Monday, April 18, 2011

Coral Bay night

It's 1am and I'm sitting in a field that's jammed full of caravans and tents containing hundreds of sleeping people. There's not a sound to be heard. Nobody moving around anywhere. And it's been this way for at least a couple of hours. People sure do crash out early in caravan parks. Tori and the kids drifted away some time ago and I've been sipping down a bottle of fine red wine we picked up in Margaret River and chatting via Instant Messenger to my good friend Andy who is living in Istanbul. The very very good side of technology. Being able to communicate instantaneously in the written form with people who are located anywhere on the planet Earth. It felt just like a conversation in person. Like we were in the same room. I could see the expressions on Andy's face and hear his infectious laughter at the many and varied topics we discussed. Talking to great friends in any form is always good. And the more forms there are creates the greater opportunity and frequency as far as I'm concerned. There are many people that seem to begrudge this form of communication. Messenger, Facebook, or any other electronic means. "I'd rather just call them and talk to them in person on the phone". But do they? And what actually makes that form of communication any better? Surely the quality is in the dialogue and the meaning, not the form. To me this conversation was pretty much the same as any that I would have had with Andy on the phone. And in fact reflective of those that we have when we're in the same room together. I guess it's just like that with good friends. It only takes an element of input from them for their essence to be with you in the room. Wherever that may be. Even sitting under an awning late at night in a silent caravan park.

We arrived at Coral Bay this afternoon, a mere 200km drive up from Carnarvon. Jazzy did the navigating, enjoying her time in the front seat and spending a significant part of the journey scrutinizing the map. It had been starting to disturb me that both Jaz and Finn were spending our entire journey around Australia with their heads buried in books or playing games on their iPods. I couldn't blame them for wanting something fun to do on a long drive, but I felt the need to try and engage them somehow in the voyage. Not just the time at the destinations. Part of the experience is the journey itself and what better way to be involved than to be the navigator. So over the last few trips, the kids have been taking turns in the prime front seat with the map on their laps. And so today for most of the drive Jaz was taking in the scenery, looking for a sign on the road that may signify the next turn off or at least provide a milestone as to where we currently were, and intently studying the map. It is said that providing driving directions is one of the primary causes of arguments between couples, so at least if my kids can navigate they may be on the righteous side of that argument, rather than being the one that led their partner to miss the turn off from Greece to Turkey by 200km.

Dripping with sweat after setting up the campsite in Coral Bay under the fierce tropical sun, I was always going to be heading directly to the beach, snorkel gear in hand, immediately wanting to get my first underwater glimpses of the Ningaloo Reef. Jaz and Finn had gone off to the caravan park pool as soon as we arrived, so Tori went to summons them. They had decided on a predetermined role of "We were having fun in the pool. Why do we have to get out and come with you" kind of approach and were somewhat taken aback when Tori and I said they could come or not. It was up to them. They didn't have to come snorkeling on one of the world's great reefs if they didn't want to. This surprised them. They weren't expecting that kind of response, being so used to the "do as I say" kind of approach that I in particular normally favour. I gained great joy watching the cogs turn in their little heads as they tried to decide how to approach this new playing field. Unsurprisingly, the Ningaloo Reef won out. And with it, perhaps a very slight shift in the family dynamic. And it was clearly the right choice. Splash around in a few square metres of concrete and tile or swim around in the Indian Ocean and have a close up view of sting rays, lion fish, loads of coral and a myriad of brilliantly coloured fish of all shapes and sizes. And of course get to hang out with Mum and Dad, who still have a tenuous hold on being people who are fun to be with. For me it was a big aim of the trip fulfilled. Ningaloo Reef was a place that was high on my list of priorities from the moment our journey was in it's early planning stages. And for us all to actually be here just seemed amazing. We'll be spending the next month in close proximity to the pristine beaches that line the coast around here, so it's all in front of us. I look forward to seeing it unfold in a truly leisurely fashion.

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