Hello all - Lynette here. Thanks to everybody for the comments and emails. It is good to hear that people are enjoying our blog. We look forward to getting online to see what people have to say and it is nice hearing from people we know (and even some we don't) from back home.
After the Outback trip we flew to Cairns (pronounced Cans), which is considered the main town for the Great Barrier Reef. We found out that summer is not the best time to visit the reef due to being not only the rainy (monsoon) season which reduces visibility of the reef but also due to the return of box jellyfish in this area. This is mainly a problem around the coastline but they do find their way to the reef as well. The east coast of Australia is having, according to locals, the worst summer in memory. It has rained a ton and the weather is hot and sticky. There have been some towns that have experienced major flooding, which has destroyed houses and stranded people, etc - not a good situation. It rained every day we were in Cairns and the humidity was intense - a lot like Florida.
I read in our Australia guidebook that Cairns is not a place you see but a place you do. We found that to be very true. There wasn't much to the town itself to look at but there were a ton of activities and trips that you could take to do things like snorkel, scuba dive, rainforest zip lines, and on and on. Dave and I were recovering from our outback adventure so we took it easy and spent quite a bit of time lounging around in our hotel's pool. We went downtown a few times but didn't really do anything else except book a snorkelling trip to see the Great Barrier Reef. We booked an all day snorkelling tour where we would get to snorkel at 3 different reef spots at the Agincort Reef, which is supposed to be the best snorkelling reef in that area. Doing this is something that I have dreamed about doing and always have wanted to do. Like something I wanted to do before I died kind of experience - definitely on my bucket list. Due to the jellyfish situation - everyone who snorkelled including Dave and myself opted to wear the full body lycra snorkel suits that would protect us from jellyfish stings that according to the snorkel guides - could end your holiday or possibly your life. They said that the risk was not that great by the reef but still possible. To get to the Great Barrier Reef you need to take about a 45-minute boat ride from the coast. I was a bit worried right away about visibility of the reef since the water was not clear like the Caribbean where I have snorkelled before. I said something to one of the guides and she said that it would get clearer when we get to the actual reef.
As we came to our first snorkel spot the water was still pretty muddy but you could see a few clearer spots where the reef was. The boat was anchored about 50 feet from where the actual reef was so to get to the reef we had to swim this distance. Unfortunately, the waves were so high and choppy and the tide was so strong - I never made it to the reef. I basically swam in the same spot for 30 minutes. Dave and I tried to fight our way over to the reef and we would look up and see that we had been pushed behind the boat away from the actual reef. One time Dave made it to the edge of the reef and he looked up to find me to wave me over to where he was. After he did this he looked back down and realized he had already been pulled away from the reef again. I wish I could put into the words the frustration. Both of us finally gave up and just swam back to the boat. I was so disappointed I cried. Here we were at the "great" Great Barrier Reef and it was turning out to be the not so Great Barrier Reef. This was turning out to be a mammoth disappointment. We still had 2 more reef spots to go but after that first one my expectations were extremely low.
The second reef spot was only 15 minutes away and as we started going there I could tell that it was going to be better. The waves didn't seem as big and there were more clear spots in the water. When we got into the water and looked down we could see reef immediately. I was so relieved - it wasn't crystal clear by any means - but it was clear enough that we could see all sorts of coral and fish and their colors. Yay! Halleluiah! The third spot was even better! The sun actually came out at one point and shined down on the coral and the colors came alive. We saw more species of fish than I can count, all kinds of coral and shells and even saw sharks! We were on the boat when we saw the sharks but still we saw them. I also caught a glimpse of a turtle when we were on the boat. Overall, the snorkelling experience turned out ok - we did eventually see the reef and its amazing colors and fish. Due to the season though it wasn't as clear and brilliant as it can be. If anyone wants to see the Great Barrier Reef I would definitely recommend not coming in the summer/monsoon season.
The next day after our snorkel adventure we again hung out in our hotel's pool just relaxing. I tend to want to just go and go and go but we really do need to just stop and chill out regularly. The day after that we flew back to Sydney and stayed at a really nice place that had a view of Coogee (pronounced CueJee) Beach. Coogee Beach is just 3 miles south of the world famous Bondi Beach with the lifeguards in their speedos and little beanie red and yellow swim caps. Dave and walked from Coogee Beach up to Bondi Beach along the Beach walk. We passed numerous beaches and tons of surfers and swimmers. We also passed a lot of runners - more people must run in Sydney than any other city in the world. There are runners everywhere!
The next day we had surf lessons. I have always wanted to learn how to surf so what better place than Australia. Dave and I were picked up by our surfer dude guide (who reminded us of Crush the turtle from Finding Nemo) at 8:30 a.m. and after picking up another 8 people who were all crammed shoulder to shoulder in the back of a converted Land Cruiser (great way to get to know people fast) we headed to our surfing destination which was about 30 minutes from Sydney. We had surf lessons on how to hold the board, get on the board, stand on the board, etc. We then all headed out to the water. The instructor asked if I wanted his help in getting on a wave and I said sure. I laid down on the surfboard and he pushed it onto a wave. I went through the 4 steps we learned on the beach on how to stand up and stood up on the surfboard and road the wave almost all the way to the beach. I sort of lost my balance at the end and when I went to get down from the surfboard I landed incorrectly on my left foot and hurt it. After that I was favoring my left foot for the rest of the day and sadly never stood up again on the surfboard.
The next day (yesterday) Dave and I were supposed to fly to Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur. However, when I woke, my foot was very sore, swollen and was hard to walk on. I thought it best to get it checked by a Doctor to make sure I didn't break or crack anything. This of course meant that our pre-booked flight and travel plans had to be changed which was a major pain and rather costly. The Doctor told me that I was going to need X-Rays to rule out a fracture. He sent me to the X-Ray lab where I got X-Rays of my foot, which cost me a whopping $39.00 Aus. I couldn't believe how cheap. The Doctor visit was only $50.00 Aus! Anyway, the good news is that I did not fracture my foot. It is bruised and sore but should heal with rest and elevation. We decided to stay in Australia for four more days to let my foot heal a bit and get the swelling to go down before we do the eight hour flight to Malaysia. We will cut our four weeks in India back to three so we can still do our week in Malaysia.
Since we are staying in Australia for 4 more days and since there were no decent hotels available in Sydney, we decided to head south to Wollongong and spend some time here. It is a smallish town about 1.5 hours south of Sydney. We are just going to hang out here until the 25th when we will fly to Malaysia. I'm sure that my foot will be better then.
That is it for now. I hope everyone is doing well and keep in touch.