(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: The first three days of the cruise. I thought some of it was stormy. Haahaaahaaahaaaahaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaaaaa…)
Day Sixteen: The Perfect Storm
Day dawned beautiful, but I didn’t wake Chang, because he’d left in the middle of dinner on Day 15, feeling ill again, while just before dinner, H had run downstairs with a puke bag to find me, so I spent the first half of dinner tending my two sickies as they sucked down ginger beer and kept their eyes on the horizons. (I seem to not get seasick. Even during the heavy storms, I was fine, except for knocking into things. Actually H has been pretty cast iron too, until then, but she was on the very top deck playing a game of chess, and being on the most heavily moving deck while keeping your eyes face down is a recipe for puke. Chang has no such excuse. He’s just a pansy. 😉 [Retrospective Edit – Oh. I’m so sorry for taunting. So very very soory.]) Dinner, which Chang missed, was one of the best yet – pumpkin soup, lamb with sweet potato, asparagus, and cauliflower, and cheesecake for dessert.
However, after quite the rollicking early night, we did get to moorage, and it calmed down a bit. We all apparently slept well, and both of them eventually woke up just barely after breakfast was called. (Breakfast – pancakes with caramelized bananas and whipped cream for me, the same without the bananas for H, and porridge with honey and coconut for Chang, along with the usual delicious continental assortment) We were already at Ribbon Reef Number 3, having tied up just off the reef for the night, so right after breakfast, we got dressed and ready for the water.
Chang was diving first thing, and I wanted video of him going in, so we stayed and videoed until he was under and then threw my phone onto the bar, shoved on our snorkel gear, and popped into the water to watch him dive. We hung over him for quite a while, but H kept wanting to follow them, while I got nervous about how deep we were and how far away from the boat we were getting, so she and I ended up going back in toward the reef. We had a lovely snorkel, with sun and much less current than the day before, and even felt comfortable enough to try to free dives… but H was still wearing a life vest! (They’d put one on her for the open water swim the night before, as it had been so rough, so she’d suited up out of habit in exactly the same gear!) So we went back, and climbed up the whole ship to the very tip-top, where the wind was blowing very hard but the view was incredible.
We’d been up there only about 15 minutes when we saw the bubbles below us showing where the divers were going to surface. I swear, H flew down those near vertical stairs like she was greased! She nearly flung herself into her Daddy’s arms as soon as he was back on the boat, and then demanded that we all go back out into the water so that she could free dive without the life vest.
Which we did!
Then in and a change of clothes, some time on the top deck in the sun and wind, and then inside for tea and cakes when a few clouds came in, and now resting and journaling as we make our way to Escape Reef, the last of our water stops for this cruise. Tonight will be our last on the boat, and disembarking in Cairns early tomorrow morning!
(Much later) Oh. God. I hope recalling this doesn’t make me puke.
I’m writing now from a distance of a few days, so I can now, with some perspective, truthfully say that the night of day sixteen was one of the worst nights of my life. I honestly thought we were all going to die. If the boat had stopped throwing us around the cabin for two minutes, I literally would have written some goodbye letters to loved ones. Instead I just hyperventilated into my husband’s chest, while he tried not to break his chin on my skull as we heaved…
Let’s back up. When last I wrote, we were on our way to Escape Reef, and it was truly lovely. It was one of the best snorkel stops, and while there was still some significant wind, we also had sun. This reef was shaped more like a hand, and the boat had parked at the middle finger. We swam out along the edges of the fingers to the thumb and a very cool tall tower bommie off the webbing between the thumb and first finger. Then back again to the pinkie, did a few free dives off the ring finger, and that was when we saw the gorgeous white tipped reef shark. We called to the boat and did the sign for shark, but by the time people got in the water, only a few others saw it. Chang got good video, though. 😉
Anyway, that was the capper on the trip for H and I (having seen rays and turtles at other islands, a shark made the cruise, so we felt it was a good place to stop). Since she and I were done, Chang decided to get one last scuba in, so we went and showered while he kitted up and dove one more time. She and I finished, and headed down to the back deck of the boat to see if we could watch him come up out of the water again, but they were still under, so we went back inside for afternoon tea. While we ate biscuits (okay, fine, I also had some tea), a woman who’d lived in Sydney and had heard about our plans to spend extended time there started talking to me about stuff to do there. I got so wrapped up in the conversation that the next thing I knew, H was telling me that Chang had just walked past the back door of the boat. Oops!
