Day One of the Oz Experience from Cairns to Magnetic Island.
I would like to say that my first experience of the Oz Experience was amazing and made me feel reassured about how fantastic my trip down the East Coast of Australia will be. I cannot lie.
Kim and I set off to the bus stop at 6am and the bus rolled up at just before half past. We were greeted by a portly man who introduced himself as Uncle Buck however I think his name should have been something different on account of how many times he used a certain swear word. At 6am in the morning you can just imagine the look of disgust on my face at this loud, obnoxious Australian. To my surprise, Uncle Buck/****'s playlist comprised of Pink, Taylor Swift and other generic masculine songs you would expect from an big burly Australian man.
A few hours into the journey we pulled over on the side of the road with no word of why we had stopped. Twenty minutes later we set off again for five minutes before pulling into a car park in the middle of a beaten up town called Ingham. Uncle Buck explained that the bus was broken and that he was going to go and get it fixed. We were stranded in the middle of no where in the blazing sun for five hours before the bus came back. Uncle Buck gave us all a can of beer for having to wait and we set off again to Townsville.
We arrived in Townsville (to catch our ferry to Magnetic Island) in the late afternoon. We hopped on the ferry where we saw some amazing fews of the island approaching and leaving mainland Australia behind. Once the boat docked, we hopped on a bus to our hostel on Horseshoe Bay. The bus picked up school children and workers off the ferry and we drove the majority of the way through residential areas. Magnetic Island has a population of just under 2000 and many travel on the 30minute ferry twice every day going to and from work/school. It is also a popular holiday destination due to the beautiful scenery, wild Koalas and stunning beaches. After a short while we arrived at our hostel the YHA Bungalow Bay and after checking into we made our way to our shed for the night.
Our hut was a triangular shape with two single beds inside facing the door then one bed going horizontal on top. I have pictures as it is difficult to explain. We were sharing with an obnoxious posh welsh boy who sounded like he was from Eton, when I asked how he obtained his accent he said he watched a lot of James Bond films. He had a ridiculous amount of bags and clothes which were strewn all over the shed leaving us barely any space for our things. To make things worse a lot of the shed was only covered by thin mosquito netting meaning we were theoretically sleeping outside. Well, after the day we'd had we felt like crying.
Instead of moping, we set off to the beach to find a recommended restaurant and hopefully a large glass of wine to knock us out. We both had lovely fish and chips for our tea that evening and then went to the beach to look at the stars. Never in my whole life have I seen so many stars, my eyes filled up at how beautiful our world can really be.
I slept like a baby that night until the Rooster and about a million other birds woke me up and thought that walking past my head would be a good idea. I was quite grateful we were only staying one night however we were devasted that we couldn't see more of the island as it was obviously beautiful. We had a walk that morning all along Horseshoe Bay before hopping back on the bus and ferry to pick up our next Oz Experience bus.
Our next bus driver was a hippy looking guy called Squirrel to drive us to Airlie Beach. Squirrel liked to tell inappropriate stories along the way none of which I would like to repeat. Every time he said an offensive joke he looked in the rear view mirror at Kim and I to judge our reaction. I think we both made it quite clear we were neither impressed nor amused.
Once in Airlie Beach, we were told of a VIP night for OZ Experience travellers that night at a backpackers bar with free drinks and cheap food, I was sold. We settled into our hostel 'Backpackers by the Bay'. This hostel comprised of a girls corridor and a boys corridor each with toilets/showers at the end. Each room contained two sets of bunkbeds and were relatively spacious. In between the two corridors was a building comprising of a bar, kitchen and lounge area. Everything was fairly basic but clean. Outside there was sun loungers and hammocks as well as a BBQ (every single place in Australia has a BBQ).
That night we went our for a few drinks and a meal knowing that we had to be up early the next day for our Whitsunday's boat trip (google the Whitsunday's). It all went a bit down hill when we asked for free wine instead of free beer and they started playing the Venga Boy's and other 90's music that reminded me of my school disco days. Before midnight we walked back to our hostel which I think took longer as we weren't walking in a straight line. We planned all the way home that if there was no one in our room we would do a victory dance in the room, which we even practiced. Once back at the hostel, we peeked open the door and saw there was a girl on the top bunk and made a sigh that was probably a little too loud.
The next morning we awoke early to check out of the hostel and check in to our boat for the Whitsunday's trip. The girl that was also in the room was German thought it was a good idea to give me the Spanish Inquisition as I was rushing around the room trying to pack.
