East Coast

Sailing the Whitsundays

We had booked tickets aboard ‘The Mandrake’ and had to check-in at 8.30 am the following day for a ‘security briefing’. The ‘check-in’ basically consisted of the crew telling us to bring a small bag of clothes, no valuables and no red wine onto the boat… It was a waste of time ‘checking-in’ at 8.30 am because the boat didn’t leave until 2.30pm! We caught up on sleep in the van for a little while before we tested out the public electric BBQs that we’d seen around town for lunch.

Later in the afternoon we made our way towards the marina to find the catamaran and the people we’d be spending the next couple of days with. Our catamaran was pretty small and there were only 13 people on our boat, so a lot smaller than the bigger party boats that hold over 100 people for 3 nights. The majority of the passengers were British apart from two French girls, an Israeli, and an American girl who wouldn’t stop going on about Taylor Swift (!!!!). As soon as we got on the boat, we were shown to our bunks and it came apparent that there’d be very little privacy over the next couple of days… The toilet was so small that you could barely move. Our sleeping quarters were right in the bow of the catamaran and they’d somehow managed to fit 6 bunks in the tiny room. We were putting our belongings onto our bunks when two French girls asked me whether this was all a joke? They were apparently expecting a luxurious catamaran with a beautiful ensuite cabin and an endless supply of champagne… all for $400. They were living in a dream world!

Stole this picture to show you exactly how small it was... We were in the two bunks next to each other at the bottom.

Stole this picture to show you exactly how small it was… We were in the two bunks next to each other at the bottom.

It was so cramped downstairs that we all went to sit on the deck to enjoy the sunset before the anchor went down for the night. It was a really nice evening on the boat and we were served a lovely spaghetti bolognese prepared by Tom, the Mandrake’s deck hand and host (he was also a splitting image of Olympic Swimmer Tom Daley). After dinner we tried for the first time ‘goon’ (what Aussies call box wine) and got to know the other people on the boat.

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I actually slept amazingly well on the first night – perhaps it was the slight rocking of the boat or too much goon? As our bunks were right in the bow of the ship, we were woken up at 5.30am by the captain rising the anchor. We managed to fall back asleep for a little while longer before we were woken up again for breakfast by Tom at 6.30am. The two French girls were rather unimpressed with the breakfast options: cereal, toast, tea and coffee. Maybe they thought Tom was going to rustle up some fresh croissants and a round of espressos for breakfast? They were absolutely miserable and made a point of showing it.

After breakfast and filling up on coffee, the catamaran set sail towards the beautiful Whitehaven beach. The sand was almost white and had a flour like consistency, and it was completely untouched – there were no other footprints on the beach! We spent a couple of hours exploring before we returned to The Mandrake for a spot of snorkelling. The water was ice cold and the stinger suits that we’d been forced to wear (to protect ourselves against box jellyfish) weren’t thick enough. I only managed about 20-30 minutes in the water before I had to go back to the Mandrake, the water was just too damn cold!

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Untouched sand!

Untouched sand!

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Whitehaven Selfie!

Whitehaven Selfie!

We spent the rest of the day sailing around the Whitsunday Islands spotting whales and chatting to our new friends on the deck. For dinner we were served hot dogs and mashed potatoes, and it was probably the best mash I’d had for a very long time. The deck hand couldn’t work out whether the sausages were beef, pork or both, so the young Israeli guy had no choice to eat them because there was no vegetarian option available. Dan, the young Israeli, had just completed his compulsory three years of military service in Israeli and had hopped on a plane as soon as he finished for a holiday.

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On our last day on The Mandrake we were given the option of hiking to a view point or swimming with turtles… naturally everyone wanted the latter. At 7am we’d already eaten breakfast and were getting ready to jump back into the icy water…. there was no need for a coffee pick me up that morning! We found loads of turtles so everyone was pretty happy! When we returned to the boat, it was time to start heading back towards Airlie Beach but the winds were strong. The winds were so strong that the boat stayed tipped on one side for most of the trip back to Airlie Beach and water poured into the decks below. The sea water soaked the two French girls’ stuff: clothes, shoes, makeup, even an iPad. I kind of felt bad for them because they’d obviously been told it was a luxurious sailing holiday and instead it was a budget and cramped catamaran. I kind of felt that they were pretty stupid for not trying trying to make the most of the situation, but instead they were miserable, complained about everything and refused to socialise with the rest of the group. To top it off… as the French girl was getting off the boat she dropped her designer sunglasses into the sea and lost them forever!

About to snorkel!

About to snorkel!

A Humphead Maori Wrasse!

A Humphead Maori Wrasse!

So many fish... I hated them flapping against me.

So many fish… I hated them flapping against me.

A turtle!

A turtle!

More turtles!

More turtles!

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The Campervan Chronicles – Townsville to Airlie Beach

After Magnetic Island we had 2 days or so to drive 300km to Airlie Beach for our Whitsundays Sailing trip. We’d originally planned to camp at either Ayr or Bowen for the night, but we passed a national park on the way with an interesting name ‘Alligator Creek’ so we decided to stop for the night. You had to call up and pay for a camping permit over the phone and Kyle wanted to try and get away with not paying, but I decided to be honest and call up and get the camping permit… I didn’t want an awkward situation where we’re chased off the national park because we didn’t pay.

When we finally got the camping permit sorted, it was already dark and we had to cook our chicken tikka masala in the dark. As we didn’t have a fridge in our van, we bought (dare I admit it) a can of chicken to add to the Patak’s sauce. I was a little skeptical at first of trying the canned chicken because I couldn’t get the picture or smell of canned tuna out of my head. Nonetheless we cracked open the can and each tried a small mouthful… it was surprisingly alright! By the time we’d eaten dinner, the camping area was pitch black so we made up the bed in the van and got ready to watch something on Kyle’s laptop. We were watching an episode of Modern Family when suddenly out of the middle of nowhere there was a load thud on the roof of the car followed by some scurrying! There was something on the top of the car running around! It was then that I realised that I’d left one of the windows open and hurried to close it before whatever it was got inside the car. After a while the noise stopped and we got out to inspect what had been attacking our car and found a little possum!

Making toast!

Making toast!

Waking up in the van!

Waking up in the van!

The following morning we made some makeshift toast in our ‘kitchen’ and then went to explore the Alligator Creek. Disappointingly there were no alligators (obviously), alligators are American, DUH?! Alligator Creek had some beautiful walks and waterfalls, so we spent the morning here exploring before we hit the road again for Airlie Beach for the Whitsundays.

The waterfall at Alligator Creek

The waterfall at Alligator Creek

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We got to Airlie Beach in the late afternoon and we decided to actually spend the night at a campsite with toilets and hot showers than in a free roadside camp. It was a really nice campsite and had a huge kitchen with utensils, fridges and BBQs to use. We met a nice English couple who were about the same age as us but had come to Australia primarily to work rather than travel. The boyfriend worked on a farm back in England but said it was really difficult to find work back in England and actually make a career for himself. He said that there were a lot more farming opportunities in Australia and that he was earning three times what he was earning in England.

Showing Kyle how to use a washing machine!

Showing Kyle how to use a washing machine!

Wild kangaroo!

Wild kangaroo!

Next stop: The Whitsundays!