Adventures Down Under [Part 3] - Sailing Whitsunday Islands
Following an impressive start to my Oz adventures from Gold Coast to Fraser Island, it was time to check out the beautiful countryside of Australia. The gang led by our CEO Ninja and Corey took us back to Rainbow beach for a brief stopover from Fraser Island. We were able to get online after 3 days which kept everyone busy for a while with their smartphones. I could fulfil some of my social media obligations for Cox&Kings and G Adventures, which was very important. From there we continued to the North Grumpie railway station to board our train to Rockhampton city, from where we were going to a cattle farm outside Rockhampton to spend a night at the outbacks. Arriving at the railway station, it was time to say goodbye & give a big hug to Corey for making our time at Fraser a memorable experience.
Our train journey from North Grumpie to Rockhampton City was delightfully pleasant with a view of countryside farms, landscapes and highways. Arriving at Rockhampton late evening, a bus awaited us to take us to a cattle farm which was about 45 minutes away. When we arrived at the farm it was already dark and it had been a long day on the road for us. Our hungry tummies were nicely fed with hot bread & soup before we were given Swags (Canvas Bedrolls) to sleep under the stars. Although, the facility was very limited at the farm with no electricity, internet or even phone reception it was a unique experience to live by. We played some group games around a big bonfire that night with our lovely hosts at the farm before we all “Swagged” that night under five billion stars.
It was a beautiful morning to wake up to with roosters going off at the stroke of the dawn. The Swag night was amazing, I am sure everyone in the gang had a good night's rest. After a quick breakfast we left the farm thanking our hosts for the wonderful hospitality and headed to visit another farm where we experienced the Aussie style of raising livestock which included cute cattle, pigs, horses & chickens. Farm owner’s cute little children gladly took the gang around showing their farm with a great sense of pride.
We again hit the road soon after that towards Mackay for the big adventure which was awaiting us, a 3 day maxi yacht sailing adventure to Airlie beach through the Whitsundays, a unique route used by G Adventures. A Couple of hours on the road with a quick stopover for lunch & costume shopping, we soon reached the harbor at Mackay where our beautiful sail yacht “Boomerang” was. One of the crew members welcomed us and quickly took us on-board of Boomerang. Without much fuss, the entire gang had settled in comfortable bunks of Boomerang. The captain seemed like he was straight from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean with his tone and witty manners. His sense of humor was the highlight of the briefing to the gang. Very soon, We departed from the Mackay harbor to Whitsundays that afternoon, the best part of Mackay was leaving Mackay behind is what the captain said.
As part of our sailing adventure, we were expected to lend a hand to the 3 member crew at times to help raise the sail, switch the sail or drop of sail which seemed like fun. I had never sailed before and didn’t have much knowledge of sailing either, but lending help & watching the crew work was awesome. We were soon cruising at a very good speed with the wind & the tide on our side. Everybody gradually settled down on the deck of Boomerang, a few members of the gang were a little dizzy and were getting acclimated to sea.
I was pretty comfortable on the deck and was GoProing our sailing adventures to the Whitsundays. There was good music on the deck, amazing view of the ocean with plenty of salt & splash with everyone bonding over conversations and snacks. By late evening just after the sunset we arrived in the calmer waters of the Whitsundays where we were gonna anchor for the night. We had an amazing dinner under the night sky illuminated by millions of stars with the chilly gusty wind blowing. Most of the gang warmed up with some cold beers, whereas I went to bed warm to wake up early to set my foot on the beautiful Whitsunday Islands.
Next morning, We were dropped off on the shores of Whitsunday Island National Park with one of the crew members accompanying us. The Whitsunday Islands are a group of islands of various sizes located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the islands are of pristine tropical beauty and mostly accessed by sailing yachts, seaplanes & helicopters. You can find more info about Whitsundays here.
