Australia Day Eight, Thurs 1/21/16
Neither of us slept particularly well, but that didn't hold us back. We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant, your standard hotel breakfast buffet. I had pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, an English muffin, juice, a cappuccino. Just a little nosh to get the day started. We were out the door at 7:15 to be down the street at 7:30 for our departure for the Great Barrier Reef excursion. We had a run-in with Dame Edna at the terminal:
The cutest little family was waiting in line ahead of us: a father and two sons, about 50, 18, and 10. Asian Australian, the father and older son looked exactly alike and they all had very strong Aussie accents. Of course we ran into them all day, and they were so cute.
Richard got us seats in the middle deck, which was enclosed and air conditioned. Praise Jesus! My favorite thing, in the summer: sitting inside, in the air conditioning, looking at the outside.
Our first stop was the Green Island, named by Captain Cook in 1770. You'd think it's named after all the green vegetation, right? Wrong. It's named after the astronomer on Cook's ship, Charles Green. Makes me wonder what would have happened if he had been Charles Brown.
We went onto the island and got in line to pick up our snorkeling gear and I realized that I had left my ticket on the boat. Mild panic. We talked with a helpful guy from the ship, Gerry, who told us that it wouldn't be a problem - - I had the green dot on my shirt (given to us pre-boarding), both of our names were on Richard's ticket, and we could call him over if we had any trouble. I asked Richard whether or not I should include this in my blog, and he thinks it's important for my readers to know that I make mistakes now and then, that I really am human. I will remind my readers of the famous Trench Coat Incident, when I left my trench coat on the plane when my mother and I arrived in Budapest. I am far from perfect...
We picked up our snorkeling gear and spent a little extra money to get lycra suits. The ocean has box jellyfish this time of year, and they are potentially deadly - - the lycra suits keep you safe from them (to a large degree). We walked down to the beach with all our gear and set ourselves up in a shady spot. We shimmied our way into our suits, amidst heavy giggling. Richard said right off that there would be NO photos of him in the wetsuit, which brought to mind a great story about Princess Grace: she was at an event in New York in the 70s, she called over the photographers and said to them, "There will be no photos of me eating, drinking, or smoking. You're more than welcome to take any other photos of me. Do you understand?" But we looked so hilarious in these suits that we did take a couple of photos.
There was no point in snorkeling on the beach, the water wasn't very deep, and what are we looking at? Sand and seaweed. I can see that with my own two eyes, thank you. We finished up there, shimmied out of our wetsuits, and had a drink by the pool. We shared a bottle of water and a tropical crush, a local speciality made with orange juice, pineapple juice, ice, and some kind of substance squirted into the bottom of the cup. Richard describes it as "the excretion of an extract of an unknown origin." Hm, twenty points for him!
There were many birds strutting around, looking for handouts. We'd been warned not to encourage them, but a table of Asian ladies were a little sloppy and leaving food on the floor. One bird came over and brushed up next to one of the ladies, or stepped on her foot, or squawked at her, and she (the woman) let out a shriek like you wouldn't believe. I said to Richard, "That's the weirdest bird call I've ever heard." We heard it twice more before we left Green Island.
Back on the ship. We drove over to the pontoon boat where we were interacting with the reef itself. Gerry warned us that the line for lunch would be long when we first arrived, and we'd be smarter to swim or whateve wait a half hour or so, and eat later. Very good advice. We grabbed our lycra suits (now somewhat clammy, thank you very much) and went over to the snorkel staging area. We shimmed into our suits and got new snorkel gear. Would you believe - - they have prescription goggles for people like me, who need glasses to be able to see? They were marvelous. Richard had the brain wave to get life vests, which were a godsend. They saved us the trouble of working hard to stay afloat, and when you're lying prone in the water, looking down, and paddling a bit with your flippers, it's nice to not have to work anymore than that. Plus we're on vacation!
I'd never been snorkeling before, and found it a little disorienting to put my face in the water and take a deep breath. But I warmed up to the idea, and eventually really enjoyed it. The coral was so beautiful, and we saw some amazing fish. I would go snorkeling again in a heartbeat.
