12.07.2014

Gale

I generally consider myself lucky to be a sound sleeper, particularly when I have a comfotable bed, my earplugs are in, and I have remembered to take a capsule of herbal sleep aid before retiring. But it can be a bit of an Achilles Heel, though not a serious one.

The past two days of paradisical weather on the coral reef resort of Heron Island had the curtain closed on them when thunderstorms and subsequent dreary weather rolled through during the night. Perhaps due to my extremely energetic day yesterday, I slumbered obliviously through the thunder, lightning, and power outages on the island, and only became aware of the deteriorating conditions when I woke of my own diurnal accord about 7:30 AM.

I discovered that the wet clothes I had secured on the railing of the balcony of my second floor bungalow room, to dry in what had been a delicious off shore breeze last night, were now even wetter and cast about on the balcony deck intermingled with leaves from nearby trees which the developing gale had delivered some time in the hours after midnight and residual wet sand I had no doubt tracked in after yesterday's beachcombing for gravid sea turtles.

I am not resentful that the poor weather has offered a respite from the usual island activities of snorkeling on the reefs and wandering the beaches. We accomplished much during our first two days here and perhaps a day of languid torpor is needed to mentally process all we have experienced on Heron Island, and indeed all of this ridiculously awesome holiday vacation.

Working backwards, I have snorkeled on the reef surrounding Heron Island several times and seen numerous corals, fish, sharks, rays, and even sea turtles. Although I would like to get in the water and snorkel an area known as the Gantry, not far from where I am sitting now, under the awning of the resort bar, it would not be the end of the world if I didn't get to, even though it is indicated for optimal reef viewing today. We do not leave until early afternoon tomorrow, which leaves the second half of today and the first part of tomorrow to look for Gantry scoping opportunities. The weather may very well clear up and blow off this afternoon and the optimal time for snorkeling is between low and high tide, from perhaps 4 to 6 PM. As long as it's not pouring rain, I may very well force myself out of my comfort zone and into the water. The skies are already looking promising, with most of the dark clouds moving off to what I think is the northwest.

Notwithstanding the rain this morning, we all took a tour of the reef in a "semi-submersible," which is essentially a glass bottomed boat. We were below deck, so the gale that came up while we were out there did not affect us that much. The people who were seated beneath the open hatches to the main deck got a bit of a sprinkling, but it wasn't egregious. Only when we emerged from the bowels of the boat into the thick of the wind and rain was it mildly uncomfortable. We hurried to the front of the dock where there was a large covered hexagonal shelter.

My mom got a minor cut on her leg descending the metal stairs in the glass-bottomed boat and after we returned to shore, we went to the island first aid station for a bandage. However, the island nurse was out for the day, contrary to the hours posted on her office door. So a staff member from the dive shop handled the minor first aid duties.

Prior to the moist boat trip was a moist breakfast in the resort restaurant. We are on a "Bed and Breakfast" package, which means we get an all you can eat breakfast buffet each morning. Given the overpriced food here, I tend to fully engorge myself at breakfast so I can skip lunch and have an inexpensive dinner and a couple beers.

Yesterday, Carl exercised his "Happy Hour Somewhere" coupon that is provided in each bungalow room, and invited me to have a drink on his happy hour tab. Basically, you fill out the coupon and your hour starts when you hand it in at the bar. It's not really much of a cost savings when a pint of beer is an overpriced $10 AUS, but its something. Today, I will exercise my happy hour coupon and return the favor to Carl.

The past two days are easily summarized as warm sunshine, reef snorkeling, dusk turtle watching (as female sea turtles lumber up the beach to dig nests and lay eggs), and generally relaxing. The only exception was the tour of the University of Queensland research station that is on the island. It concluded with a "touch tank" of reef creatures, principally starfish and sea cucumbers. There is a type of sea cucumber that looks exactly like a bratwurst grilled on one side. Probably, it does not taste that way, but interesting nonetheless.

As the conclusion of this post draws near, it is pretty much full low tide on the reef, too shallow for snorkeling, though one can wade around looking for stuff. In a couple hours though, the tide should be significantly in to begin a marathon of snorkeling, weather permitting.

My family is taking full advantage of today's less than optimal weather to rest up. My parents are napping right now. It seems like no matter how much they nap, they are never fully rested. I am not sure why I am the one in this family who seems to have unlimited energy and speed. I tend to outpace my parents, sister, and Carl, and keep pace with my nine year old twin niece and nephew.

I have a dearth of pictures from the Heron Island leg of this trip for a couple of reasons. The main foci of this island is reef snorkeling and dusk turtle watching. I cannot take my smart phone under water and there is insufficient light at dusk when the sea turtles leave the sea to begin their arduous crawl up the beach. I did manage to trick my phone into capturing a few shots of last night's gloriously moonlit sea view. See attached.

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