Friday 6 March 2015

Last Hurrah on Hayman Island

Well as I write, I look down the hallway and see that my bags are lined up in size order by the door. Soon Mrs TJ will no longer be Down Under and the end of an amazing chapter in our lives will fast draw to a close.

However, before that happens, I have one last adventure to relay.

We realised our time over here could never be complete without a trip to the Great Barrier Reef, of course.

We opted to stay in the Whitsundays, a unique phenomenon in the world where there is a conglomeration of 74 rain forest drenched islands in the ocean, only 8 of which have any human habitation at all.

We headed for Hayman Island and the One and Only Resort Hotel there.

We touched down at Hamilton Island in pre-Cyclonic storms. It took 3 attempts to land and in the end the pilot appeared to just drop the plane on the runway from a height!

Apparently, the ground staff did not expect the flight to land, thank goodness it did because look what we would have missed!

We were upgraded to a Pool Suite, we have no clue why and certainly no complaint about it either. It was stunning and to be fair even the photos do not do justice.

We had a spectacular view over the vast pool area and bar and out to the ocean and islands beyond. It truly was idyllic and flitting busily and very noisily from palm to palm, were scores of cheeky cockatoos. Just lovely.

Nestled in the hilly backdrop of the rain forest, the resort was discreetly and beautifully appointed.

Many chose to arrive by chopper from the nearby airport.

However, we decided to take the 50 minute cruise in one of the islands luxury craft, a catamaran called Pure Adrenalin. She was a mighty fine specimen, all cream leather, chrome and shiny walnut and we luxuriated on board with a glass of bubbles and some delectable canapes in hand.

As the Aussies would say; living the dream.

A real island paradise gettaway, it certainly exceeded our expectations and we loved just how sensitively it had all been created with the natural environment in mind.

Beautiful orchids, ferns and figs attached themselves to many a host palm, adorning the trunks with a carpet of green and colour. All quite mesmerising.

Whole BBQ Snapper with a herb gremolata and a side of seafood paella to share.

Thai fish yellow curry and a sweet and sour tooth fish dish.

The cuisine was simply delicious and we found it hard to get past the seafood as it was just so fresh and tasty, well in Queensland, the world's fish tank, it was always going to be.

On a walk we did a rest was much needed as the perspiration poured down us, head to toe, in rivulets. I don't think I have ever encountered 85% humidity before.

The cyclones missed us thankfully and once the out reaching storms had died down, the skies cleared and paradise returned. We were delighted to hear we could go diving and the bay looked so still and inviting. This is what we came for.

Scanning the wake to see if a dolphin or two would pop up!

Our tanks were full and checked and we were looking forward to hitching them onto our backs. The boat moored up mid ocean to a resident bouy, she was lurching heavily left and right up and down. The swell in the open water was the like I'd never encountered on a reef before and the Captain declared "Its a washing machine down there!"

 The dive master gave us the obligatory safety talk and the full description of the dive site.

However, rather than instilling us with enthusiasm and vigour for the water. She managed to do the opposite with phrases like

"The current down there is very strong, we must stick together"

"If you feel it pulling you, make yourself into a star fish shape and fight against it"

"If that fails, grab a large piece of coral and hang onto it until the group reaches you"

"The entry is very choppy and the swell is very high, it could be a difficult descent!"

"We cant say how bad it might be till we get down there"............................................

and so it went on. With every word she uttered, my confidence and my interest waned and all the time I was thinking, given those conditions, the visibility will be rubbish. Hubster's expression also confirmed he felt the same.

The upshot was, the conditions were way too challenging for me. After a massive struggle trying to equalise and doing my buoyancy checks in such rough water, I ditched the dive and waved the white flag. I was in full hyperventilating, panic attack mode by that stage.

Gareth continued with the dive only to declare that it was a mitigated disaster with virtually nothing to see. I did feel a little better for bottling it but sad that on this occasion, Mother Nature had thwarted our chances at the Great Barrier and Hubster had had a more than average experience.

It was clearly not meant to be. The second dive was shelved, we all were sea sick and the boat broke down on the way back. A 1 hour journey took 3.5.

Needless to say the dirty Martini, tasted mighty fine that night after that and the massages we enjoyed in the spa the next day eradicated all thought and tension.

The resort had a lot of Chinese staying for the Chinese New Year. The resort embraced their tradition and heralded the New Year in with a fantastic firework display on the beach. My photo however, is not fantastic but I captured "something".

It was very symbolic for us too. The end of our time together in Australia and a new year for us back home was about to begin.

The day we left the island the ocean was like a mill pond, a far cry from the angry waters that we had encountered on our dive. The transfer was fantastic, hot, blue skies and we had the top sundeck all to ourselves.

If ever there was a photo to sum up my overall feelings for Australia and our time here, the one directly below says it all.

Regardless of the dive or lack of, we had an incredible time on Hayman Island. 4 nights could easily have become 2 weeks but sadly, the grains of sand in our Aussie timer are running out fast.

What an incredible 3 years we've had.