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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Great Barrier Reef -or- Ernesto Puts His Vest On

Good thing the helicopter pilot has one good eye - that platform is tiny!
"Hey," I said to the Quad Queen. "Wanna see one of the seven wonders of the world?"

And with that, I unzipped.

"Yup, it's only one seventh what it should be. No wonder," she replied.

In all seriousness, and fully zipped up, we were off to see one of the truly wonderful places on the planet - the Great Barry Reefer.

The Reefer (fine, Great Barrier Reef) stretches for some 1400 miles, and is extremely hard to light, but provides a warm, blue buzz.

We'd booked a day out on the Reefer Magic poonton platform. They have a pretty nice, fast catamaran that takes you out there - it's miles from shore - and a permanent platform floating on poontons.

We headed over to the meeting point, which is actually a terminal for all the tour operators doing cruises out of Cairns. The Reefer is big business.

We got processed and headed out to the catamaran. It wasn't the greatest day in Cairns - it's often overcast in the morning - but it looked a lot nicer out in the ocean.

All aboard the Reefer Magic III. 
The 90 minute or so trip to the reefer is the perfect opportunity for the crew to do some yeyah yehay yakky yakky noy noy to you and sell things to the suckers who don't know better, everything from SNUBA to underwater camera rentals to helicopter rides.

Does this tour guide look familiar? He should.

All tour guides are named Matt. Or maybe there's one Matt, and he works all over the world.

Matty Clause.

Yes, you can buy a beeyah on board. See the little bar at the back?
We arrived at the poonton which was surprisingly big. (Seventh wonder, it oughta be.)

While on the poonton, there are all kinds of things to do. Look in the underwater watchatory. Ride the glass bottomed boat. Ride the semi submersible. Take pictures of the preening selfie Sheilas. And then there's the paid activities if you were sucker enough to fall for their ridiculous pitch.

Our helicopter would take off at 11:30, just before lunch.

A school of the rare, endangered but delicious Yellow-tailed swimmy-swimmy Bluefish.

You eyeballin' me fish?
Our ride's here!
Serious snorkelers carefully check their equipment and run a few brief systems checks before venturing into the dangerous knife-sharp coral.

Others take selfies.

Yes, she's making 'pouty-lips'.

Coming soon to your Facebook feed if you know Bianca Boulevard-Martini here.

Matt runs the chopper shuttling like clockwork. He takes a batch of people out, gets them loaded up, and comes back.

Gets the next batch into the boat, meets the chopper, off-loads the new guys, and gets the folks who have just flown into the boat and back to the poonton.

In our time slot, it's me, the Quad Queen, and three Italian guys. When you run a chopper business, time is big money - those things are expensive as hell ($3M for what looked like a Bell 407GXP to me) to fly.

So when it was time to get into the boat to get to the pad, Ernesto was nowhere to be seen.


So old good old Ernesto shuffles over. He's struggling with his sports vest, which isn't on. It's not a pretty site. For some reason, Ernesto has to perform about 19 different rhythmic gymnastic moves, with his vest acting as a ribbon.

Matt is going apoplectic. We have to go! NOW!

It's on. It's off. Arm through one hole. Off again. On over the head, and time to spin the shirt around and... it's off again.

Oh Ernesto!

The one younger guy of the three is pleading with him with more ITALIAN SPEAKY THAT I DON'T GET.

Everyone watches Ernesto fight his way into a vest that has only two possible ways you can wear it. Either would be acceptable.

Finally, finally, Ernesto is ready to get into the boat. I make damn sure I get in after him, because I don't want him doing any tumbling down the ladder with me down below in the skiff.

'Matt' takes us out to the chopper. I didn't have the nerve to ask if the pilot was named 'Matt' or not.

No fucking way are those pool noodles holding up the chopper if we have to ditch.

I got into the chopper and immediately thought someone had pissed in it. About 800 times. Oh my God the smell was bad.

Fuck it, at $40 a minute for the two of it, if I was sitting in piss, it wasn't going away now. I was going up regardless, and I'd deal with it later.

The ride was fantastic. The Quad Queen got the best seat, up front with the pilot (that's her on the right - or at least, it would soon be her once choppy-boi got out).

I sat facing forward on the right side, and right at my hand was a little open window. Perfect for picture taking and shooting some video.

I kind of forgot about the piss smell - it went away... until we landed on the pad.

Birds. Bird shit. Tons and tons of bird shit.

That's what the piss smell was, the ammonia smell of 10,000 birds saying 'fuck you' to the noisy bastards flying over their reef every day.

Richard (left) and Ernesto. Vest on.

This is getting kind of long, so more pictures to come in the Great Barry Reefer - part 2.


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