After Fraser Island it was a long bus journey overnight to Airlie Beach. I think we got there about 8 or 9 in the morning. First thing to do was to register at the local agency, then we had a few hours to explore Airlie and buy anything we needed for the upcoming boat trip. I think I walked up and down the beach a few times. I must have had longer to do more, but I don’t remember doing very much at all!
Early afternoon, or late morning we headed to the boat – “The British Defender” an old racing yacht which would take us out for a couple of nights sailing around The Whitsunday Islands. I knew we were in for a good trip when just a short time after leaving we spotted a couple of speedy dolphins shooting right past the boat. At this point, the only dolphins I’d ever seen in the wild. We headed to anchor and enjoyed a good sunset. I felt freer than I had done for months on this boat … I always thought I’d enjoy sailing, but I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face and spent the entirety of the first afternoon sat at the front of the boat intently gazing into the distance. During the afternoon a friendly girl from London introduced herself to me, Bee. Though she had a boyfriend back home, she was traveling alone. From the second she said hello we became friends and had an instant connection, one I rarely, rarely make with people. Almost as if we’d been friends our entire lives. We barely spent a moment apart from each other the rest of the trip.
We woke up early on the second day, and headed ashore to Whitsunday Island and the famous viewpoint over the island and Whitehaven beach. What a view. Later, we descended to the beach and spent a couple of hours soaking up the sun, swimming and paddling. We returned to the boat for lunch and then sailed north to a snorkeling spot … this was as close to the Great Barrier Reef as I would get … though I think it still counts! The fish were amazing and needless to say, Bee and I were the last to be picked up for the return to the boat! Sunset that night was sensational.
The final day gave us some interesting weather. Heavier seas and strong winds. The Captain loved it. We sailed back to Airlie at high speeds, with the Skipper showing us what the boat could really do – we were all called onto deck for that journey – too unsafe to stay below.
Back in Airlie, we checked into the local backpackers. That night we had a group meal, followed by drinks and dancing into the early hours. A huge surprise to me was bumping into Mike from Manly – I hadn’t seen him since early February and here he was in the same nightclub! After spending the entire night dancing with Bee we sat outside the hostel having a long heart to heart about life, love and all the things in between.
The next morning, I sadly said my goodbyes to Bee in order to catch a flight to Brisbane. We made arrangements to meet up again in Melbourne in a few weeks time. With Bee, although we had a close connection, she did have a boyfriend at home. There was never any suggestion of anything romantic (much to my regret) but she and I became close friends in a short space of time. 10 years on, she’s now married, but I will never forget how much she contributed toward my experience of this trip.
I felt happy mostly, I’d had an adventure and cleared my head. I didn’t know what the future would hold, but I knew I wasn’t going to return to my soul destroying door knocking job – and that was more than enough.