The guitar strap said: “police line, do not cross”. Yes, we were in Queensland alright.
* * * * *
Whitsunday imagery, all that blue sea and white sand, doesn’t really capture the full complexity of the archipelago.
Here you can see weather patterns approaching on the horizon long in advance. It looks like haze, like fog. It looks like the clouds dip down precariously. Sometimes the cloud comes down in a black cone on the horizon, indicating something wet is coming..Very wet. Swimming pool dropped on your head wet.
These are the Whitsundays at their best. The sea and the sky don’t just play out this drama. The shadows amid the trees and on the grasses and on the plants reflect everything that is going on in the meteorological complexity beyond.
Wherever the sea and its attendant breezes dominate, everything changes quickly, at breakneck speed. The wind has no time to wait. The landscape has no time to stay and smile for the photographer, keeping the colours ready for the next shot.
Look away and look back, and everything has changed beyond recognition. This is as true in the west of Ireland as it is in the tropics.
The silence is broken by the cacophony of birdsong.
The path is well marked and the obstacles reduced to a series of steps. Occasionally nature shouts back, and throws a tree across the path line.
As you tramp along the path with the fading leaves of a previous autumn, your eye is always on the ground for the animals that you may not wish to encounter, the death adder, the stuff of headlines.
As in many tourist attractions, the headlines tell not even a piece of the story. They don’t tell the story at all.
* * * * *
Why are the Whitsundays such a playground? The beaches. Beyond Whitehaven, justifiably famed for its 98pc silicon sheen, are quite ordinary.
These sort of islands can be found all over the world, in the Caribbean, off South America off Africa, off Thailand.
Tropical sends out good messages to the tourist. It means green and lush hot sunshine nourished with rain and the debris of the previous season rotting on the forest floor.
But these 74 islands are ideally situated, isolated yet not too isolated, the furthest is 40 nautical miles of the Australian mainland so they are an easy reach for sailing boats.
Most tourists come in by air and there is good landing facilities, adequate beds on land in the resorts created by 1980s entrepreneurs on seven of the islands, and another 2000 beds available in the flotilla of hospitality craft that sail off these islands.
You can find features like this in the Mediterranean, but they would be crowded. Here, a small sail bring you to somewhere isolated where you can retreat into a world of the imagination, not far removed from that encountered by the first explorers all those hundreds of years ago.
And then retreat back for a cocktail to the bar with noisy children.
* * * * *
Eoghan Corry flew to Australia with Emirates Airlines, who a double daily service from Dublin to Dubai and onwards to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. He was hosted by Tourism Australian, www.australia.com.
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