We helped him get his gear off and then headed back to relax for a bit while he showered. Then we had a bit of a rest while the boat got underway for the evening, to attempt to get us to our night mooring point by dinner.
And here’s where it all goes south.
Had I mentioned the wind? It had never really not been windy on the whole trip, but the last two days it had gotten quite strong, picking up in the evenings to make the gentle rocking of the boat… not so gentle.
This. This was a whole different thing.
We woke from our short post snorkel/dive nap into… good lord, I can’t even describe it! And I’m supposed to be a writer! Well, first, it was dark. Far earlier than it should have been dark. And second, we were no longer just going up and down. We were going up and then up again and then sideways and then sideways the other way, then up, then sideways again back past the initial starting point, and then up a little more and then DOWN!!!!! Bang! Hit the water hard, bounce down one more time, then up and to the left… repeat ad nauseum. Literally.
It was actively terrifying. But they’d just called us down to dinner, and the lower decks tended to be more stable, so down we went.
Bad. Idea. Jeans.
Let me tell you, when the Titanic went down, you did NOT want to be in the dining room. Cause when the shit hits the fan badly enough to make the very thoroughly triple safety rated “How do they make them stay so still when the boat is moving this much” wine racks and drink fridges and paintings on the wall start to fall and crash and break all over? You don’t want to be where the glassware and knives are. No matter how calm the staff pretends to be.
They were troopers, though, and continued to serve dinner as if things weren’t literally falling off the walls. We made it through appetizers and were served our mains before Chang, greener than the salad, apologized and deserted. H actually made it two bites into her dinner before she ran for the stairs. I followed, promising the purser that I’d come back as soon as I got them taken care of, since we had to settle our bill for incidentals before the next morning.
I got to our cabin and it was just freaking nuts. Literally anything that wasn’t strapped down was flying about, and some things that had been strapped down weren’t any more. Chang and H were cuddled up with each other on his bed, the bottom bunk on that side of the room. She’d been sleeping above him for this trip, on the top bunk, which I immediately forbid her to go near. I rescued her stuffed animals from the floor and moved her and them to my bed. I straightened up the room the best I could, then got my purse and headed back downstairs. They’d just started serving dessert, but the Captain had also just abruptly left the Captain’s Table to go back to the bridge, which was making for some nervous side eye in the previously unflappable staff.
Emma, the purser, rang me out, though I can’t imagine my signature looked anything like it usually does. Then it was very carefully back up the stairs and once again into the room.
I like how writing it like that makes it seem short and simple. Let me just add that the trip down to the purser’s desk, signing one piece of paper one time, and getting back up a single flight of stairs and down about 20 feet of hallway 1) took me about 20 minutes, 2) involved multiple full body slams into walls and railings, leaving significant bruises, and 3) was just flat out terrifying.
H was still awake: pretty wide eyed, actually. Chang had curled up hard facing the wall in fetal position, and I thought he was asleep, so I got in bed with Hana. We bolstered ourselves against the walls with the extra pillows from her bed. Then we put in our earphones and turned on Eragon very very very loudly, to try to drown out the sounds of the storm and the whamming of the boat against the water.
Seriously. It was hours. We had deserted dinner about 7:20, and I’m sure I was in bed with H before 8. The next time I looked at the clock, it was after 10. Eragon had just ended and H was finally asleep. I wasn’t. Not even close. I was finally seasick. And I was starting to have a panic attack.
