Australia – conquering land, air, and sea. Part II

This is the second installation to a three part series. Please see the first part if you haven’t.

Day 4: Arlie Beach -> Cardwell, Cairns

Woke up bright and early to get ready for another long drive to Cairns.

As we left quite early in the morning, we managed to reach Cairns just before sunset.

After settling in at our AirBnB, we decided to go the night market just 10 mins drive away.

Hop, Skip, Swim, and Jump

After walking around, we decided to treat ourselves to a good meal, since there is only so much junk food we can take. We wanted to share a few entrees as none of us were brave enough to eat a whole piece of the more ‘exotic’ offerings. Wanting a more ‘wholesome(?)’ experience, we ordered Oysters, Seafood platter, and Hop Skip Swim and Jump, which was a platter of Kangaroo, Crocodile, Barramundi, and Emu meat.

For those of you who hasn’t tried these meat before, here’s a break down of the tastes (if I remembered correctly):

Kangaroo – unseasoned beef.

Crocodile – texture of chicken, but the taste of pork

Emu – texture of beef, taste of chicken

Seafood Platter

Day 5: Cairns

We were out early this morning as we were going to dive the Great Barrier Reef! This has been a dream of mine ever since I got my diving license. Of course, the dive was amazing with hardly any currents.

To be totally honest, I’ve done my research (as usual), and was freaking out as I realized it was Jellyfish season. Getting stung would totally suck as it would have f**ked up the rest of the trip.

Nonetheless, I kept this all at the back of my head and just go with it. We decided to dive with ProDive Cairns as recommended by a friend of mine.

The experience was totally different. I was certainly not expecting a dive boat with air-con and carpet flooring! Talk about lux!

So there is something I have to admit. I got totally seasick in between the first and second dive. I vomited so much and felt so queasy after, that I wanted to skip the second dive. But my man, he managed to persuade me into going for it anyway, and I’m glad he did.

 

Triggerfish

Stingray

Hawksbill Turtle

My man and one of our mates

Hellow there!

New Gull Coco mask that my dad got me

 

On the second dive, I had some difficulty clearing my mask. Not sure if it is because I had a new mask on, and wasn’t used to a low volume mask. I did the usual, flooding the mask and all, but the water in the mask just wouldn’t clear. I started to look for my man with my flooded mask, to try to ascend and clear it manually. Who knew, my man was busy taking photos of got knows what.

After swimming towards him (yes, with the water clogged mask), I dragged him up with me. We weren’t too deep (I hope), about 8m, so I just ascended as quickly as I can before finally clearing the damn water, and descending again. I didn’t really dare to clear my mask after, if it fogs, it fogs, which kinda hindered the experience.

By the third dive, I have put so much spit and anti-fogging solution that I didn’t have to clear it once!

After going back to land, we decided that we shall eat in that night to save some money. Eating out ain’t cheap in Aussieland man. So we found our way to Woolworths and bought a bunch of groceries.

The guys cook, the girl watch

Menu for the night: Pollo e Funghi Pomodoro della pasta (trying to sound fancy saying chicken and mushroom pasta in tomato), KFC,and grilled sausages

We had an early night as we had a 23 hours drive back to Cairns which all 3 drivers were dreading.

Day 6: Cairns -> Townsville, Campaspe, Coorada, Miles

The drivers all agreed to take a 6 hour rotation each and to take a different route from how we got to Cairns from Gold Coast. We were almost driving non-stop before our first stop at Townsville for lunch. Breakfast was just the leftovers from last night’s dinner (we had waaaay too much food. Note to self: 1 packet of pasta can cook more than 4 person’s share).

 

 

It was almost non-stop driving when we hit some Savanna-esque scenery. There were giant ant hills everywhere. It was quite a sight to behold, but don’t the farmers think it might be a problem? Anyway, half way through the journey, we had to make a stop as we saw camels!

 

 

Soon, it was night and we had to make a stop for dinner. As there was no towns anywhere near, we decided to just eat at a truckstop that serves microwaved food. To be fair, the food served was really quite good, but the price is what you will get at a cafe here in Singapore. Maybe the lack of civilization nearby is what drove the price up. It was also at this truckstop, that we found out that the new president of the US is now Donald Trump, which led to quite a heated conversation among the truckers.

After a food and toilet break, we were back on the road, and I was soon sleepy due to food coma. Suddenly, I felt the road getting bumpy and had to wake up. That was around 11PM already, and realised that we had went off-road!

I thought my man had taken a wrong turn, as throughout the journey from Gold Coast to Cairns, it had been the smooth roads of the expressway. I was certainly not expecting to go off-road. Thank God we had decided to rent an SUV or I would have no idea how we would have made it through the rough terrain. I then proceed to triple check the GPS, and indeed, we were on the right track! Being super paranoid, a million scenarios raced through my mind, including scenes from ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘Hills have Eyes’. I couldn’t wait to get off this road, but to my dismay, it was over 121km! I was truly thankful that my man had experience driving off-road. So people, if you decide to go on the same route as I did, be prepared.

