in a couple of days.








We flew out of the reef over this channel called ... I don't remember, I'll have to look it up.  But it was like dark blue deep ocean water surrounded by the coral reef on each side. And the rainbow still.  And then it got even better when the pilot said the plane in front of him just saw 4 giant whales out in the ocean.  So now we were on a whale spotting trip! I missed getting a picture of them, but I definitely saw two HUUUUGE whales jump up out of the water!  (It's whale watching season around here.). It wasn't quite as cool as the one we saw jump from a lot closer in Sydney, but it was still cool.  The pilot circled around and we saw them jump a few times.  I couldn't believe how BIG they were!








(That blob in the middle is the whale jumping!)

We flew by Hayman Island before reaching Airlie.  It's the most exclusive island in the Whitsundays and is where all the rish and famous go.  Houses start at $25 MILLION DOLLARS there, and there is only one fancy private resort on the island.  It didn't look that fantastic to me...




The water closer to the shore was a lighter color up to a certain spot in the ocean.  I thought it was just a difference in depth or something, but the pilot said it was because they got a whole lot of rain last week and that was all runoff from the fresh water!



All in all the trip was just over an hour and was unbelievable.  We landed safe and sound and Shannon survived.  She didn't just survive, she actually said she LOVED it when we got off.  I knew she would. ;)


OH and the airplane was a Cessna from Wichita, Kansas!  That's like 2 hours from where I grew up!  He said they take out all the seats and fill the plane up with fuel tanks and fly it all the way to Australia from Kansas!  Crazy!

I had to pee so bad the whole flight, so as soon as we got off I ran straight to the bathroom at the little one room "airport."  I couldn't help but laugh at the sign on the back of the door.  I mean the pictures of things NOT to do in the bathroom.  Don't squat over the toilet with your feet on the seat?  Don't pee in the corner of the bathroom?  Come on!  Who does that?!


We all piled back in the mini van, with all of our shopping bags at my feet, and were back in Airlie around 3:15.



I was hungry before we left for the flight, so I was almost to the "hangry" stage.  We went straight back to the same spot we went to for breakfast, Sidewalk Cafe.  The food was good and they had decent wifi.  I got some sort of fish, which was a little too thick/chewy for me, but I definitely choked it all down. Ryan got the same thing and Shannon had some sort of chicken parmigiana.  


I got a phone call while we were eating from the airline that lost Shannon's luggage yesterday.  They said her bag made the last flight from Brisbane to Airlie and it was not in a taxi and on its way to Nomads hostel!  Woohoo!  Would have been a rough trip if they really lost her whole bag.  So as soon as we were done eating we went straight to the hostel to get her bag.  She was pretty happy to see that thing!


The next big task was to re-pack and organize our bags for the three days on the boat.  We could only take one small grocery type bag.  No zippered bags.  Apparently bed bugs live in zippers and there is such a big backpackers community around here that they've had bedbug incidents.  We knew that, and we had those three big Lulu bags from Sydney that the nice worker gave us.  I tried to fit all my stuff in it, but it just wasn't happening.  I didn't know if it was going to be warm or cold and I didn't want to leave my electronics (iPad and Mac) in storage at the hostel, so all that stuff had to come too.  It was so much stuff.  We all had SO.MUCH.STUFF.  Oh plus all the food bags we had.  I think we had something like 6 bags of chips between the 3 of us!  I fit all my clothes in the black lulu bag, I had one food bag, and another grocery bag with the towels, a hoodie, and a book.  Three bags. Not even close to one bag.  I'm hopeless!




Thankfully, Shannon had just as many bags as I did, haha.  Ryan had basically nothing.  I think he had like a pair of board shorts and was good.  Guys have it so easy sometimes!


We got everything re-situated and ready to go, and had a little time to kill before our 6:30 taxi ride to the Abel Point Marina South meeting point for the boat.  When we checked in at the hostel they gave us some 2 for $10 smoothie coupons to Boost - kind of like our Jamba Juice.  Shannon and I decided to go grab us some smoothies for dessert. I said we should just get two and share them, but she wanted to get 4.  So, we got 4.  4 BIG smoothies that we now had to carry on the boat along with all our other crap!  They were all really good and we crushed two of them before the taxi even came.



I finally remembered the motion sickness patch!  I was supposed to put it on at like 3 today, but hey, better late than never.  I couldn't get it on right, it was SO sticky, so Shannon had to help me out.  This thing better work or it could be a miserable next few days.



It was like a 5 minute taxi ride to the marina.  We definitely could have walked it if we would have had the recommended ONE bag and didn't have our arms full with three each, plus smoothies.  Most everyone else was sitting around there when we pulled up.  Lots of couples.  And me.



The crew showed up right on time, checked our names off, and walked us down the dock to a 93 foot sailboat.  34 people on this Anaconda III sailboat for the next 3 days!  Thank goodness it was big.  I was so worried thre whole time it was going to be small and I was going to get sick.  But I felt okay about this one.




Harry, one of the deck hands, showed us to our rom, room number 3, downstairs.  I coujldn't help but laugh when he opened the door to it.  It was like 10 square feet.  No joke.  One like twin and a half bed down low, and a tiny twin up above for me.  Tiniest sink I've ever seen, and an even smaller toilet/shower room.  We'd couldn't even all stand in there at the same time!  And there was one little ledge for all our bags and food.  Ugh.  So THAT was why they said to only bring one bag.  That's all there is room for!  The saving grace was the little hole in the ceiling that opened up to the top deck.  I could crawl out of my bed and up to the deck for fresh air any time.





After a safety briefing and getting a semi-itinerary for the next few days, we took off in to the night.  The weather was perfect and was supposed to stay that way for the remainder of the trip.  No waves and I was feeling pretty good!  We walked around the boat and enjoyed the sea air before deciding to call it a night and retire to our rooms around 9.




The beds were so so so small.  I mean I'm not a big person and I felt like I was going to fall out of the bed if I rolled over.  Shannon and Ryan were screwed in the tiny bed below.  Ryan literally was smashed up against the wall and couldn't even move.  And it got real stuffy in there once they docked the boat for the night in a protected cove.  I eventually drifted off to sleep and I think they did too.  But it wasn't going to be a good nights sleep, that was for sure!