Thursday, October 4, 2012

AU/NZ Trip: days 6-8

Day 6 (2nd on liveaboard):
Today started out with a morning dive before breakfast at 6:30am; we stayed on the boat for this one for two reasons: 1) I was sore from the weight belts and tanks from the 4 dives the previous day & 2) Kyle's ears were giving him problems equalizing the night before and he needed to give them a chance to recover.

We dove just after breakfast, but Kyle was not able to descend past two meters because his ears would not equalize! Nevertheless, we saw an abundance of sea life and used this shallow depth to scuba-snorkel over the shallower parts of the reef.  We were also able to see another sea turtle and several other giant clams (>1 meter wide!).

Because of Kyle's ears, we decided to snorkel instead of dive for the third scheduled dive; this turned out to be an AMAZING experience! The reef extended almost to the surface and therefore the top was only accessible by snorkeling. The increased amount of light, as well as the close proximity of the marine life, made for some great sights and the most colorful pictures of the entire trip.

The last dive of the day was the night dive. Kyle decided to sit this one out and I decided to go on it alone... but still in a group of other divers. The wind had picked up, so the water was a lot choppier than the previous night dive. And I don't know if it was just my imagination or if it was the fact that I was missing my diving buddy, but it seemed a whole lot darker out, too. At nighttime all the "creepy-crawly-creatures" come out to play and the reefs had tons of crustaceans all over them.  The dive guide who was leading our group of about 6 divers motioned for us to congregate on the seafloor toward the end of our dive. As we all circled around him, he motioned for us to press our lights against our chests in order to extinguish the light without actually turning it off. I was shocked at how well my eyes adjusted to the darkness and how the moons reflection actually provided enough light to see shapes & figures in the distance. We swam this way to our "safety stop" which we preform for 3 minutes at about 5 meters in order to expel excess nitrogen from our bodies so we don't get decompression sickness. While at the safety stop, our guide put his hand on his forehead sticking straight up, and pointed, indicating a shark was nearby. I looked over the outline of a huge shark patrolling back and forth looking for something to eat. Our group of 6 was almost instantly on top of one another and I took someone's flipper to my face! Looking back, I have never seen so many people trying to get to the middle, especially because the shark was swimming 15 ft away from us and we still didn't have our lights on. While our guide assured us after the dive that this 2-meter-long-white-tipped-shark posed no immediate threat, it was an alarming experience, especially at night, and it was the closest I have ever been to a shark.

Day 7 (day #3 on the liveaboard):
Today was our last day on the liveaboard; it began with a very early dive/snorkel @ 5:30 am, which we opted for snorkeling on this one because it was so early in the morning. After we snorkeled, we ate breakfast, and then got ready for the post-breakfast dive. We saw our third large sea-turtle on this dive, which meant that we got to see a different sea-turtle every single day that we were on the trip. Turtles are fun to come across when you are diving because they aren't afraid of you and will normally let you get right up on them to take pictures of them/with them and touch them. They remind me of the turtles in the movie Finding Nemo (Kyle swears he heard it say “duuuuuude”), which is ironic because shortly after we met this turtle, we actually FOUND Nemo…two of them! They were hanging out in their algae home, hovering around their living space, just like at the beginning of the movie. It was cool to see real clownfish. After surfacing from this dive, we only had about a half hour of dwell time before jumping back into the water for our final dive of the trip. On our last dive, we did our deepest dive of the entire trip, reaching depths of just over 18 meters. There was a fish almost as big as I am, called a parrot-fish, and Kyle took some really neat pictures of it swimming near me.  After this dive, we ate lunch on the boat, and then the boat started on the two-hour journey back to shore.

Because the winds had picked up the night before, our boat ride back was an extremely rocky one. The crew tied down the loose chairs, the microwave, & anything/everything that could move because the waves were tossing our little boat all over the place. I laid down on one of the benches so I wouldn't get sea-sick, and Kyle went up on the top deck to get some fresh air, where he got splashed by the waves coming over the sides of the boat & a pretty bad sunburn. At one point during the ride home, I tried to make my way downstairs to our cabin so that I could make sure that things on my bunk hadn't been thrown all around our room; I didn't even make it 5 steps and a big wave rocked the boat, throwing me skidding across the floor. I have a very bruised forearm and a cut-up knee because of it! These waves were brutal. I crawled my way back to the bench I had been sitting on and didn't try to move from it again the rest of the trip.
A bunch of the people from the dive boat were going out to have a drink back in Cairns after we got dropped off back at our hotels around 5, but Kyle and I were both so exhausted from the previous three days that we both ended up falling asleep around 8 that night after walking around Cairns for a bit. Funnily enough, though, when we were brushing our teeth, both of us felt like the bathroom was rocking….maybe that’s what they mean by “sea-legs.”

Day 8:
Today had an early start, as do many of our vacation days, because we try to see as much as we can and make the most out of our time here. Even though we were both exhausted & sore from our dive trip and both could have used a day in bed watching cartoons, we decided against listening to our lazy instincts, and ventured out to see the worlds oldest rainforest. Our tour guide picked us up from our hotel @ 7am; this time, our 16 passenger  van consisted of our Aussie guide, an Australian family from Melbourne, an Australian family from Perth, a man from Tokyo, Japan, and a father/daughter from Adelaide, Australia....lots of Australians on this trip!

We made our way north to the Daintree Rainforest, where we were able to walk through it and marvel at how much life there was in one specific location.  After waking around it, we took an hour-long boat ride on the Daintree River surrounded by the rainforest on all sides.  We kept our eyes open for large crocodiles, but instead saw snakes & hatchlings, which are baby crocs. After our boat ride, we had lunch in the rainforest at some picnic tables outside; our guide grilled steaks and fish "on the barbee" & we ate those with local fresh fruit from the surrounding area.  We sat with our new friends from Perth, who ate their steaks with BBQ sauce; when we asked them if they have A1 sauce here, they had never heard of it, but seemed eager to try it. We got their address from them and promised we'd send them some once we get back to Korea. They told us that before we leave Australia, we need to try "vegemite" which is the Australian condiment that everyone loves on toast.

After lunch, we made our way further north to Cape Tribulation beach, which is the only place in the world where two World Heritage sights actually meet.  Those two sights are: the Great Barrier Reef & the Daintree Rainforest. We walked along the beach and waded in the crystal clear water, and of course, took a ridiculous amount of pictures :).

Our trip ended with a stop to the Crossroads Cafe which is owned by a man named Dennis who came to Australia in the 1980s from Pennsylvania to teach and subsequently fell in love with the Daintree area and never left. Here, we ate fruit sorbet that was locally made with berries picked from the local area.

Tomorrow is our flight to New Zealand. We sure are going to miss this place...

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