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I'm so eager to go to sea that I'm the first one on the large catamaran taking me out to Moore Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef, about 30 km from Cairns. Diaphanous clouds waterfall from the sky, and wilfully fall in places no real waterfall would go. It's rainy, and promises to be a bit rough, so I swallow three ginger pills. Advice is to look at the horizon to settle the stomach, but today horizons are not horizontal, and not always visible as the boat tosses and rolls, and a great trade in sick bags begins. I resist that commerce: after all I didn't spend $190 to be sick. I have fun photographing from the rain-streaked windows, and some shots manage to capture the turbulence. Their increasing blur reflects the state of mind of many passengers. There is a brief burst of sunshine, which turns the sea from green oxide to pale indigo.

We eventually reach the pontoon on the reef, but the rocking does not stop and I am very wobbly-footed. I risk going to sea in an even smaller boat, glass-bottomed this time, and we glide above the coral at a pace too fast for a photographer who is trying to adjust eyes to a new environment. I want the boat to stop, but it isn't going to, so I alternate snapping and gazing and don't even notice the unsettled seas.

Almost immediately I board the submersible, a bit dubious about descending into claustrophobia. The coral is not so healthy or colourful this time: there are patches laid waste, by cyclones the guide tells us, and the colours are mostly drab. We do see a shark and a turtle gliding by, and a couple of divers, alien humans in an underwater world: all suddenly and unsnappably gone.

After lunch I put on my swimmers, last worn in the lake at Gryżyna with the twins. I undulate my way into a lycra top-to-toe, and grab flippers and goggles. I edge my way down the slippery stairs, and sit half-submerged, waiting for snorkelling instruction. I haven't snorkelled for thirty years and then it was to spy on a very large eel in the swimming hole in the Tuross River. A humpheaded Maori wrasse glides his blue spots and stripes past my knees, almost touching me.

Suddenly the life guard blows his whistle and we're all hustled out of the water while a floating swimmer is rescued. I'm no longer keen to go in. The water looks rough and grim-coloured. So I seek help to extricate myself from lycra, and miss out on a pleasure my six-year old great-niece enjoys without a qualm a few days later, when of course she spots Nemo, as well as spectacular coral.

The trip back is no smoother. Scuba diving gear is piled higgledy piggledy, and a great pillow of excess bread rolls sits on the shelf. Waves toss their manes energetically; the crew run barefooted and keep their footing; passengers stagger drunkenly, grabbing for any support they can find. The horizon again despises the horizontal, until we reach the shelter of the mountains of Trinity Bay.

When I disembark, I join the family and Kate's Bamaga friends at the Courthouse Pub, and eat pizza with my brother and his family. I manage to catch a bus home mwith a wait of only five minutes, and then spoil this efficiency by overshooting my stop in the dark. So the day ends with me walking a bit fearfully on the verge of a busy road for two kilometres, flicking my torch (yes! I was prepared. I had a torch) on and off so I could watch my footing, and announce my presence.

My regrets? I didn't snorkel, and I didn't have my credit card to do a helmet dive, which seems to require you to grin maniacally, but which also puts you underwater without requiring expertise, where fish swim by, literally in front of your eyes.






Glass-bottomed boat