One to Grow On

January 22, 2010

A Day on the Reef

Filed under: Uncategorized — midway2go @ 7:21 pm


David Foster Wallace wrote a novella called A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. The thing was a seven day Caribbean cruise, and I think it’s both brialliant and unfair that he thought of that title and that I can’t use it. My Supposedly Fun Thing would be the cruise that Rory and Nora and I took out to the Great Barrier Reef. And I would do something like it again. In fact, I’m making plans to, now, once we get to Asia, only I’m hoping the same thing will work out quite differently.    

I’d been looking forward to the Reef since the day I started planning this trip. I mean, it’s one of the big things out there. The Great Wall of China, Macchu Picchu, the Great Barrier Reef. It is the largest living thing on the planet, so big that they’re not exactly sure juist how big it is. The estimates vary by 700 kilometers. That’s the variance, not the lenghth. It’s roughly the size of Kansas, and, having driven across that state three times, back and forth, I can vouch that that is huge. This was a huge experience, though, that I couldn’t wait to share with my kids.    

My original idea was a little fuzzy. In my mind’s eye, I saw us gliding across tourquiose seas on a fetching sloop. Holding hands we would leap, laughing, into crystal clear water. To our delight rainbow fish would flit below us, maybe we’d catch thrilling sight of a distant and harmless shark. Back on the boat we’d have a lovely dinner, them sleep on the deck in hammocks.    

I’m sure that that dream is attainable. I mean, most things in the travel industry are, given perfect timing and endless money. And it’s a lovely dream. Our reality was limited by the season (jellyfish and bluebottles galore) and Nora’s absolute refusal to get in the water. We ended up on a huge ship that docked at a permanet pontoon out on the reef. They offered a glass bottom boat, trips on a semi-submersed boat with great views onto the Reef, and a Kid’s Club that made childfree snorkling possible. Sounded, if not romantic, practical.    

The trip out to the reef was 90 minutes in the roughest seas they’ll sail in. We were surrounded by a boatload of people violently seasick. We three were okay, but Rory very nearly succumbed to what I’ll call Sympathetic Vomiting. What made it a little funnier was that a lot of our shipmates appeared to be a group of Japanese business men, and the few of them not sick took great, boisterous delight in crowing out each time another puked. Some spectator sport.    

Finally we docked at the pontoon, and Nora cheerfully stayed with the Kids’ Club hostess (i.e. babysitter) while Rory and I got gussied up in our Stinger Suits. These beauties looked like something Edna Moultz would unleash on the waters. We were encased in lycra, from our hooded heads to our stirruped feet. Even our hands were protected in mittens. Only our faces would be exposed, and of that eyes and noses would be covered by the snorkle mask. We were feeling pretty confident as we hopped into the water. Rory and I held hands and skimmed the water like champs. Below us fish of every color darted around. The reef itself is mostly shades of brown, but the colors of the fish jump out at you.  We came in to get ready to take our guided tour. We found the guide, Ted, rinsing his mouth out, lips swollen and eyes popping. Turns out he had been floating upright, explaining to the last group of snorklers just what they were looking at, when he got a bluebottle in his mouth. Let me repeat that: a toxic, painfully-stinging portugese man-of-war swam in the man’s mouth, and he nearly swallowed it. And here he was, preparing to go back in with us. Hmmm…   

So, in we went. Ted led us around the pontoon, and it was wonderful. He pointed out clownfish hiding in an anemonae. He dove down and scared a giant clam into closing. He led us just over the drop off so we could appreciate the safety of the reef. A sea turtle swam right by, and Rory followed it and watched as it came up to the surface to breathe. I kept squeezing Rory’s hand, hoping to share my excitement and my wonder and my deep desire that he stay closer to meand not swim off alone chasing huge sea creatures.    

We were following Ted back to the boat to see something else when Rory started screaming. He came up out of the water in a total panic. I grabbed his arm and steered him over to the side of the boat, where we were met by life guards with vinegar. He’d swum right through a bluebottle, and the tentacles were clinging to the hood of the stinger suit when I went to take it off him. He had a red slash across his chin where a tentacle crossed his face. Poor Rory. He’s never one to keep it to himself when he’s hurt, and he must have carried on for twenty minutes. I brushed the tentacles with my mittened hand while helping him out of his suit, then touched my own skin with the mitten, and even that was enough to feel hot and prickly and uncomfortable. Poor little guy. Nora took his hand and led him down some steps to a glassed in viewing room.    

Rory cheered up immediately, and Nora felt deeply justified in not going in the water.    


1 Comment »

  1. Hey There Chrislyn, Laura here. Was just wondering if the boat you took out to the reef was called Quiksilver?? Because your reef experience sounds alot like the one that we took when we went to there in 2008… anyway, lots of love and best wishes, Laura xx

    Comment by Laura — February 1, 2010 @ 1:20 am

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