The In-Transit Report

diving

Scuba Report: Mexico

Note: These are not my pictures!

Tulum is a small city on the ocean, with its own ruins, beaches (which I don’t really care about), and tons of cenotes nearby to explore and dive. I spent three days diving in the area, starting off with a bull shark dive off of Playa del Carmen, just 45 minutes north of Tulum. Though I didn’t like that they baited the sharks, having huge sharks circling around is pretty cool. Don’t worry, sharks don’t kill nearly as many people as the media and Hollywood would like you to believe.

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The cenotes, which are the main diving attraction in Tulum, were amazing to dive. In total I did 4 dives, my favorite one being Angelita (first picture), a deep sinkhole. We dove down to 30m / 100ft where the fresh water meets a cloud of hydrogen sulfate, colored from the rotting trees that are scattered around the cenote. 

Once you descend through the cloud, you wind up underneath, circling around in the dark surrounded by dead trees. Really, really cool dive. It’s pretty much like falling into a horror movie set, which is right up my alley.

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The other ones I did were Calavera, Gran (2nd picture) and Casa Cenote, all very beautiful but different from Angelita. 

Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been unable to resist the urge to dive, so the month of December was absolutely wonderful for diving, but not for my budget!

I set aside a few days to dive in one of the most popular spots in the area, which is Cozumel. After my detour through Valladolid and Merida to see more ruins (see my previous entry), I took a bus to Playa del Carmen, and from there caught the ferry over to the island of Cozumel. I had a couple of hours in Playa, and found nothing there but a glut of tourist spots, gaudy, overpriced souvenirs, and lots of people trying to sell me everything. I was thankful to get on the ferry out to the island, though I expected Cozumel to be even worse.

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Luckily, it wasn’t. There are lots of touristy spots all over, not to mention the all-inclusive resorts all over, but I stayed at a really nice, and inexpensive, hostel. A few streets over and the town turned into a normal place. The next day, I started the first of four dive days. Over the week I did nine dives, most in pretty nice spots, although some were just okay.

The best dives sites were the Palancars, one of which was basically walls of coral, forming arches and passageways that were great to swim through. The others, also good, were Paso del Cedro, Colombia, and then I finished the week with a night dive at Paradise Reef, which was nice, but very frequented. Over the last 6 months of diving, I’ve gotten much better and more natural, so these dives were very relaxing, and I got to work on perfecting some of the skills I’d built up. It was the perfect “vacation” while on my trip.


Ecuador Part Two: The Galapagos

Note: Underwater pictures are not mine and do not show me. They’re borrowed from open sources on the internet.

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Flying to the Galapagos was basically going from Ecuador to tourist land, with lots of stereotypical gringos wearing bum bags, safari hats and vests. My morning flight got cancelled, so I got moved to one, going to a different island, and then shuttled through the island of Santa Cruz to the harbor, and finally taking a two and half hour ferry ride to San Cristobal, where I would be meeting my dive boat the next day. Glad I flew out the day before, because I arrived at San Cristobal at around 4pm. On this island, the harbor is crowded with lazy sea lions, smelly beasts that take up the park benches and poop all over the boardwalk. Galapagos style!

The next day was spent meeting the boat, getting all my rental gear together, and going for a dip in the harbor to practice getting on and off the panga (dinghy, inflatable boat we entered the water from) and making sure all our gear was good. The water here is supposed to be much colder than anywhere else I’ve done diving, so I had rented a thicker wetsuit and felt okay. It felt good to be back on a ship, and it was easy to get used to moving all the time, hearing the mealtime bells, and getting into a groove of constant dive prep.

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On day two we did one morning dive in a pretty boring spot (admitted by the dive masters), then did a land visit to North Seymour, an odd-looking desolate island where everything is small. There are big populations of Frigates, a kind of bird, and lots of Iguanas. There are also Blue Footed Boobies, a well-known bird with blue feet, prompting lots of tourist shirts that say “I Love Boobies” and have a picture of this bird. There were also sea lions, of course, and it made for a nice land walk on the way out to our main destination, Wolf and Darwin Islands.

Next we set off for Wolf and Darwin, the islands far away that are known for incredible amounts of sea life, which is what we were all there for. The trip took something like 15-17 hours to get to Wolf, and the next day we did three dives there including a relaxing night dive. The next day we amazingly managed to do six dives at Darwin’s Arch, the main attraction, and three dives the day after.

