Monday, 2 November 2009

Cairns to Tokyo

We continued on our way up the east coast with a trip to Magnetic Island, where we were booked in to take our PADI Open Water diving course. Unfortunately our hostel had other ideas, neglecting to reserve us a place on the course. After a few choice words from us and several hasty phone calls from them, we found ourselves booked on an alternative course and upgraded to a $100 a night sea view lodge. Alls well that ends well.

The course itself was pretty dull stuff, with time split between the classroom, swimming pool and ocean. Obviously your time in the ocean - the “diving” part of the diving course - is supposed to be what all the fuss is about. Unfortunately, due to high winds stirring up the sea bed (check out the diving knowledge..), the visibility was terrible and made the experience akin to diving in a muddy puddle. Over 3 days and 4 dives I saw 1 fish and even that was brown. Disappointing.

Putting this behind us, we duly did our homework and passed our final “exam”, (unsure if anything multiple choice should really be termed an exam) thus graduating from scuba school and walking out as qualified “Open Water Divers”. This essentially means we can go diving on our own (like proper grown ups) and further, tell you how much nitrogen we have in our blood when we come back. Exciting stuff.

Diving certificates in hand we left Magnetic and caught our final greyhound to Cairns. We arrived in Cairns in the evening and booked ourselves on a dive on the Great Barrier Reef for the following day...

I found much of Australia to be a bit average, not bad, just nothing special. The Reef was the exception to this. Everyone’s seen pictures of the Reef and it was just like I imagined it to be, with life and colour everywhere. We saw countless fish of every shape and size and even a reef shark (above, not my picture!). Add in the freedom and excitement of diving on your own for the first time and scuba on the reef was easily my highlight of Australia. Genuinely something “special”.

The next day we flew to Tokyo to begin the final leg of our trip. A few days round Tokyo (lots of neon, subway trains and raw fish) later and we are up to date.

We start 14 days of rail travel tomorrow before popping back to Tokyo for out flight home. Suddenly going very quickly...


- No space at the Inn – upon turning up at our hostel in Tokyo: “Sorry sir the 8-bed dorm beds you reserved are fully booked...therefore we’ve put you in two en-suite single rooms. We hope this is ok?”.

Ok? Yes. Yes it is.

- Easy exam – the diving exam is not the most difficult in the world, for example:

Question 11 - You see a large and potentially dangerous marine animal. You should:

a) AGREESIVELY swim towards the animal, preferably shaking your fists

b) REMOVE your BREATHING APPERATUS and play dead on the ocean floor

c) STAB your buddy, thereby drawing attention away from yourself

d) Calmly and slowly swim away from the animal

I’m paraphrasing a little, but you get the idea.

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