The next day, we had a plan. After saying a short farewell to the two Irish girls, we drove down to Cylinder Beach, the most ‘friendly’ of the island’s beaches, off the road just before Point Lookout. It seemed an ideal place for a pair of sea-noobs like us to literally get our feet wet.
I am contradicted (as ever) in that I feel most naturally comfortable and in my element on the deck of a ship, yet I cannot swim to save my life (unless my life can be recovered in less than a minute, because my treading water endurance is on par with my deep space endurance). I am also entirely untrustworthy of the unknown element of the ocean. A particularly unkind observer might declare that I am basically afraid of sharks. But this isn’t quite fair. It’s the Jellyfish that I don’t like.
Anyway, I digress. I only wish to point out that me touching the water wasn’t out of the question, I was just never that enthusiastic on going properly into it. Yet something that day made me change my mind. Perhaps because I hate passing up on things due to negligible, silly worries and risks; it would be most uncharacteristic for me to do so. Whatever it was, we both waded into the crashing waves. I didn’t expect to regret it, and indeed I didn’t; it was immensely enjoyable. The sea was cold; reflecting the time of year more than the weather of the day (which was roasting). But it was welcome and refreshing, bobbing up and down with the waves.
We’re in Cleveland; it’s just past 8pm and we’re a few metres from the waters edge. The black liquid laps against the quiet moonlit shore as a large metallic bridge is lowered, and the cars all drive down the concrete toward the sea, then up onto the car ferry waiting to take them to North Stradbroke Island.
On the morning of Sunday 2nd October, we were up bright, early and excited. For the first time we would see one of the planet’s great wonders, one of the largest animals alive today: Humpback Whales, or Megaptera novaeangliae. Heading up the coast a few dozen kilometres to Redcliffe, we arrived to find the car park we’d been advised to use had a market on top of it. Still, we had an hour to kill, so we took a look around and it turned out it was rather a good market, where Lucy picked up a pair of Happy Pants. Everyone needs a pair of Happy Pants! Anyway.
The boat that took us out from Redcliffe jetty was a catamaran called Eye Spy. And I know that modern catamarans are fast, but- well, that doesn’t prepare you for being on one. If you’ve ridden a fast ferry or such recently you’ll know what I mean. It’s like a speedboat the size of a restaurant. Once underway, we headed outside the cabin to the open deck, enjoying the placid speed as the fairly strong wind was with us so it hardly felt like there was a wind at all.
Suddenly the boat’s engine went quiet and we slowed to a bobbing halt. I could have sworn I heard the sound of whale song at that moment; sure enough, they’d begun playing whalesong through the loudspeakers (that were used to communicate narration by the resident expert on the Humpbacks: Captain Kerry Lopez). Playing the sounds on the speakers while catching the first glimpse of the slick black forms breaking the surface might sound like a bit of a smoke & mirrors trick, but the effect was charmingly completing.