Two Whitehaven Beaches half the world apart

Two Whitehaven Beaches half the world apart

I first came to the Whitsundays in 2001. As I sailed around the islands it amazed me that so many of the islands, bays and beaches I was seeing on the charts were named after the places where I was born and grew up in the north of England, in the county of Cumbria (originally Cumberland).

While bent over the chart as Russ showed me how to work out the way we need to sail to avoid reefs and shallow ground I came across names such as (See full list at end of this post):

  • Calder
  • Carlisle
  • Dent
  • Derwent
  • Esk
  • Keswick
  • Penrith
  • Solway
  • St Bee’s
  • Whitehaven

Source: Bates, J. 1997. The Last Islands. 3rd Ed. Moorooka: Boolarong Press, p41

The last one on the list fascinated me the most. Whitehaven Beach is the jewel in the crown of the Whitsundays. It is a beach all the tourists to the region want to visit and justifiably so as it is spectacular. A 7km beach of white silica sand that squeaks when you walk on it and has the advantage of being cooler than most sandy beaches because it is so white. It was named the best eco-friendly beach in the world by CNN.com in 2010.

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2010/07/queensland-beach-named-worlds-best

Commander EP Bedwell of the SS Llewellyn came across the beach in 1879 and gave it its name. Named after a Whitehaven a town and port on the west coast of Cumberland, Cumbria. The town of Whitehaven also had a small beach so when I took Russell my husband back to meet my family in 2003 it was on my list to show Russell the original Whitehaven Beach. He was rather underwhelmed, to say the least. As you can see from the photos below the contrast couldn’t be greater.

© James T M Towil and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Source: https://www.thebeachguide.co.uk/north-west-england/cumbria/whitehaven.htm

When we are sailing in the Whitsundays we also like to take the chance to do the walk from Tongue Bay through the saddle of the headland to view Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet from the lookout.

Here is a short video of our most recent visit.

We usually anchor either in the inlet or off the beach as we like to enjoy the beach when the hordes of visitors that have come and gone all day via boats, ferries, jet skis and sea planes have left.

There is nothing nicer than having sundowner drinks with the beach to ourselves at the opposite end of the beach from where all the boats anchor for the night.

Time seems to slow down when it is just you and the local beach and marine life. It fascinates me to watch in the late afternoon around 4-5pm the stingrays hunting along the edge of the water chasing bait fish. As the bait fish jump in silver low arcs across the surface of the water the biggest jumpers often end up at the feet of the seagulls waiting along the shoreline for their appetisers to arrive. The soldier crabs come out of their sandy burrows and march in formation across the sand while the oystercatcher birds peck at the sand worms and feast on an occasional crab if they can get them before they can scuttle down the closet hole. A world, which at the human level and pace we live at, we are oblivious to. We need to slow down long enough to wait and watch for this other world to appear and enjoy being an observer of their routines and daily life for a short time.

 

Full List of Place Names in the Whitsundays named after locations in Cumbria

  • Allonby
  • Aspathria
  • Blackcombe
  • Calder
  • Carlisle
  • Cockermouth
  • Dent
  • Derwent – where I sailed
  • Egremont
  • Esk
  • Helvellyn
  • Hesket
  • Ireby
  • Keswick
  • Maryport
  • Penrith
  • Scawfell
  • Silloth
  • Skiddaw
  • Solway
  • St Bee’s
  • Workington
  • Whitehaven

Source: Bates, J. 1997. The Last Islands. 3rd Ed. Moorooka: Boolarong Press, p41

 

High and Dry

High and Dry

We could feel the grit when we ran our hands over her hull. The first indication that the barnacles were starting. Time to get high and dry. We don’t have anti-foul on the hull of our boat. The anti-foul keeps the barnacles off the bottom of a boat and without it we need to get her hull out of the water about every 10 days or less. This is because the air kills the barnacles if we have the boat completely out of the water for 24 hours. This was going to be the first time we were taking Tatui up on the sand. We were curious to see how she sat without water or a trailer and whether our bed for the night was going to be flat or with a severe lean to the left or right.

The Whitsundays where we are cruising can have up to a 3-metre tide difference so you need to pick your time carefully. Most essential is to check, double-check and triple check, then ask your crew to check that you have read the tide table correctly. Why so cautious? You must be sure that the tide the following day is higher than the tide you are bringing the boat up on. If you don’t you could be sitting high and dry admiring the view from the beach you have chosen for a month. Only then do the tide levels change and start to rise again. So, we checked, checked and checked again.

