Melissa and Abby's Trip Website travel blog

dusk over the Queensland bush

Aussie sunset

turtles through the glass-bottomed boat

Lady Musgrave Island

We arrived yesterday in Brisbane after an hour long flight. Apparently, there is a time difference between here and Sydney. Strange. So, we were a little thrown off in our times, but it's alright. We figured it out. We managed to find our way (via 2 buses and a train) from Coolangatta to Brisbane, and walked out of the train station into the sweltering heat. It was about 35 there (I think that's about 98) and humid as anything. Luckily, the hostel we chose was directly across the street, so we had no trouble finding it. Unfortunately, since it was in the middle of town, the hostel we chose was incredibly loud, not to mention hot. Plus, we were on the fourth floor in a center room around an inner courtyard. Needless to say, there was not much airflow. So, we dropped our stuff off, and headed out to see the city. It's based on a grid system, so it was easy to find our way around. The main attraction we could find was plenty of shopping, so that's what we did. A little retail therapy. Eventually we found our way to an internet cafe, checked the mail, and decided that we wanted to go to a movie. We ended up seeing The Phantom of the Opera, which was really good, and headed back to the hostel. By this time it was about 11:30 at night, and still about 33 (*2+13=F) and incredibly humid. We didn't sleep well. It was so hot and sticky. However, we did our best and slept as well as we could. We woke up early (me an hour early because of the time change), got breakfast, collected our things, and headed to the airport to retrieve our car. We got a cute little Nissan type thing (black, unfortunately) and headed out for what was to be a much longer ride than we expected. It's really hard to judge distances in such a large country after spending months in a country a fraction of the size. Not to mention the fact that apparently people in the southern hemisphere don't believe in building roads any bigger than 2 lanes. So, the going was slow. In any case, we got to the Town of 1770 around 8:30, set up camp, and realized that we had no gas for our little camp stove. So we had to buy dinner from the very pricey little restaurant on the campground. Hot waiter, though, so it made it a little worth while. As we were eating we started hearing all these crazy squealing noises. Melissa thought it was bats, and suddenly we saw a huge one swoop down from the tree directly across from us. They were enormous, and so loud. We though that maybe they would quiet down later on, but we were wrong. I have never had a more uncomfortable sleep. First of all, Melissa and I were crammed into this tiny little tent. It was about a million degrees outside (I honestly don't think it went below 90 all night), and there were bats and other night birds flying around all night making an ungodly amount of noise. I was lucky, though. I slept. Melissa was so uncomfortable she just stayed up. She ended up reading, walking around, and trying to kill mosquitoes in our tent all night. The poor girl was miserable. I kept waking up all night and saying how sorry I was that she was still awake. Eventually, she just passed out. BUt not for long. We had to be up at 6:30 to make sure we caught our cruise ship for the next day out to the reef. So, trying to be the good cheerleader that I am, I woke up chipper and offered to get coffee. Unfortunately, people in the southern hemisphere also have the habit of opening the doors and turning on the lights to their shops, thus giving the appearance that they are open, when they are, in fact, not. So I spent a considerable amount of time standing in a store I thought was open staring at the menu and calling through to the kitchen for service. I'm pretty sure the owner was watching me the entire time, because eventually he walked in from the front with a coffee in his hand and announced that he was closed for another half hour. Seriously. Is it hard to keep the doors closed? Or at least put something in the doorway that says something like, oh, I don't know, CLOSED??? Anyway, I must have looked especially ragged, or pissed, because he did offer coffee, if that was all I wanted. So, I took the coffees back with me and we packed up the car. As we were driving out, I managed to spill the coffees all over Melissa and the car, but we were all ok. So, we made it down the road to the ship and our trip began.

