When I first bought my ticket out to Australia, taking a sailing trip round the Whitsunday Islands was first on my list of things to do whilst out here. Like almost everything I’ve done since arriving, it hasn’t disappointed. I actually started writing this post onboard the Ragamuffin II, moored at Stovehaven Bay having just watched the sunset across the ocean. I know I’m still behind in posting on this blog, and by the time you’re reading this it will have been a few days ago, but it’s one of those places where it just feels right to write about it whilst being here.
I can’t fully explain the atmosphere here tonight, but it should help if I were to tell you that we also listened to Lonely Island’s On A Boat whilst the sun was in its last moments of actually setting behind the horizon. Hopefully this gives a more typical view of what this trip has been like: beautiful, serene, and just a really good laugh.
Picking out an individual highlight would be hard, but obviously snorkeling over the coastal reefs was an experience not to be forgotten. “Sea Turtles, I met one” says Marlon in Finding Nemo, but I floated there quite comfortably on my noodle as a family of five gently swam underneath minding their own business, fish feeding off their shells as though they were nothing more than extravagant dinner plates. Three of us have also been scuba diving, although I can’t say this is something I was particularly adept at. Whilst it was amazing to be so close when watching the schools of multicoloured fish swimming between the coral, it’s not as relaxing when you’re either sinking too close to it (in some cases accidentally kicking it with your flippers) or floating too much the instructor has to pull you back down. Whilst I’m sure pollution is playing it’s part, I’m now almost convinced that humanity’s biggest impact on the Great Barrier Reef is inexperienced tourists like myself who can’t quite balance properly.
We also had an excursion to Whitehaven beach, which is so white it stands out even by Australian standards. It is made up of between 95% – 98% silicon (exact figures vary according to the source), most likely originating from a large quartz deposit that was eroded away over time. Having spent a few hours here, believe me when I say this is a natural beauty that even an unflattering stinger suit can’t detract from.
More than this though, a large part of the fun has just simply been living with a group of mostly strangers in such close quarters; there’s ten of us on this trip with a crew of two, although with a couple of spare bunks. Most of us are in our twenties (*I later found out it’s more like twentysomething looking thirtysomething year olds, must be something in the sea air?), and there is a mixture of native English and German speakers, but not one of us hasn’t enjoyed spending three days and two nights together in a small space that anywhere else would be described as cramped. Some of us have steered, and there are those of us who have helped heave the ropes to the barking orders of Arnold Schwarzenegger when the sails needed raising, but even without these, just through the spirit of adventure, it felt as though we came together as a crew.
Like proper travelling should be, we’re getting to know and enjoying the company of people we’ve never met before, mostly from other countries even if we are all European. I also learnt to play Backgammon sitting on deck underneath constellations of stars I had never seen before, but light pollution aside this is something that probably doesn’t happen as much as it should anymore. Whilst my travelling round America ten years ago was a fully organised trip rather than the plan it as I am going along I am doing now, it is amazing just how much has changed with the introduction of modern technology. At first I was annoyed at the lack of available wifi in certain hostels, but now, other than it’s rather useful ability to organise and book where I’m going next, I enjoy not having to rely on it. Or I should say that it’s actually only relying on it in an old habit dying hard kind of way, and it’s been nice to be taken away from that.
There have been too many occasions where, like real life, people sit and communicate with their screens rather than each other; something I can’t say I’ve been immune to as there have been evenings where I sat with my tablet when I could (should?) have instead introduced myself to other backpackers. Maybe it’s just me being on the run, but isn’t travelling meant to be something more than real life?
Either way, cameras and GPS aside, screens weren’t something that people paid attention to during our time together on the Ragamuffin II, and that is something I will always take away from my trip.
The Wolverines were also singing What A Bloody Great Day To Go Sailin’ as the sun went down. Good for them, but we had three.