Dan and Justy Down Under


February 22, 2005


We had thought we had plenty of time before our 1:30 departure time. Alas, it wasn't so, as tasks expanded to fill available time. We got to the Explorer Ventures office at 1, but with considerably less stress than if we'd attempted all the minutiae we wanted. Sometimes you just have to simplify.

But not where dive gear is concerned! We always have more than everyone else. We just like our own gear, especially when the diving is remote and off the beaten track. So, we were prepared for a scene like we had going to Lady Elliot, with ludicrous weight limits and threats of overweight charges. None materialized. No one batted an eyelash at our enormous bags. It helped that other divers had large bags too.

Our ship, the Nimrod Explorer, actually departed out of Cooktown, a small town a bit north of Cape Tribulation. Inaccessible to 2-wheel drive vehicles most of the year, it itself is a remote place. We took a scenic flight in a tiny 6-seater aircraft. That included the pilot. We skirted the coast for most of the way, but occasionally veered out to sea to see the reefs. They are closest at this point, and a visually stunning sight from the air.

I'm a big guy. Normally my mere size gets me the comfy seats in cars, etc. This privilege is moot when faced with photographers. I got the middle, hump seat, which also happened to have substantially less headroom. I discoverd this when we encountered turbulence that crunched my spine on a somewhat cushioned ceiling. Other than that, the flight was a delight.

Cooktown at 5pm on a Tuesday is almost a ghost town. There are some beached boats, some lived-in, some aboriginals sitting around, and a lot of closed bars and hotels. Several of us found an open one and got some beer.

For the second time in Australia, I had the following experience: all the beers on tap were very light. I ask about what they have in a bottle or can. More transparent beers. I finally ask, what's the darkest beer you have? Serious looks are exchanged between the barman and the lone Aussie patron. The latter laughs and says "You're not in a darkie bar, now are ya?" or something similar.

This fellow was dressed like Crocodile Dundee, but wasn't as cosmopolitan. He was the bush walker type. His beard was ZZ Top style and the look in his face merited watching. There was a slight twitch. One of our group recognized him as a famous fisherman who advertised as a guide for remote fishing expeditions.

Our ship departed at 7:30 and we steamed overnight to the #3 Ribbon Reef...

Itinerary Highlights
January 20: Winery Tour
21-23: Moreton Bay Diving
25: Australia Zoo
26-30: Lady Elliot Island
February 13: Diving the Yongala
15-17: Cape Tribulation + Daintree Rain Forest
17-20: Atherton Tablelands
22-28: Coral Sea Diving Liveaboard
March 11-13: OzTek Dive Conference: Sydney
14: Fly to New Zealand
20: Poor Knights Islands Diving
31: Mt. Cook
April 2-4: Queenstown
TBD: To Be Dreamed

Digital Pix Courtesy of Shimmivision.com
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