A fibreglass hull is unforgiving about small rocks that might be just under the surface of the sand. So, the first thing we did was to anchor the boat in about 2.5 metres of water then kayaked into the beach. We completed a thorough scout around the area that looked the flattest patch of sand, looking to see if it was clear of small coral debris and rocks. In Windy Bay, we were lucky to find a large area.

Once we were happy with the spot we lined up our chosen patch with something that would be out of the water to the right, left and in front of us so we knew where to head the boat as we came in with the tide. An area can look dramatically different once it is flooded with water.

We kayaked back to the boat, dozed in the sun in the cockpit and waited and waited. About 30 mins before high tide we made our move. We always move before high tide. This is so if we hit a higher area of sand and touch the bottom we will have a little more time to float off. The tide at that time has an inch or two more to rise and we can change our course and come into the beach at a different angle.

We headed into shore watching the depth on the GPS constantly so we knew when we need to lift the keel. In a bit further we checked the depth again then lifted the keel, in further still we lifted the rudders. Finally, we could see the ripples of the sand under us. We tilted the engine up. With everything up, we can still move in about 300mm of water. We continued until she nudged the sand and we stopped. Russ jumped into the knee-deep water and guided her in checking underneath for any stray rock, coral debris or tree branch until he was happy we are over a safe spot. Russ then laid out the anchor. We watched and waited as our boat slowly inched her way down as the tide receded.

It was a perfect touch down as we had no breeze. Other times when beaching our other boats, they have rocked and moved, the hull scraping on the sand. This time as she settled in crystal clear water and a sheltered bay we had a textbook landing. Best of all she was sitting up straight and didn’t tilt to one side once we boarded her. After a few rolly nights in the past week, it was bliss to sleep without a rocking boat under us.

The next day is when you cross all your fingers and toes to be sure all that checking has not been in vain. I sat in the cockpit about 2 hours before high tide and with a slight feeling of apprehension watched the water slowly, very slowly inch its way up the beach. Teasing us as it filled in to the left and the right but leaving our boat still high and dry on the sand. At last the water started approaching the rear of the boat. I kept glancing at my watch. It inched closer and closer until at last it filled in the sandy gaps around the boat. Will it be sufficient? Will enough water come our way to lift the boat in time before the tide turned? I held my breath as I thought I felt the very first small movement of the boat under me. I checked with Russ, ‘did you feel it’? ‘No, I don’t think so’ My apprehension returned. I watched the bow carefully. Is it moving? Maybe, maybe not. Yes, yes it definitely moved that time. Russ confirmed he had also felt it this time. We tried to rock the boat from side to side. No movement yet.

We continued to wait and watch. Slowly when you least expect it she starts to turn her bow towards the open water as if she is just as eager to get going. Russ jumped out of the boat and pulled in the long rope lying stretched out on the sand. Then he hauled in the heavy chain into the anchor well at the bow of the boat and finally stowed the anchor at the front. By this time, she had finally lifted from her nights resting place. We turned her bow out to sea started the motor and slowly inched away from the sand in the very shallow water and headed out for deep water. Russ tilted down the engine leg, a little further out the rudders went down and at last the keel was lowered and we are on our way.

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Rolling, rolling, rolling

As a way to travel sailing can be very disruptive to your sleep. Unlike sleeping on land, a boat at anchor is very rarely still. It moves sometimes to an alarming degree. This is not a problem so long as the anchor stays in place and you are just moving gently with the wind or tide in an arc around the anchor. However, if the wind should increase, sleeping with your head close to the side of the boat with waves slapping against the hull can deprive you of sleep very quickly. Now over the years, I have managed to keep out the worst of the noise by wearing ear plugs however ear plugs only block noise. What they can’t do is stop you from rolling from side to side. When the sea swell is relentless, sometimes without there being any wind at all, then you start to do the impression of a rolling pin trying to iron the bed sheets under you. This is worse if the boat is side on to the swell.

After the first two occasions it happened on this trip we had had enough of the sleepless nights. We had already tried sleeping across the boat so that the swell rocked us from head to toe rather than side to side but even that was often not sufficient to aid sleep.