We checked into our boat then went to the liquor shop to buy some alcohol to take with us. This is where I discovered that anything less than 5 cent does not exist in Australia. They cannot give change in 1 cents or 2 cents as they do not have those coins. So, my alcohol came to $19.99 and the lady just rounded it up to $20, which I thought was very cheeky!!
As we waited to dock our boat we met our fellow passengers who comprised of a fernch family of five, a couple on their honeymoon, a canadian couple, an italian family of three, two canadian guys, a french girl and a girl my age from Wigan. The crew was the cook/host an Australian girl my age, a diving instructor from Manchester and the Skipper, an Australian man who hated English girls.
We set sail in the morning and every one on the boat sun bathed at the front of the boat. After a short while, Nat (the host) showed everyone where we were sleeping. Kim and I were below deck sharing a double bed and the Canadian guys had to climb over our bed to get to their double bed, much to my dismay. We set some early ground rules and explained that they had to take their shoes off before going onto their bed and keep it tidy..... did they listen?? of course not.
Our first stop on the boat was Whitehaven Beach, it has been claimed that it is the most picturesque beach in the world. The sand is made of pure silicon and squeaks as you walk along it. However, it was terribly cloudy and quite windy so we had to wrap up. Kim and I went for a wander away from the group and saw some funny little things scurrying around a small lake that had been cut off from the sea whilst the tide was out. On closer inspection, we found there were hundreds upon hundreds of Soldier Crabs all running around. They marched around the sand like a huge army but as soon as they saw you they started burying themselves in the sand, it was quite funny!! Murking in the edge of the water were small spotted spotted Sting Rays. However, we only noticed them when we almost got stung as they were so well blended with the sand.
After Whitehaven Beach we spent the evening on the boat watching the sunset, eating tea and having a couple of drinks before retiring to our cabin.
The next day I woke up after a fairly good sleep to go back on Whitehaven Beach to go to the lookout. From the lookout, we could see views of the Whitsunday Islands and the whole of Whitehaven beach. This time the sun was out and we could really see why people fall in love with this beach. Unfortunately, some of the pure sand got in my eye and caused them to burn and become really sore. Once back on the boat I had to go to bed to have a short nap and hope that my eyes would repair themselves. After a short nap, I woke up and my eyes were slightly better but still sore. However, I desperately wanted to go snorkelling so I forced myself to go in the water.
Kim and I snorkelled together in a bay and I was certainly glad that I did. The coral was the bright colours I had imagine, so bright infact that I thought they were artificial. I saw so many different types of fish all incredibly bright and some of them were huge (google bat fish). My favourite fish of all were the Parrot fish, they glide along as if they are flying and have the most beautiful colours I have ever seen. We snorkelled for the best part of an hour before swimming to a small secluded beach to wait to be picked up. It was so much better this time as I was with Kim and when I saw something amazing I could point it out to her. Previously, I'd see something amazing underwater and come up to realise there was no one to tell, this is all part and parcel of travelling alone.
Once back on the boat, we spent the rest of the day sun bathing and looking out for turtles whilst some other members of the group went diving. I decided not to try diving again as it is very expensive and I'd rather to a diving course in the future.
Nat made us a delicious bbq tea before serving the nicest chocolate mud cake I have ever eaten in my life. Those who know me, know that I have a love of chocolate fudge cake. Well, this cake was like not like anything else I have ever eaten before in my life. It was moist, it was chocolatey.. it was pure heaven. I have subsequently shared two of these chocolate cakes since this day. If someone said to me now 'you can either get married to the love of your life or have this chocolate cake forever', I tell you i'd find the decision pretty hard.
The Skipper told us that the boat was docked in a haunted bay with many ancient ghost stories from the Aboriginals. That night, we went to sleep and I had quite a few nightmares. I woke up with a start, to the sound of waves of water coming in the cabin, the bathroom door banging on it's hinges and the boat rocking intensely. Once Kim was awake we found that one of the Canadian guys had left the hatch open and all the water from the jacuzzi was flooding into our cabin (luckily soaking their bed). We managed to close the window by climbing on their bed without them even stirring.
The next day we sat out on deck and enjoyed the views of the Whitsunday's before sailing back to Airlie Beach. The Whitsunday's trip was absolutely amazing and I've never seen views quite like it anywhere. I think it is a definate must do but maybe get your own cabin!!!
To be continued...