Sydney & Scuba

Hey all! Sorry for missing last Friday, I was waiting on photos, which I think was totally worthwhile. I wrote this while riding the train from Cairns to Proserpine on Friday. Hope you enjoy the writing and the photos! 

Man, I needed the last week. I spent 6 days straight in the near constant presence of the wonderful Hanna and it wasn’t until she left that I realized- I wasn’t exhausted. I barely had a minute to myself and yet the continual interaction with another human didn’t tire me out, rather, it energized me. I forgot what it felt like to be around someone I am 100% comfortable with, someone I don’t have to ever act around or worry about judgement.

And beyond the comfortable companionship, Hanna and I had a blast. Last Saturday we went to a Koala Sanctuary. It was more of a small zoo that focused research on finding cures for koalas with chlamydia. But it had a range of native Australian animals- kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies, birds, emus, dingoes. For all that I don’t really like zoos, we had a good time wandering around the property.

We spent a LOT of time talking to the Cockatoo. It may only say one phrase, but like Groot, the one phrase has many meanings 😀

Afterwards we met up with Alex and his friends at a wine tasting. We all tried several wines and then Alex, Hanna, and I headed to a bar that sold local and imported craft beers. Hanna’s goal was to try something local so she and Alex went halfsies on 3 beers. Not being much of a beer person and happy with the wine I drank earlier, I sipped each of their beers but otherwise just ate.

Alex introduced us to the magic that is a Snack Pack. French fries with thinly sliced gyro meat, cheese, and 3 sauces. We ordered two to try different sauce combinations- one with barbecue, chili, and garlic (know locally as The Holy Trinity) and one with garlic, hummus, and mayo. We walked back to Alex’s, passing around the snack packs, doing our best not to spill sauce on our shirts. I think we went to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour that night, but the three of us just aren’t good at ending conversations. One of us always has more to say and then the other two get sucked back in.

Sunday Hanna and I wandered around the Sydney Opera House and the Art Gallery of North South Wales. We took the obligatory photos of the opera house and bridge . At the museum we focused on the gallery featuring Aboriginal art. For those of you who don’t know much about the relationship between Aboriginal people and the Australian government, it’s pretty awful. I highly recommend you research it, it’s hard to describe just how terribly the native peoples were treated. Slaughter, kidnapping, forced assimilation… And to top it off, these atrocities are swept under the rug in this “No worries” country.

The gallery celebrated Aboriginal culture and brought to light the discrepancy between “white” Australia and everyone else. Art has power folks, go visit a museum.

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This was a giant poster displayed in the museum. Powerful, yes?

Sunday afternoon Hanna and I flew to Cairns, a city in northern Queensland. Early Monday morning we were picked up at our hostel and taken to the marina where we hopped on a boat and waved goodbye to land. We then proceeded to spend three days and two nights out on the water. We were scuba diving- eleven dives total for this trip. And we LOVED IT. The whole experience was better than we expected. Our room was bigger than we thought it would be, the showers on the boat had hot water, and staff was super professional, the food was delicious, there were multiple places to hang out between dives, we met some super cool travelers… I could go on. And there’s a reason they call it The Great Barrier Reef. It’s pretty neat, to say the least.

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We were greeted with cake when we got on our liveaboard. Photo credit: Hanna

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Our room! More spacious than we expected on a boat. Photo credit: Hanna

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Hanna as a majestic sea goddess (I mean, look at that hair!) Photo credit: Megan, edited by Hanna

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Photo credit: Hanna

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Shark! Photo credit: Hanna

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Swimming with turtles 🙂 Photo credit: Hanna

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Sunrise dive 😀 Photo credit: Hanna

Two of the locations we went to had the coolest geography (not sure I’m using the right word, but I use it to mean the shapes, caverns, and caves created by the coral). There were canyons, tall pinnacles, small windows into huge caverns… Hanna and I felt like we were peeking into Ariel’s world.

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Photo credit: Hanna

Of course, every now and then the topic of climate change would come up. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a a big problem with coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef (see here and here). There is even talk of bleaching events happening so frequently that recovery is impossible and the coral may soon die, causing a chain reaction accefting the entire ecosystem the coral supports. So there was a lot of “yeah, we’ll be able to tell our grandkids about how we dived the GBR before it died.” And then to see the news coming out of the States about reducing national monuments and EPA regulations… It’s just disheartening. Unless NASA figures out real quick how we can get to and then live on another planet, we have but one earth. And our actions are destroying it. Climate Change is real folks, pollution has victims. To quote a meme, there is no Planet B.

But enough politics (for now), here’s some more cool photos of the GBR.

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Photo credit: Hanna

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Before each dive we would attend a briefing led by one of the staff. They would give us suggestions on places to go, cool things to see, and how to best navigate the reef. Photo credit: Hanna

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Photo credit: Megan, edited by Hanna

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Underwater selfie ❤ Photo credit: Hanna

We made a lot of new friends on the dive boat. Mostly, Hanna and I went diving just the two of us. But twice on of our new friends joined us. Hanna and I both learned a lot from these experiences about the importance of discussing communication and leadership expectations before the dive so we’re all on the same page once under water. She and I fell into a rhythm pretty quickly with just the two of us (I mean, we’ve know each other so long and have over a decade of trust built up) and adding another person to our team definitely shook things up. Not in a bad way, in fact, we both really enjoyed the challenge. But it was a really good learning experience.

While Hanna and I very much enjoyed all the diving (and learned a lot from doing so many dives so close together), we both agreed that it would have been nice to have a bit more variety. Since I’m new to diving, I had been just finding the cheapest or easiest option, no real looking into what the best place would be, what specific qualities of different reefs may interest me. I figured, as a newbie, everything was interesting. And I was right. Everything has been fascinating. But now I’ve seen enough that in the future I want to be more particular. I want to start planning dive trips around what I want to see, like whale migrations. I also think I would like to find a liveaboard trip that involves some island hopping. Not sure if this exists, so let me know if you have any suggestions!

We eventually returned to land Wednesday evening. We went out to dinner with some of the folks we met diving but everyone called an early night- ends up constant scuba diving is exhausting.

Thursday Hanna and I wandered around Cairns and into another art gallery that just happened to have free admittance that day. This one had an interesting show exploring the experience of the Italian immigrant in the 1950s. Francesca Rosa, the artist, was inspired by her father’s life and the possessions he left behind. There were two very interesting pieces- one that put pictures of Renaissance portraits next to the photos of the male Italian immigrants who came to work in the sugar cane fields and one that put photos the artist took on a family vacation to Italy next to racial slurs and other insults pointed towards Italians. Australia has a pretty racist history guys. Actually, they have a pretty racist present. But I said enough politics soooooooo moving on!

Sadly Hanna had to catch a plane Thursday afternoon. We kept stalling, talking in the hostel instead of calling an Uber and then a big long hug just before she left. It’s wonderful having best friends who like to travel. I’m so glad Hanna came to visit me on my adventures. She helped me find my center and ground my thoughts. And in two months I’ll see her (and all my other loves back home) again.

Well, right now I’m on a train travelling towards Brisbane. I’m getting off in Proserpine, where Alex will meet me at the train station and we will drive to an Airbnb we’re staying in for the weekend. Expect more pictures of ocean views 🙂

Thanks for reading xoxo

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