From the other pictures, you guys should have known that we have an Indian friend, and it was also this friend that started making fun of the scenarios playing in my head, by saying that he might be the first to get murdered. Just when things cannot get any bumpier (pun intended), we found that we have only a half tank of gas left.

Thank heavens for Eco-mode for this vehicle, as I wouldn’t have want to guess what would happen if the gas tank went dry in this place. There was no cell signal as well (despite having wifi), so I couldn’t send my dad back home my location (I was really freakn’ out ok?). Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep at all until I was back unto smooth roads, with my eyes darting between the blackness outside, the counting down of kilometers on the GPS, and the gas tank.

 

 

By the time we got back on the main road, it was dawn. I don’t usually see the sunrise (not a morning person), so seeing the sunrise here, it was truly motivational.

The relief when we finally found a town with a petrol station!

 

Freezing morning in Miles

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the 3rd installment!

Signing off~

 

Khao Lak,Similans Islands LOB, Phuket

I’ve just gotten back from a holiday, and i’m suffering from terrible withdrawal symptoms. For some unknown reason, WordPress seemed to have changed their formatting. Can’t say that I’m digging it though.

Anyway, since this was planned this trip with a bunch of divers, its no doubt we will plan this trip centered around diving! Of course, me being a shutterbug, and my other girls being photographers, brace yourself for lotsa photos! This is also gonna be a reeeaalllyy long post.

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Advance Open Water 2015

I have put off blogging for so long, much thanks to my work and school work. Assignments this term seems to be never-ending and I’m actually trying to create a website for a company that I am setting up! Furthermore, school season has started and that means tuition has started too.

Anyway, I decided to take a weekend to do my much-awaited advance open water course. My dad wanted to join (yes, my dad’s a diver too), but due to some circumstances, he needed to stay home. So I decided to go ahead with my man.

Once again, I find myself back in Tioman Island, one of the few diving places where majority of Singapore’s diving schools go to for the open water assessment. I went with the same diving school as my open water course, Blue reef Scuba. Usually, the course is about SGD$489 (which is the cheapest thus far in Singapore), but I had to pay an extra $70 as the usual budget resort at Salang Beach was full. Well, it was $70 well spent. Nothing compares to a hot shower (with rain shower head), and international buffet meals after a day out at sea. The bed was really comfy with fluffy pillows and comforters.

The first night was relatively uneventful, other than the other 2 guys who were sharing rooms with us seemed unfriendly. After much awkward prying on my end, I found out that they were doing their Open Water with another 5 of their friends. I think they were a tad unhappy that they were bunking with us and not their homies. This changed throughout the course of course and soon the boys were talking about everything under the sun.

The PADI Advance course, personally, feels a lot like just 5 leisure dives, with maybe 2 dives that tested on your skills for about 5mins; namely Peak Performance Bouyancy and Underwater Navigation . Of course, it comes with a night dive as well, which I’ll talk more about in a while

For Peak Performance Bouyancy, you learn how to hover, using only your lungs and not your fins, like those pro underwater photographers. I had a slight trouble with this, since I am naturally positively buoyant (means i float). What was impressive was that our instructor, Ali, was able to do it so effortlessly. His body was vertical, and his fins were only about 5 inches off the seabed (like a ghost). Now, divers usually inhale to rise and exhale to sink, so it doesn’t exactly make sense as how he could be motionless! I tried doing it a couple of times myself and I found myself floating to the surface.

As for Underwater Navigation, *insert long heavy sigh*. In all honesty, when I was made to use the underwater compass, I was completely clueless on how to use it, even till date, even though we were briefed. Basically, you pair up with your buddy, one to use the compass and one to count the number of kick cycles and to tap your shoulder once the number of kick cycles is done, so that you can rotate to whatever direction you should facing next. Now, using the compass requires the diver to be able to do some Math underwater, just simple addition and minus. Everyone who knows me knows that I am hopeless at Math, so what makes them think I can do Math underwater when I already struggle with it on land?! Someone should seriously invent an underwater calculator already.

Naturally, I was paired up with my man. I was, unfortunately chosen to be the one using the compass and although the whole time my posture was of me looking at the compass, my mind was blank and my eyes were looking at the corals below me. I was totally dependent on my buddy to guide me since I gave up right at the start as I didn’t know which direction to face even from the beginning, even though I was suppose to be the one guiding him! Ha! Luckily, we were just told to dive in a square, and my man told me that he just estimated, coz he knows I wasn’t doing my job, to form that square. After this dive, the instructor told us that all our kick cycles were too small, and so our square was probably only 25m X 25m. It was only a few days ago, when I was relating my experience to my bff Bernie, that I found out that if we did it properly, meaning proper, big, kick cycles, we would not have been able to estimate and guess our bearings.