We had a pan-Asian lunch: rice and different kinds of curry. The vegetarian was the best, and the rice was very good. They had tables set up outside but we brought our food back to the main ship and sat (you guessed it) inside, in the air conditioning. We were among the few who did this, so we had the added bonus of not being in a crush of people.
We felt like a little something sweet so I went over to the counter and asked the young woman for some ice cream. She was gorgeous.
FABIANNA: Hello - - what can I get for you?
ME: Two dishes of ice cream, please, two scoops each.
FABIANNA: OK, what would you like?
ME: Strawberry and boysenberry, and cookies and cream and chocolate.
FABIANNA: Very good. Eleven dollars, please.
ME: [hands her fifteen dollars]
FABIANNA: Thank you.
ME: Fabianna is such a beautiful name.
FABIANNA: Oh thank you.
ME: Are you Italian?
FABIANNA: No, I'm Brazilian. I'm sorry, what flavors did you want again?
ME: Strawberry and boysenberry for one...
FABIANNA: Thank you, I'll make that one now and then ask you about the other when I'm done.
ME: That sounds great.
ME: Are you having a good day?
FABIANNA: Yes, thank you - - not so bad.
FABIANNA: And what flavors for the other?
ME: Cookies and cream and chocolate.
FABIANNA: Right, thank you.
FABIANNA: Where are YOU from?
ME: New York.
FABIANNA: Wow, you're a long way from home.
ME: So are you!
FABIANNA: [giggles] Here's your ice cream, thank you very much.
ME: Thank you. Um, Fabianna, you still owe me four dollars' change
FABIANNA: [aghast] Oh you're KIDDING me!
We had a nice longish chat with Gerry, nice guy in his mid- to late fifties. He comes to New York every once in a while visiting a friend, so we gave him our contact info. It would be fun to see him on our turf.
Next up: the semi-submersible. The top of the boat is above water and the biggest part of the boat is underwater, where we sat, looking out windows at the wildlife. Gorgeous, fascinating, marvelous. The pictures don't do it justice, but here you go:
Back to our home ship. I went back in for a little dip (no snorkel this time, just paddling about, so refreshing), Richard did some surfing on his phone. Wheels up - - back to Green Island, picking up a few people, and then back to the terminal where it all started.
A really once-in-a-lifetime experience all around.
We hung out the room for a while, put on some fresh(ish) clothes and went to dinner at a fun pub down by the terminal, the Pier Bar. Richard had a glass of white wine, I had a hard apple cider - - we split a pizza (pepperoni, ham, mozzarella, onion, mushroom, pineapple, peppers, olives) and a grilled chicken sandwich (with avocado and bacon). We loved the pizza but:
ME: How did you like the chicken sandwich?
RICHARD: It was thoroughly adequate.
ME: Yeah, it was a little...lackluster?
RICHARD: Totally blah.
ME: It needed a little zip. Maybe some chipotle mayo.
RICHARD: Or ketchup.
ME: Or ketchup. For example.
There was a big video screen at the bar, they were showing music videos. They showed a new version of Tracy Chapman's classic song "Fast car", which led to a story about my ex-friend Angela Brown. She had a thing for Tracy Chapman and occasionally came up with ideas to revitalize her career. Her best idea was a little involved, but stick with me. In the 70s there was a skier named Suzy Chaffee. She became the pitch girl for Chap Stick, and renamed herself Suzy Chap Stick:
Angela thought Tracy Chapman could rebrand herself as Tracy Chap Stick. I wasn't sure she'd be into such a crass commercial enterprise, but Angela thought she'd be a fool to turn away a national commercial. And a lifetime supply of Chap Stick. Sadly, this idea never made it to Tracy herself.
Back to the hotel, and we we'd go down to the hotel bar and have a drink. Richard had a Campari and soda, I had a Cointreau on the rocks. And the bartender was SO WEIRD. Totally hyper, and squirted water on the floor about four or five times. Lots of water each time, not just a little spritz. There was something bad wrong with that guy.