Chapter Ten - Rock to Reef
I'm standing in a large hotel room in Port Douglas. White crisp bed sheets on an enormous double bed, a day lounge overlooking a myriad of turquoise pools. I am surrounded by designer furniture and big bath the size of a swimming pool.
I'm at the Sheraton Mirage to celebrate my father's 70th birthday. My dad has invited the entire extended family to the Great Barrier Reef to celebrate. In total we are 29, 17 adults and 12 children.
Above and beyond anything else in the world, family is the most important thing to my father. He lost his parents at a young age and it was a huge part of his own upbringing.
After the Second World War, my father was just two when his family left Europe for Australia. His parents settled in Maroubra and started a new life there. They had three children in total, my father (the eldest) and twins. My dad was in his late teens when his mother passed away and in his early 20's when his father died.
As the oldest sibling my father quickly became the patriarch of the family. A role that he has held for the last 41 years.
Today's seventy is nothing like that of my grandparents generation. There is no mistaking the fact that turning seventy marks the beginning of a whole new chapter in life, one that my grandparents never experienced.
My dad and his siblings are first generation Australians, they have achieved great things, both personally and professionally. Starting in a new country they created an amazing, caring and dynamic family. From three to twenty-nine.
My father has led a charmed life. He married my mother, the only woman he ever loved. He's walked my sister, Rebecca down the aisle, watched my brother Moshe marry the love of his life, visited me around the world and watched his children bear children of their own.
For the next few days, we laugh so much we cried, and made memories that will last a lifetime.
In Queensland when the opportunity came up to go spear fishing, we all jumped at the chance.
There were spears for everyone, from my 3 year old nephew to my 70 year old father. Our guide, gave us a demonstration of how to throw a spear and we all copied, it looked easy enough, but when we actually it did, our throws looked nothing like his.
It was the late afternoon and it was low tied. We set out on our adventure, spear in hand. It was amazing seeing all the family spread out on the mud flats looking for fish and crabs.
I felt like the Jews leaving Egypt. Fancy a flock of Jews looking for crabs!
We walked and we walked, then suddenly, my cousins husband spotted a crab and he went for it! There was cheering and squeals, he had caught our first (and last) mud crab. The kids were beside themselves with excitement.
After two hours wandering the beach, searching for food, we went back to our hosts house and settled down with some damper and the one crab we found.
It tasted delicious and smelt like victory.
Hostel to hotel - life of luxury
It was the first time in months that I had showered without wearing thongs. It was liberating to step into a pristine shower. This is something I took for granted back in Sydney. It's all about the small pleasures now.
I loved waking up late, walking on the beach, playing with my nephews and niece. Catching up with my cousins, speaking to my Aunt and Uncle, and of course spending time with my parents and my siblings.
Hotel life is wonderful, comfortable and luxurious, but you certainly don't get the stories I get at the hostel.
In my ten days away from the hostel, I missed the police showing up. One of the backpackers had left the hostel a month ago to do his farm work in Katherine. He'd been gone a month and no one had heard from him.
His mother called the hostel full of anxiety. They hadn't heard anything, so she called the police and he was put on a missing persons list. A policeman came in to interview some of his friends. But no one knew anything.
Eventually they tracked him down, he was alive and well.
You don't get that at the Sheraton.