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Wednesday 17 Apr 2013
Airlie Beach, Australia

Highway closed ahead

I left Dreamtime and said farewell to Cairns, starting the first of my Greyhound bus journeys along the Queensland coast. It turned out to be one to remember. The bus left at 7.30am and was due into Townsville at 2pm, giving me half a day to explore and break up the journey to Airlie Beach nicely. However, just over 3 hours in we came to a standstill in a long line of traffic... and stayed there. As I was sitting in the front seat I coud hear the driver's CB radio updates from other drivers and truckers. It transpired that a lowloader had been cut up by two cars driving dangerously and had been forced to swerve violently to avoid them, resulting in him shedding his load across the highway. Unfortunately his load was two 1000 litre drums of hydrochloric acid. The Bruce Highway was closed for almost six hours until the appropriate teams could put out the initial fire and then clean up the surface enough that vehicles could pass safely through the area. We spent the first two hours in the queue before police turned everyone around and sent us back to the previous services. At least there we could get off the bus and have something to eat. Our only alternative was a 300km detour south of the mountain range, which nobody really wanted to do, least of all the driver who was already close to his allowed driving hours. We finally got moving at nearly 6pm and made it into Townsville at 9pm, by which time I had lost my hostel pick up and had to find a taxi instead. So much for seeing Townsville. All I managed was a pizza and bed.

I was back at the bus stop for the 6am Greyhound to Airlie Beach, which thankfully went smoothly and got me in on time. At one point yesterday I thought I was going to miss my boat trip completely as they'd said the highway would be closed overnight. I was glad to finally arrive at the boat office and check myself in. I also booked in at the YHA for the day I returned so that I could leave my main backpack there and just take a small bag onto the boat. It was slightly larger by the time I reached the jetty as I had also bought my beers for the trip and went into a camera shop to enquire about a waterproof camera. I ended up buying a GoPro. (For those unfamiliar, a GoPro is a tiny HD video camera, about the size of a matchbox, which comes with a waterproof housing and an assortment of attachments so that it can be mounted on helmets, bike handlebars, etc. It takes excellent videos and also still photos. It's designed particularly for use with action sports such as biking, snowboarding, etc.) I've seen so many of them used in New Zealand and Australia already and I know I will get a lot of use from it on this trip!

After a long walk in the hot sun, I finally reached the jetty and met up with the rest of my cabin mates for the next three days.  Despite telling them when I booked that I didn't want to be on a party boat full of teenagers, that was pretty much what I ended up with.  However, I met some really great people and had a lot of fun in spite of my initial reservations.  The boat we were on for the next few days was called Boomerang - an 80' racing yacht which had previously won the Sydney to Hobart race among others.  There were about 30 guests, three crew and two huge ice-filled eskies for everyone's alcohol.  We were allocated bunks which ran around the edges of the cabin.  I was quite glad to be on my own as I ended up with one of the lower bunks, while couples were put in the wider upper bunks - wider, yes, but so close to the ceiling that it would have been very claustrophobic to be the person on the inside!  We were lined up along the edge of the deck for a safety briefing (Mind your head on the boom. Don't fall in. Don't flush anything but paper or the loos get blocked VERY quickly) before setting sail into the early afternoon sunshine. 

We worked in teams to raise the main sail but there was very little wind so we ended up motoring more than sailing.  It was very nice sitting with legs over the side and enjoying the breeze and stunning scenery, getting to know my travel companions.  Emer and Mark from Dublin; Peter from Sunderland; Jodie from Leicester; Mark from Bristol; Rik from Holland and Nina from Germany to name just a few.  When we arrived in Tongue Bay - the next inlet from the famous Whitehaven Beach - we dropped anchor for the night, but annoyingly we weren't able to go for a swim as early evening meant shark activity was more likely.  (Not sure if this was true but I wasn't going to test the theory, just in case!)  Instead we were left with no choice but to crack a beer and enjoy the sunset...



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Zobeedoo's Big World Adventure, Part I

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