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At both Wolf and Darwin we dove with innumerable amounts of Hammerhead sharks, Galapagos and Silky sharks, huge schools of fish, sea lions and Moray eels. At Darwin’s Arch we also had six whale shark sightings, which are big, beautiful filter-feeding sharks measuring between 8-11 meters (26-36 feet!). We first saw a juvenile who was on the small side, and then a larger one around 10 meters/33 feet. A few times I swam like crazy and wound up less than a meter / 3 feet away from its side, totally enraptured by the sheer size and power of it, though I was trying to not get hit by the tail. Incredible experience. (note, picture is NOT MINE, and the diver in the picture is NOT ME. Just wanted to add it for context.)

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At Darwin’s Arch, we swam almost the same way every time, but each dive was different. First we’d get on the panga/dinghy from the boat, and motor over to the drop point. From there, we’d drop straight down as fast as we could equalize, to avoid being swept too far away by the strong currents. We’d head to the “theatre”, a ledge around 17-24 meters deep, and hold onto the rocks to stay in one place, basically sitting or laying on the ledge. From that comfortable spot, we’d sway with the currents and watch all the fish go by, then spot the hammerheads and other sharks. Sometimes there was something special, like gigantic yellowfin tuna, sea turtles, and particularly huge schools of fish. Sometimes we’d move to a different point on the ledge, but usually we followed the dive master out into the blue, where we’d be cruising along in the midst of the schools of fish, with hammerheads passing just a few meters below or above us.

I was already on the ship when I heard that it’s recommended you have 100+ dives before doing Darwin and Wolf. I started the trip with 23, but no one seemed to think I was a bad enough diver to pull me out, hah. I think my week in Chuuk Lagoon in July, diving inside shipwrecks between 25-40 meters, made me a much better diver than if I’d been in shallow, open water for all those dives. I certainly feel a lot more experienced now, after the currents and rough seas of the Galapagos. Getting back to the surface and into the Panga was always an adventure, with the waves slamming into you while you’re next to the Panga trying to hand your weight belt to the driver with both hands.

I remember looking over to see the other half of our dive group completely encircled by a wall of fish, then passing through it until I was in the middle too, and spinning around to get the full 360 view. Really cool feeling. Sometimes the dive master’s rattle would go crazy, and we’d all make a frantic dash for the rapidly passing whale shark. Here’s where caution most likely dies, where you drop much farther down following that fish, breathing hard through your air to get as close as possible, and risking going into decompression. Luckily, no one ran out of air far down enough to be life threatening, though a few came very close to deco. I came back on the boat with air on every dive and no deco, thanks to constant attention and Nitrox fills.

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On the way back from Darwin we did three dives at Isabela (Punta Vicente Roca), which was a change of pace. There weren’t nearly as many big animals, but there were small things to see, and a really nice bunch of coral. The site had an interesting color scheme of orange and purple, very distinctive. There we saw some rare and strange fish: the red-lipped batfish (pictured left), a weird looking fish that has fins like hands, and doesn’t really swim so much as push itself along the sea floor. It reminded me of some ancient form of human that hadn’t evolved yet. Seriously, nature comes up with some really weird stuff.

Another strange fish was the sea robin, a speckled fish that had what looked like blue wings. Lastly, in the line of weird, was the tiny bullhead shark, maybe half a meter long. There were tons of other small fish and creatures, and the rocks were also crawling with cleaner shrimp, which clean (eat bits off of) anything that lands on the rocks. I took my gloves off and hovered, letting them pick at my fingers, and they had a field day with my fingernails.

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The eight days went so fast. I got used to having great food all the time, my awesome dive buddies, beers after the last dive, watching the birds that perched on the ship for a free ride, sitting out on the deck and watching the sea. Every time I get on a ship I realize that I just want to stay forever, and debate finding some kind of job on the ocean, whether working in diving or just on a ship. It’s a hard life, where you just work to be able to dive and not much more, but I’m thinking about it more and more. Eventually I won’t be able to afford to take dive cruises… I’ve already chopped months off my whole trip by spending the money. However, it’s been completely worth it, every time.

I’ve spent a full month in Ecuador, a lot more time than I expected to spend here. I’ve really enjoyed it, a lot more than I thought I would. It’s always the case that wherever I am, I just want more time… so it goes.

