Great Barrier Grief

10Feb10

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef gave me an extremely enjoyable 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the whole trip lasted eight hours. We hadn’t been overly worried about sea sickness in advance as we felt we could cope with a little queasiness. The previous sentence has almost certainly given you a clue as to why the day no work out so good. 

Having already popped our tablets and engaged acupuncture wristbands we hopped jauntily aboard, whistling a mid-tempo sea shanty in a four-four rhythm. This ebullience lasted about three minutes at which point the grizzled, salty sea-dog of a captain (a 23 year old Canadian named Ryan) announced that we were facing particularly rough waters. The ship was soon tipping and lurching like a bawdy uncle at a wedding reception.

My nausea nodes began to glow an unhealthy green and I could sense by the subtle tilt of Susie’s head and the way she kept saying “arrrrrrggghh I feel soooooooooo sick gaahhhhhhhhhh!” that she was probably feeling a trifle queasy too.

We staggered to the back of the boat and plunged outside into fresh, rushing air. Now that we were successfully still feeling sick and also standing in a gale, we grimly gripped the handrail and attempted to keep our eyes fixed on the horizon. We were quickly joined by the majority of our ashen faced ship-mates. I would describe their general pallor as avocado which very much labels me as middle class.

All around, people avoided eye contact as we played an unofficial game of ‘who is going to vomit first’. My money was on a chap called Mr Little. I knew his name as I was behind him in the queue to sign in. As Mr Little was an amply covered, big-boned gentleman, the incongruity of his moniker meant it stuck in my mind. This was reinforced by the rest of the Little family – a wife and two teenage children – who achieved the seemingly impossible task of dwarfing our slow metabolising hero.

Mr L’s face was coated in a thin film of sweat, his breathing was laboured and a bilious panic swam behind his eyes. Admittedly, he had looked like that before getting on the boat. Without warning, he bent double, shoulders in spasm as his insides very quickly became his outsides. Like some sort of bile-based call to arms, this was the signal for everyone – myself included – to ensure that ordering replacement, small white paper bags would be at the top of the boat administrator’s to-do list.

As my stomach lining sobbed hysterically a realisation hit me suddenly like a hooded youth in a shopping centre – I had paid almost $200 for this ‘experience’. With that thought lazily hopping toad-like between my ears, we reached our first diving spot of three. 

Everyone clambered unsteadily into a wetsuit apart from Mr Little who continued to patiently wish for death. As I lowered my body together with my face and head into the choppy, churning water I expected to see a tropical sea garden. Instead, I discovered choppy, churning water albeit at a much closer proximity. 

What I was expecting....

 

...what I actually saw.

 

With weary inevitably my goggles filled with water every three seconds leaving me choking and spluttering like an indignant politician. I crawled back on to the poop deck (yes poop deck, what’s your problem?) to ask for advice. Goggles were adjusted, instructions administered and I swam back out for another go. As my nostrils once again filled with the ocean (and not in a good way) I looked back with fondness on that recent period when all I had to contend with was being violently and repetitively sick. I was startled out of my vomitus-reverie by the blaring of a loud claxon (it was either a claxon or Mr Little’s final, noisy death throes). This was the signal to climb back on board so we could head towards our second dive. 

Fortunately, the sea was considerably calmer at the new location and I developed a cunning technique of firmly clamping the googles on with my right hand while swimming with my left. This did help keep the water out but swimming with one arm meant going around in tight anti-clockwise circles. I was pretty sure this hadn’t been in the brochure.

As everybody had spent the morning throwing up, Susie decided to continue the theme with a Supermodel pose.

 

Before our third and final dive I threw myself on the mercy of the cabin crew. Surely someone must know a way of keeping the water out? One brightspark suggested that the problem may lie with my gorgeous moustache. He didn’t specifically use the word ‘gorgeous’ but it was easy enough to read between the lines. He surmised that the treacherous bristles were breaking the seal and that the answer was to gloop my upper lip with vaseline. I didn’t hang about and before you could say ‘it’s not my vaseline – I’m just looking after it for a friend’ I had smeared half a tub on my ‘Tom Selleck’ and tumbled gracefully back into the ocean.

Success! I cavorted and frolicked like a mermaid – a mermaid with a spectacularly greasy ‘tache – but a mermaid nevertheless. At last I was able to properly enjoy myself. Before too long though the claxon sounded, signaling our return to shore.

What felt like several weeks later we eventually reached dry, huggable, sensuous, dependable land. That evening, to celebrate we ordered a delicious fish supper ah ha ha HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAHHH. Not really, I think I had pasta.

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