Up, packed, breakfast, on our coach Matilda and heading south from Cairns all before 6.30am. Ahead of us we had a 10 hour drive down the Bruce highway.
We broke up the drive with a couple of pit stops and to keep us amused on Matilda we watched Finding Nemo and talked about what fish we saw at the reef. Our driver Leigh had been taking pictures of everyone which he showed us later on the trip using a sideshow.
When we finally arrived at the port, we were introduced to our crew and we boarded the British Defender, a sail boat which was previously used for racing. We’d been told that the British Defender (or Defer for short) could tip to one side at a 45° angle when the sail was up. We were also prewarned that we would be asked to pitch in and help the crew seeing as there were only 3 of them and 25 of us.
After being allocated bunks and back up on deck for a health and safety discussion, we were asked to sit on the high side of the boat with our legs dangling over the side. On this occasion “high side” was to the right (starboard side) as the left (or port) side would be getting lower as the boat tips, making this the low side, or as our crew liked to call it “suicide”.
When we were all in position, the crew asked for 4 volunteers to help “grind the winches” to get the sail up. Fortunately for us girls, the lads volunteered and soon enough the boat had picked up speed and had tipped to one side. I have to say, I’d expected to be nervous and sea sick, but once I was on the Defer, leaning back at a 45° angle, wind through my hair and the Whitsundays ahead of us, it was hard to think of anything but how beautiful the sunset was.
We sailed for a couple of hours until we reached Hooks Passage in between the Whitsunday Islands, which would be where we would anchor for the night. Once the sail was down the crew went below to prepare dinner while we stayed on deck to watch the sunset.
We’d bought our own drink on board, so we cracked open a few cold ones and got to know our fellow tourers. After nachos, an epic dinner, and a few more ciders the music was turned up and we had ourselves a boat party under the stars.
Some of us braved it and camped out on deck, others headed below for decent night’s sleep. I lasted on deck until the early hours of the morning then I headed below to warm up.
Whitsundays > Long Island
The next morning once we were all awake, we had breakfast and were back on deck to grind winches ready to make our way to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island (the largest of the islands). This time I volunteered along with a couple of others to get the sail up. It was surprisingly fun! All be it a fair amount of upper body strength was required. towards the end, but we just about managed it despite the laughing hindering our efforts.
After a short sail, baby Defer took us ashore to a 10min walk to Whitehaven Beach. Although you’re put through your paces, it’s certainly worth the effort. The sand it almost pure silica, so not only is it as soft as flour under your toes, it doesn’t get hot and burn you while you walk.
A few of us headed straight out to the shallows to try and find ourselves some sting rays with the help of our tour leader Alan. We did spot one, as well as a couple of lemon sharks.
After some sting ray and shark watching I headed back to sunbathe and chill out admiring the place. It was like a tropical island paradise. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that comes close to how beautiful it was.
When our time was up we headed back to get on board the baby Defer, and have lunch aboard big Defer. After lunch (again epic considering its made in a tiny kitchen on a yacht) we made our way around the South side of the island for snorkeling and a chill on another beautiful beach.
When that was over, the Defer crew took us to Long Island which would be our home for the next couple of days. Another Island paradise!
We checked in to our beach view rooms, had a dip in the pool (with swim up bar!) Then headed back to the rooms to change for dinner before cocktails and karaoke. Great way to end the night!
After a buffet breakfast we headed to the pool to chill before Aqua Zumba. It was a good laugh and a good way to start the day.
After Aqua Zumba we hired a paddle boat to take us out into the bay which we good fun. We even plucked up the courage to give paddle boarding a go which also was a good laugh.
We had lunch at the bar and decided to kill some time before beach volleyball by going on a hike to explore the island using the many walking trails.
We decided to take the “Whitehaven Circuit” trail as we’d heard it was a beautiful walk. The trail took us along the bay through bush and rocks when we came across another beach, only visible as the tide was going out. This fairly ideal walk soon turned slightly more difficult (and eventually sinister) as one of the boys slipped on a rock wearing flip flops (or thongs to Aussies). Ok looking back now, we realise that most of us were in flip flops and after this first injury we were careful where we walked, but shortly afterwards another one of our group fell victim to a cut toe, which was shortly followed by a second cut to the toe on his other foot! By this point we were all doubting our ability to navigate a “pleasant walk” without the help of our leader Alan.
Of course things took another turn for the worse when we had a flip flop casualty! Safe to say everyone had lost it by this point. We were joking about how legs would have to be amputated if toes couldn’t be saved. So far most of the injuries were the guys and us girls remained unharmed. The guys started making up manly stories they could tell their grandkids on how they lost their toes (or legs) protecting us girls from Australian wildlife and deathly terrain. And so we renamed the walk “Death Alley, aka The Widowmaker”.
Despite all we’d been through, (apparent shark attacks and tiger wrestling) we ploughed on until we reached a large rock for us to climb on and have a group photo to prove we’d made it this far. Then as we couldn’t go much further (and the walk took longer than expected) we began the task of navigating our way back to the resort.
We made it back alive! Despite constantly reminding ourselves that we’d been warned multiple times that “everything in Australia is trying to kill us” we were all in a great mood after such a perilous and hilarious adventure. Time for beach volleyball!
After a packed day full of activities, we again showered and changed for dinner and trivia night in the bar. Unfortunately we didn’t win the quiz, but we played cards and were taught a new game “Blob”, followed by a game of “Who am I?” (Also known as 21 questions).