Port Macquarie, as I discovered, is a lovely little coastal town in New South Wales with some of the best beaches in Australia. Unfortunately I arrived on the hostel doorstep smack bang in the middle of winter. It was a tad too chilly for me to frolic my big butt in the cold water so I headed for a walk around the town. When I hit the marina I was surrounded by companies yelling prices at me for tickets forwhale watching. “$60!” A lady screamed at me. “$30!” The next one said. “$20!” Came from further back.

My haggling skills are incredible. I managed to get 60 per cent off without even opening my mouth.I turned to the lady with the lowest price while the gang of sellers grumbled miserably and went back to their seats. She covered me in a bright rainbow plastic poncho, making me look like an eskimo heading to the Mardi Gras, and steered me towards a boat that was all but full.

I’ve never had the best balance so as I attempted to climb onto the boat I stepped on my poncho and went ass over head with my head on some poor chap’s lap and my feet still dangling out the side of the boat. Eventually I introduced my feet with the floor and made my way to an empty seat as one very embarrassed little eskimo.

We took off towards the mouth of the river at full speed. My eyes were watering and I felt the skin on my face pull back. I looked beside the boat and realised three others were powering out full steam ahead. Apparently only two boats can be near the whales at once. The competitive environment suddenly became very clear. Each time a tail flicked up out of the water, someone would shout in surprise alerting all the boats and the competition would begin.

People always say that when you’re out at sea, the water can play tricks with your mind. I just didn’t realise this could occur in such a short period of time and with the mainland still in sight.

I have a rather large fear of sharks that I try really hard to suppress. At some point during my searching endeavours I stopped looking for the big humps, the tails, or the spurs of water. Instead I seemed to be searching for a fin. From somewhere the theme from Jaws had entered my head. “Da Dummmm. Da dummmm… Da dum, da dum, da dum, da dum…”

“OVER THERE!” The lady directly behind me yelled.

I let out an ear-splitting scream as the giant shark rose up next to me. Oh wait… it was a tail. A whale. I was whale watching. Of course it was a whale. It was huge and slimy but still somehow seemed graceful as it slowly re-entered the water. Over the course of the two hours we must have seen about eight whales. My day dreaming on the water was starting to spiral out of control. I pictured myself standing on the stern of the boat, one hand shooting upwards to the sky as awhale jumped out of the water, over the boat and back down into the sea. He was free!

I felt the motor start again, bringing me back to reality.

The whales continued to venture north as we made our way back into the river. I had seen some amazing whales, both in and out of my mind.

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