Fontaine à Chambéry

Fontaine à Chambéry

Friday, May 17, 2013

Terrible Travel Experience: Australia and the Great Barrier Reef

In 2007 I went to Australia on a trip with my high school. There were a lot of college kids who tagged along and the majority of kids who went were on the swim team since our coach was the one who organized the trip. It was a really cool vacation but I think I'd prefer to travel without a group next time. 

When we were in Cairns, an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef was obviously high on the list of priorities, and there was an entire day dedicated to visiting the reef. I was incredibly naive and assumed you just walk a bit into the ocean and it's there--hmm, not so, you have to take a boat. On the morning of the excursion, we were all eating breakfast at our hotel. The breakfast was amazing and featured an assortment of fresh fruit, pastries, breakfast meats, cereals, juice and coffee. I will never forget that I gorged myself on fruit. Don't worry, it becomes relevant in a bit. At breakfast, our tour guide (I think her name was Shaz or something different like that. I'm pretty sure she DID NOT like any of us.) told us that the boat ride out to the reef could be pretty bumpy so we should all take some Bonine or Dramamine. I only occasionally get motion sickness and it's only if I'm in a car for a long time and am not driving. I ignored the advice and kept stuffing my face with fruit.

When we got on the boat, we sat inside. There were u-shaped benches with tables so we all spread out. The ride was going to take about 20 minutes. The crew of the boat told us that the choppiness of the waves that day were a 5 out of 10, and if we get seasick we should take medicine. I ignored them once again.

We started out fine and spirits were high. How many people get the opportunity to travel to Australia and see the Great Barrier Reef? Shortly into the trip, the water started to get a little choppy. It was sort of fun and like being on a little roller coaster. Almost immediately, the waves got big. Like, really big. I started to feel queasy. It was when the crew started handing out barf bags that I knew I was in trouble. I think mentally that sent me over the edge. As the boat started bobbing and we were most definitely experiencing waves from "The Perfect Storm," I lost it. Now, remember that fruit I ate? It was excruciating to, uh, heave. The acidity of the fruit burned my throat. It was really painful. The crew just stood at the end of each u-shaped bench and collected the barf bags. As almost everyone was losing their breakfasts and crying about it (oh yeah, I sobbed. I hate throwing up.) the crew just stood there and chatted like it was a normal occurrence. I guess for them it is, actually. 

After we got to the reef, we got life jackets, snorkels, and masks. We then got a lecture about littering in the reef. Since it's endangered, littering is illegal and can land you in jail and with a hefty fine. I don't know the state of Australian prisons but I definitely wasn't in the mood to learn about them. You also weren't allowed to touch anything. Once the lecture was over, we all jumped in and started snorkeling. The water was FREEZING and it was cloudy. When it's sunny outside, visibility of the reef is excellent and the colors are vibrant, but that day everything was subdued and gray, which matched my mood. Not only was my throat still burning, I had a headache because my stomach was empty. Also, I was certain that Bruce from Finding Nemo was going to swim up and wreak havoc on us. Was anyone else paranoid that soon our little snorkeling expedition was going to be a scene out of Jaws? The boat crew said nets were in place to keep sharks out. Honestly, hadn't they ever watched Shark Week? What is a net going to do when a shark decides it's hungry? 

As I was snorkeling around, my life jacket, which was too big, was rubbing against my ears. I was looking in the water to make sure I was the first one to spot Jaws when he made his inevitable entrance to our snorkeling party. I suddenly saw something shimmery floating down into a coral. It went right down into one of those long, skinny coral tubes. It looked like a diamond, which was weird. Then it occurred to me: it was my earring. My diamond earring. That had been knocked loose by my too-large lifejacket. Not only had I lost it, but it had floated INTO a coral. This subsequently made me a litterer. I could face jail time. What if the coral died after consuming (?) my diamond earring? This was enough for me. I got out and hung out on the boat for the rest of the day. The crew had all these little wildlife specimens that we could hold, so I hung out with those critters because they didn't have teeth. There was a really nice buffet for lunch but I didn't eat anything because I didn't want to get sick on the way back to land. 

Between freezing, the threat of sharks (even if the threat was only in my mind), my earring, and losing my breakfast, it wasn't a great day. If you ever get the chance to go to the Great Barrier Reef, remember your Bonine, Dramamine, ginger or whatever it takes so you don't get sick. Don't litter. And definitely don't watch any shark-related material before your trip. 

It was sunny when we left the port.

And cloudy when we arrived. Look at those waves!

Freezing. Look at those blue lips!

This Prince Charles look alike was helpful in passing out barf bags.

I don't know what this is.

I did get this nice shot underwater.

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