Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 305 (115)

Great Barrier Reef

Friday 7th January (2005)

When we checked into our backpacker accommodation yesterday, we asked if we could first see the room but left a AU$50 (€30) deposit – coincidentally the cost of one night’s accommodation. Somewhat absentmindedly, we never went back to reception to confirm that we were going to take the room. When we went back to the reception desk this morning to check out, the receptionist asked if we’d left a security deposit and I told her about the AU$50 (€30) we left behind. She handed this over to me and bid us farewell. It dawned on me as we were walking away that we hadn’t actually paid for the room. My sense of ethics kicked in and I was going to go back and pay the bill. My concern for our meagre budget, however, was the more powerful of the two emotions and won the day. We knew that we had to be checked out by ten o’clock but there weren’t any signs posted to suggest that we wouldn’t be able to continue to make use of the facilities, so Sandy threw a load of washing into one of the washing machines and then had a shower before we set off to find breakfast somewhere. After polishing off our Sub-Way sandwiches, I hung out the washing to dry and we spent the rest of the morning driving around aimlessly – but at least we were in an air-conditioned environment.

Driving up and down the coast road, we’ve seen numerous signs for bungalow parks and the like and I’ve been most curious as to how much a self-contained bungalow goes for so we found one such park just outside of Airlie Beach and we stopped in to inquire. These particular bungalows were very nicely appointed with ensuite bathroom and a kitchen for AU$79 (€48) per night. It had a double bed as well as a couple of bunk beds and would quite nicely suit a family of four. Given that we are paying AU$38 (€23) per day for a rental car, such a bungalow is just a little outside of our budget range. I’ve given us a self-imposed budget of around €90 (AU$150) per day. After the cost of the rental car, this leaves around AU$110 (€67). With accommodation coming in at around AU$50 (€30) per night, that leaves us just AU$60 (€37) per day to live on. This also includes the cost of attractions, entrance fees and so on. It is going to be quite a squeeze.

The very friendly owner of the bungalow park suggested we drive about ten minutes out of town to a waterfall where we could spend the afternoon swimming in the basin. We did this and eventually found it after turning off several times onto successively smaller roads. When ended up driving on little more than a dirt track before finding the place and all I kept thinking of was the rental car agent telling me that we would not be insured if we deviated from a sealed road. Once finally did arrive, however, all of my worries about the car were put on hold as we spent several wonderful hours enjoying ourselves. The heavy rains haven’t yet started here, although they are imminent, and the waterfall itself was nothing more than a few drips but the water in the basin below was warm and exceedingly inviting. When we arrived, there were some other people already there and they were feeding the fish with small bits of bread. In addition to the thousands of small fry, there were a dozen or more turtles as well as a few eels all clambering for the scraps of bread. I must admit that I was a little worried initially about going for a swim but a local tour guide with a couple of tourist in tow arrived and walked straight in. That was all the confirmation that I needed that it was safe to do so and I waded into the warm water and floated around in sheer bliss for half an hour.

The tour guide was quite chatty and was full of interesting bits of information on the local flora and fauna. One of the things she showed us was a nest of ants that had used several leaves of a tree to form a nest. These particular ants, when you lick their backsides, tasted like lemon juice – apparently. Since Sandy did not go for a swim, the tour guide convinced her that she should at least try to taste the backside of an ant – which she did.

We still haven’t seen any kangaroos yet here in Australia but we did see a couple of dead ones lying by the side of the road during the day today. I will be most disappointed if we make it all the way through our Australian adventure without seeing any live ones in the wild somewhere.

We (or I at least) slowly dried off and made our way back into Airlie Beach. Our washing was nice and crisply dry by now and we gathered our things and completed the necessary paperwork for our diving trip. After a quick bite to eat, we made our way over to the dive shop and waited for our ride over to the dock and our awaiting catamaran.

The Oceana is quite a large vessel compared to the live-aboard boats we experienced in Thailand. And with just twenty other divers, it doesn’t feel nearly as crowded either. The dive coordinator went through all his dive briefings and told us all what to expect from the days ahead. If Thailand was anything to go by, I shall have scarce little energy at the end of each day to do anything more than write up a few notes to be expand at a later date into full blown journal entries. Breakfast tomorrow morning will be at around seven o’clock and it is now already almost eleven so I’ll finish up and call it a night.