Team VA's Wonderings

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

All the way down the East Coast

Before leaving Cairns I bumped into Myriam, who I travelled with in the Red Centre. We chatted for a couple of hours before I had to go and book my executive backpacker flights. We reconvened for dinner at the Woolshed, which provided a striking piece of Australiana; or at least Cairns tourist tat.

First we got the goldfish racing World Cup; essentially it was straight knockout from the last 8, with a 2 lap final. One's goldfish was encouraged by blowing bubbles through a straw-some of them could really shift. I'm pleased to say victory went to the Oranje who triumphed over the Canadian, which meant Myriam and I both had a horse to cheer in the final.

To race a fish, you had to bid-highest bidder racing the fish in question; after the Dutch celebrations had died down, it was announced that the auction proceeds would be put towards the second part of the evening's entertainment-the wet t-shirt competition. We left, but I guess it must be popular as John and I fled amateur pole dancing (guys and gals) in a different bar the night before. As I walked home, ruminating a la Bryson on what an extraordinary country this is, I was cheered to pass a bar blaring out Johnny Cash's (definitive) version of Hurt; I was soon a touch perturbed, as the DJ saw fit to mix it into Dancing Queen. It really is an extraordinary country.

Pretty long journey today to Magnetic Island-7 a.m. start on the bus, with a ferry and second bus to follow. Stringer's driving and has been the usual font of knowledge: for instance, I have learnt that Slim Dusty is the Chuck Norris of country music-I can't make it up.

It seems John and I were very lucky to see 2 Cassowaries in the wild; Stringer was just explaining he'd only ever seen two, when the bus screeched to a shuddering halt and the air was pierced by a cry of 'Jesus fucking Christ' (I believe this is Australian for 'Oh my goodness, I can scarcely believe what I'm seeing'). Cassowary's wandering about on the verge; we saw another an hour later. I always had ambitions to be a babe magnet; looks like I'll have to settle for being a Cassowary magnet.

Our first stop was at a crocodile farm, it was a bit of a zoo and the style of presentation was definitely Queensland cheesey. The farmers went into a croc enclosure with some chicken (after all, these are Australian crocs), announce their presence, look around for the croc and encourage them to strike. It's truly terrifying the way they move: they fly out of the water, jaws open then snapping, at a great pace. They do this from a frequently invisible starting point-seemingly they can conceal themselves in just a few inches of slightly off colour water. It was sobering to think how close to the water's edge they could be. I understood why it was that in most croc attacks the victim doesn't even get time to scream. The farmers looked frequently unprepared for the croc pounce and backpedalled expertly; they had plastic rakes to protect themselves. Bit of a zoo, but it made a point.

Notice how I have a clear shot of the open gate? The others fled after the farmer threw chicken out of it.

Most of what we saw were full grown crocs that had been relocated after causing a 'nuisance'. From what I saw, it seems croc farming is very like having a James Bond baddie's lair.

After the crocs they got the snakes out and I found Leah-fellow veggie and snake lover. I'm a lot better about snakes than I was 6 months ago, but I was still damn careful no one put one on me. Leah was not so lucky. One guy ended up with one down his trousers. But I did made a new friend

He's probably called John, like the first two fellas I met on the bus. Bloody nice blokes.

Magnetic Island
This was my first stop of real note-2 nights on Magnetic Island. It was named by Captain Cook; like everything else on the East coast. He felt it did something funny to his compass.

We missed the ferry we wanted and ended up arriving for sunset, happy hour and some dinner. Fair result I reckon. It was an amazing hostel, according to Carl Hooper, it's the only one in Australia on the beach.

As for the rest of the evening, let's just say the Australian Army joined us for beers.

A bunch of us from the bus spent a very enjoyable day kayaking and walking. After the boats and lunch, the plan had been to go on an easy walk before something more strenuous around twilight. It would be fair to say the easy walk went wrong

and included off road, rocky bits, steep bits, lost bits and a housing area, where a lovely bloke came out of his house to point us in the right direction; at this stage, we weren't lost-just looking at the cockatoo in someone's tree. It was in short, enough for one day.