I have three more weeks in South America, and picked up a flight from Quito to Cusco, to finally do Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, before popping into Bolivia for two weeks. Afterwards, I’m headed to Central America, where I’m thinking of diving in Belize (Blue Hole and other spots) and Mexico (Cozumel). The adventure continues…


Guam: My vacation from traveling

Since I had to fly in and out of Guam to get to Chuuk, I gave myself a few days to hang out in Guam before flying over to Japan. I lucked out and managed to Couchsurf the entire time I was there. For those not familiar with Couchsurfing, it’s a site where people offer to host people in their homes or just meet up. I’ve used it to find accommodation, meet up with people and sightsee together, and get rides. It’s an amazing community, and surprisingly doesn’t usually lead to awkward or weird experiences. Anyway, I couch surfed with two amazing guys, and their friend who was visiting from Korea. The first night, I wound up at a barbecue with a bunch of locals, expats, and Navy guys (the two guys I was staying with were engineers for the Navy), so that was a really good time, and it set the pace for the next few days.

Guam is a strange place. It’s almost impossible to get around without a car, and everything is set up to accommodate and entertain the tour groups that visit, which are predominately Japanese, with some Koreans as well. Japanese is actually a great second language to have in Guam, with Korean right behind it! There aren’t many backpackers in Guam, and if it weren’t for Couchsurfing I probably would’ve gotten really frustrated trying to do anything on a budget.

Over the next few days, I hung out a lot, watched movies at the guys’ place, went out to eat, checked out the malls and walked around with Hanul (the guys’ friend), checked out Inarajan Pools and some of the scenic area nearby, and went scuba diving with another Couchsurfer, who also knew my hosts (everyone CS’ing in Guam seems to know each other!). Diving was fun, very chill compared to Chuuk. I’ve never dived with current before, so that was a new experience.

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Hanul and I walked around the ‘village’ while the guys were at work, window shopping and finding hilarious things that the tourists probably loved to buy (like decorative door stoppers and bizarre kitchen tools shaped like all kinds of things). Another day, we went on a Dolphin Cruise, which is basically an expedition to see some dolphins. This was on a much bigger boat than the one from Chuuk, but this time I had my camera, so I have pictures of the dolphins. The owner’s daughter was along on the boat, and knew Hanul, so the two of them goofed off the entire time. After watching the dolphins, everyone jumped off the boat and snorkeled around. Later, I got to sneak my life jacket off and do some free diving. I just can’t hold my breath for long enough.. need to practice!

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My last night, we checked out Chamorro Village, a food stall and goods market. There was also local dances, music and stuff like that.. Then we went to Yogurtland, which we had also done the night before. Lots of fun with great people! Guam was basically my vacation from serious travel, as strange as that might seem. I didn’t really need to make a lot of effort to do anything, Guam uses USD and everyone speaks English, and I caught up on a lot of sleep on the guys’ comfortable couch. So much fun!


Chuuk Lagoon: Part Two

Overall, diving in Chuuk was an absolutely mind-blowing, amazing experience. It’s an underwater museum, relics of war preserved in the sea, but losing slowly to the battle of life being fought by the coral that grows on the wrecks. The wrecks, representative of death and war, are the building blocks for these massive colonies of life. Among the rusted metal are brilliantly colorful corals, many kinds running into each other, with all kinds of fish swarming around them. In addition to those, we saw a few sea turtles, an eagle ray, and myriads of other small but intriguing others (cleaner shrimp, anemones, nudibranchs, for example). Sadly, no sharks.

There are a lot of details I remember, but can’t put to one ship versus another. Stuff that seems trivial and unexciting when you see it above ground in modern times, but is infinitely fascinating on a wreck. Oxygen bottles, electrical consoles, small bottles and gadgets, perfectly preserved and unbroken teacups and teapots, guns, gas masks, pipes and cables, the way air gets trapped in the ceiling of the wreck, a moving mirror you swim under. Pieces of bathrooms, dish ware, the folded uniform of a soldier, sea clams living on tanks, the masses of coral clustered on the mast of a sunken ship. Just amazing.

29/07 Shinkoku Maru – my max depth 27m/89ft
This was my first shipwreck, so of course it was really awesome. It felt really, really, big, and we didn’t even get to see all of it. Lots of little artifacts strewn about, like china, bottles, and pieces of machinery, in addition to a whole lot of coral and sea life growing on the metal. Swimming through a wreck the first time was a surreal experience, but not nearly as creepy as I expected.

