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/Fishwatchers Guide to the Aquarium Fishes of the World, v. 2

Walk-in Whitsundays (Australia's Queensland Coast)

Peter Catterick& Bob Fenner

Where's yer wallet Mate?

"Thirty nine dollars (Australian!) per person per night" (about twenty U.S.) the sign read. We paid 118 over the Net in advance! Welcome to Club Croc Airlie Beach,  mainland to the Whitsunday Islands (I can imagine the derivation of these seventy some islands off of Australia's northwest coast: Captain to First Mate: "What day is this, you half-wit?")

    We should've just "walked in" and paid the going rate per Gnog's (Hash name, explanation follows) suggestion. What's that being cooked off the balcony below barbie? (don't say shrimp, and never Foster's). Plantains or burgers? Another lost bet (to Pete/Impy), it's bananas after all.

   We're back to Club Croc in Airlie Beach from the speeding incident, "Bob, finish this, not drink it, out the window! Me, almost choking on a watermelon and rum from the drive-through (only 3.5% alcohol, good on ya and I mean, on ya), barked a Wallaby.

<Pete at the drive up booze shop>

    Pete: "Here, get rid of this"     Bob: "What?"     Pete: "Didn't you see that Gendarme pointing us out coming our way?"     Bob: (Glugging down  Melon & Rum)     Pete (emphatic to put it mildly): "Throw the bloody cans and bottles out the window!"     Bob (still drinking): "What, that's littering"     Pete: "The cops; they're miles behind"     Bob: "Oh (throwing out cans, bottles... wash from same going most everywhere, coating passengers, peppering  the inside of the windows); isn't this polluting?"

    Local Flatfeet pull us over, "Licens/ce please etc..." Issue Pete a ticket with this handy helpful input. "Here's a bill for $135 for speeding (117 in a 100 kph area), but I wouldn't pay it (as you're foreigners leaving soon)". Thank you Officer Jason.K for your assistance.

    Back up to 120 kph. Trying to keep up with a car transporter. "Well, that's the best bit of advice I've been given all day", says Pete. Bob with a bit of a tear in his eye, "Just wish I could have swigged the whole thing before chucking it out of the window." The sound of a tab popping on a Rum and coke was music to Pete's ears, giving a little relief for his painful ear infection. Bob opened a XXXX and continued counting sugar cane stalks as they sped south to Club Croc.

About Airlie Beach:

    Down from Cairns onto Hamilton Island, a half kilo of gigantic prawns and then shuffled, make that blue-ferried to the backpackers paradise of Airlie Beach. 7k population and about the same in hormone-charged backpacker heaven. From Shagoon Beach, aka the Gene Pool by night to the Rave/Foam parties, music fests, M@SS and more, this is the town for frenzied youth. Hence, Pete and I made it to the outskirts to the family fun fest of Club Croc.

    Our fave accommodation lies 2 km. outside the testosterone zone. Looks like a geriatric hostel. Painted in pool algae green, it was a relief for two fat boys to see they weren't the portliest patrons. More friendly helpful people on staff... where are these people trained? Nothing is too much trouble- they can and do laugh at twenty year old jokes- but not at forty plus year old blokes. A nice friendly place; the pool its focal point surrounded by the three story "Queensland Style" (wood pole and balcony) buildings. A beer at the bar and a look at the nights entertainment confirmed the thought of eating with the young set in town. "Toad Races" here to start at 7:00. It was time to shower and move into the city.

Local Dive Biz:

    A visit to one (the other two are owned by the same outfit) dive shop we were scheduled to motor out with  next day; ignored at the counter (a bad sign), eventually acknowledged, confirmed and off to the slowest internet service on the third planet from the Sun. We initially signed on for 20 minutes, but this wasn't enough time to log on... Took a stroll by the top-optional lagoon; wasn't disappointed. The pubic bone pants level style of the local young women (thank you Britney Spears) leaves little more to titillate. Back to the computer shop to check on  our logging-on status. Gave up, back to the Croc to take in more children screaming for joy, jumping from the moss-covered palm into the pool (where are the personal injury lawyers like in the U.S.?) and a rest. But the Brothers (really) in Armz were playing (the Toads had the night off from racing) so we had a couple dozen Four X's and visited with the drinking crowd.

Aside: The Local Lung Biz:

    The real gold here in Australia is not the Texas type but the money waiting to be made in lung machines in the next ten years. Who was the salesman who sold so many cigs? It's incredible the number of teen smokers. Can only presume it's a course in the local high school. The governments going to be involved with chronic respiratory ailments in the decades to come. Thank you Marlboro Man, your legacy, cough, cough, dies on.

Back to the Local Dive Biz:

    In writing it pays to bring in all senses. My next remembrance is the smell of dirty feet. The salon, especially descending stairs, blending  into partially burned fuel odors, of our dive (yawn) service with Reef Divers Whitsunday (RDW). Three rusting hulks of ongoing 3-day (plus seemingly fourth day orientation) of transport and mainly non-functional scuba experience on Bait Reef (yes, this is the real name... they don't really go "out" to the GBR... Great Barrier Reef...), a few hours outside Airlie. Too stinky, painfully slow, outright toxic (did I mention the cockroaches, flea bites, 

"Come to the cabaret old chum..."

