The end of the year is approaching and the ever-stormy North East Australian monsoon season begins.
Amidst tropical showers and a blazing sun, Cairns remains hyperactive, served by a battalion of young men aussies, Europeans and other parts of the world who flock to the Queensland Top End, attracted by the possibility of combining income with little or no taxes with undisputed entertainment.
Strategically parked teenage pedestrians hand out flyers from guest houses and bars that foist wild parties.
They also suggest a panoply of inexpensive radical activities – of which free fall jumps stand out –, the most likely reason why we see so many teenagers with limbs in plaster when we walk the streets. But they also offer us more peaceful walks around the city's land and sea surroundings.
"no worries mate”. The insecure employee at the Tourism information desk repeats the national expression ozzie-porreirista but doesn't explain it to us any further.
Every reef, island or cay it proves a potential snorkeling or diving tour. Undecided by the profusion of more compartmentalized leaflets and brochures, customers swarm and leave the employee in trouble.
We had already explored a substantial part of the Great Dividing Range tropical jungle and we counted on devoting ourselves, however, to the exotic plateau of the Atherton Tablelands. But this Christmas Eve, the day remained as sunny as it had dawned.
Far from the cosiness of home or the festive company of families, we decided to treat ourselves to a day of pure delight off North Queensland, in an unlikely corner of the Great Barrier Reef.
Boarding towards the Great Barrier Reef
It's just after nine when we arrive at Cairns dock and board the Ocean Spirit, an impressive and welcoming catamaran. The expected passengers arrive a little later on board and the vessel sets sail for the east. We noticed that they hold us with the honor of a small Portuguese flag, side by side with the Spanish, Japanese and several others.
We settle on the hammock deck already packed with laid-back vacationers and soak up the sun, hot wind, iodine and unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean.
Other vessels had set sail simultaneously for Trinity Bay and different parts of the Great Barrier Reef.
The biggest barrier to the face of the Earth. Or rather, submerged in it
An insignificant segment of an ecosystem that stretches 2.600 km off the coast of Queensland and occupies an area so vast that it can be detected from space and is appreciated with relative clarity from the 11.000 meters that airplanes normally fly awaited us. commercials.
That natural structure is made up of billions of coral polyps. These, in turn, form around 2900 individual reefs to which 900 islands are added, many of them sandy.
Having almost navigated the 20 km route and having heard an endless environmentalist briefing, we were about to dock at Michaelmas Cay, a sand island only slightly elevated from the water that sheltered undergrowth permanently fertilized by the flocks of birds that colonized it and surrounded by abundant reefs. coral.
The Short Invasion of the Ilhéu das Gaivinas
The islet is part of a larger area declared a national park by the Queensland authorities. It was kept under the protection of a rope fence that delimited the tiny area of beach that we could enjoy.
Ocean Spirit crews rush to overflow passengers. On land, we settled side by side with countless orange-billed terns tousled by the wind and with the shrill and strangely aromatic nuclei of other seabirds.
The Inevitable Diving and Snorkeling
“Dive guys, come on,” warns Craig, a semi-equipped crew member with a heavy northern Australian accent. “Snorkeling ones are next!”
We don Lycra suits, join the second group and enjoy gliding among lush brain corals, frenzied shoals of barracudas and other fish that are less fast and stealthy but, to compensate, far more colorful.
We are not drunk on rum nor do we hallucinate but we long for the sight of the transforming sirens that once drove sailors mad.
Probably intimidated by human invasion, not one of the sea cows that inhabit the bottom of those seas deigned to appear.
On the way back to the beach, we split into shifts and get into a mini-submersible.
that way something julienne and investigated over and over again by intrigued fish, we continue to explore the shallow depths of the Pacific Ocean.
Until the time for the next shift approaches and we have to return to the surface.
Some younger and irreverent passengers are getting ready to rebel and return to snorkeling without the proper attire, in an area different from the one traveled before.
Bandu, an austere Malaysian-looking crew helper, is ready to contain them. “Friends, you seriously want to do this?
You weren't aware of the briefing, right? So we didn't tell you that this sea is full of stingers (sea wasps). So far, we haven't detected much but they could get here with the current at any time.
If they get caught with one, they will be in big trouble. To return to the choirs, you really have to wear the lycra and, please, stay in the area we indicated a moment ago.”
We had participated in two underwater incursions. The first, long, largely countercurrent and laboriously self-moving, left us exhausted.
We decided to return to the beach and the surroundings of the dividing rope. We went back to charging batteries in the sun, now in the company of dozens of dark terns that used the suspended wire as a landing.
The Almost Forgotten Christmas Celebration
A couple of Australian friends next door had been doing the same for some time. Eager for more fun, they get up and move to the water.
There, with the turquoise ocean palette as a background, tanned and only in a bathing suit, they put on Christmas caps and practice creative poses while a third aussie photographs them.
“Ah!!! You can come to me at will with stories of snow, fireplaces, reindeer and goblins! exclaims one of them effusively. "Tell us if there's a better Christmas than ours there."
At that precise moment, far away from family, tradition and sweets but caressed by the tropical heat, we felt enchanted by the gentle unwinding of the Pacific over the island and the obligation to agree.