Great Barry’s Beef

source // YouTube

source // YouTube

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Cairns, Australia

No job, no car, and two flight tickets back to England – everything was now finally in place to say our goodbyes.

While the trip has come with a couple of clangers, it has been a superb experience. There is so much to see in this country. I put together a list in Taiwan of the things I wanted to do while in Australia. It went as follows –

  1. See the Sydney fireworks
  2. Drink a schooner
  3. Confuse drugs with sleeping bags
  4. Pick tomatoes for £3.16 an hour
  5. Get a job as a cocktail expert
  6. Sleep in a car
  7. Kill a bird
  8. Get turned down by MacDonald’s
  9. Sell a car for 500 quid
  10. Visit the Great Barrier Reef

1-9 of that list has been completed. All that was left to do was visit the Great Barrier Reef. While the Reef is probably the most iconic of the Australian experiences to grace my list of necessary accomplishments; it is apparently the hardest to pronounce – quite the tongue-twister for poor old Monica.

In Cairns, there are a lot of shops selling tours – so, we went into a few to compare prices and what would be offered. Monica kept confusing her words and asking the information desk about ‘Great Barry’s Beef’. One woman thought she was legitimately looking to find a Toby Carvery / Sunday Dinner – “I don’t know about a Great Barry’s Beef, but the Cock & Bull certainly do a nice lunch. If you take this card and say that ‘Jess from travel-with-us’ sent you, you’ll get 5% off. As you are here, perhaps I could also bombard you with twelve different snorkeling packages you should consider.”

We actually got rather lucky in the end. The person we sold our car to is a diving instructor and he got us a trip out to the reef for 50% off – there was a minor silver lining to that bit of business. A banger of a car in exchange for a cheaper trip to find Nemo. It’s basically a modern-day version of swapping a cow for some magic beans.

The boat that took us to the outer reef was pretty rocky – but I pre-gamed well this time. I took some of those motion sickness pills to save my face from turning green. All the greats have required something different when it came to completing the mission. Noah needed a boat-load of animals, Pi needed a tiger, and I needed motion sickness pills to finish my list of ten. They really did the job too, because I’m usually sick a hundred times whenever travelling the sea.

The snorkelling part was like being the little mermaid – but obviously the manlier geezer version. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any sharks or turtles – I swam out pretty far to try and find one, too. The problem with the ocean is that it just seems to keep going.

I stopped still for a moment, as I considered if I should go back to base or keep heading out in search of sea creatures. I looked towards the boat and the lifeguard was staring right back at me, while doing some kind of gesture – they told us all the important signals as we were heading to the reef, but I didn’t really pay attention. It was the first time I had ever travelled along the sea and not felt ill, I wanted to savour the experience – I stood on every section of the boat and observed the sea from every angle. If anybody ever offers you pills, you should take them – it was great, I was seeing all the things that I was always too sick to see before. I had no time to watch safety demonstrations.

Needless to say, I didn’t know what he wanted me to reply with. I raised one arm up and gave him a thumbs up – this resulted in him jumping in and swimming towards me. I was pretty sure at that point that I got the reply wrong.

I later learned that there are three gestures – I am ok, I need attention but nothing serious, and I’m in danger help me immediately. Raising one arm equates to the second one. I apologised and explained that I didn’t catch the important signals. I gave him a reason. I shared my fairy-tale story of being like a blind man that had suddenly been rewarded the gift of sight. He didn’t appear to appreciate my happy ending, and instead, just seemed annoyed that I didn’t pay attention. I guess miracle stories aren’t for everybody.

The same lifeguard actually prevented us from seeing heroes in a half-shell at the second site, too. He told everybody looking to see turtles to swim to the right as that is where they usually hang out – however, on that day they happened to be having a gathering over on the left side of town. So, everybody that swam left to see coral saw turtles (and coral, to be fair – that doesn’t move much) and everybody that swam right to see turtles saw coral. It was pretty beautiful coral though, so the joke was on him.

To be fair, he can’t really be certain of where the sea creatures are going to be – he just offered us his best educated guess. I forgave him for getting it wrong. I actually quite liked the guy – while he saw me as a time waster, I saw his potential. He was a man that showed his willingness to save my life when necessary. It’s good to associate with those kinds of people – if I ever start a gang, I’ll probably ask him to join.

After the third site, we were ready to head back to Cairns – I popped my pill and enjoyed the ride. There was a passenger that couldn’t handle the journey and needed a sick bag, but this time it wasn’t me. I knew I could help, and it killed me not sharing my secret. Unfortunately, telling her to just pop a pill probably wouldn’t have gone down overly well with her mother – vomit-girl was only about four. She didn’t snorkel by the way, as she was too young. She essentially just travelled to be sick. Either her mother had a hard time finding a babysitter or she gives really strict punishments to naughty kids.

All in all, it was definitely worth visiting and I can now leave Australia without any regrets – my list of ten has been completed. The only thing left to do is jump on a plane with fifty connecting flights and head back to the motherland – it will take around 1,720 hours to get to Leeds, but I’m on my way.

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