Friday, July 08, 2011

Day Seven: Michaelmas Cay

Yesterday was the strangest day. I say that because some parts of it were beautiful and wonderful, but some others were so, so awful. Allow me to explain.

David was feeling pretty weak when we awoke before dawn, but didn't think he was nauseous anymore. So we continued with our plans for Michaelmas Cay, which included lots of packing for a full day on a boat.

The ride to Cairns harbour was very long, more than an hour. And it made me pretty cranky since it was so early and I'd had no breakfast. Just before we arrived, David started vomiting copiously into a plastic bag. Which made us really popular with the rest of the packed coach. I felt so sad for him, and mortified at the same time. Moments later, they were ushering us to the slip, and David said he felt better.

The boat was pretty casual, and fit about 150 people. There were no set seats, so people milled around the whole time. The main cabin, or “saloon,” is where poor David ended up sleeping with a towel over his head for most for most of the day, as he soon started to go downhill again. He got to join us for a couple things, but mostly he was too miserable to pick up his head. I have never seen him like this before.

Meanwhile, I was frantic. There seemed to be some sort of boat excursion culture that I was not getting. I couldn't decide if I should sign us up for a snorkel tour, or how to get the equipment, or when we should change, or get semi-submersible tickets, or what. I waited too long to get our snorkel gear and never could find fins in Jarrah's size. The schedule, which everyone else seemed to roll with, had me completely haggard on more than one occasion, like when we almost missed lunch and then almost missed our submarine tour because we needed that last five minutes to eat something.

In the saloon, they gave us a lesson about turtles, which was cool, and explained how things would work. We would sail two hours to Michaelmas Cay, which is a sandspit in the middle of nowhere completely covered in flocks of sea birds, screeching up a storm. The boat docks a ways from the Cay, and sends a “Beach Buggy” back and forth to the shore. There was snorkeling in the morning and afternoon (as well as diving if you dared) and semi-submersible tours four times. There was a guided tour of the reef, twice. And they served a big lunch in the middle of it, which would be open for an hour.

Jarrah was very game for whatever, considering she doesn't swim. But that last factor prevented her from getting with the snorkeling program. She just would not put her face in the water, even though I showed how she would be able to breathe. She was cheery, and happy to play in the light blue shallow water and sugar-soft sand close to shore, but it meant David and I could not snorkel together or attend the guided tour. That was okay, though I got a bit nervous when I was out alone and swallowed a bunch of water at one point—while I was trying to fix the problem, I swallowed a bunch more.

So what is the Great Barrier Reef like? Awesome. I have never seen anything like that coral, all fans and coils and spaghetti and branches in colors like orange and green and blue, waving in the water like plants. The fish were spectacular—all the usual suspects from Finding Nemo, and a few more. I've never experienced anything like it. I had expected to be afraid of things I saw, like eels and sharks and rays and barracuda, but I never saw anything large except for a couple of giant clams. I have a feeling the Cay was chosen because it is so safe.

Speaking of the Cay, I was bummed that I couldn't walk the perimeter. I had envisioned being able to brag that I'd walked around an entire island (and believe me, it wouldn't have taken long) but a small section of beach was cordoned off and we all had to stay in there. This is nominally because of the nesting sea birds, but I have a feeling it's also because of the inconvenience of people wandering off and drowning on the other side, out of supervision. It would be hard to watch both sides at once. But it was very beautiful, if noisy from all the avian screaming, and didn't feel crowded.

The lunch was very good and various (David couldn't eat a bite, and when I forced him to take a piece of dry bread, he nibbled it lying down) and quickly we were scurrying to our semi-submersible tour. If you've never taken one, it's like a submarine where most of the vessel stays above water, but with plank seats and big windows beneath the water. It was less than 30 minutes, but just about every second was suffused in wonders. I didn't know where to look first. We even saw a sea turtle!

On the boat home, I was worried about David, and in no mood for the jaunty sing-a-long and free glass of champagne. David mostly napped, and Jarrah was off with a crowd of kids (at one point I saw her toasting her raspberry cordial with a huge family, and had to giggle at the strange way she ingratiates herself with strangers) so I was lonely and bored. I was dreading the long drive back to Palm Cove, and it was horrid as expected, crowded and slow and loud. Four hours of boat travel and more than two on a bus in one 11 hour day is not my thing, and it's the first excursion that didn't seem pretty much perfect for that reason. But seeing the reef close up? A-mazing. Next time we'll find a way to do it without so much schlepping.


Jen said...

Wow, I am so jealous that you saw the Great Barrier Reef! Some day Jarrah is going to be kicking herself about the snorkeling thing. :-) I guess you'll just have to go back. These are great posts--I'm catching up on lots of them today! I am SOOO sorry David is sick and I hope hope hope that Jarrah's illness was a one-off thing. And I hope that you remain healthy. Fingers crossed. What an amazing trip this is! xoxo

LunaMoonbeam said...

Oh, poor David!!!!! :-(

Mary said...

Poor David!

What a place to be ill.

I am catching up on the blog today, too.

Can't wait to see you guys!