After the second sleepless night, Russ being the extremely inventive man he is was determined to come up with a solution. He rigged up a ‘flopper stopper’. A piece of equipment to stop the boat rolling in the swell. The name is often used to describe the stabilisers put out each side of a boat often made from steel trays to keep the boat level at anchor.

We needed one that could be packed away easily in our small boat. Russ therefore fashioned ours from a heavy duty folding plastic drogue (a conical or funnel-shaped device with open ends, towed behind a boat to reduce speed or improve stability) which we already had on board, a weight from his diving belt and a rope attached to the end of our boom which is pushed out as far as it would go.

Voila! The drogue full of water slowed our spin around the anchor and the rolling motion of the boat. It doesn’t stop it completely but often by enough to allow us to sleep without an excessive rocking of the cradle.

 

 

Meeting the neighbours

Meeting the neighbours

Slow down, stop, wait and watch. When we only sail at 7 miles an hour max and most of the time less than that, especially when kayaking, we encounter our neighbours. The neighbours we have met over the last few days seem often just as curious about us as we are thrilled to meet them.

In one day we were lucky to meet five neighbours, four within 2.5 hours. See if you can guess their names from my descriptions. Answers are at the end of the post.

The first neighbour (1) approached to say hello while we were having breakfast. Gliding just under the surface of the water. We only noticed its approach by the large dark shadow and a very small fin breaking the waves above its back. Then a flash of white. A small triangular shape flicked up to the left, then another to the right. It zig zagged gracefully towards our anchored boat. A glistening black disc with those silver tips darting up one and then the other as it manoeuvred in long slow loops towards us. As it came closer I could see a tail moving with the zig zag motion of its body. It was unhurried and appeared curious as it moved closer and closer to the boat.

Suddenly a second neighbour (2) came in overhead. White belly with light mahogany coloured feathers on top. Its legs with talons on the ends stretched out ahead as if to land. It swooped over the surface of the water and its talons penetrated the surface, the bird’s head rigid with concentration. No luck this time his clawed feet had grasped nothing but air under the surface, not the fish he must have eyed up from 70m in the air. His flight curved and rose as he headed back to its eagle like perch in the tall pines at the edge of the shore.

Poof! A short sharp exhale of breath. Our third neighbour (3) had arrived. It was very shy so only made a brief appearance by way of a bob of a small head breaking the surface before it angled downwards and all we could see was its dark green and pale brown shell briefly on the surface, half a metre in diameter, before it disappeared beneath the ripples it had made.

Our fourth neighbour (4) we didn’t encounter until we went for a bush walk. It made its presence known by a faint rustle in the undergrowth beside the path. Its head swayed from side to side as its tongue darted in and out. It had the swaggering gait of a prize fighter, elbows out and talons slightly inward, swaying hips as it moved forward steadily and warily through the undergrowth of dried leaves and fallen eucalyptus trees intertwined with dead vines. It was a dark evergreen in colour with pale yellow irregular markings. As a result of this natural camouflage it wasn’t long before it had blended with its surroundings.

In 2.5 hours we had been fortunate to meet some of the iconic fauna of the Whitsundays. If we travel slowly enough we move at their pace and they are happy for us to take our time to take a look and for them to check us out.

Our next neighbour (5) came to see in during our afternoon paddle. The size of a shovel it was a dark shadow skimming under the surface of the water. No silver tips or small fin this time, just a glistening back of sand coloured mottled markings golden in places as the sunlight caught its back. It was moving in slow arcs in front of us and then turned and made a purposeful track towards us. This neighbour was definitely coming to check us out. It approached the kayak so close I could have touched it if I had stretched out far enough. It was projecting itself through the water with flicks of its long tail. I could clearly see the small white line of his mouth on the underside of his body. It lifted its head slightly to take a look then flicked its tail and shot off to continue its hunt for its next meal.

Another neighbour (6) we didn’t meet until the next day while drying the boat out on the sand. We had gone to bed with smooth pale coloured sand surrounding us. We woke to find something had been very busy during the night excavating the sand all around us. Small beads of sand encircled the whole area around the boat. As the sun warmed the sand they slowly emerged before marching across the sand in formation. Some in conga lines weaving towards the creek bed. Others were marching in circles with what appeared to be no destination in mind. These were very shy neighbours who would disappear in an instance in the myriad of holes they had dug. Ten pale yellow legs with brown knee pads and a glorious bright blue and white uniform on their backs. No amount of prolonged study of their movements could indicate their intention. On mass they looked like a carpet moving across the sand as if the sand was alive. It was mesmerising to watch.

