THE OUTBACK AND SO FORTH – Wednesday, 7 March

Snorkel Morning has arrived. We shall shortly test the twin seashore perils/challenges of flotation and solar radiation. A hearty breakfast acts as ballast. Note: Australia is a land of orange-yolked eggs. Packing towels and t-shirts, sun screen and water, off we fucking go. Snorkels and flippers are available for rent at the Ningaloo Marine Park HQ. Ningaloo Reef, a fringing reef,  is the only large reef in the world found so close to a landmass that it’s theoretically an easy snorkel from shore. And Ningaloo is one of the few reefs of any kind on the western coast of any place and hosts a bounty of ocean life.

Thus equipped, we head for Lakeside Beach, trekking on foot across incendiary sand. Ow. Ow. Ow. We disrobe, muttering, then sit in the shallows yanking on the goddamn flippers. Breathing’s awkward at first and at second, nevertheless, we somehow manage to acclimate to these ungodly prostheses. Jesus, the Indian Ocean is A LOT saltier than the good ol’ Atlantic. The three young women who preceded us can be seen (barely) bobbing in the distance. Ali and I paddle semi-haplessly, occasionally sputtering and cursing. There seems to be a gentle, yet relentless, current inhibiting our progress. The view through the facemask reveals endless sandy bottom, no fish, no coral. It becomes apparent that (1) this is pretty fucking tiring, (2) the exotic sealife is pretty fucking far away, and (3) snorkel mastery may be merely a Pyrrhic victory. We call it a ‘win’ and back we walk to the parking lot along the waterline, triumphant. Two kangaroos are observed lounging beneath a picnic table, snide marsupials. It’s impossible to describe how elated we are, yet the question remains: Who invented the fucking snorkel and would it be possible to feed his or her descendants to dolphins?

Ali’s at the wheel. I swivel to point out a passing bookstore and, distracted, she almost takes out a charging emu. After a cleansing shower, we search for lunch. I pick out a tasty sandwich, while Ali, still shaken from close-encounter-of-the-emu-kind, picks a boring one. Across the way is a beachwear shop. She finds a pair of ideal sandals and we split the sandwiches. Naptime. I gas up the car. The end. Not quite. It’s my mom’s birthday. What time is it in New Jersey? I place a call and connect with Mom, much to our mutual amazement. She’s happy to hear from me yet is somewhat confused as to where exactly I’m calling from. That makes two of us.

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