29/07 Betty Bomber – max 20m/66ft
An airplane that was shot down, it sits fairly close to the surface and is easily accessible and well-lit. It’s broken apart, with engines in a different location, and has a small swim-through going the length of one of the plane’s parts. There is some equipment laying outside the plane, including a seat and a radio.

* 30/07 Kansho Maru – max 30m/99ft
The swim through was incredible, helped along by a bit of nitrogen narcosis. We passed a bathroom with intact tile, and to the other side I could see outside through the small windows, and then we ascended a staircase (floating up a staircase has to be one of the coolest things about wreck dives!). We then entered what’s known as the catwalk, a walkway across a huge room. Diving in this environment is like floating through a ghost story, a little slice of tragic history in front of you in the form of rusted metal that takes a few looks to identify. Something about that swim through, and the way it felt to go through the catwalk, really struck me.

30/07 Kiyosumi Maru – max 29m/95ft
Another very accessible wreck, with lots of swim throughs and stuff strewn about to see, including intact sink basins, a lantern, bottles, even some bones.

31/07 Rio de Janeiro – max 29m/95ft
This one has guns on deck, and bottles upon bottles of unopened beer and sake. The electrical control panel is pretty cool, too. There was a small statue of Mary tucked away that our guide showed us.

31/07 Sankisan – 23m/75ft
This one was really cool. Lots of drug bottles, ammunitions, guns, a few trucks, and plane engines. The floor in one part we dove through is completely covered in bullets. Really cool coral on this one, too.

31/07 Shinkoku (2nd time) – 31m/102ft
Saw some more of this ship, which we’d done the first day. Made it into the engine room, enjoying the soft corals on the way out.

* 01/08 Nippo Maru – max 38m/125ft
This is one of my top three dives! There’s a little tank on the deck that I spent a good 5 minutes enjoying before venturing on. There are artillery guns on deck and around, lots of little artifacts as well. The steering wheel is accessible and really cool to see.

* 01/08 Yamagiri Maru – max 30m/99ft
Another favorite. Huge shells, propellers, and other large equipment pieces. A skull embedded into the engine room ceiling. Almost all of the bodies were removed from the ships after the war, but the skull is actually fused in place. Very creepy.

01/08 Hoyo Maru – 32m/105ft
This is the quintessential creepy shipwreck. Huge, in murky water, and upside down. Lots of huge spaces to swim through, and some big equipment, but it’s really all ambience. Apparently there’s a local legend that the guy who torpedoed it during the attack in WWII went back to dive the wreck, and died in it. I doubt it’s true, but it makes a good ghost story.

* 02/08 Hoki Maru – max 41m/135ft –
Described as “the underwater truck parking lot”, and oh my God, it’s in the top 3. The trucks are in surprisingly good condition, too, an underwater museum. And there was a BULLDOZER. Lots of other parts like propellor blades and huge bombs. Apparently there was a skull, but I didn’t see it, and it may have been removed. If I remember correctly, it also had a display of propped up guns donned with white gas masks. I highly doubt they were set up like that when the ship sank, but it looks pretty cool anyway. Loved this one!

* 02/08 Fujikawa Maru – 32m/105ft
Everyone’s favorite shipwreck, and it is indeed pretty awesome. The best part was the hold full of Zero fighters, most of them in such good shape you could almost slip into the cockpit. I wish I could’ve taken a picture from above, just looking down at those planes. Seriously amazing. The rest of the ship had lots of artifacts – more huge shells, propellers I think, and other cool stuff everywhere.

We were coming back from our afternoon dive one day, and spotted dolphins. We slowed down, and they played with us, jumping in front of the boat, not a couple meters (6-7 feet) away from my eyes. We were on a tiny boat, so we could lay down at the front, and I swear I could almost touch them. They would jump, and then turn to watch our reactions. Dolphins have to be the most intelligent animals on earth, just catch that look in their eyes! I threw on my mask and snorkel and jumped in, watching them swim below me about 6m/20ft below me, just watching me. One of the most amazing and unexpected experiences of the trip.

Diving through Truk Stop was awesome, and really provided a personalized experience. While I was there, it was me and one other diver, together with our instructor (we were both doing the Enriched Air course) and dive guide, who was a really cool local dude. The owners know my cousin, so on the last night we both came to the bar for a drink and celebrated the fact that they hadn’t lost me. Very comforting. Out there in Chuuk, not exactly a luxury destination, you know people are there because they love what they’re doing. And having spent 5 days diving the most amazing wreck dive sites in the world, I don’t blame them.


