So it was time to go back to Townsville, I was meeting up with Tom who I planned to travel the east Coast with. Tom is a chap who I only met in Innisfail, but yet he and his friend James who he was originally travelling with only come from Rainworth, which is about a 10 minute drive from where I live for those of you who don't know. The only problem with his arrival was that he planned to hitch-hike it down. So I was very sceptical whether he would make it or not.
However, I had other things to sort out, the first and main priority was getting rid of this hangover, the ferry crossing back to Townsville had gone better than expected. I expected chundering and the rest of the vessel not being too happy with me. But I got my head down and pulled through. I got off and began the walk to the hostel looking at every café and eatery for something greasy. Nothing took my fancy, so I ended up in woollies buy a cartoon of juice and a beef, bacon and cheese pie. It did a job. I got checked in and caught up with my emails, Facebook and blogs.
Everything was in order, I was perking up a bit, I was happy with this as I wanted a decent night out for the Chelsea vs. United game. It was now just a waiting game for when Tom got here. I did anything to pass the time checked Facebook, ate noodles, checked Facebook again, signed up to be a mystery shopper, checked Facebook again. Then the call came. He was here.
The couple he hitched hiked with dropped him off right outside the hostel; we got him checked in and then went to woollies to get some food for later on that night. I asked Tom then if he wanted to do anything specific for his one night in Townsville, to my horror he looked at Castle Hill and said can we climb that, I did everything to try and put him off, but he was adamant. I was less than impressed and it was off up Castle Hill again! I sailed through it; apart from one thing I was wearing my $3.50 Kmart flip flops. These were already battered. I could feel every little rock on every step and pretty much every step especially on the way down my flip flop would break and would have to be fixed. Tom enjoyed the walk and the views and I needed the exercise so was pretty pleased I did it again, when we got back we each showered, ate some food and decided we would mark the first night of our tour with a big night out in Townsville. It was a Sunday and Sunday sessions are pretty big things down under, it appears Townsville doesn't have the same rules as other places. The place was deserted. We had a few drinks and ended up in the Mad Cow, it was a good night but Tom was struggling to get into proceedings, and although I was pulling some good and crazy shapes on the dance floor we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hostel.
I tried to stay awake to watch the Chelsea vs. United game on my laptop but ended up falling asleep just before it started, but I did wake up to the great news that we had won 3-2 although it appears it was a touch on the controversial side. We checked out and it was time to plan our next destination, we looked into going to Ayr and Bowen, where we were hoping to get a few days farm work to fund a bit of our East Coast tour, we phoned every working hostel and they told us that it was out of season and there was no jobs at the moment on either Mango or Tomato picking. We were a little deflated, we decided to stretch our legs and go to the Mall, as Tom needed some new earrings after losing his in Innisfail. We found a shop and the women recommended we go to a nearby pub for a schooner (Australians don't do pints, the schooner is the next best thing half way between half a pint and a full pint, some might say three quarters of a pint). Obviously, we took her up on her advice and headed to the Herbert Hotel. Tom ordered, I wasn't sure what to have, the barmaid recommended a Great Northern, and so I had one. She served us and then reappeared with a prize board; it appeared that if you purchased a schooner of Great Northern you were in with a chance of winning a prize. Either a chair, hat or torch all you had to do was pick a letter and number on the grid, and see what was behind the sticker. Pretty similar to how an advent calendar works. I went for G2 - Gary Neville, number 2. I lost. I was gutted; I had my heart set on another hat for my collection. Tom was also gutted he didn't get a go on the prize board because he had had another type of beer. We finished our schooners and each decided to get another as we wanted to win a prize, maybe a little too much. The board come out again, we both lost. We were gutted. the barmaid perhaps feeling sorry for us then gave us another chance. I lost again. It was unbelievable. It was up to Tom to save the day, he did. We won a torch. It's a pretty good torch too!
