Monday, 6 July 2009

Topi trip 5

Forster

Frances wanted to go and have a prowl round this town to what was there and, specifically, what was in the op-shops. I thought this was fine as I had found that the MV Amaroo offered whale watching trips, offering a sort of mini-pelagic birding experience. Given Frances rather colourful (or perhaps colourempty is the better word) experiences of pelagic voyages I wasn't sure if she would want to come along, but that would just be to the benefit of the op-shops. As the weather looked nice on Thursday she decided she would front the trip.

I had been recommended some medication to prevent sea-sickness (developed to overcome epilepsy, but apparently found good by NASA in overcoming motion sickness) but on looking it up on the 'net the side effects including increased risk of suicidal thoughts. This seemed a bit harsh for a boat trip so I asked our psychiatrist daughter her opinion. She thought it was a bit heavy-handed and said she wouldn't prescribe it for the purpose. So we took some Travel-Calm ginger tablets and apart from burning our mouths off, it seemed to do the job (although the sea was doing a fair impersonation of a billiard table).

A first victory was getting a discount on the tickets for being old people. The Seniors Card is a great invention!

The trip started with a fairly long chug through oyster farms in the course of which we were given a helpful explanation of the oyster industry. Apparently 1/3rd of Australia's oysters come from Wallis Lake (ie where we were). A few good birds were seen, including a nesting Osprey. We then had to put on life-jackets as we went over the bar: no dramas in this but, in other parts of NSW I have heard of people being stuck for days on an island because of bars being too dangerous to get back into port.

We motored along the coast a bit and found a couple of Bottle-nosed Dolphins fishing quite close to the beach One may be visible in the image to the left). One of them had something (possibly a plastic bag) stuck on its face so the driver called in the Coastal Patrol to try to do something to remedy this. Quite a pleasant period.

The next 20 minutes or so were basically a motor down the coast looking at scenery, followed by a swing out to sea, looking for whales. We had given up and turned for home ? everybody having come down to the cabin for the free coffee - when the driver spotted some spouting in front. Suddenly no-one is left inside the cabin! It was thought to be a male humpback (the males travel solo, rather than in a pod) and we got some reasonable sightings although it was spending a fair while under water. Right at the end a second spout appeared so there were at least two of them there. While trolling around looking for the submerged whale we were joined by a Yellow-billed Albatross - the first and only pelagic bird - and it was kind enough to come and sit on the water right next to the boat.

Eventually giving up on the uncooperative whale(s) we came cross a patch of sea being churned by diving Gannets. Suddenly we realised that the churning was caused by a huge pod of Common Dolphins. When I say huge, I am talking about 100+. This was absolutely spectacular and the beasts were all around the boat doing all the dolphin things, including porpoising with the whole body coming out of the water. This was really marvellous and turned the trip from very pleasant to magic! A few of my images seem to be not too bad so if you have the technology you can get some Prints of Whales ? without having to worry about young Mr DaGreek turning up!

On getting back to shore we hit the op-shops. I was keen for this as my belt had dis-corporated (pathetic: it was only 28 years old ? which I know because I bought it while in Colorado). I duly got a replacement cincture and a couple of flip-top bottles ($1 each) for beer and two nice beer glasses (20 cents each!). A quick fill-up with petrol, a visit to the supermarket and home.

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