A Look Back: Australia, June 1st to July 4th.

I went to Australia with only a few things in mind: the Great Barrier Reef, a friend in Newcastle, and a friend in Brisbane. I mostly stuck to those things, and a few in between.

From the beginning, I noticed the little things. Different words for the things I know (flat white? What? Tomato sauce… ketchup), different ways of doing things, phrases, etc etc etc. What marks travel for me are the little things. Traveling an english-speaking country has been odd and somewhat endearing to me; I’ve never backpacked a country where I fluently spoke the language. It’s familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

Travel is life in different proportions. My backpack, hostel bed and locker become my new home, everything finding a new order, place and purpose. Friendships are formed in minutes or hours instead of years. You trust people more quickly, are more willing to leap into potentially awkward situations. And you part ways even faster, never sure when or if you’ll see someone again. But some, randomly, you will. Like the British friend who I met in Luang Prabang, hosted in Philly, and just stayed with in Brisbane. You can’t make this stuff up.

Meeting people in hostels or on Couchsurfing is a whole new experience. Anyone who knows me would probably describe me as anti-social, or at least not overly social. I’m not the kind of person who hangs out in large groups of people, meets random people, or talks to strangers. When I travel, the rules go out the window. Maybe it’s because I don’t take human interaction for granted when I’m on the road, or maybe I figure there’s always travel in common. Maybe I want another perspective on the place I’m in, or maybe I’m just bored. Either way, it’s almost always been a good thing, and if it isn’t, well, lesson learned. There I am anyway, finding some other traveler who just wants to hang out. It opens up a whole world.

My reason for traveling is to find things that blow my mind. I’m an even-keeled person and not prone to strong emotion, so it takes a lot to impress or really excite me. Places like Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Petra, Jerusalem, etc, are the kind of things that inspire me the most, and the goal of this trip is to find more places that do that. So far, I’ve liked a lot of places, but nothing compares to diving the Great Barrier Reef. That was mind-blowing. I’m trying to ride that high as long as possible. So long, in fact, that I have other dive trips planned already… there goes my budget.

I go through phases with photography. As much as I love taking pictures, there are times when it’s important to put the camera down. Sometimes the best way to experience something is to simply avoid distractions, which photography is, for me. I wonder what it would be like to travel without a camera at all… but then, I’d probably go nuts wanting to take pictures! Having unlimited time and a relaxed budget means that I have time to do both, for the most part. I’ve had the time to experience something, see something, then go back and photograph it later. It’s a balance I’m still working on.

I spent just over a month in Australia, and wanted to share a summary of the highlights. So here it is:

Sydney:

Being my first stop, I was pretty lazy in Sydney and didn’t do much for the first day or two. Overall, it reminds me of a combination of Tokyo and New York; it’s big, expensive, everything happens here, and it has lots of different areas, from the Botanic Gardens and the beautiful Opera House, to the sandstone architecture of the CBD (Customs House, Queen Victoria Building, City Hall, Sydney Hospital, to name a few). And it has an absolutely stunning ANZAC memorial.

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I quite accidentally timed my flight so I was there during the Vivid festival, during which they light up a bunch of buildings, as well as the Sydney Opera House, with visual effects. This was a great time to be a photographer in Sydney.

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Katoomba/Blue Mountains:

After Sydney I went over to the Blue Mountains, based out of Katoomba. Nice and quiet compared to Sydney; not much to do in the town that I could see. This was a great spot to do some day hikes, so I spent the better part of two days doing just that. Three Sisters / Echo Point was the part of the Blue Mountains is closest to Katoomba. A platform and tourist area overlooks the Three Sisters, which are three rock formations close together. From there you can choose from a number of hiking paths. I forget which ones I did, but I accidentally took the hard one down to the valley floor and over to the scenic railway and back up to Scenic World, a ways away from Echo Point. Good exercise.

Newcastle:

In Newcastle I got to visit a friend who I knew from San Francisco, so it was great to catch up, hang out and not worry about having to be a traveler all the time! Newie’s got cool local shops and a more alternative feel than Sydney, especially in the surrounding ‘burbs. Other cool spots include: Fort Scratchley, the only military installation in Australia that got to fire at the Japanese during WWII. Really cool gun demonstrations, reenactment guys are really fun to chat with. I’m a WWII history buff, so this was cool to see. The other is Shipwreck Walk. There’s only one visible wreck on this short walk, but it’s a short ferry ride to Stockton, and a scenic walk to and on the jetty. There are plaques and memorials of the locals all along the walk, too, as well as plaques for wrecks that aren’t visible.