I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever had one before or if people have just described them to me so vividly that I recognized it immediately. However, I’m glad to say that I knew what it was right away, or else I would have just thought that I was actually dying on top of just being afraid that we were going to all die.
I knew I had to get away from H, or else I was going to wake her up, so I let the motion of the ship drag me down until I was almost out of the bunk, and then I got up. It was my intent to go into the head so that I could try shrieking into a pillow without waking anybody up, but Chang rolled over as my feet hit the floor. Knowing that he was awake, I flung myself at him and just started bawling.
And just kept bawling until…
Day 17 (Friday): Sleep. Sleep would be good.
That’s not actually true. We moored up about 2 am, and I did manage to get to sleep at some point after that, because I woke up when they announced breakfast (6:30am). Chang, on the other hand, was still awake, and had not slept even at all. Nobody had much appetite, but since they hadn’t had dinner the night before (and Chang hadn’t had dinner the night before that), I made them go down and at least have something. For H, that mean dry toast, and for Chang, pineapple juice. We also talked to almost everyone, who, having seen their full dinner plates taken away, had been worried about my two. That included some of the staff, one of whom confided to us that she’d not seen a night that bad on a spring trip ever before.
Fortified and justified, we went back upstairs and packed, skipping the group photo time in favor of lying on our bunks until we had almost docked. Then we loaded up our bags and walked the 5 blocks to our hotel, not even saying goodbye to the rest of the staff (sorry Chef Robbie! Your food was superb! Sorry I missed the last night’s dessert).
We barely got upstairs before Chang and I were in bed. H, having slept more of the night before than we, pulled a chair right up to the television, and watched ABC3 (her favorite Australian tv channel – did I mention she had one? And a favorite bit on that channel [“Stupid Deaths” on “Horrible Histories”]? And a favorite Australian drink [Lift]? And a favorite Australian island [Lady Elliot]? And a favorite Australian animal [Lie. It’s a completely unbroken tie between dingo, wombat, koala, potoroo, kangaroo, and wallaby]?) very very close (her justification being that she had to keep the sound down so as not to wake us up).
Chang and I slept from 9 to about 1. We all decided to go to gelato as our meal for the day (H specifically requesting “the closest gelato” – we ignored that, as the furthest away had the largest selection). On our way back, Chang got a phone call that our tour of Mossman Gorge the following day had been cancelled, so we stopped by the city’s information center to see if we could fill the morning with something else educational for H. Among their suggestions was the Tjapukai educational center – an outreach center of a local rainforest aboriginal tribe. H leapt at this, saying that was definitely what she wanted to do, so we booked it.
There was an evening aqua-zumba class at the lagoon (the giant public swimming pool) at 5pm that I had intended to take, but about 3 the skies completely opened. That was enough of an excuse to decide us to eat in the hotel restaurant, which just happened to be a superb Aussie BBQ version of Brazilian Rodizio. Lovely. And then to bed by 7pm, cause that’s how we roll… like 80 year olds. 😉
Day 18 (Saturday) – Damn, we pack those days.
We woke up lazy (and still had the whole world rocking a bit from our sea to shore transition), but ready to go get educated. We were picked up on a bus and driven to Tjapukai. The name of the center is also the name of the tribe who runs it, and they’ve put together quite an amazing place here! There was a very cool presentation on their creation story that was visually spectacular. We saw art and an underground cooking pit that reminded us greatly of Hawaiian pig bakes. We saw two kinds of dances – this tribe’s traditional dances and those of a neighboring tribe. We also learned about their traditional foods and medicines, their weapons, and the didgeridoo. Then we got to throw a spear, but the line for the boomerang throw was too long for us to make our time for the sky gondola to Kuranda.
Oh, yeah, did I mention we were also going to another Aboriginal township? And we were getting there by gondola, and getting back by historic train? Yeah. That.
