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Living the Dream

Welcome, readers, to another instalment of Serena's Travels.

So you may be wondering where, if anywhere, I actually did travel to. To end the suspense I shall tell you that I did manage to make it 60 km up the coast to the quiet holiday town of Port Douglas.

A day or two after I wrote last, I ventured up the coast to go out on a famil day - standard procedure whereby you go out with the company, see how they operate, see how you get on with them and they with you. I needed to be at the marina at 0730, so travelled up the day before and spent my first night in a hostel since arriving here. The hostel, Parrot Fish Lodge, was very nice - clean and so forth - but I have been spoilt by having my own room the whole time I've been down here, so consequently I didn't have too good a night's sleep.

The next morning, bright and early, I wandered down to the marina and stepped aboard Calypso III. I'd actually had a sneaky look at the boats the previous evening. I watched the two ships come in around five o'clock. That was just before I sat on the dock, watching the sun skink slowly behind the mountains on the other side of the estuary, golden light reflecting off of the ripples as sail boats drifted peacefully past, adding another picturesque element to the tranquil scene. In the morning I introduced myself to my new boss, Chris, and was told that they were actually really busy so if I didn't mind he'd get me to work, and pay me for it - no worries!

I think it was a really good day to have as my first. The boat was full (fifty odd people), and they had sixteen certified divers and sixteen intros - way above average. To a newbie like me, it all seemed pretty chaotic. I did whatever I could, and asked for jobs to do whenever I stood idle (don't choke, ex-colleagues, I can work hard when motivated, honest!). The day passed in a flash, and at the end of it I was really pleased that everyone seemed happy with what I'd done, and thanked me for my help. Chris asked me what I thought, whether I wanted to work for them and when I could start. I said I needed a week (as I'd made arrangement to go on the piss at the weekend with my friend John), and arranged to start the following Thursday.

I was a pretty happy bunny, and celebrated with a couple of jugs of VB - as their slogan says, 'for a well earned thirst'. Next day I was travelling back down the scenic coastal road to Cairns to catch up with my friends, pack up my stuff and prepare to move. Friday night was a big one, farewell drinks with Heidi and Jen who were on my instructor course, plus meeting up with new friends from the Mike Ball trip. But before I went out I did something I'd been promising myself since becoming an instructor - I got another tattoo! I am now proudly sporting a great white shark on my right foot - and yes, it hurt like fuck!

Saturday stared early, with a breakfast beer at around nine, in preparation for a day at the races - Cairns Amateur's Day to be precise. I tagged along with John and a group of his friends, but unfortunately the all day drinking took its toll, and I had to make my excuses and leave by around six o'clock.

Sunday was spent recovering (damn those VB hangovers!), but on Monday I did one of the touristy things I'd been meaning to do from Cairns, which was to visit nearby Kuranda, a market town of old (relatively speaking - nothing's properly old over here). I caught the scenic train up there (always was a fan of trains) and the Skyrail back, spending a few hours there in between. You can choose from a number of packages depending on whether you want to learn more about Aboriginal culture, butterflies or a number of other attractions based in Kuranda. I visited a small wildlife park and then took an army duck ride through nearby rainforest before watching some Aboriginal dances and hearing how digeridoos are made.

On Tuesday I was mostly tying up loose ends, and having my last go on cheap Email before leaving town. Wednesday saw me moving my possessions down to where I had to catch the bus to Port, in two trips. When the bus driver saw all my stuff, he asked in all seriousness, "who else is coming"! With my pack, my bag of dive gear (bigger and heavier than pack) a day pack and a holdall, I could see where he was coming from. I checked back in to the Parrot Fish, but was disappointed when I phoned Calypso to hear that they didn't have too many people booked in the next day, so wouldn't be needing me. They did say, though that I could come out for a 'fun day', which I did.

I'd drowned my disappointment the night before in a couple of jugs of VB, so was not feeling my best . . . in fact I actually chundered in the toilets! Not really a very good impression to make, but I did smile through my pain and make an effort to do as much as I could. I was back in business the next day though for a couple of days on followed by a couple off. I've just finished my tenth day on, and am now looking forward to having tomorrow off. It's wonderful to be doing a job I love (yeah, I know it's early days - I've only been working here two weeks, but it's great!). To wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work. To work hard for ten hours straight, and come home knackered but happy, buzzing from the great day and looking forward to the next.

