16.02.2007 - 21.02.2007 33 °C
Back in Cairns I checked into Calypso this time, which is very nice hostel. Nice bar and pool and quite relaxed. We all went out in the evening in Cairns and had a good time, although Dani, Natalia and myself didn't stay too long.
All the others left and now I am back by myself again.... Quite strange. Saying good bye is certainly something I still need to get used to. As quick as you meet nice people as quick they disappear again. So I cheered myself up with spending a fortune. Always a great idea. First I went shopping and when I then checked my schedule and all the things I still want to do, I started panicking, as I am already running out of time, so I walked into a travel agency and was an easy victim. Only wanting to book my sailing trip for the Whitsundays and Fraser Island, I ended up booking everything until the end of my stay and even had to change two flights to fit it all in. Not sure whether that was a great idea but you live and learn...:-) On the one hand I can at least pretty much do everything I wantded to do, but on the other hand I have lost quite a bit of flexibility. At least it's all organised and now and apart from a few small things I won't have much hassle with it.
That was a summary of my first week and so far I am loving it. There are of course a few down moments but I think it's amazing what I have already done and seen and how many peopole I have met.
On the 16th of Feb I started my open water PADI diving course with Pro-Dive (Great tip from Beth by the way). I was quite nervous beforehand but it then went all really well. The first two days were in the pool and the classroom and the last 3 days we were staying out in the Great Barrier Reef on the boat, which I thought was great as I have never heard of a diving course where you actually stay 3 days out on the sea. It's been a tough week with very early mornings and long days. The first two days were okay and I have a great group and a fantastic buddy - Evelyn from Austria but lives in Melbourne. Passed my exam on the second day and in the pool it all worked fine and we learned all different sorts of skills, i.e. taking off your mask under water and all that stuff and on the third day they picked us up at 6am to get on the boat. The boat was really nice and I shared my cabin with Christina from New York. The food was delicious thanks to the German chef Nina and plenty. They fed us 6 times a day. We even got freshly baked cake every day, still warm. Delicious.... So were basically under water, as we had 9 dives in 3 days or eating. Great! Unfortunately the weather was shit and we didn't have sun shine once! Glad I came for the diving and not for the snorkelling as some others did. The surface was most of the time so rough that you either had to have your snorkel or your regulator which was okay for the divers but not great for the snorkellers. A lot of people were seasick as well. As they are just using paperbags, they had to throw them into the sea. Great fun, bags everywhere, the fish were loving it but I wasn't too happy when we had our first dive and I could still see some bags floating on the surface....
Anyway, I was really nervous before my first dive but it all went well and I was pleasantly surprised how calm I was. I had two dives on my first day and was very happy that all went so well and I didn't have any major problems. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't see more, but I suppose I have really been spoiled by Egypt and expected the GBR to be even better. The weather of course didn't help either as it affected the visibility quite badly. I went for a snorkel as well but again there wasn't as much to see. The coral looks quite colourless and dead. But there has been a lot of coral bleeching going on.
Nevertheless it's still quite amazing to be diving at the GBR, the biggest reef in the world.
Our second day started with our first dive at 7am and the next one before lunch, which would be our last dive to get us certified. At the morning dive I saw my first shark - a leopard shark! I loved it. I don't mind them, as they are not as scary. It was really long though, at least 1.5 meter if not 2 and was lying at the bottom. After lunch we got our certificates and I am now a certified diver! Hurray!!!
Strangely enough as soon as we got certified they sent all of us down by ourselves. I am not quite sure what would have happened if anyone would have had problems, as we are obviously still complete beginners. Fortunately all went well.
My first fun dive with my buddy Evelyn was the best dive so far. Finally we can just dive and have a look around and not constantly fill up your mask with water, pull it off, do an emergency ascent etc. We saw quite a few turtels and I got completely carried away and just followed them ignoring my depths air and compass. Using turtels as compass doesn't really work too well as I had to find out, although I still do it. I can't resist, they are just too amazing to swim with. We saw the giant female turtle called Brian (Aussies!!!) who is just incredible. If I hadn't heard of him/her beforehand I would have probably got a shock. But the instructors told us about him and said his size is the one of a massive table we were eating on, which is probably 1.5 meters. Absolutely incredible. It certainly gets dark when he swims above you. Really cool and he didn't seem to mind us at all, so I followed him :-)
As I said the navigation under water isn't working too well, but what can you expect if I can't even manage on land?!? We also saw Georgie the stingray with the s-shape tail a boxfish and trigger fish.
The last diving day clouded by the weather again. The visibility was poor, the surface really rough and we had 3 dives before 11am, starting with our first one at 6am. That one was quite good though. Evelyn carried on doing the adventure course, but I didn't, as I am not in a rush and rather wanted to enjoy a few dives before doing the next skills. So I went divning with David and Yvonne. That was a really good dive. The early morning dives seem to be worth it, as the morning shift is just coming out and the evening shift is coming back so there is lot ot activity. It was still a bit dark so we had to get torches. We saw 3 white tip reef sharks, which were about 2 meters. The first was I say was lying at the bottom and I even went down further to get closer. Was well impressed how I was handling my fear :-) the second one was swimming underneath me which I didn't like, I definitely prefer them sleeping at the bottom ;-) and then another one at the bottom. We saw turtels again and the same happened again. Followed them, almost got to the surface as the turtel went up to breathe.... and got lost. But to my defence it was all 3 of us that were struggeling with the compass. By the time we got up we were so far away from the boat that they had to pick us up, which was actually great fun. Most people including myself skipped the second dive, as hadn't even finished breakfast and then just went for the final dive. The last dive wasn't great, I went with Louise and Lisa and we got lost and were really struggeling with the very strong current. Even the fish were thrown from one site to the next, so how are we meant to stand a chance? Lisa got sick again and was therefore running out of air so we had to get up and again far to far away and got picked up again. Good record. Two dives, two boat rides! :-)
All in all it was a great experience and I am really glad I did. Shame about the weather but that's the rainy season for you. At least the people were all really great, especially Evelyn is great and it is such a shame she is leaving, but at least I will be meeting up with her in Melbourne which is great.
The night we got back we all went out to celebrate and had such a laugh. It was such a great night, I am gutted I couldn't bring my camera and really hope David is sending me some. Wicked night! :-)
The following day was quiet, just sorting things out, changing flights, internet cafe, laundry etc. and then the overnight bus to Airlie Beach.
It's been almost 2 weeks here now and it has been fantastic but it is also time to move on to the next adventures!
Good Bye Cairns!