The gondola was truly imposing. It was actually a series of three gondola trips, with stops in the rainforest and at a waterfall (which, given that it was the dry season, was more impressive for its height than its flow). The gondola also goes right above the canopy, so you are seeing trees and birds incredibly close and at a great angle. You also see how incredibly tall these trees get, fighting each other for the sunlight. H had a guide book that told us what species of trees were closest to each support tower, so we played a fun hour of Where’s Waldo’s Banyan tree.
We got to the town and grabbed a quick scone for lunch before bee-lining it to the Kuranda Koala Gardens. This teeny tiny zoo was the first place in Australia that we would get to touch a koala. (Btw, don’t say koala bear. You will be mocked. Kind of a lot. It’s just “koala”.)
So H got to hold and have her picture taken with a koala. And I got to feel its butt! They feel surprisingly like tiny sheep – there is something very springy and lanolin-ey about their fur. H enjoyed the cuddle very much, and said the koala’s paws tickled her belly. I found them cute, but… honestly a little boring! They mostly slept.
Then after the koala picture, we fed some wallabies and kangaroo, peeked at some huge snakes, and saw some sugar gliders get fed. Then we left the tiny zoo and headed off into the town, where we found some fantastic homemade ice cream.
(If from this day’s entry, you have come to believe that Tjapukai is a VASTLY more educational aboriginal experience, you are very far from wrong. At Tjapukai, we saw dances and art, learned a creation story, some songs, and what to eat and not to eat if lost in the rainforest, and threw a freaking spear. At Kuranda… we ate ice cream and held a caged animal. Woo. [R.E. I’m told there is a more cultural center at Kuranda, but it’s a tram ride away from the town. So, grain of salt, as always.])
Then we took the historic train back down the mountain, once again stopping to see the waterfall. H fell asleep on me halfway down, but there were some beautiful views, and at least a little history as a voiceover at some stops.
From the train we got a ride straight to our hotel, which was good, because our pick up for the Cairns Night Zoo was only a few minutes after our arrival!
So, the Cairns Night Zoo is the Cairns day zoo… at night. Shocking, I know. It started with an intensely mediocre BBQ dinner, which was done very quickly and then, seriously, about a half hour of nothing happened. Which is not normally an issue, but at 7:30 at night only a day after a sleepless night of boat rocking… I needed something to be happening in order to not be falling asleep. I don’t know why they needed to stick so perfectly to the schedule, but we did not need a full hour for the dinner part of our evening.
However, eventually everyone was given a tiny flashlight and we set off into the zoo. First stop? Koala!
Okay, guys, seriously? Koala are clearly very nocturnal. Where the ones we saw earlier at Kuranda were all asleep, barely even waking up for the photo op, these ones were hopping from tree to tree, sitting on each other’s heads to establish dominance, running over to the keeper for pick ups, and we even got a bellow out of the big male. H also got another photo op, so that was two koala cuddles in the same day. Parenting success! 😉
We then were taken into a small tent where we saw possums, crocodiles (involving a rather terrifying feeding), many snakes, including one that we got draped over us, and again fed some kangaroo. Then we got fed billy tea and damper – and after many questions, we finally were told what the hell that is. Billy tea is black tea that has had a bunch of leaves swirled in it (in this case, eucalyptus) and damper is … bread. Yeah. Beer bread. Kinda chewy.
Then they took us back to the food area and played Waltzing Matilda on the accordion. No. Really. I shit you not.
There were a couple more songs, and Chang and I actually danced, and H played a musical instrument of sorts. We got into it a bit, but it really wasn’t our scene, and I can’t say I was sorry when it was time to go. But then! Surprise! Giant Wombat!
What a great thing to have by the back door! Fuzzy belly! So cute! So ugly! SO ugly… that it’s cute!
We petted its belly, bought a couple post cards, and got back on the bus. As soon as we got back to the hotel, it was immediately to bed with us, because 6am pick up for our airport transport means more sleep something something.
(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: We go hang with the rich people. Mmmmm.)