I’m sure we will meet more neighbours during our travels but see if you have guessed the names of the ones we have met so far. As our neighbours are shy it is very difficult to get a good photo unless they are directly above or below the boat, I have therefore used stock images to illustrate this post or photos I have taken on previous occasions.

Our neighbours

Manta ray (1)

Stock Image

Osprey (2)

Stock Image

Turtle (3)

Stock Image

 

Goanna (Lace Monitor Lizard) (4)

Stock Image

Stingray (5)

Stock Image

Soldier Crabs (6)

 

 

The Race is on

The Race is on!

They came in to view about 100m to our right. A catamaran, who like us was steadily motoring until we both realised we were heading for the same anchorage and it was 4 o’clock. The race was on!

We increased our speed slightly, they increased theirs. We notched up ours again and were nosing in front of the imaginary line we had set between us and their bow. It must then have occurred to them ‘how is a little sailboat able to go faster than their 40 foot plus catamaran?’

Our little yacht is a little different and it takes a lot of people by surprise. Tatui is a hybrid boat, a Tattoo 26 (MacGregor) power sailer. This means as well as sails we have a 60hp motor on the back and can go nearly twice the speed of most sailboats, 16-17 knots to their 10 knots. We inched ahead of the cat but we still had to out-manoeuvre them in the anchorage if we were to bag a public mooring buoy for the night.

Tatui on the public mooring at Tongue Bay, Whitsundays

In the most popular bays in the Whitsundays there are public moorings to protect the reef. However, the system is a bit like parking spaces and parking meters. They are free but with a two-hour time limit. The times operate from 7am to 5pm. This means if you’re able to secure a mooring buoy by 3pm you can stay on it overnight. That’s why at 3pm there can be boats prowling an anchorage waiting to pounce as soon as a boat leaves a mooring. As many of the buoys are in deep bays if you don’t secure one for the night you often have to head back out to open waters and travel another hour or more to secure a good bay you can anchor in.

We could see there were many boats already moored in the anchorage. It was 4 o’clock not 3 o’clock so the likelihood of a free mooring was going to be very slim indeed. We started scanning the bay to spot a blue public mooring buoy among the white triangular ones that marked the edge of the reef. ‘Was that one over close to the beach?’, ‘not sure seems too close’. While scanning the anchorage we hastily looked back to the cat close behind us. As we were in front we knew they would be waiting for us to make a mistake. If we head to what we think is a buoy but isn’t it will leave them free to pick up one we may not have spotted. It was looking less likely that a buoy was free and feeling a little guilty for beating the cat (well only a little) we were starting to resign ourselves to another hour motoring to a new bay. Then to the left in the distance we saw a person making their way to the bow of their boat. Should we risk it and head there and miss out on any buoys coming free behind us. We could see another boat heading to the anchorage on the horizon. We have to decide quickly and make a move. We made our decision and headed left, the cat behind us headed right. Who would win?

Yes, we could see the person on the sloop bend over their bow, stretch down their arm and release the mooring. We made a beeline for their buoy and waved with gratitude as they slipped past us. Without any thought for anyone else we proceeded with our mooring pick up procedure. I grabbed the boat hook and headed for the bow. Lifted the boat hook up to shoulder height and used it to point in the direction of the large mooring rope attached to the buoy. When the rope was within reach of the boat hook up I stretched out as far as I dared, without toppling over the bow rail, to hook up the rope. I then brought the large loop of rope, swathed in a heavy-duty nylon sheath, under the bow rail and then hung on to it. This can take some effort if there is a strong tidal flow as the girth of the rope is larger than the span of my hand. Russ then made his way to the bow to join me to take the rope and secured it to the bow.

It was only after the buoy was securely restrained that I glanced over my shoulder to see how the cat had fared. I saw them moving through the anchorage looking forlornly for a free buoy. My guilt returned but hey we won the race! Then we saw another boat move off from a buoy. The cat swiftly turned and made it just in time before the boat on the horizon made it to the anchorage.

Even those in second place can be winners in the evening race for the buoys.

