I hesitate to use the words "for my birthday," because, really, the timing just worked out that way, but I can't imagine we would have ever come up with a better plan. For the past couple days, TJ and I have been living aboard the Condor in the Whitsunday Islands of Queensland, Australia. We set out on Tuesday and returned to Airlie Beach this morning - sleep deprived, painfully sunburned, and a year older. Or, that was my experience anyway.
The trip was an adventure from the beginning. Within an hour of setting sail, rain clouds started moving in and we were hitting large swells as we flew across the water. The crew passed out big rain coats, and the 19 passengers huddled together as the boat heeled, most of us thinking, "What have we gotten ourselves into?" I couldn't stop grinning.
Eventually, both the rain and the boat slowed down, and we pulled into a bay to go snorkeling. My grin faded as I realized what we were doing. I haven't been in the ocean in six years, since a less-than-fun scuba diving experience. My goal for this short trip was to change that, but not quite so quickly. I was not ready! As the other passengers squeezed themselves into their "stinger suits," I avoided them. The ones that noticed convinced me to pull a suit on and ride out on the dinghy with them, where I could at least see the fish from the surface.
I'm so glad I did! There were so many of them!
This massive one is named Elvis. I was able to touch him from the boat!
We had two more opportunities to snorkel the next day. On the morning of my birthday, I suited up, climbed into the little dinghy, and, with lots of encouragement, slid into the water. TJ never left my side, and I actually found myself enjoying it once I got over the shock. It was beautiful.
Once was enough for me this time, though. One step at a time. TJ went snorkeling later at sandbar where those of us who were nervous about swimming could walk along the sand.
We spent our nights anchored in calm bays, with a tarp covering the middle of the boat, making the deck cozy. So cozy, in fact, that TJ decided to sleep up on deck our first night! The crew provided meals and snacks like nachos and chicken with mashed potatoes. They even grilled up steaks for dinner the night of my birthday! They also cleaned up after us, which was a real treat after weeks of cooking and cleaning for ourselves in hostels.
One famous destination in the Whitsundays is Whitehaven Beach, declared as the third most beautiful beach by someone who is allowed to make that declaration, I suppose. We certainly don't disagree. It was amazing.
We were the only ones on the beach for a while, but as low tide approached, we hiked up to a lookout to see the entire view.
As beautiful as the scenery was, the best part of the trip might have been our company. We were blessed with a great group of people to share the trip with, and our boat was far under capacity, which means we had plenty of room to spread out and enjoy ourselves.
We like each other so much, it seems, that the majority of us met up again in Airlie Beach for a night of bar hopping. It was a great send off for everyone leaving Airlie Beach and heading in different directions, and it gave us the chance to relive some of the songs and games we learned over the course of the trip.