H.M.S. (Her Majesty's Stinkyship) Scowbucket. Eighteen passengers, four crew, one shower, no water. Our advice? Go with Fantasea Divers and skip the non-rush.

crap food... never mind) conditions below/within decks, sleeping w/ the paying folks and yes, crew out on the open on the boats bow. 

Pete's recollection: "Stepping on the boat for the first time, we had a feeling of impending disaster. I'd seen better lids on Tupperware (tm) than this rusting hulk, a solid rust ring around the roof  makes it easy for a mischievous blast of Pacific Ocean air to lift it off. The crew were a friendly bunch but could only offer a "It will be okay once we're underway... You'll get used to the smell, vibration, air pollution... and feel quite at home". The skipper was "Birdlegs John"; an old fisherman now in his second year of taking dives out to the reef. His skin matched the ships rusty brown. The dive instructor Tommy was a Finnish lad with a massive 16 total dives to his credit. Our frau hostie, Jessica was a young German recruit out on her second trip as cook and general help- the general help being much better than her cooking. The chief instructor, Dan, tried his best to make up for all other shortcomings, especially with the low-hipster twenty year old girl/women, who alternated between bikinis and casual below the waist pantaloons. 

    Out at night diving next day, good vis (visibility to the uninitiated) of about 20 meters, very calm seas, their moorings on Bait Reef (with breath to match), 12 meter depth max. till you die. Who could ask for more in the way of scenery? RDW's boats only go here obviously. They had surnames for the Jack's (family Carangidae) and resident Maori Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) for someone's sake... The usual inshore mix of fishes, non-fishes (N = 3,570 species for the former in Australia). Did the 3 day, skipped the night dive.

Winky and Blinky. Guess the names rhyme with the boat...

   Six Newbies- never dived in the sea; 6 almost certified divers getting their cards. Just let 'em go, don the tanks and give them time to bob up and down the water; hit the bottom then swim off into the distance with no idea of how to get back to where they started. Tides were running high and current strong as a skiff was utilized to pull/tow the divers back to the rust-bucket Scow at the end of the dives. Lucky are those who have air saved to survive the tow back barely underwater. A loaner compressor stood guard over the tanks emptied to be filled after each dive... A single cylinder clock that was the main competition for the incessant boat engine noise which would drive almost everyone to the upper deck at the pointy end of the boat for peace and/or sleep. I finally know where the Southern Cross is indefinitely (relative to human lifespans) as I stared at it for many an hour trying in vain to count sheep. They dove (not dived) over the ships side unable to take the noise themselves.

    Eight of the ten possible dives later, lack-of-sleep-dazed we returned to the dock... I vaguely remember signing forms to memorialize having heard pre-dive briefings, (Queensland dive operations have lost 85 divers the last ten years to poor-onboard-accounting), for drinks (non-alcoholic, BYOB... bring your own booze, broad, boat), to go to the loo, who can remember what else? 

    What a pleasure to be back on terra firma. A two foot wide section of boat dock gave us that "Posturepedic" feeling. A survey of local real estate was in order. Bargains galore! A tour of  examples: a new 1,500 square foot home complete with all appliances, finished in hardwood could be purchased for the same price as a one bedroom condo. in S. Calif. The craftsmanship of the local builders would have customers in the States in disbelief. Smooth walls, baseboards caulked- custom style touches, a buyer's dream come true.    

    Cancelled the consecutive backpacker special 3 day dive package repeat extravaganza, in place of sightseeing up north (Townsville).

On Back!

    Sign on return from Townsville, up the coast a bit (again!). "Stay here... 39pp..." I'm walking in and calling later to cancel our pre-made reservations.

Jellyfish shows, stings 9/27/05 Bob, Watched a very interesting program on jellyfish till 2:00am yesterday.  It was about the box jellyfish in Northern Australia.  Having a body size not much bigger than your thumbnail, I was amazed at the venom these guys pack. <Yes... very big trouble seasonally>   They were irakanii (don't know if spelling is correct) species.  Two researchers were stung and they had video of the two recuperating in the hospital.  The pain was very intense even with a maximum safe dose of morphine.  You could see the stress on their face from the intense pain.  I also understand that in 1997 around your neck of the woods in HI, there were a record 820 some jellyfish stings recorded.  Amazing.  Didn't think they were that much of a threat, thought to be a seasonal influx. Regards, James (Salty Dog) <Even I rent/wear "stinger suits" during these times in Australia. BobF>  

The view on top Castle Hill (a meter short of mountain designation), Townsville.

Jellyfish shows, stings 9/27/05 Bob, Watched a very interesting program on jellyfish till 2:00am yesterday.  It was about the box jellyfish in Northern Australia.  Having a body size not much bigger than your thumbnail, I was amazed at the venom these guys pack. <Yes... very big trouble seasonally>   They were irakanii (don't know if spelling is correct) species.  Two researchers were stung and they had video of the two recuperating in the hospital.  The pain was very intense even with a maximum safe dose of morphine.  You could see the stress on their face from the intense pain.  I also understand that in 1997 around your neck of the woods in HI, there were a record 820 some jellyfish stings recorded.  Amazing.  Didn't think they were that much of a threat, thought to be a seasonal influx. Regards, James (Salty Dog) <Even I rent/wear "stinger suits" during these times in Australia. BobF>  



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