The ride to the reef took about an hour and a half. We were on a boat with a tour of Brazilian backpackers, a few French people, some other random people, us, and the crew. It was a fun little group. Very young, but fun. The first part of the tour was a walk on the Lady Musgrave Island. It is actually a coral cay. That means that there is no sand there. All the "sand" you see on the beaches is really finely ground up coral. Pretty cool. There were some native birds living there. Some kind of thrush, I think. And we saw a Sea Turtle nest. That was just the beginning. When we got back to the beach, we all put on our snorkeling gear and prepared to head out into the depths. As we waded in, Melissa and I felt a little wary of what we might see. People had said not to worry about creatures in the water, but they do this stuff all the time. Of course the wouldn't be worried. Once we submerged, though, it was hard to think about anything other than the beauty of the underwater world. It was incredible. It's so serene and peaceful. You just swim around on the surface, taking care not to touch the reef, and watch as all these fish just swim below you. They pay no attention to the people swimming among them. It's just another fish, I guess, to them. To us, it was amazing. You can swim right into the middle of a school, and they'll just swim around you. They don't scatter, and they're not scared. They just ignore you and go about their business. The best views of the fish are right along the edges of the deeper parts of the reef, where the large coral ledges are. There are thousands of fish in all different colors, all coexisting. Many of the fish look like other animals. There's the parrot fish, which really does look like a parrot. There's one that has leopard spots. There were Nemo fish, and starfish. There were see through fish, and jet black fish. There were sea cucumbers, and there were thousands of different shapes and colors of coral. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, there were also little jellyfish. All over the place. Lots of people got stung, including Melissa and me. It was nothing too bad, just like a bee sting. But it sucked to get a lot at once. So, after too short a time, we headed back to the beach and got ready for lunch.

Lunch was back on the boat, and it was delicious. We had prawns, chicken, pasta salad, and plenty of other food. There was tons of it, so we could eat all we wanted. But what we really wanted to do was go back in the water. So we ate quickly and got geared up again. This time was a little scarier because we were in deep water this time. I have no idea how deep it was, but probably at least 30 feet. Depth nder water is decieving. You think things are close and they are way far away, and sometimes they are much closer than you think. Things also appear much smaller than they really are. When we got in the water we had to swim a ways over to the reef. This was a little stressful, especially for Melissa with her fear of sharks, because you really can't see what's happening behind you. It would have been possible for anything to swim up behind us and get us, but it didn't. Almost immediately we were fine again in the water, and we made it quickly to the coral. There was a section of the reef we were at called the Aquarium. This was a hole, sortof, in the middle of the coral. It's pretty shallow all around it, and then, like an underwater container, it deepens back down to 20 feet. There were tons of fish in there, and it's where we spent a good chunk of our time. We swam all the way around it, taking picture of everything in our path. The fish were very similar to the fish in shallower water, but there were more of them. We saw an eel, and more parrot fish, and many more of the same. Things didn't change until we got out of the Aquarium and into even deeper water. We started exploring the reef there and saw things we never thought we would. As we were swimming along, I looked down and saw a sting ray swimming aloong the bottom. In front of us, Melissa spotted a family of octopus. We were just swimming along, toward the end of our time in the water, when Melissa tugged on my arm. She pointed in fron of her, to my right, at something. I couldn't turn hard or my mask would fill up, so I just glanced, but I didn't see anything. I looked slowly, a little more to my right, and there, not far from where we were, was a giant sea turtle. Slowly, Melissa and I saw over to it, staying behind and to the sides all the time. We swam with the turtle for a while, just following where it went. It was amazing. As we started to get closer, out of nowhere, a swarm of jellyfish showed up, and we had to swim away. I'm not sure if that was the ocean's way of say we were close enough, but whatever it was, it worked. We backed off, but who would have thought that we would swim with a turtle. A little while later, as we were heading back to the boat, we spotted the turtle again, sitting on an underwater ledge. A few of us managed to swim down and touch it (I was one who did) but it started to get really scared and kindof hiding, so Melissa decided to leave it alone, and just enjoy seeing it. It was awesome. I couldn't believe it. After that, our trip was complete. We swam back to the boat, had something to rehydrate, and crashed out for the ride back to shore. The trip was incredible. I am so happy we did it. I could not have asked for a better tour.

When we got back to shore, we quickly disembarked, hopped in the car, and took off. We had a long drive to get back to where we were hoping to stay, and it was already getting dark. As it happened, we didn't make it to Noosa (where we were planning to go), but we did get to Gympie, a few hours north. We stayed at this cute little motel in our very own room, complete with air conditioning and TV!! We both slept like logs, and it ended up not being much more expensive than a hostel would have been, so it was completely worth it. Anyway, this brings us to the 23rd. We are headed down the coast today, and I'll be sure to let you all know where we stop. I hope you are all doing well. We miss you and love you all. Take care in the cold and snow, and we'll talk to you soon.

Love, Abby and Melissa

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