Returning to Cairns, I was ready for the next adventure…
I was booked for scuba diving on the great barrier reef and I had no PADI license either. The reason for this is, at this point in time, it was not compulsory on such dives. However, whilst there is still no actual legal requirement to have a PADI, after 2009 the majority of dive companies will ask you to provide some proof of certification for your own safety. Whilst not officially confirmed, it is believed the change occurred following the death of Tina Watson in 2003 and the subsequent murder trial of her husband. This case alone highlighted the risks posed when taking inexperienced divers out into open water.
Back to my dive, I boarded the Supercat to take myself and other booked divers out onto the reef. We had to go through a comprehensive induction and if you couldn’t get the hand signals right or the basics of safety, they wouldn’t be letting you out on the reef. They take safety very seriously.
Our dive guide was a crazy Canadian guy and he was getting us all psyched up ready for this underwater adventure. Initially it was a little overcast and the blue waters looked a little murky.
You never know what you will see on your dive, so to be able to go diving on the largest coral reef in the world, I was battling to contain my excitement. I had done a brief scuba dive in Zakynthos the year before, so was familiar from that experience of what may be expected.
The first dive went well but with little to see other than the odd marine fish here and there. Our guide pointed things out which he had spotted and led us over to a giant clam. This is now banned but at this point in time, research was still ongoing on the Great Barrier Reef and what we know now was not known then. Our guide encouraged those of us brave enough to touch the edge of this clam and the only way I can describe it, is this… Soft, but slimy but not a slimy yuck, more a slimy silky smooth. I haven’t ever felt anything quite like it.
Following this first dive, we returned to the surface for a break and due to the water pressure, I suffered a minor nose bleed, which is normal. Though probably not the best place to suffer a nose bleed in all honesty.
When ready, it was time for the second dive. The sun had started to peep through the clouds by this point and things were looking up.
I will let the photos of my second dive now do the talking…
The sharks have arrived… Whilst unplanned these are Whitetip Reef Sharks, not quite jaws, but if you are unfamiliar, this can be quite unnerving and you feel quite literally, like shark bait. We saw a couple of turtles, a humphead wrasse and a variety of other fish and starfish. It was a truly exhilarating.
The day scuba diving drew to a close and we returned to the surface for a bite to eat and to share our diving experiences. Back on dry land and it was a trip to the Woolshed, followed by a good nights rest and ready for the next day which would be a horse riding tour of the tropical rainforests of Cairns.
Blazing saddles adventures, collected me promptly the next morning ready for a half days horse ride tour. I hadn’t ridden a horse in years but felt confident to do so. The first horse was a real character, I say the first horse as I ended up having to change horses, half way through the tour. This first horse decided he didn’t like the other horses and started to persistently bite them which was getting a little difficult to control. I switched over to a more calmer personality and enjoyed the rest of the spectacular panoramic views from the rainforests of Cairns, looking out to the blues of the Pacific.
After half a day horse riding, we headed back for a spot of lunch before I was dropped back to my dorm, to relax and prepare for the next excursion the following day.
I had booked half a day white water rafting on the Tully River, followed by a sky dive. The latter was a particularly interesting choice as I was terrible with heights. Not wanting to lose a pittance bet of £5 with my father and determined to keep proving him wrong, I pressed ahead with this latest adventure.
Booked with RnR, we met our guide at the Tully River, the rapids we were about to take on were grade 5. Pretty tough for anyone like me who had never rafted previously. I was teamed up with two Liverpudlians and four Californians. Our guide was a Mancunian Aussie.
The rapids were intense and our raft flipped a few times. Between me and the female Liverpudlian compadre, we got heavily battered on the rocks, but the adrenaline meant we didn’t really feel the affects until a lot later on and were therefore, having a blast! At one point we got trapped under the raft and had to take several deep breaths to swim out from under it to help the others turn our raft back over.
As you can see from the photos provided by RnR, we had an absolutely amazing time and the minor injuries sustained, are all part of the great experience, I am now relaying to you.
Next up was transportation to the airfield whereby I would be taken up to 10,000ft in a cessna and even though I was to jump out, it was more of a push/shove as I was attached to a mad mullet Aussie skydiver… Far out dude!!!
We reached the airfield and the first thing is to get suited up. I was still soaking wet from the rafting, therefore, what better way to dry off than some air drying faster than a Dyson blade dryer.
You have to go through the induction with the instructor and for safety reasons, they need to ensure you fully understand before they will take you up. I was nervous as hell but still high on adrenaline, it was a case of let’s do this! Whilst mildly disregarding the fact I was sober and not great with heights. (I had done 2 bungee jumps a couple of years earlier and was sneakily under the influence to steady my nerves then).
Several of us crazies, boarded the plane and up it went. The crew were doing everything they could to steady nerves and gee us up.
10,000 ft later and it’s go go go.
Problem… I started to lose my nerve. My instructor however was determined and I am grateful he was. What happened next was I was at the plane door with this dude ready to jump. I am strapped to him, so this is always a sticky issue whereby control goes. He literally counts… 1…2…3 and woohoo!
We tumble out of this cessna and the G force literally hits you. (Best face lift ever).
What comes out of my mouth next is too colourful to repeat but, if you have ever seen Bridget Jones Diary where she tells that one little lie about who was on the phone to Daniel Cleaver and they aptly spell out on the screen her thought, you will know that the first word I was screaming was exactly this.
When the parachute finally opened I was in all honesty by this point relieved… Or so I thought…
My instructor decided I needed another shot of pure terror and he collapses the parachute, enabling another free-fall and I am literally screaming and swearing more than the first! I can see the ground coming towards us super fast! The parachute is reengaged and the second wave of relief hits as we now coast gently towards Mission Beach for a soft sandy landing and I get to take in the stunning aerial view of the pacific and the surrounding small islands and coastlines.
Landing, the ground crew run towards us to detach everything and I am asked how it was. All I could muster up was “Need alcohol”. Now when I said this, I was thinking, tequila, vodka, something super strong. They handed me black ale. Yes the alcohol comparison to a cup of tea. This was never going to steady the adrenaline and nerves. My whole body was trembling from the experience. One I would definitely recommend if you are brave enough…
Once back at the airfield and nerves steadier, we shared our experience of chosen pure terror and how amazing it was. I rang home to inform everyone, they had just lost the bet.
It was now time for a good nights rest and an early flight to Darwin in the morning, for the final leg of my travel adventures…