26.06.2012 - 27.06.2012
When we arrived in Coral Bay last night the hostel staff cooked us hamburgers. It was nice not having to do the evening meal. They also gave everyone a ticket for a free drink but, oddly, you couldn't redeem it on soft drink or bottled water, only on beer or wine. We gave ours away.
Coral Bay is small. There's the hostel, a bakery, small supermarket, caravan park, cafe, a couple of tour operators, restaurant, jewelery store and visitor centre.
We all went different ways today - Haydon and Jeanette went on a glass bottom boat, Nikki, Claire and Ken went on the Manta Ray cruise, the rest of the young ones chilled at the beach and Karen and I went quad bike riding.
Although there were two companies offering quads there weren't any Hondas or Yamahas, they both use Canam quads. I checked them out and saw that they are still using Rotax engines as they did decades ago, when they were known as Canam Bombardier, and made competition dirt bikes.
Karen and I had to sign up as riders because they required a minimum of 2 paying riders to run the tour but, while we were still having our induction, the office girls came over to say more people were coming along so Karen, who'd originally wanted to pillion, went back and got a $41 dollar refund ($90 to ride, $49 to pillion) and climbed on to the back of my quad.
Now we had 4 quads going, Tys our guide on his own on the lead quad, a father and son on the 2nd, another older son and daughter (we think) on the 3rd quad and us last...through choice. We'd seen a girl at Yardie Creek hobbling around because she'd been quadding, a bike in front of her had rolled and she'd been following too close and ran into it. I suggested to Karen that by going last we'd be entirely in control of our own safety and not at risk from some newb behind us...it also meant that I could drop back whenever I wanted and then play catch up
Being the detail loving chap that I am I actually read the entirety of the contract that we signed and noted that it stipulated that we mustn't go any faster than 35km/h. I dutifully did my part to observe that 35km/h limit the entire trip...in fact I'm pretty sure I was watching the digital speedo every time that 35 was momentarily displayed on the way to higher numbers.
It was a very fun 2.5 hours. The path that we took along the beach and into the surrounding dunes had a nice mix of -
- straight beach runs where we could either toddle along enjoying the view with Karen taking photos from the plush pillion perch behind me or see how quickly the 400cc Rotax engine could approach its redline with Karen hanging on to the rails beside her seat laughing (35km/h dutifully observed..."look there it goes again")
- curvy bits that existed simply to be curvy with well banked corners so that we could either pick our speed, go up high on the curve and rail out into the next one or, when we weren't in 4wd mode, we could go in faster, back it into the curve on the rear brake and then point and push that thumb throttle, again with Karen hanging on and laughing behind me
- S bends where the mid point was also the crest of a dune and the two ends of the s had opposite cambers or sometimes even crossed other tracks with deep sand that abruptly slowed us and challenged us not to run wide up the banks
- straight runs down steep dunes
- big open bowls and small cul-de-sacs where we got to do big wide turns or near 360s
- corrugated hard pack where we chose our lines carefully, or as carefully as speed permitted, to avoid swallowing your fillings
- deep deep soft sand on a gentle off camber where, if the quad wasn't in 4wd mode, it would crab walk sideways along the beach.
We took lots of photos which meant we had to slow so Karen could get her phone out, take the shot and then tuck it away safely in her pocket...and then I had an excuse to catch up. I learnt that it's possible to roost sand in your own face when you're in 4wd mode.
We stopped a few times. Once for the others to do some snorkelling which we didn't mind as we'd only paid for a 2 hour trip but they'd paid for 2.5 hours including the snorkelling. It showered briefly but we sat and enjoyed looking out over the sea. The other stops were sight seeing stops where we got more lovely photos and saw a turtle swimming by, saw another feeding in the water below the cliff on which we stopped, an eagle ray swam gracefully passed, a mother dolphin and her pup swam in the distance and, way out near the horizon, a whale breached several times.
We even had a swallow accompany us for ages along one ridge where he flew overhead just in front of us and behind the next quad, flipping from the left to the right and back again, rising and falling as he paced us. He disappeared at one point but then popped back in front of us before finally flying off. Perhaps that was his version of dolphins riding the bow waves of ships?
All too soon Tys stopped us for one last photo op and then said to everyone, smiling while looking squarely our way, that we were heading back into town now so it was time to behave. I'd have sworn that I did all my catching up whenever we were around bends or behind dunes and out of sight - apparently not. Good on him for letting an old bloke have a bit of a play.
We whiled away the afternoon eating greasy chips, hot pies, pastries and ice blocks from the local shops, had a nap, published some blog entries and then 'let' Karen beat me 5 games to nil at table tennis, sometimes without even getting a double digit score. It must have been the lighting, the dodgy bat, perhaps an iffy ball...or maybe she's just too good with anything that has a racquet / bat and ball.
Over dinner we listened as those who went on the other activities told us about everything that they had seen while on the glass bottom boat or manta ray snorkeling. Clearly a fabulous day was had by all.
We'll miss Coral Bay.