         

Sounds of the sea

Sounds of the sea

Ching, ching, tick tack, poof, crunch – When you sleep on a boat your hearing amplifies as you listen to sounds you don’t usually hear tucked up in a bed on land. You are especially vigilant for sounds that could mean you have to extract yourself from your cosy, warm cocoon of a bed. If you are lucky it might only be to silence the ‘ching, ching’ sound of a flapping rope against the mast. In some cases, a rope might be too tight and causes a very loud humming that reverberates through the hull into the cabin. There can as well be more sinister sounds of howling wind and a dragging chain scrapping across the coral.  A quick look at the map on the handheld GPS. It sits in a black nylon netted bag attached to the hull above our bed and lets us know if the sound we have heard means the anchor has dragged. If the boat hasn’t dragged far and the stern of the boat is facing out to sea we know we have time to get warm clothes on. However, if we know we are anchored close to shore, rocks or other boats we will leap up very quickly, often only time to grab a jacket even if we have little clothes on. I have on more than one occasion shivered in bare legs and arms with my jacket half on while starting the engine. Keeping an eye on Russ heading to the bow in the light beam of the torch I have under my chin because I have a hand on the wheel and another trying to get my hands in the sleeves wishing I was more organised when taking off my jacket to make sure the sleeves are not folded in on themselves. I then strain to hear Russ’s voice yelling instructions from the bow and once again I’m eternally grateful that we agreed many years ago on hand signals for such occasions.

A pointing hand to where I need to direct the boat as Russ hauls in the wet, often muddy chain and anchor and again when he directs me where to motor off to in the dark to set the anchor in a better spot. A flat hand waving left to right to tell me to put the engine in neutral to stop. A rotating hand with index finger out held at a 45 degree angle to tell me to reverse with the finger and hand speeding up to tell me to increase the engine revs. Happy when I see the ok signal of his index finger and thumb making a circle, to let me know that the anchor is set and I can switch off the engine and we can head back to bed.

Some sounds in the night are not clearly identifiable. An annoying ‘tick’ ‘tack’, ‘tick ‘tack’ as the boat gently rolls in the night but you can’t think what it might be. Russ on many occasions being the one to say that he’ll get up and take a look. This week he couldn’t find the source of the ‘tick’ ‘tack’ only for me to spot it the next morning. A tiny 2-inch size bottle of Ant-Rid solution in the open shelf under the stove, now sent in disgrace to the back of the shelf wedged in behind the box of plastic zip lock bags.

There are times however when you hear something very new. While sleeping a few nights ago I heard what I first thought was someone emptying buckets. As I became more awake I changed my mind to it being bait nets thrown to catch bait from a neighbouring boat thinking they were perhaps doing a spot of night fishing. I then heard the explosive exhale of breath. It sounds like air and water being forced out a small hole. Which of course it is. There are only 4 creatures I could think of that made that sound: a turtle, a dugong, a whale and a dolphin. While lying there listening to the splashes that were getting louder and seemed to now be encircling the boat I continued to hear not one but several “phoofs” of air intermittently. I started to go through the choices. Not a dugong they only eat sea grass, not a turtle they prefer jellyfish, not a whale, the exhale breaths are too frequent, then it struck me. I leapt out of bed and headed up the steps to the cockpit, dolphins!!! I adore dolphins. In the dim moonlight I could see the bait fish all around me leaping out of the water in schools 1-2metres wide. Five, six, seven of these circles of fish moving together one way and then the next before all leaping out of the water at the same time silver fish scales catching in the low light of the moon. They were clearly being herded but frustratingly I could only hear the frequent exhales of breath of the dolphins. Not once could I strain my eyes enough to make them out in the darkness. After 15 mins of listening to the battle going on around me I had to admit defeat. I would never spot the dolphins but what I lacked in sight I had made up with by a more acute sense of what I was hearing and had to be content with that.

Then comes a time when all you can do is stop and stare and revel in the luck that has come to you that day. While anchored at Shaw Island with 14 other boats a new mother decided the shallow anchorage no more than 7 metres deep would a good spot to nurse her new born and the best spot was right next to our little boat.

The whale was only about 50 metres from our boat, she lay there very still for up to an hour with only the occasional ‘phoof’ as she exhaled. We couldn’t see the calf during this time but when it popped it’s head up slightly we assumed it had been feeding, was finished and mum decided it was time to head off. She arched her back and slipped under the water as quietly as she had arrived.

