"Australia 1999" story # 16


Tweed Heads, New South Wales
April 10, 1999

Raquel borrowed me some money for SeaWorld. We rode rollercoasters and waterslides. Going down a small waterside, a Japanese lady in an orange swimsuit filled the entire park with a 15-second scream that sounded like she was a prisoner in hell. We watched shark shows and admired Raquel's favorite, dolphins. I tried kicking my shoe into the dolphins' pool, scheming that she would then have a viable excuse to go in and swim with the dolphins. Unfortunately, my kick was insufficient, and my sandal only barely bounced to some dirt.
     Raquel's no-eating-seafood policy drew my admiration, and I decided, while riding to New South Wales, that I'd adopt the plan myself. It was cool to have such an ocean-lover with me, and though our swimming destinations had all been severely lacking in marine life, it was nice to see someone besides me with a snorkelling mask on.
     We passed an estuary in Palm Beach, Tweed Heads, New South Wales (name might not be accurate), and we decided to stop and try it out for a snorkel.
     The estuary was light green, surrounded by two banks of cozy sand, with the open ocean far to one side and pillars from a bridge to the other. The water was clear, but there was little to see except different depths of sand. Raquel and I snorkelled along in our masks and flippers, and we soon came to rocks all over the water's bottom. These rocks were accompanied by light-orange fish, sand-camouflaged stingrays, and reef fish brightly-striped yellow and gold.
     "This is amazing," said Raquel. "They must think we're on a reef." I was impressed with the ease she dove a dozen feet and how she often held her breath longer than me. Perhaps, she was a dolphin in another life.
     We dove by the bridge pillars, and I was amazed to see one red and one white scorpionfish, beautifully - and painfully - adorned with spines and feather-like fins all over their backs and bottoms. The water had become murky near the bottom here, so I pointed at the fish to help Raquel see them.
     Suddenly, my eyes widened as I noticed what lay less than an inch from my finger. I was nearly poking it in the face, in fact! A stonefish - the world's most poisonous fish. If my finger had just been an inch further out, I would've been four minutes from having my body pulse in agony as I pleaded for death, which would come fifteen minutes later. But, man, what an amazing thing to see. The blob of a fish, whose fat face sulked grumpily, sat beneath a flat stone. Everything in the area was a murky brown color, including the fish's body, face, mouth, and fins. It had sat there for so long it was covered with a film of dirt and just seemed like another rock. The only recognizable part of the animal were its tiny eyes, which were a clearer brown and the only part not perfectly camouflaged.
     Except for the Great Barrier Reef, this was the best place I'd ever snorkelled. I noted how curious it was that I'd only ever seen three poisonous fish in my life, the stonefish and two scorpionfish, and all three were within a foot of eachother, beneath a bridge in a innocent-looking, dull, roadside estuary. I also noted that marine animals didn't care if I had a no-seafood diet or not, they still wouldn't hesitate to kill me if I so much as waved a toe or finger or even my cute face in front of them. Maybe I ought to keep eating them, the jerks.

We spent the night in Broken Head with two friends of Raquel's from Sydney. It was a pretty lazy night, with the only excitement coming from a hospital trip during which Raquel's ear leaked water from a perforated eardrum she'd got while snorkelling and my eye turned blood-red from my contact.
     The next day, our last of the roadtrip, we went into town and rented ten movies. Joey and Dave LOVE movies. Broken Head was on the coast, but it didn't offer much of a beach. The town was small, and there was little more than a bakery, two supermarkets, some banks, and a much-used video store.
     Dave, Joey, Raquel, and I watched Speed 2, and I doubt that I've ever enjoyed a movie so much. I highly recommend renting this movie with friends if you haven't seen it, or even if you have.
     Don't confuse my version of an enjoyable movie with a good movie. This was one of the worst movies I'd ever seen. But it was fun to mock. The ultimate scene was especially enjoyable.
     I'll not bore you with the movie's plot, but in the last scene an ocean-line was floating towards an island village. The boat's skipper struggles to stop it, counting down the speed as the boat slows.
     "Five knots!" Dave yelled with the same obnoxiousness as the stupid-looking skipper.
     "I can't remember watching a movie less exciting than this," said Raquel. "I am in no suspense."
     "Four knots!" Dave faked excitement, as a bunch of small boat-owners leapt from their ships that the ocean-liner crushed.
     Joey got angry. "How did these people not get out the way!? The boat's only going five kilometers an hour. And it's huge! They must've seen it coming for miles!"
     "Three knots!"
     "No suspense. None whatsoever. These people are all bloody idiots!"
     The movie ended sadly. The skipper yelled "Two knots!", "One knot!", and "Zero knots!" and thus, everybody involved in the making of this movie didn't die, which I would've hoped for.
     Also sad was that Easter Break had come to an end. Raquel drove us through fluffy hills to cloudy Lismore. In addition to having had a good time, I now had a new philosophy on seafood and a good Australian friend, and Raquel was happily over her old boyfriend.

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