Saturday started off just as we’d anticipated.  We had a great dive on the underwater wall right beside the boat.  The visibility here, which is some of the best in the world was off just a bit because of the rainy, overcast day, but it was still a fun dive.  We followed the reef slowly down to 50 feet or so and then started descending the wall.  We were at 100 feet in no time with no end in sight, just a deep, vast, featureless blue stretching out below us and beside us.  We swam the wall out to a nearby point and then returned, slowly decreasing our depth as we went.  Even with the start at 100 feet and some uncommon buoyancy issues, we managed to stay under for nearly an hour.  Although some of the reef was killed by unusually warm water earlier this year, it was still spectacular in spots.  We saw plenty of reef fish, but kept our eye on the deep blue as well to see what we could spot.  By the end of the dive, we’d seen a white tip reef shark, a very large cod, a tuna, and a group of four big Napolean Wrasse at least as big as the ones we saw on the great Barrier.

There has been a scheduled community social event each day we’ve been here and yesterday’s event was the Chinese Mooncake Festival put on by the Chinese Literary Society.  The local community here is a combination of Australians, Chinese, and Malays.  In the late 19th century, large phosphate deposits were discovered here and the a mine was started using Chinese and Malay labor.  The mine is still in operation today, and the diversity is pretty impressive for such a small place, with common sights like Mosques and temples, and common sounds like the calls to prayer and several languages being spoken.

After taking in a bit of the mooncake festival, we visited the Golden Bosun, which was mentioned in our cruising guide and by locals as a convivial local pub.  Convivial was an apt description.  We were engaged in conversation from the moment we walked into the open-air veranda until we left.  There are some places where it’s hard to sit down and not meet someone interesting.  It seemed most everyone had seen the catamaran in the cove.  We got a good laugh out of someone telling us that when they saw our catamaran in the cove Friday morning they said “Ahh, looks like Hollywood’s in town."  Maybe we’re just not used to seeing her from a distance.  We also got a glimpse of the Australian combination of love of gambling and high-paying mining and industrial jobs, with guys repeatedly willing to bet $100 and more on a simple flip of a coin.

The unplanned part of our adventure occurred the next morning on our way home from a new friend’s house. We hopped on the bikes for the short downhill ride to the cove, but halfway down the hill Lauren hit some loose gravel and took a tumble.  After checking her over for broken bones, bleeding, awareness, etc. I ran back up the hill and had our friend come back with his truck.  It was clear after taking a good look at her that we needed to visit the hospital, so off we went.  We found out today that what we thought would be a few stitches turned out to be a fractured jaw.  Actually, they use steri-strips and glue here instead of stitches, so several of the cuts on her face have a light purple covering instead of ugly stitches.  The hospital here is small (6 in-patient rooms), but well-staffed and is actually a clean, well-run first-world hospital, which is more than we can say at many of the places on our itinerary.  Lauren is the only in-patient, so she’s been getting all the nursing attention she needs.  I can’t imagine the staff anywhere being more kind and friendly.  They’ve really been incredible.  We definitely have to say a big thank-you to Peter, Nola, Ivonne, Doreen, Julie, Terry, Helen, Amy, Allie (sorry if we’ve misspelled any names) and all the rest.  You guys are the best!

DSC_0370 Lauren in the X-ray room with Terry & Doreen (the shades are for the bright “aiming light” on the machine)

Unfortunately, the nature of her jaw injury requires a specialist to assess and treat it, so we’re headed off on a flight to Perth, Australia tomorrow to see one.  That’s about all we know right now.  Other than not being able to eat solid food, she’s in pretty good shape.  She has a few sore spots, especially her elbow, but a couple Tylenol (Panadol here) every now and then are doing the trick.  I called our insurance company today to provide the required notification today and got a typical US health insurance message that went something like “Really value your call, but you’ll need to hold for a while.  We don’t cover all the things you probably think we do.  Re-read your policy.  Don’t think we’re going to send you money just because we’re talking with you.”  You get the idea.  We have a basic emergency plan for travelers not living in the US, so it will be interesting to see how all of that pans out.  I guess out next post will be from Perth.  It’s a spot we’ve always wanted to see, just not under these conditions.  Oh well, that’s life.  Looking at it as an unexpected adventure is working for us so far…