It's fair to say we were a little tipsy, we had hardly anything to eat, me a pack of noodles and Tom a pot noodle. The beer had gone to our heads. It was time to get out of Townsville, and I decided I would try hitch hiking with Tom. We knew we couldn't get work at Bowen but thought we would head there as there was a big statue of a Mango and we thought we might be able to pick up some other work besides farming. Tom had done some research on hitch hiking from Townsville; he found a website which recommended a good spot near a Woolworths around 10km out of town where the A16 meets the A1 Bruce Highway - The road which runs the length of the East Coast. Earlier in the morning he said he was going to catch a bus there. But things were different now, we were drunk, it was a different kettle of fish altogether. I suggested walking, in my head I thought we would never have to walk the full 10km and we would get picked up along the way or find another lay by to hitch hike from. We started walking and it wasn't long before my flip flops broke again, and then again, and then again all in the space of 5 minutes. I could see Tom was getting angry so I left the flip flops behind and changed my footwear to my black pumps. We walked for hours and nothing. I should also tell you that we were walking at 1pm, so in the blistering heat with all our bags. It was a soul destroying walk. I just wanted to see a layby, any layby so we could stop. We found one a little gravel layby, it could have even been a path but it did for me. About 200 cars later, a few car pips, some swearing, some waves and one guy telling us to get jobs we thought this wasn't the greatest spot in the world. We spotted a McDonalds billboard so thought there would be a Maccies nearby and we would be able to get something of the cheap menu and soak up the Air Con. There Wasn't, so we carried on walking, we stopped off for a pie though it appears Aussies love there pies nearly as much as me. We then carried on, I looked at my phone we had been walking 2 and a half hours! The day was turning into a disaster and then we looked up and in the distance, glistening in the sun was a big Woolworths. We were close. I was struggling though. The heat, the weighty bags, they were taking their toll. Tom perked things up by starting a sing song and before you knew it we had hit the layby. It was 4pm; we had spent 3 hours walking. We collapsed on our bags, drank water and rested. Probably looking like the worlds laziest hitch hikers. But we were aching. Twenty minutes later we decided one of us needed to go and hold the sign Tom had made saying South by the road. We decided this the only fair way. Rock, paper, scissors. I lost, I wasn't happy, I needed more rest. I got up and held the sign. I got plenty of stares, waves and honks of the horn but no one wanted to put the left indicator on and pull in. It was now Toms go, he had no luck either. I went back. No luck. It was looking pretty bad. There was a caravan park nearby and Tom fortunately had a tent with him so at least worst case scenario we could pitch up there. A few goes each later and the worse scenario was beckoning at us. But then all of a sudden there was a joy, I was up by the road and a left indicator was flashing. I was excited. I'd done it. I'd got a car to pull over. Or had I? The car simply carried on driving and didn't pull into the layby. The old man driving must have simply just had his left indicator still on. Tom then soon come up with a brainwave and suggested we might look more appealing if we both stand and not one of us holding a sign and the other crashed out with the bags. Anything was worth a shot so we did this. Nothing for twenty minutes and then suddenly a ute (Australian for pick-up truck) pulled in. Tom went over and just has he got to the vehicle they sped off. b******s! It was demoralising. The caravan was calling now. Still nothing but waves and honks. We were approaching the two hour mark for hitch hiking. Tom lost his head, said I'm giving up, let's go to the caravan park and set up the tent. Me being my stubborn self said no I'm not quitting and stood by the side of the road by myself holding the sign. Still nothing. Even I was beginning to lose faith and then suddenly a cute girl smiled and waved at me. It lifted morale and I decided to play one last throw of the dice. I decided that I would wear my big backpack stand at the road and look tired and weary. Tom wasn't sure of the idea and still wanted to head to the caravan park. I said don't worry kid stick with me and you'll be ok. Truth be told I was as sceptical of the plan as anybody but I was willing to try anything. One car drove past, then another, and another, plenty more went by. The bag was beginning to get heavy then all of a sudden an indicator!! Would it pull in though, would they drive off? The driver pulled in, they stayed. I raced to the car. It was a young girl. An angel. Her name was Tessa, she had a cute smile. I asked where she was going and she said a place called Alligator Creek. This was before the next big town Ayr and