March 13, 2003

We're in Airlie Beach, and we're about to get onto a boat for the last 3 days of a start a 5-day dive course.  We took a bus from there to Nambucca Heads, which is a sleepy little surfing/retirement town, about halfway between Sydney and Brisbane.  The bus trip took 6 hours, and the bus was an hour and a half late arriving in Newcastle.  As you'll soon see, that's just a drop in the ocean.

We stayed at a very nice hostel cum B&B in Nambucca Heads.  We had a well appointed double room, with a TV, and we shared a bathroom with one or two other rooms.  A smorgasbord breakfast was included in the $46/night tariff.  The place was run by a very friendly and helpful German man and Dutch woman (just like Carol's parents!).  According to the lonely planet, there's lots to do in Nambucca heads, so, once we saw how nice the place was, we opted to stay for 3 nights (we actually tried to book it for 4 nights, but they were fully booked on Saturday night).  It turned out that all of the suggested activity providers were either out of business, or were not offering anything at the moment.  So we didn't do a trip to Dorrigo National Park, nor did we go fishing, nor did we go kayaking.  We walked along beautiful beaches, and a beautiful river estuary, and around town, and we swam and played in the waves, and we shopped for used books, and we had a beer or two each day at the V Wall Tavern, and we walked by the V Wall itself several times, and we saw lots of cool birds - including some huge pelicans, lots of really cool cockatoos with pinkish red feathers, lots of rainbow lorikeets (which are all of the colours of the rainbow - or at leat most), and other assorted birds, and we had river-side reading from The Water Method Man, and we cooked dinner, and we ate sandwiches for lunch, and we played Pass The Pigs and Scrabble, and we basically just relaxed, which was very nice.

One other thing we did while we were there was plan the remainder of our time in Australia, or at least the main activities.  We booked the dive course here in the Whitsundays, and we also booked a three day tour on Fraser Island.  So we left Nambucca Heads, bound for Airlie Beach, where the dive course takes place.  Now, it's about 1500 km between those towns, so it was a lot of travelling.  We took a bus from Nambucca Heads at 4:30pm, which arrived in Ballina at 8:00pm, where we spent the evening.  The next morning we got on a bus in Ballina at 9:30am, which arrived in Brisbane at 1:30pm.  We had a brief wait there before we boarded the bus from Brisbane to Airlie Beach, which was scheduled to arrive around 8:00am the next morning.  Now that in itself sounds like a lot of time on buses, doesn't it?  Well, lucky us, the bus encountered an overturned trailer on the highway at around 3:30am, and we had to wait there, in the bus, until 8:15am, when we started moving again.  We had to wait for a detour road to be built before we could get by the accident! We finally arrived in Airlie Beach around noon.  We've already organized a train to take us back down to Hervey Bay (to go to Fraser Island) from here.

We're staying in a nice backpacker here, called the Bush Village Backpacker Resort.  They're very friendly and helpful and we've got a double room with a TV, and we share a kitchen and bathroom with only one other room.  There's also a pool, but it's maximum depth is about 1.5 metres.  It's still great to cool off in.  We've cooked for ourselves in our kitchen, and last night we went out for an amzing dinner in town.  Oh, the "resort" also has a bus that runs into town pretty much every hour from 7:00am to 11:00pm, which is very convenient for the transportationally challenged.

We had one free day after our arrival day (which we needed to spend recovering) and before the dive course started.  We had to do our dive medical in the morning, and we rented a double kayak from a local company in the afternoon.  The owner picked us up in town and drove us to the marina with the kayak.  We kayaked out into the bay, to a small island called White Rock, where we had lunch and explored a bit.  The entire beach was covered in bleached coral, which was very cool.  We also saw some birds eggs on the island.  We kayaked back to the shore, circumnavigating a couple of islands along the way.  It was fun, and it was also good to get some decent exercise for a change.

We spent the past two days in the classroom and in the pool learning to scuba dive.  The classes were pretty boring, especially considering that we had to read all of the materail before class, but the pool sessions were cool, and we're both feeling quite confident now.  We spend the next 3 nights and 3 days on a boat out at the outer Great Barrier Reef, where we'll finish our training dives, and have a couple of free dives as well.  This is not us, sorry Sharon.

I guess that's all for now.

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