There we were. Cynthia, Larry, Branden and I sitting in the airplane-esque layout of the ferry boat on our way to Moreton Island. There was a sizable plasma screen on the wall opposite us with videos of happy holiday makers in glorious sunshine, skipping around the beach and frolicking in the crystal blue waters. Taking a glance out of the window all that could be seen was grey skies covering the ocean as far as the eye could see, with the constant patter of rain on the window pane.
As we got off the jetty the rain had not let up. I was the only one who had brought an umbrella that I happily shared with my sister from another mister, Cynthia. It was not long before she was heading back to Canada so this was her last big trip in Oz. Larry, looking at the island in its dreary state said “this will be an experience” with finger air quotes. “Character building,” I added.
We had signed up for four activities. The first was the fish boat tour. This was the only one I was not too keen on but still vowed to make the most of it. We crossed the beach and timed our jumps on to the makeshift plank to avoid getting wet. It was fortunate that we had the whole boat to ourselves as we sped across the ocean to a raised sand bank. The skipper said it might be tricky to see but there should be a wild dugong feeding around the area. Soon enough the skip spotted a dark shadow along the sand floor. A few minutes later the majestic dugong surfaced for some air before submerging to his feast. If you do not know what a dugong is, Google image it! You will not be disappointed.
The main event was the quad-biking tour, which I was stoked about as I had never been on a quad before. It was still raining and while my legs were exposed for wearing shorts, the engine kept them warm. The four of us were joined by a large family and a few Australians to hit the main trail of the island. Thirty seconds in, we came to our first of many stops as one of the younger kids had completely gone off the road into a fence. The quad was completely written off and the girl (unscathed) had to ride with one of the tour guides. Driving past the wreck you could see it had demolished a hole where the fence once was. There was a lot of stop-starts as the kids up front kept getting stuck, which was a bit frustrating. Apart from that it was good fun as we accelerated down long straights and maneuvered around bends at high speeds. At certain stages I had to slam on the breaks as Cynthia went right into the back of Larry. In front of Branden was an older couple that did not have proper control of their braking system and were prone to sudden stopping that the other guys were usually caught in pile-ups with me cursing under my breath as I avoided the crash, usually by a whisker. Unfortunately, my expert handling abilities gave me a sense of over-confidence for the rest of the day.
After a break for lunch it was off for the segway tour. There was talk of it being cancelled due to the constant rain and risk of getting fried but with relief it held off for us to set out. Segwaying is one of those obscure things I have always wanted to try. I enthusiastically bounded towards my segway and jumped on. It was a bit worrying when it started rolling backwards without any input from me. It took us a few minutes before we were all pros, speeding down the beach, whizzing around and doing tricks. There was a moment when the three other segwayers and instructor turned around to see me lying dazed on the sand with the segway sprawled over me.
This story was well received at the hostel when Cynthia retold it. Well, when she could stop herself from laughing that is. What had happened was that at top speed I tried to bank into a sharp turn and the controls stalled, making the wheels turn in awkward sharp movements. In hindsight it would have been better to abandon ship but I remained on trying to regain control of the vehicle but it eventually threw me off whilst running over my leg. These are not just normal segways either. These are the off-road models with tires the size of wombats! A few minutes later the captain went down with his ship for a second time…
There was still a drizzle in the air by the afternoon and the clouds had become noticeably darker, with a distinct chill in the air. We had stripped down to our swimming gear and donned life jackets. The worst feeling was taking off my flip flops and stepping onto that wet sand for the first time. It was absolutely freezing. Just the sand. I have quite a low tolerance to cold so when I felt the icy surf wash over my feet I died and determined not to fall off the banana boat.
My hopes plummeted when I saw the actual banana boat. I had this image of giant yellow boats pulled by a sturdy motorboats. This one was a tiny three man dingy tied to a jet ski. There were only two black straps to hold on for support. Uh oh. Quickly I tried to form a strategy with Branden and Cynthia to keep on the boat as long as possible. I wadded knee deep through the tide to take my position in front with a grim smile. Here I hoped I could control the outcome of the boat. Larry jumped on the jet ski with the instructor to act as a spotter, to let him know “when” any of us fell off.
The jet ski pulled us along at an alarming rate across the gloomy ocean surface. Somehow we begun to go even faster and the spray started hitting me in the face, a hundred droplets of ice daggers. Eventually my vision became too blurred to keep my eyes open. I was now riding blind.
It is a strange sensation, falling off. There is the 0.5 seconds of doom when you realise you are about to be turned over, which is followed by being flown across the surface like a skipping stone. Next you are pulled into the deep ocean, completely submerged and disorientated, not knowing which way is up. Finally, the life-jacket pulls you up to the surface, taking a fresh breath of cool air. There was three of us bobbing up and down in the dark waters of the sea. The jet ski at this point had slowed down and was circling back to pick us up. The coldness disappeared with the adrenaline kicking in. We decided to change positions with me at the back and Branden in the front. It took him a while but the driver finally threw us off again.
Right. This means business. The next time we made a team effort of not falling off. The driver tried everything. Accelerating, sharp turns. We were determined. On the sharp banking we all leaned into the turn to prevent capsizing. At one stage my face was pressed down firmly against the boat to push the lifting side back into the water.Eventually, Cynthia flew off the boat, right from between Branden and I. Branden and I exchanged high fives to celebrate staying on for once. Afterwards, Larry revealed that the driver was getting mad because he was unable to throw us off.
Back on the boat heading to the mainland, battered and bruised, I drifted into a sleep looking back on a fantastic day.