Now, for the night dive, people who have read my Bali post, knows that I have already done that before. So although the other potential advance divers were excited about it, I was really reluctant. The instructors were able to see through my hesitation and assured me that we will have dive torches and not like we were diving in total darkness, but when I told them what happened in Bali, they were more astonished that I did night diving before I even got an advance certification!

We entered from the boat, so it was kinda scary, like jumping into a dark abyss. Overall, history did not repeat itself (thankfully), and to be honest, there wasn’t anything much to see. A bunch of sea urchins peppered the sea floor, and nothing else. It got so boring at one point that I didn’t bother shining my torch anywhere else but in front of me, and hopefully a wandering fish might be caught in the stream of light. The instructors did made us kneel on the seabed in a circle and use our hands to fan the water to show the ‘sparks’ underwater. Not as impressive as Bali, but everyone else was still pretty amazed. If we ever did this on land, it might be a pretty funny sight!

We ended the course the next day with one last dive at Renggis Island. Once we got off the boat, the current was so strong, everyone had to hold on to a rope while waiting for the rest to get off the boat! Once we descended, we had to kinda fight the current. It was hard man. Homegirl was struggling her ass off, and eventually got so tired, I just gave up stopped finning to rest. Thank God, my man has a lot more experience than me fighting currents (since he is a certified life guard), he held unto my hand and just dragged me which I was more than happy to allow so. After the currents, we went with the current and went drift diving! Drift diving was so much fun as you really do not need to fin at all and the water just pushes you. Its like watching an underwater movie! We sighted 3 sea turtles ( I have an obsession with them ) and almost ran into a couple of Titan Triggerfishes.

Between my own and my other advance divers’ cameras, we rounded up thousands of pictures. Most of the pictures here are taken using my Nikon AW110. As there were so many, I decided to just choose a bunch of my favourite ones to upload here.

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This is a Moray eel, if you squinted hard enough.

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More sea turtles with a fish trying to catch all the attention

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This is me, on a threadmill, for probably the first and only time.

The amount of fishes here was indescribable, it looks like King Triton’s castle

This trip was amazing, not because of the Marine life, or that I am now officially an PADI Advanced diver, but because I met so many like-minded people and made so many great friends and of course, future dive buddies. Everyone, especially the advance divers bonded extremely well, we still kept in constant contact with each other and planning more holidays and dive trips together.

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Thank you Shirong, Sam, Mike, Kate and especially Ali our instructor for making this trip such a memorable one!

I also managed to curb seasickness! I feel so proud of myself, even though there were Open Water students puking around me. Even my man was surprised at how well I held up. So here’s a few tips that I used myself:

1) For some unknown reason, I couldn’t get any sleep on the bus ride to the jetty, which is about 4-5hrs away. Furthermore, we took a night bus. So once I got on the ferry, I conked out. Sleeping really helps, maybe that’s why a lot of sea sick medicines like Dropamine, makes one drowsy. If you are unable to sleep, maybe you can try popping the pills.

2) Keep away from oily stuff during breakfast. That means, no fried bacon or grilled sausages. For this trip, even though I had a whole buffet selection (at least 30 dishes) to choose from, I stuck to plain omelettes and plain cereal with milk. Try to get more carbohydrates to get energy as you will need loads for diving. Stay away from anything acidic like Orange Juice. Your stomach will thank you later.

3) Load up on the Gingers! Not asking you to eat ginger directly, but stocking up on packaged instant ginger tea will be nice. I brought a box with me on this trip, and just made the tea in a Thermos flask before leaving the room for the day. No idea why it works, but having hot ginger tea after a dive is probably one of the most satisfying and weirdly relaxing feeling in the world! Just the smell of it will make you feel instantly better. For people who are not so keen on Ginger, I’m pretty sure pharmacies do have Ginger pills which is touted to cures for sea sickness, not sure if it works though.

There are, of course, many other ways, from looking into the horizon, to drinking Coca Cola. Not sure if these work, since looking into the horizon doesn’t really work for me, and I’m not a fan of soda (just thinking of all that gas in your tummy while its churning, not exactly comforting). But who knows, what might not work for me, might just work for you.

Signing off~

PADI Open Water Certification 11-13 July 2014

What a start to the new year!

I wish I can charm you by saying how magical the new year has been with the champagnes and the parties that will make Katy Perry blush, but no, I have to fall gravely ill, sort of.  A fever that wouldn’t go away, a throat that itches and yet hurts with every cough, and a nose that can never decide if it wants to get stuck or start running. I shall not get into the off-putting description, but if you are interested……….

200

email me, and I will give you up to the tiniest detail. Nah, I’m joking.

(I’m serious, email me)

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