back to reality. or rather society. airlie beach or bust. a slightly touristy beach town with big marinas and lots of islands. the whitsunday islands to be exact. it is one of the hubs for travel out to the great barrier reef.
no, we didn’t go out to the great barrier reef.
this driving adventure around australia is not about me being a tourist, for better or worse. it is about getting ryan and his stuff back up to port hedland and enjoying what we can along the way.
the big things on the to-do list in airlie beach were to check in on his boat and pack up the truck with his tools. and of course, visit with a few close friends.
most of the berrys (see kathy and bill from last blog post) live in airlie beach. their oldest son chris lives with holly and their two baby girls on a plot of land that sent me straight back to my childhood. an older home down a quiet road tucked back into the wilderness and across from a sprawling sugarcane field. set to the side of the property was a big shed surrounded by a yard full of stuff. if you have a dad who comes home with grease covering his hands every night, you know exactly the kind of yard i am talking about.
it is the kind of yard i grew up in. well, substitute cornfields for sugarcane fields. but the kind of yard filled with hours of entertainment from abandoned box trucks and an old boat with a hole rusted into the side. random scraps of metal and car parts scattered to the side of the garage. and men covered in grease and sweat.
while the men covered themselves with grease, ryan made me my very own office in the shed to do some work. it was complete with a reclining car seat and a fantastic view.
and when the sunset, the view got even better. and the bats came out. hundreds of them taking over the night sky. everywhere we go in australia has mass amounts of huge bats that come out when the sun sets.
then we caught up with the youngest daughter sarah, which immediately took me back to my childhood yet again.
sarah runs a daycare out of her home. the living room windows are covered with artwork. the back deck is filled with toy trucks and a sandbox. there are two live baby ducks as classroom pets. and as most adults do when they get together for dinner, we spent the evening helping sarah make “play-do” out of hair conditioner and cornstarch.
it was all too familiar. growing up with a mom who was a preschool teacher entails many days of making fake play-do and playing with duckies.
but this trip was not all play remember. it was about work, and fixing up ryan’s boat.
ryan’s boat (i would call it by name here if it actually had a name…honestly, who doesn’t name their boat!?) has been sitting for sale for the past twelve months. was it still seaworthy? we were there to find out.
after a couple days of one thing after another going wrong (including but not limited to a gas tank full of water), we finally got it out onto the open ocean waves. the very choppy ocean waves. the two meter tall ocean waves.
i definitely got whiplash (and sunburnt), but i had a smile on my face the whole time. and a great captain by my side.
the swell was too high, the sun was too low, and the boat was too uninsured to make it out to whitehaven island, but the view was still stunning everywhere i looked.
we cruised out to daydream island. the closest island with a weird kitschy resort on it for tourists. it was not exactly what i would daydream about, but ryan informed me it was sort of the poor man’s version of hamilton island (a beautiful resort destination). he insisted i hop off the boat and head ashore to check out the “aquarium.”
now apparently this is not the kind of island you just pull up to, drop the anchor, and head onto shore. this was a tourist island. big ferries emptied mass amounts of people with pocketbooks open onto the dock.
i was not one of the people who was going to pay $50 to see a rundown resort on one of the whitsunday islands. ryan pulled the boat up to another dock about fifty feet from the main one and told me to just go see what they would do if i tried to walk onto the island. hmmm…
i stepped onto the dock and immediately there was a short and stout man quickly striding in my direction. he met me at the top of the ramp and began his interrogation:
him: g’day, can i help you?
me: i’m just here looking for a friend. (i begin to slip into storytelling mode speaking in a mixture of accents, trying to sound local but failing miserably.)
him: what’s her name? (seriously? who asks what their name is?)
me: um, rachel.
him: does she work on the island?
me: no, she came on a boat. (vague answers are key to keeping the lie going.)
him: oh on that boat? (he motioned to a big yacht tied up to the dock i came in on.)
me: yeah, that one. (this could end me. too specific.)
him: i saw them go ashore earlier, but their tender (aka dingy) is gone, so they might be out on the water.
me: oh i see, do you mind if i just have a look around for them? (boom. i nailed it.)
him: sure go ahead.
phew. i was in. now onto finding these sharks ryan was so keen on me seeing.
i followed old carnival looking signs into a massive hotel that looked like it was straight out of bad scary movie. after walking aimlessly through a few sliding glass doors and big empty lounge rooms, i finally found myself amongst a few palm trees and outdoor ponds filled with clownfish and sharks and stingrays and schools of unidentified beautiful blue fish.
snap snap snap.
i took photos quickly and enjoyed being back on land for a few minutes after our epic journey through the extremely high waves in the channel. at any minute, the short and stout man could find me and ask more details about “my friend rachel.”
i started heading back to the boat. i was almost in the clear. then i saw a wallaby snacking on some grass in an opening with the ocean behind him. i went to capture this cute little fella on film, and then, there he was. out of nowhere!
i stuffed my nikon quickly into my sack and continued down the sidewalk back to the dock with a bit of hurry in my step. i didn’t dare look behind me to see if he had a bit of the same quickness in his stride.
back down the ramp (which i now noticed was for “authorized persons only”) and onto the dock. with a wave of my hand, ryan rolled up just in time to make a clean escape.
what a daydream!
i would definitely not recommend paying $50 to go check it out next time you are in australia, but if you want to go “find rachel,” it might be worth your time.
if you have more time than us and glassy water, you probably want to head to whitehaven island though. i hear it is amazing, and google images agree…
alas, our time in airlie had to come to an end. we headed out of town and onto bowen, a very small rural town whose big claim to fame is being the set for the movie australia with nicole kidman. it is such a proud achievement for them that they even have their own version of the hollywood sign.
ryan’s good mate dean lives in bowen with his wife and four beautiful children. we spent a few hours catching up with them and learning ALL about plants vs. zombies from their three sons (who are all under ten).
and then a quick tour of the views…
…and back to the road. the long and open road.
but only for a couple hours. just enough time to have our first hunger/sleep induced argument over ordering a mcdonald’s cheeseburger with “ketchup only” and catch my first amazing sunset over the australian bush before arriving in townsville.