It was a beautiful sunny day. I was headed to a diving excursion on the Great Barrier Reef. Anxiously waiting to board the boat, my imagination was awash with thoughts of all the marine life I expected to see.
What I wasn’t anticipating was seasickness. Oh, the seasickness. I was about to experience it for the very first time and let me tell you, it wasn’t a gentle introduction. We faced a long 4 hour round trip journey to the Great Barrier Reef. I retched on my way there AND on the way back. Yes, BOTH ways.
Those were 4 torturous hours of my life that I will never forget.
The voyage started off well. We glided by the magnificent Whitsunday Islands with their sparkling turquoise bays and coves. Soaking in the view, I enjoyed the warmth of the sun, the wind in my hair and the smell of the ocean. My eyes were locked on the passing landscapes; I was in awe of the beauty. I snapped out of my trance when a staff member alerted us to move to the lower deck. We were going to cruise into open water where the waves would get very choppy.
I settled into a seat down below and watched Finding Nemo for the umpteenth time (I can’t tell you how many tourism offices played this movie in Australia!). Motion sickness tablets were being offered to all passengers. I turned my nose up to the tablets. Pfft, I won’t need one of those, I thought to myself. After all, I have been on plenty of vessels of all types and sizes in my lifetime, never once had I been seasick before.
Soon I felt the boat come to life. Slowly, it began dipping down deeply then rolling back up and over the waves with what seemed like no end. It felt like I was on a roller coaster.
I felt a flutter of uneasiness in my stomach. Pushing through it, I reassured myself I would be just fine and that I had nothing to worry about. I was in denial. Deep down I knew what was happening, but I refused to listen, convincing myself some inner pep talk would take care of it. Further warning signs began surfacing; I became light headed, nauseous and got the sweats. I could feel the blood draining from my face. I closed my eyes, tightened my grip on the arms of my chair and took deep breathes – I will not be sick!
A staff member approached me. “Ma’am, are you feeling okay?” (Shit, they were on to me!). “Yes, thank you”, I responded with a weak smile. As soon as they turned their back on me, I tried to stealthily make my exit, trying to fool them by nonchalantly making my way to the washrooms. This was not an easy feat with the boat lurching, rocking back and forth, I could hardly steady myself on my feet. Once again I was stopped by a staff member. “If you’re going to be sick, go outside, the fresh air will help. Do not go into the washroom!” I smile and nod, then make a beeline for the bathroom. I wasn’t about to become sick in front of a boat load of strangers.
I will spare you the details of what happened while I was in the washroom. After what felt like forever, I re-emerged from the tiny lavatory. I thought I had gotten away with the perfect crime, and no one would be the wiser…until I noticed some questioning stares. I looked down and saw the large grill marks across my shins from kneeling on a checkered mat in front of the porcelain throne. It looked like I had been burned by a hot deep frying basket. So much for being discreet.
Thankfully all of the nausea subsided as we reached calmer water near the reef and I was able to enjoy a few dives.
On our way back we were forewarned that the swells would be even worse. Great! Right then and there I decided to take the damn motion sickness drugs. Turned out not even the power of drugs could save me. I became sick yet again. This time I fessed up to a staff member and was escorted to an outside deck where all the other infirm people were; segregated from the rest. I was handed a container of ice to suck on and a bag to throw up in as we rode the waves. To add to my feeling of defeat, I was hit by a spray of seawater every now and then as water crashed against the side of the boat.
I took a look at the others around me – a mother consoling her sick crying daughter, a dutiful husband comforting his green faced wife. In pure misery, they looked like hell. I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s how I looked. In shame, we avoided making direct eye contact with one another. At some point, the embarrassment of throwing up in a bag in front of others faded. All I could think about was keeping my queasiness at bay and getting off that damn boat. Aside from the horrible nausea, the worst part of the ordeal was handing my full bag to a staff member in exchange for a fresh one. Resentfully, I stared down anyone who came out onto the outer deck and stood next to me to take some scenic photographs while I had my face buried in a paper bag. I prayed I wouldn’t show up in the backdrop of their photos puking my guts out.
I wrapped myself up in my sarong. Travelling alone and left to my own devices, I had no choice but to comfort myself, ride the waves and wait it out.