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Brisbane:

I loved Brisbane! Out of all the cities in Australia, this is one I would live in. It feels a lot like Philadelphia, but way less dirty. The CBD (center city) is walkable and full of beautiful buildings, there’s a lot more visible alternative culture, and it’s full of smaller suburbs and neighborhoods that each have their own personality. Also, it’s based around a snaking river, and for some reason I tend to love cities that are near or based around bodies of water. I stayed with a friend, so I wound up hanging in Brissy for a week, and didn’t get bored. I loved the pedestrian/bicycle bridges. There are at least two of these, and I’m happy to say I walked them without getting vertigo. They’re beautiful, too. Brisbane is one of the most pedestrian/cycle friendly cities I’ve seen so far. Stopped by the Brisbane Powerhouse, an arts venue in the New Farm area. Not only a cool building, but it had an awesome photo exhibit that made me feel like a sub-par photographer in comparison. Thanks, Brisbane.

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Magnetic Island:

“Maggie” was awesome, definitely in the top 3 of favorite things in Australia. Getting the ferry from Townsville was a pricey, but it was worth it. Sharing your living space with possums, wallabies, and walking through a mass of lorakeets are enjoying parts of the day! I stayed at the YHA in Horseshoe Bay, which is home to Koala Village, so I got a discount on the tour and a breakfast. You get to hold a bunch of animals on the tour (lizards, snakes, baby croc, Koala for extra money), but not so much on the breakfast; they bring a bunch of animals out, but it’s less hands-on than the tour. Getting to hold snakes is the best thing ever! No, I didn’t hold the Koala.

Maggie also has a bunch of great hikes, and the Forts Walk is particularly cool because it goes through an old WWII military site. It’s all open, so you can clamber about as much as you want. There are at least two gun pits, a lookout and command center, and all have amazing views of the island. The walk itself is pretty easy.

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Cairns/Great Barrier Reef:

I randomly decided, while still in Brisbane, that I should learn to scuba dive, and I’m glad I did. Turned out to be the most amazing experience of the trip so far. Expensive, yes, but completely worth it. I took a 5-day PADI certification course with ProDive, and spent two days in Cairns going through classroom and pool training, then three days/two nights on a liveaboard on the reef. I never wanted it to end. Cairns is a nice town, but it’s pretty much a bunch of stores, travel shops, hostels/hotels, and restaurants.

Nothing I say will do the Reef justice. I never really swam a lot growing up, so the first ocean dive was probably the most mindblowing experience I’ve had in years. There are fish everywhere (obviously); big, beautiful, varied species of fish. Seeing them for the first time, up close and personal, is endlessly fascinating. And the intricate, colorful coral, all mixed together, is so cool. It’s like being on a whole different planet. It’s easier to learn to stay still, hover, or move slowly when you want to look at Every. Single. Thing. Someone points to something cool, and I’m thinking “which cool thing?” Just amazing. It’s the closest I’ll get to being an astronaut, and the scenery is way better!

Everyone on the boat, from instructors, dive masters, passengers and crew, really bonded during our three days together (five days for the trainees and instructors). Groups mixed, I made a lot of new friends, and there’s someone there who understands and appreciates you rambling about that amazing fish you saw that (you know, the blue one).

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Melbourne:

Melbourne reminds me a lot of San Francisco, in all the best ways. It has a funky vibe, lots of things to do all the time, but still walkable. I was only there for a few days, but loved every bit of it! Federation Square was an awesome area with funky architecture, lots of people all the time, random art exhibits, and even free WiFi. If you walk along the nearby river there are great views, and a ton of pedestrian/cycle bridges you can use to weave from one side of the river to the next. On the other side of the river, from the Square, are the gardens, and the beautiful Shrine of Remembrance, a stately building dedicated to ANZACs who died in WWI and WWII. Climb up to the observation level and you’ll get a great view of the whole city.

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Within the city itself are heaps of cafes, and more than a few cupcake shops. Exploring with a few people I met up with was the highlight of the stay there, from the graffiti alleyway to the wine tasting, and randomly craved Thai food! I had a wicked good time, and it was a perfect last stop before I left for New Zealand.

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