Thursday 15 April 2010

The End of the Golden Weather

It had to happen, I suppose: grey skies, a bit of drizzle and the sparkle gone. Time to look ahead to the next dose of sunshine - for which I'm fortunate not to have to wait until spring.

On Sunday I'll be getting up at ungodly o'clock to catch the plane to Brisbane (not currently my favourite Australian city) to begin two weeks in Queensland which will include the Great Barrier Reef (the 2,397 kilometres left of it after a Chinese oil tanker ran aground on it last week), the rainforest and the Outback. It will be lovely - hot and sunny and interesting. I can hardly wait for the Waltzing Matilda Centre and the Stockman's Hall of Fame - seriously. I love that stuff.

There'll be dinosaurs, crocodiles, abseiling into caves (I can feel the wedgie already), trains, boats and planes, including a big Qantas one to wing-walk on. And good food and nice hotels and miles and miles of empty road. It's going to be fun.

The reef will be a highlight and a chance to give the underwater camera another whirl - perhaps somehow I'll sort out how to reconcile disposable lenses that give distance vision with the necessity to see what's on the camera screen close up. And perhaps not.

The last time I was there, underwater cameras were not a consideration, and I was delighted to discover that the company I went with had snorkelling masks with built-in magnification:

>>> ... A glasses-wearer, I was thrilled with my optical face mask and didn't care that everyone I glanced at recoiled in shock from my saucer-sized eyes.

I slipped into the bath-warm water, right through a ball of tiny silver bait fish that instantly split and swirled back together a metre away with astonishing precision, the sunlight splintering off them like lightning. Suspended on the interface between air and water, I was captivated. There were cartoon-coloured fish everywhere. It was like the school playground at the beginning of term: full of colour and movement, the littlies swarming in big groups, bigger ones in carefully-chosen colourful outfits busy in twos and threes, the seniors in sombre blacks and blues, cruising on the edges or just hanging, too cool to join in; and each of them as neatly turned out as the proudest new entrant.

I could have spent hours watching them all: the parrot fish, sensational in pastels, rasping at the coral with a sound like Velcro, the yellow and blue angel fish playing chase through the fluorescent staghorn coral, the little green damselfish, the pink coral trout with daringly bright blue spangles, the bait fish swirling around as uniformly as iron filings drawn by a magnet...

[Pub. Marlborough Express 18/12/06]


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