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The Climbing Club • View topic - Australia

The Climbing Club

at the University of Washington
It is currently Tue Jul 23, 2019 6:15 pm

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 Post subject: Australia
PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:21 pm 
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Raging Alpoholic
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Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2007 10:15 pm
Posts: 812
Nathan and I spent 3 weeks exploring Cairnes, Australia and traveled all over the south island of New Zealand.

So, first of all, yes, this may seem like a bit of an odd choice for a vacation in the middle of our Seattle summer. We've talked about several places that we'd see long before somewhere like Australia. Especially, since in Australia we'd be staying in a major touristy town. However, with flights free for Nathan and lodging free for both of us (on account of Nathan giving two talks at the Physics conference held there), we couldn't say no.

Australia is a long way from home. Nathan took off a day earlier than I to get his talks out of the way without distraction. It seemed especially long for me because I had a 9 hour layover in San Francisco and a 24 hour "layover" in Sydney. I began my journey optomistic to use my time in these two places to explore a bit. However, I was being overcharged at every airport just to leave and return (15 bucks if your stop is at the airport, 3 bucks if it is before or after, and no, they don't let you walk) or even charged to get from international to domestic in Sydney. To top it off, the domestic terminal closed in Sydney and they kicked me out to the street at 11pm to sleep. I arrived moderately disgruntled in Cairnes and (in a effort to avoid another overpriced bus) began hiking down the highway towards town. We'll call this type 2 fun.

I managed to get picked up halfway to town by a backbacker's van called Nomad. Cairnes, Australia was nothing like I had imagined Australia. Apparently I was at least a days drive from what they call the outback. This area was tropical, full of tourists, and completely centered around the Great Barrier Reef. I had heard great things about diving, but have always been a poor swimmer and therefore a little uncomfortable around deep water. But with no mountains around, no trails, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and try something entirely different. I enrolled in a 4 day open water diving course.

The first two days were pool and classroom time. I survived regulator recovery, alternate air ascent, and a full mask removal and clear (my least favorite). However, the next day we'd be practicing these skills under 30' of water. With no chance of screwing up, getting scared and shooting to the surface. I still had quite a bit of difficulty with the mask flood and clear. I haven't ever been able to go under water without plugging my nose and not end up snorting up an uncomfortable amount of it. So, the night before my first open water dive I filled up the motel room sink, took a deep breath and dove in (at least as far as one can dive in a motel room sink). Nathan and I contemplated breathing through a bendy straw for a more full effect, but where unable to find one. Still, with renewed confidence, I was ready for my first open water dive.

I was not ready, however, for the sea-sickness that overcame me on the 1.5 hour ride out to the outer reef, the choppy surf after we jumped in and the taste of sea water (as I knew that I'd be drinking a lot of it during my full mask clear). As a result, the first dive was absolutely horrifying. Dispite my fear, I still managed to pull it together enough to realize that the scenery was absolutely unreal. As soon as we descended, I saw a wrass fish that was bigger than me, eels, clownfish and swam through schools other fish. Amazing. I managed the skills portion and by the second dive was much better. I was excited for a second day on the reef.

The second day started out a little bumpy too though.
Me: "my regulator sounds like it's leaking"
Instructor: "No, that's just the ocean, jump in."
Me: "but I'm down to 185"
Instructor "you should have checked that!":
Me: "It was at 200"

They fill the tank to 220 and the gauge hose bubbles out and alarming amount, spewing precious air. I finally got my new regulator set-up. The lesson here was just how beneficial it was to have gone through the training, know how to set up my own gear, know how things were supposed to work, and especially know when something had gone wrong.

I got in 2 more skills practice dives, including one down to our max of 18 meters where we could see reef sharks. After lunch, the rest of my class and I were certified divers!! They turned us loose and we got in a fun dive with no instructors after lunch. It was incredibly rewarding to succeed in a sport that I had been interested in trying, but had been too scared to do for so long.

As most of you already know, Nathan was there too! He was working every day, while I was out playing on the reef. Thanks for making the trip possible Nathan! He did manage a couple side-trips: snorkling and visiting a small village outside of Cairnes. He also went running along the beach and got dive-bombed by what he described as a terradactyl. Turns out that Australia is home to some huge bats called "flying foxes". Most importantly though, he has now grilled on 4 continents. We cooked up non other than the local kangaroo on the beach. Mmmmmm...tasty.


Photos!

Scuba Diving!!
My class:

Nemo: this little guy really seemed to help bolster tourism in the area (even more).

After my first 2 dives:


Exploring inland:
Flying foxes:

I biked out of Cairnes a ways, but never found the outback:

"It's still a little early for the snakes to be out, they're what you really need to worry about" -a local
"Um, I don't think that I'll be swimming today"-me, after seeing a giant lizard


Nathan makes his mark on Cairnes, Australia

Without me even mentioning that I knew about the Physics conference, one of the diving instructors started talking about how excited he was to get home that day to tell his daughter that he "saw a real one!" "just like in the Big Bang Theory!"


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 Post subject: Re: Australia
PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:10 am 
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The Shepherd
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Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:37 pm
Posts: 787
Location: Ravenna
Awesome! Way to confront your fear and try something new out. Any plans to continue? I hear that the divers around here are pretty hard core, and have to be to dive in the sound.


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 Post subject: Re: Australia
PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:16 am 
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experienced hiker of the climbing club
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Joined: Wed Dec 04, 2002 6:39 pm
Posts: 1945
Location: Bashing Brush
Pretty cool! I was wondering how all went in the land down under.


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 Post subject: Re: Australia
PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:13 pm 
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Raging Alpoholic
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Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2007 10:15 pm
Posts: 812
Kris- I do plan to dive in Puget Sound at some point. Actually, diving here was one of the reasons that I decided to go for the certification. A friend of mine has been diving in the sound several times and told me stories of cool night dives and giant octopi. I was completely inspired to see all of this stuff that exists right here.


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 Post subject: Re: Australia
PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:32 pm 
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UW Climber

Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 6:11 pm
Posts: 137
Cool! Nice to see some pictures after hearing about your trip last week!


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