My working day starts at 0730 with setting up dive gear, humping tanks around and getting everything ready for the passengers who arrive an hour later. I welcome them on board, swap their shoes for fins and masks, usher them inside then clear up the dive deck - the boss is a stickler for everything to be clean and tidy. Then it's time to brief the divers and get them into wetsuits and weights, and the rest of the kit, so they're about ready to leap into the water as we pull up to the first site around 1030. After the dive it's time to help the passengers off with their gear, fill their tanks and get everything ready for the next dive at the second site at 1200.

When we surface from that dive, we herd the customers inside for lunch while we get everything ready to go again, then grab a very quick bite to eat before starting to get all the divers geared up to jump in the water for the final time at 1400. We aim to leave the third site by 1515, wash all the dive gear, fill the tanks, sort out the masks and fins on the way. Then it's time to get any paperwork filled in, have a shower and get back into uniform in time for the boat to dock. Once we're moored, we all jump off the boat and line up to say goodbye to the passengers - oh yeah, the yukkiest bit I think is having to remove all the smelly shoes from the bins they are stashed in for the day, and lay them out for retrieval by their owners. Once we've got rid of everyone, it's back on the boat to give it a good old clean, before we knock off with a beer sometime between 1730 and 1800.

Of course the fun bits in between are the diving. I could either be on intros or certs - guiding groups of certified divers and generally looking after them, reminding them of all the things they've forgotten. It seems that most of the certified divers we have on board are inexperienced people who have done their courses a couple of years before, and done little diving since. It's good to give them tips to improve their diving, and generally they're quite easily pleased. I am slowly getting my head around introductory dives, though I have much more fun doing a nice relaxing guided dive.

I took a woman out for an intro dive today who had absolutely no concept of kicking underwater. She was an English lady in her fifties, and came out on the boat alone. She snorkelled at the first site, and just lay on top of the water, not moving at all. I thought it was a bit strange, but when I got her underwater at the second site I realised that she just had no idea that she had to kick her legs to go anywhere. She went into the position you would go in when doing a free fall from a plane - arms stretched out in front of her, legs bent up behind her, floating in a prone position. I had to drag her around or she'd have just stayed in the one spot, or floated up to the surface. She hardly used any air up while I puffed away, pulling her behind me. Fortunately the only other person with us was a young girl who was in her element, doggy paddling around, eyes everywhere soaking it all up.

Once we finished, and came up to the surface they were both buzzing, having really enjoyed their time underwater, but it the was older lady who really struck me. She was on such a high, blown away from her experience and all the fish she had seen. She was so grateful, and thanked me for my patience, asking if she could come down with me again at the next site. Knowing that she had got so much out of it made it all worthwhile, and I was happy to tow her around again. I tried to drop hints that by kicking her legs she could move around under her own steam, but bless her, she still didn't get it!

A couple of days ago I took down two brothers, the sixty year old living in Sydney, up here on visiting while his younger brother was over from the UK. The two of them were naturals, and just seemed so relaxed in the water - the older one just didn't stop grinning the whole time we were down there. They both reckoned they'd go on and do courses, now they've discovered how great it is down there, and I'm sure they will. So while I'm still finding intro diving pretty stressful, I am at least appreciating what people get out of it . . . including me. It definitely is rewarding, and I'm hoping that with experience I'm going to find it doesn't raise my blood pressure quite as much as it does right now.

I've been very fortunate accommodation wise, on my first day proper on the boat, Beany - the 20 year old English hostie - told me that she was looking after someone's flat for a month, and if I wanted I could stay temporarily until I found somewhere more permanent. It's only $80 per week, but best of all, not only do we have use of a beautiful pool, but are also looking after a kitten while the guy is away - how often when backpacking do you get to have a kitten? This was just to get me out of the hostel though, and I'm looking for somewhere else now - central, cheap and with a pool would be perfect!

Well for a change I think I'll push off before this Email gets out of hand like the rest of them do!

Actually, before I do go (here we go again!) I would just like to update you on a few things; firstly the hair - still long, and I am managing to keep it under control & in decent, un-dreadlocked condition, so no plans to crop it in the near future.

I'd also like to thanks all those who shed light on the blue-lights-in-toilets issue for me. For those of you still in the dark, I don't want you feeling blue so I will enlighten you (Okay, enough of the puns) the lights are there to stop junkies from shooting up. Apparently the blue light means that they are unable to see their veins.

Lastly, here is a joke for you:-

A woman was attacked one night walking home from the pub in Cairns. The next day she went to the police and told them she had been sexually attacked by a Cairns dive instructor. On being asked, the woman said that she was unable to describe her attacker as she had not seen him.

"Well how do you know he was a Cairns dive instructor then?" asked the detective.

The woman replied "He had a big watch, a little penis and wouldn't stop talking about himself"

Thank you and good night.


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