CLICK THE PHOTO TO WATCH THE VIDEO

We often hear while cruising the softer shorter exhaled breaths of the turtles coming up for air but this week I had the chance to swim amongst them for only the second time in the 16 years I have lived in Australia. This occasion was even more special as I managed to get the encounter on video.

CLICK THE PHOTO TO WATCH THE VIDEO

Not only can you hear the turtle but also the sound of the coral reef fish munching on the coral around it.

Fish, turtles, dolphins, whales what an amazing week we have had to listen to and watching some of the most beautiful marine creatures in their environment from above and below the water.

Wrong fish for dinner

Wrong fish for dinner

Russ loves having a fishing line out the back of the boat when we are sailing along from anchorage to anchorage. I love his optimism about catching fish however sadly the reality is very different and we rarely get a bite on the line. Too often in the past, we have forgotten the lines are out. This can be a major problem if you forget when approaching an anchorage and put the engine in reverse. A tangled fishing line around the prop of a boat is a major problem. It usually leads to having to get into your wetsuit, snorkel and fins to dive under the boat to free the line from the prop that spins below the engine. Hence my often-voiced phrase, ‘Do we have to put the line out?’ or excuses such as ‘we aren’t far from the next anchorage’ and ‘there is a green zone area coming up soon’ (an area we are not allowed to fish in in order to protect fish stocks). Russ then reminds me (frequently!) of the time I asked him not to put a line out about 8 years ago. He said he was putting the line in for the last time that day and I should put it in as I might have better luck and catch a fish instead. Unbelievably 5 minutes later a 900mm long spotted mackerel was on the line and was a great feed for dinner for quite a few days. I can, however, count on one hand how many times we have caught a fish while under sail in 16 years. So, as I said I admire Russ unwavering optimism.

However, once we are at anchor it is a different story and often Russ will get nibbles at the bait on the end of his handline and catch some small reef fish that make a good accompaniment to that night’s dinner menu. On occasion, there have been some quite big fish on the line. The largest was a very, very large netted cod weighing an incredible 20kg plus.

Much to Russ’s bewilderment, I begged him to let the fish go. He was just too big and I thought he deserved to live being a grandfather of his species. As Russ knows I am a softy when it comes to animals and fish and because he loves me he agreed to let it go.

There are however some fish that are very much the wrong sort of fish for dinner. Like the one that decided to grab the bait on his line a few days ago.

Yes, you most probably guessed by the shape of the fish’s head. A baby hammerhead shark. No arguments from Russ this time this one was definitely going to be able to swim another day.

 

After Debbie

After Debbie

We knew that all the resorts in the Whitsundays were very badly affected by Cyclone Debbie that struck the area on 28 March 2017. Debbie was a category 4 cyclone with a peak wind gust of 263 km/h, the highest gust recorded in Queensland. Debbie slowed down to only 7 km/h as she crossed the coast which meant the Whitsundays area and surrounding towns had to endure very destructive winds near the cyclone’s core for many hours. A friend calculated it to be 29 hours of cyclonic strength winds. As a result, the devastation and damage was far more severe than if the cyclone had crossed the coast quickly.

Knowing all this and having seen the photos and videos of the damage on the internet of well-known resorts such as Hamilton Island, Daydream Island and Hayman we were very curious to see first-hand what the resorts and islands looked like 4 months after the cyclone.

So far, we have seen from our boat Daydream Resort, South Molle Island Resort, Long Island Resort and we stayed on Hamilton Island for a night to refuel and provision. South Molle by far has been the worst affected as it was an old resort. The island accepted it’s first tourists in 1937 and by 2016 it had accommodation for 186 guests. Russ was a barman at the resort briefly in the early 1970’s so was extremely interested in how the resort had faired as he remembered some of the buildings. Many had been added since he was there but Russ remembers that in the early 1970’s he was told then that doors in the main bar building hadn’t been closed for 30 years.

Approaching South Molle Island the destruction to the resort was clear from some distance away. The first thing we noticed was the palm trees, still erect but looking sadly exposed without their beautiful palm fronds that usually swayed in the breeze. They were now salt and wind damaged. Unable to hide the devastation behind them.