More drinks promotions sucked us into another messy night. So much so that the following morning, I had to have fried breakfast as some bugger had nicked my food. I had some good cheese too.

Back on the ferry and back on the bus. My, I've seen a lot of sugar cane, which has allowed me to stop looking out of the window and start reading the NZ Lonely Planet. Judging by the book, it's the best place on earth.

You pick up some nice titbits on the bus. Karrie Webb built the cinema in her home town of Ayr-good on ya. In case the Ultimate Olympian doesn't know, she's the top Aussie lady golfer.

I've worked out I'll be leaving my little posse of new friends as we're on different sail boats and I'm moving on before them; hopefully they'll catch me up.

A sailor's life for me
I'm feeling a little nervous about my sailing trip; it was something of an impulse booking and I didn't really do my research. I'm picking up the vibe that I'm on a bargain basement party boat. On the East coast that might turn into an 18-30 brit-fest. Here's hoping not. I've bought a box of wine, just in case.

There are 74 islands in the Whitsundays. Guess who named them? Captain Cook. For a bonus point, guess when he sailed through here.

They're quite interesting topographically-here's hoping that's the correct word. Long ago when sea levels were a lot lower, the Whitsundays were a mountain range on the Australian mainland. Now the former mountain tops are islands; they mostly looked hilly, sometimes rocky and covered in rainforest.

Pretty sure I was granddad of the passengers (2 days on a boat proved insufficient for us to get round to a game of finding out how old everyone was), but there were no under twenties and the other two English were mid-twenties. I did need the box of wine, tho.

Home tonight

was where the dinner was

I really love the magic of arriving in the dark and only seeing the land the next morning; the imagination creates an image that you get to reality check 12 hours later. Due to the isolation the stars were phenomenonal-up there with the Red Centre.

After dinner and stars, T (the only girl in an Irish quartet, kinda like an inverted Corrs) made us play Ring of Fire. This proved to be an evil drinking game that should carry a health warning; it made a large dent in the box of wine. The numbers of Irish have increased to levels I've not seen since Sydney; they do love a party, or at least those who've made it out here. T told me Bondi's been dubbed County Bondi, due to the number of Irish. I couldn't help but think of the sunburn that must be on show.

Not a lot of sailing was done by our boat, or the others I saw. The engine was the real worker rather than the elements. I did get to raise and lower the mainsail on the last day.

That said, I could quite get into this sailing lark. It's a marvellous way to travel, I think time and cost are its only cons in comparison to air travel.

Unfortunately, on several occasions when I was alone with my thoughts, looking out to sea or sitting on the thing at the front of the boat, the theme tune from Howard's Way popped into my head. Rather loudly. I'm sure if I spend more time on boats, I'll learn some sea shanties to drown it out.

The other very odd earworm that I was subjected to was 'Mistletoe and Wine', when drenched in sweat, walking through a rainforest to Whitehaven Beach, which is a pretty big bit of heaven.

I don't think I want to hear the psychologist's explanation of that one. On the beach we waded round the water in our stinger suits; Yandell saw sharks, but I had to 'settle' for a lot of Sting Rays. Whitehaven was the definite highlight of the trip. The only slight letdown was the dive, where I felt the visibility was poor and it wasn't very well done. Although I still enjoyed the essential fact of diving, I wasn't sufficently inspired to take up the option of a second dive, but I must get certified. I think NZ will do the job. By the looks of the Lonely Planet, rather cheaper than Oz!

On the last night, after the kind of sunset I never shared with John,

the skipper of another boat introduced us to Ride the Train, which was vicious. In my considered opinion only the Withnail drinking game is a more likely carnage creator. We only played it once.

Another beautiful bay and another reef, it was back to shore-after a quick round of jumping off the boat.

And I changed the orientation on my camera. Before new improved Google-arse-blogger that did the trick. Morons.

Post trip party tonight; 6.50 bus in the morning; I'm feeling old.


  • Wow !! what an adventure. The photographs are just out of the world. Dave Richards

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:04 AM  

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