Goodbye Sydney, Hello Cairns and The Great Barrier Reef

Hello Fellow Fish,

The Tuna's time together in Australia has drawn to a close. As sad and unfortunate as it is to finally admit that, I say it with a great deal of fulfillment. For the last 8 months we have been working and living in Sydney. All of us 100% self sufficient and all of us 100% engrained in the culture and lifestyle that Australia has to offer. However, it is time for us to pick up our things and flip the page to the next chapter of our adventures. 

The Sydney chapter closed on July the 4th, by which point, Ariel and I had finished working for good (Jeff still has a couple weeks left), we had successfully packed up our apartment after a solid 2 days of cleaning and scrubbing, sorted out our final affairs (ie: tax refunds), and said our good-byes to friends and work colleagues who had become fixtures during our time. 

On the 4th of July, while most Americans were at their parades, we were wandering around the backpacker city of Cairns. Its a small city with lots of hostels, and beach front hotels, very reminiscent of Waikiki. We get acclimated, and along the way, make a new friend from Canada, who we literally bump into in the street. She was traveling along and became our compadre for a couple days. 

Great Barrier Reef

It was the first vacation any of us had had in a very long time. So we slept in, soaked in the sun, and enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. Before long, we were getting picked up to be taken to our boat so we could go SCUBA dive the Great Barrier Reef. We were all registered and it took about 2 hours to get out to the reef itself from the harbor. Naturally, we were all super stoked. The surface was a bit choppy and when we got in the water the first time, it was hard to breathe. The guide assured us that once under water it would be much easier. We descend and it becomes a bit easier since we are no longer fighting the waves. Before we know it, we are all almost out of air...it had been 15 minutes, at most. We went back to the surface with our tails between our legs and head in hands from the shame. We had been talking about this dive for the last 8 months and it was a complete flop. We laughed about it and chalked it up to nerves after not having dove in almost a year. Lucky for us, there were plenty more dives to be had that day, and the next.

Our dives got progressively better and we were able to stay down longer and conserve our air more as time went on. After our first few dives, we had to change boats to get to the one where we would be spending the night. Once we got settled into our cabins, it was time to get briefed and gear up for the next dive. The "gear up" part was by far the worst part of every dive. Having to put on a wet wetsuit, in the howling wind, in the middle of the ocean is not a pleasant experience. But once in the water, everything was great. At around 6pm, we embarked on our first ever, Night Dive. It was pitch black all around, and we were gearing up to jump into darkness. They gave us underwater lights, which were useful (obviously) but outside of the little beam of light, it was all darkness. There were these fish that came out to hunt at night, and would swim right past to get to their prey, which were smaller fish. They had no regard for the the fact that there were human divers in their way. They just went for it. I only saw one little fish get eaten, but it was cool to see in real life. Back at the boat, right before we ascended there were huge lights being shone into the water that the fish would swarm to like pigeons to bread. An amazing sight, especially seeing it all take place above, then around, then below once we were back on deck. The night dive was a huge life obstacle overcome for all of us because prior to that we had talked about how terrifying it would be to jump in the deep ocean water at night and have literally no idea what was going on around us. It was a real sense of accomplishment. That was our last dive of the day, and we were fed a steak dinner with pasta, and salad, etc. which was cooked on the boat and was amazing. We stayed up to chat to some of our new boat friends before heading off to bed around 9pm. It was at this point that we realized just how exhausting diving was because we all passed out as soon as our heads hit the pillows. 

We got a knock on our door at 6am the next morning to get us up and briefed for the morning dive. It was still a bit dark out, so we got lights to take with us again. This had to be Ariel's last dive because he was flying back to Sydney the next day (aka within 24 hours) which, because of the pressure in the planes and underwater, you need to wait at least 24 hours before flying. The last two dives were just Jeff and me. It wasn't until these dives that I personally felt 100% comfortable with all my gear and breathing, which made it frustrating knowing that they would be our last. Once back on the ship, we were served lunch and basically had to wait for the boat to come around and take us back to Cairns. 

During this time we reflected on what was the best parts of the dives or what we saw was our favorite. It was hard to choose between petting/feeding two of the 4 turtles we saw, or the reef shark that swam by us, or the sea cucumber that when rubber would shoot out white strands as a defense mechanism, the overall life that takes place in the anenemies with all kinds of clownfish (and how accurately Finding Nemo depicted the habitat on the reef), scorpion fish(terrifying), baracuda's (terrifying), sting rays, or the parts where we were looking up at incredible, stunning, underwater coral mountains reaching almost 60 feet above our heads, so much so that it felt like we were in an enormous aquarium surrounded by an underwater sea world (redundant?)

The boat ride back to Cairns was extremely choppy and we endured a few people hurling around us. Once ashore, we checked back in to our hostel then went out to get some food and a drink and sat by the water. It was our last night together for almost a month, and we found ourselves reminiscent again, of our time in Australia. The next day, Ariel would leave, the following day Jeff would leave, and the day after that I would be leaving. 

We talked about how our time has truly flown by and it is strange that we came to Australia with a goal and a purpose and we fulfilled it. Australia was the longest time any of us had lived in one place since graduating High School, because even while at college, we would go home for breaks and things of that nature. But here we were rooted, and hunkered down for 8 months straight. Same apartment, same town, same everything. It wasn't always truthful when telling people that we were "traveling" because we were more settled than we had ever been. 

Now that we have all gone our separate ways for a little while, when one finds himself at the end, he cannot help but think about the beginning. The sheer joy and elation of arriving, the super lows of not having any job or money, to the super highs of getting an apartment, and a job. All culminating with the Cairns trip vacation and ultimately our conquest of the the world. 

We will all reconvene in Japan on August the 1st. I am the first to arrive, Jeff will be next and we will regroup in Tokyo. Until then, stay tuned for the next installment.

Until Next Time,

The Tunas

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