After a brief 25 minute hike we were on the beautiful Whitehaven beach of Whitsunday Island National Park. We were welcomed with a stunning view of crystal clear aqua blue waters with vast stretches of finest white sand and cool breeze on a beautiful sunny morning. No wonder, why Whitehaven beach is consistently rated amongst the top beaches in the world and the most photographed beaches in Australia. This is literally heaven on earth! A rugby ball always followed us wherever we went since Ninja was a big fan of the sport. We decided that we should definitely have a proper rugby game right on the beautiful Whitehaven beach. That was my first time ever playing a game of touch rugby. All the boys from the gang joined including a couple of girls. After a brief introduction to the game by Ninja, we were soon having an intense, competitive game of rugby which was tactical and lots of hard running that we were pretty wiped out after an hour. But hey! We had the whole ocean to ourselves to cool off, which we did promptly. We spent the next couple of hours just exploring the vast stretches of the beach checking out the lagoons, taking plenty of pictures and posing for the camera. I am sure all of us could have spent an entire day on Whitsundays if we had our way, but we returned to Boomerang by noon for another awesome lunch before we sailed again towards the other end of the island to scuba dive at the great barrier reef.
Most of the gang members seized the opportunity of scuba diving at the great barrier reef which was definitely once in a lifetime experience and one could do for just $75. This was my second time diving and I was pretty comfortable in the water, but I wasn’t allowed to take my camera underwater since the laws in Australia doesn’t let uncertified divers to take camera in. Nevertheless, I had a great time underwater for more than a half hour at the depth of 40ft where we witnessed plenty of coral & marine life, I also liked the fact that once we were at ease, our dive instructors let us swim freely in the waters with their eyes upon us. Great Barrier Reef dive was off my bucket list!!
Back at the Boomerang, it was time to chill and fulfil a quest which I had got on social media as per my social media's obligation. My quest was to dive from the yacht to ocean and capture it on GoPro. I took my quest to the next level where I dressed up as batman with the costume I had bought and dived into the ocean. I repeated the act a few times with the boys from the gang and we all had plenty of fun diving and swimming in the waters. The thought of sharks never crossed our minds :)
Later in the evening on-board of Boomerang, the entire gang & the crew had a costume party filled with delightful snacks, witnessing an amazing sunset, celebrating the good times we have had on the trip so far.
Once again plenty of laughs, photos & stories were shared on a beautiful starry night with great music playing in the background. These moments instilled more confidence in me on how travel, meeting people from different cultures actually broaden your perspective of the world and probably gives real education than universities churning out robots. I thanked the heavenly gods for making my life more interesting and keeping me on my toes always :)
The next day was another gorgeous day and our final day of sailing but before setting sail in the morning we went snorkelling in the beautiful waters of the lagoon where Boomerang had anchored for the night.
Snorkelling as always, been my favorite activity in the ocean and the Great Barrier Reef didn’t disappoint me, it was like being amidst a garden of flowers with rich live coral life of various colors, shapes and formations. I couldn’t have started the day better than that and with some great memories of Whitsundays we set sailing for one last time to our final destination, Airlie beach. The captain & the crew entertained us with some skillful sailing maneuvers and put on a show of great sailing. I also learn the fact that Boomerang used to be one of the fastest sailing maxi yachts with its hull built entirely with carbon fiber by Italians and designed by Germans. Boomerang had dominated many sailing contests around the world for a decade in the 90’s.
By noon, Airlie beach was in sight! I had heard so much about this picturesque town that I was very much looking forward to exploring it. The marina where we docked blew my mind off with some amazing luxury yachts, sailboats & speed boats docked at this beautiful marina. We profusely thanked the crew of Boomerang for making our sailing adventure & Whitsunday experience another entertaining adventure.
We walked through the gorgeous esplanade of Airlie beach to reach our base camp hostel. There were plenty of cafes, clubs, restaurants and splendid looking houses facing the sea. The town gave me an impression of a laid back and mostly touristy town for backpackers & sailing adventures.
Upon reaching our hostel, the rest of the day was just to relax and recover. I managed to do some laundry, download photos, catching up with friends, family and social media obligations. Later in the day, I went for a stroll along the esplanade and Airlie Lagoon which was splendid. In the evening, there was a huge dinner get together of the gang and a dance party at the Base Hostel Club. All of us dressed up pretty well for the night and got around a reserved table for dinner & drinks followed by DJ & dancing on the floor. I was once again the sober person who didn’t go wild, but just witnessed and enjoyed watching the rest go bonkers that night.
I hit the bed by 11'ish and so did others since we had to catch an early morning train at 4:30 A.M but few brave ones did an all nighter and they had plenty of stories to tell us in the train the next morning.