The destruction to the resort itself was extensive and irreparable from what we could see. A total redevelopment of the resort looks the only option to us.

     

The jetty was battered and bent but even amongst the devastation nature was still able to shine.

The sea was still an amazing aqua marine blue, the fish still darted and jumped among the coral, the sun still shone. Although the pandanus tree leaves were now brown they still did their best to sway in the breeze showing that no matter how much Mother Nature can destroy our man-made efforts to improve on her beauty the beauty that comes out of the earth still survives.

One little piggy

One Little Piggy

While standing in our friend Kym’s kitchen out of the corner of my eye, across the wooden veranda, I spotted the tail end of what I thought was a black dog streaking across the lawn. Kym looked and exclaimed “not a dog, a pig!”. Russ, Kym and I rushed out to see a wild black pig trotting towards the wood pile. Kym went inside to grab her camera. It’s not every day you see a wild black pig sauntering across your lawn and I mean sauntering. It was totally unperturbed by our exclamations from the veranda. He snuffled around the wood pile and then kicked up his back legs and headed off into the trees at the edge of the lawn.

Kym went down about an hour later to put food out on the edge of the lawn for the wild wallabies. She is feeding them so guests who come from all over the world to stay at her eco cabins can see wallabies and other native wildlife up close. What they don’t expect to see and neither did Kym is a bold, young wild black pig wandering on the lawn outside their cabin windows.

Feral Black Pig

Image Credit: Kym Daff

Kym ran up the steps and let us know the pig was back. It was pitch black now so we grabbed the cameras and a torch and headed back down to the lawn. Sure enough, there was the pig eating all the wallaby food. It knew we were there, looked directly at us but kept on eating anyway showing no fear. Kym was able to take lots of photos while I held the torch to illuminate him. When we had enough pictures we turned to go back up the steps. With Kym crying out behind me “don’t turn your back on him” I did just that. I swiftly headed up the steps with Kym close behind and both of us looking over our shoulders while Russ was heard laughing at the pair of us from the veranda above.

Night Intruder

Night Intruder

It was dark and about 3.30am when I woke with a start, heart thumping as I had heard a crash. I thought a lamp had fallen off the bedside table in our friend’s room next door. We were staying with our dear friend Kym for a few nights before we launched the boat for six weeks of cruising the Whitsunday Islands. I nudged Russ and he said he thought it was a plate falling from the draining board in the kitchen. As that sounded plausible I thought ‘nothing to worry about’. My heart rate had steadied and I was settling back to sleep when I heard Russ moving to get out of bed to investigate. He padded through to the kitchen and I heard a stifled laugh. I thought maybe a possum had got into the house and got up to take a look as I have a soft spot for possums. Peering around the corner cautiously I asked what had made the noise. I saw Russ waving a small broom in one hand and a black eco shopping bag in the other. His answer to my question ‘a python!’. He was trying to encourage the snake to climb into the bag by lining up the toaster, the kettle and a 10-litre water container to create a corridor to the bag. He was gently pushing the snake towards the bag with the broom. By this time Kym had heard us and joined in as we both encouraged Russ with, I’m not sure was helpful advice, such as ‘do you want a towel?’, ‘do you want another bag?’. Kym and I are both keen photographers so while Russ was being the brave one we grabbed our cameras and started taking pictures as we could both clearly see the distinct pattern on the snake to confirm it was a python and Russ was therefore unlikely to get bitten by a deadly snake.

The snake was not too keen on the ‘paparazzi’ and the attention so decided to head under the bag. After lifting the bag Russ popped a tea towel over the snake. As it stuck it’s head out from under the towel Russ was able to take a hold of it behind it’s head. We then saw the snake in all it’s glory – about 1.2m long. We followed Russ out onto the veranda and watched him relocate it in a nearby tree.

Image Credit: Kym Daff

Russ had a little task this morning, tightening all the springs on Kym’s swing doors that lead from the veranda into the house so the snake doesn’t decide to come back for another free night accommodation out of the cold.Do not try what Russ did unless you are very sure it is a python. Russ would not attempt to pick up any snake unless it was a python because their markings are so very distinct, as you can see from the photo. We treat all other snakes in Australia as ’deadly’ and will not attempt to catch or pick them up as you can’t tell the species by colour. What may look like a harmless green tree snake could be something way more dangerous.