only 30km up the road, but we were desperate to get out of the lay by so hoped in. She was a nice girl we spoke about where we were from, our adventures in Oz, what we did in England, what she did - she was in her last year of school and looking to go to uni next year and do some travelling herself. She also told us that she had always wanted to pick up a hitch hiker but they always look too creepy but we looked alright. Me and Tom took that as a huge compliment! Before we knew it we were at our destination. It was the middle of nowhere opposite a field of Mango trees. We got out the car, Tessa whished us look and we said she should visit Notts when she was travelling England. She said she would and we would have to pick her up if she was hitch hiking. She flashed us her smile and then drove off into the night. Morale was back on a high now. But then we realised we had done ourselves no favours we hitch hiked to a spot with no Woolworths close by, and no caravan park. Me looking on the bright side said worse comes to the worse we can steel some mangos from the farm and camp on the grass by the lay by. There were not as many cars going past at this lay by, but I was confident we could at least get to the next town Ayr. A few cars drove by and it was the usual horn and waves. A man then pointed at us, which made us all confused what he was pointing at. Amongst this confusion an Australian Backpacker called Jacob decided to turn around and pick us up. He had long blonde hair and a good lengthy beard. He reminded me a bit of Jesus. He was travelling back to Melbourne from Cairns meeting up with people he had met travelling up the coast. He had a long trip as he was going Mackay and was after some company. The only problem was he only had one seat; someone would have to lie in the back. What did we do, rock, paper, scissors of course. I lost. I ended up in the back. But it semt like I was really the winner Tom was in the front majorly hot being sat on the engine, and I was chilling out, lay down on a really comfy mattress in the back. Jacob was a great driver, he told us about Australia, the towns we were going through and places he had been. It was like we had our own personnel tour guide. He was a good lad too, as soon as we got in the van it semt like we had been friends years. We all laughed and joked about various things, lady boys, our travels, Pies, Germans, Big statues, Kangaroos. All sorts. We eventually hit Bowen, and Jacob wouldn't rest until he knew we were alright and in a hostel. Bowen was dead; all the hostels were closed or fully booked. I had an idea. Jacob had mentioned he was going to head into Airlie Beach to get some gas. His was going to be our next destination so I asked if we could carry on with him to there. Our only other option was to set up tent in a free campsite close by, but then the next day we would still have to get to Airlie Beach so we decided to go there. The only thing we were going to miss in Bowen was seeing the statue of The Big Mango. I wondered out loud if we would drive by The Big Mango, and Jacob said he would put it in his Sat Nav, as it might come up under points of interest and sure it did top of the list The Big Mango, 7km away. He was kind enough to take us there and even put on his full beams so we could get a couple of photos. The guy was turning into real legend and even offered us a pineapple when Tom suggested food. Although the pineapple sounded appealing, we wanted something more substantial, so we assured Jacob we would treat him to a McDonalds, it was the least we could do seen as though he had driven us 275km, took us to The Big Mango and also around hostels in Bowen. He also had a good knowledge of Airlie Beach and recommended a few hostels. The problem was it was getting on for 9.30pm and most hostels receptions shut between 6 and 8. The worst case scenario was we would have to pull an all-nighter and find a hostel the next day. We got in to Airlie Beach. It looked like a miniature Cairns. We went to the first hostel Magnums. Shut. We went to a second hostel, YHA, shut again. We told Jacob he could leave us and we would be fine, but he was having none of it. He decided to pull over and we would have a walk around and see what we could find. We went back to Magnums as the bar was still open and were hoping they might be able to sort us out there. They couldn't and advised us on and out of hours number we could ring. We phoned in hope they would be able to sort us out and have space. Luckily they did but we had to wait 30 minutes because the guy was out of town. This gave us time to take Jacob to the McDonalds next door, the day then turned sour when we decided we would have an ice cream but couldn't because the ice cream machine had broken. But all in all it was a great day, from the depths of defeat to glory! The guy called us back saying he was there we checked in, got our bags from Jacobs van and said a fond farewell assuring him we would meet him for beers when we hit Melbourne. It's now time to tear up Airlie Beach so until then stay safe and take care. x