Magnetic Island, Australia (20th Feb 2008)
After a relatively short bus ride from Airlie Beach we arrived in Townsville. Not many people who we have talked to have rated the place very much including the drivers but from what we saw it seemed like a nice enough town. Anyway the reason we were in Townsville was to catch the ferry over to Magnetic Island. We said goodbye to Claire as she was only staying in Townsville the one night and off we went to board the ferry.We knew immediately that we had left the bad weather behind and we were set for three glorious days of sunshine on the island. The ferry ride was almost unbearable to begin with but relief soon came when the captain put his foot down so to speak and we were really able to feel the wind in our hair. As we got closer to Magnetic Island we could see our hostel and were all pretty impressed with how it looked, small bungalow type huts elevated above the rocks that lead down the beach. Even if we didn't end up with one of those rooms the location of the hostel itself was sure to be a winner. Arriving on the island was like being transported to a totally different place, the ten minute bus ride to the hostel confirmed that we definitely weren't on the east coast anymore and were in for a unique experience. All around us smooth grey boulders and lush greenery created the perfect scenery.
We soon arrived at our hostel in Nelly Bay as the circumnavigation of the island is only 65 kilometres and a lot of it is a protected National Park and so there are no sealed roads. We checked in and made our way to our dorm room which was like one of the little bungalow type huts we had seen from the boat but ours was set back a little from the beachfront, meaning we had at least a minute walk to the golden sands!! We were a little disappointed with the accommodation as there were eight of us in a tiny room with a broken air conditioning unit and a fan that seemed to be on its way out too, we didn't let it get to much as we figured with a location as good as this one all we would be doing in there was sleeping and we could cope with that. Anyway the heat was already too much for us so as soon as we had dumped our bags we headed straight to the pool which was pure heaven, it wasn't the biggest of pools but just being in cool water with a view of the ocean was enough for us.
We had travelled over to Magnetic Island with Nick and then we met Paula over there and upon hearing there was a quiz in the evening we formed our team and prepared ourselves to be quiz champions....how disappointed we were though! The first round was the usual 'general knowledge' but we were left wondering what kind of knowledge the quiz master must have as the questions were so obscure and we scored a pathetic 3 out of 10. It was then that we heard the second round would be an eating round so we quickly made our exit as none of us were in the mood for party games like that. We did stay around long enough to see what all the other teams had to do though; they had to eat a dry wheetabix, a shot glass of flour and the only liquid they had was another shot glass filled with water. Needless to say it wasn't a pretty sight as a few of the contestants ended up being sick!
On our first full day on Magnetic Island we met Paula for our free hot breakfast we got as part of our '3 Night Steal Deal' which was actually better than we expected and really set us up for the day. We sat around for a while pondering what to do for the rest of the day and finally decided on using our one hour free kayaking coupon only to be told that we needed four people as they only had two man kayaks. Not wanting a repeat of our last kayaking experience in Vietnam Mark kindly stepped aside and volunteered to be photographer and let Kara and Paula hit the open sea. We almost didn't get anywhere as the kayak became stuck in the sand so it was a case of waiting for a few waves to come in before getting going. There wasn't too much paddling going on as it was just so relaxing bobbing around in the sea enjoying the beauty of Magnetic Island from a totally different perspective! It was only twenty minutes later when we realised we had drifted quite a bit, almost down to the nudist beach and it took us the same amount of time to paddle back to our starting point!
As it was lunchtime and there wasn't anywhere close by that sold lunch the three of us made a spur of the moment decision to hire a car, not just to go and get some lunch obviously but to enable us to see what the rest of the island had to offer as well. Now when we say car we don't mean anything fancy or modern or classy, the name of the hire company pretty much confirms that, 'Tropical Topless'. The car itself was absolutely hilarious, it was some kind of cut and shut job as were pretty sure Daihatsu don't make this particular model of car or if they do it normally has some kind of roof on it, anyway, regardless Mark went and picked up the little one litre beauty and drove it back to our hostel. We had hoped to get the pink one, but ended up with a white and green one with green velvet seats, classy!
As previously mentioned our first stop was lunch at a little roadside eatery called Fat Possum Cafe and once we had let that settle we ventured out on our adventure. As there was only really one main road to follow we followed it back towards our hostel and then past it towards Picnic Bay where there is a Heritage Listed Jetty. We were enjoying the car too much so we didn't get out and instead turned the car around and followed the road the other way to the north of the island to Horseshoe Bay which is the biggest bay on the island and so the most commercial and built up. We forced ourselves to get out of the car here and had a walk along the beach where we saw one of the victims of the recent storms. A boat had become moored on the sand and obviously couldn't be moved in one piece so a group of about six men were hacking at it with chainsaws. On the way over to Magnetic Island our driver Fiery had told us about a walk you can do called the Forts Walk that isn't too strenuous and gives great views of the island and back over to Townsville. It took us a while to find the starting point which in hindsight was a good job as it turned outwe were walking as it was slowly cooling down, it would have been near impossible to do it in the midday sun! The first three quarters of the walk were relatively easy with occasional lookout points, we had been told that there were wild Koalas known to inhabit the surrounding area but we weren't lucky enough to see them. The last quarter is how the walk got its name as there are historic sites from World War Two as Townsville was a supply base for the Pacific region and the forts at the top of Magnetic Island were designed to protect the town from Navel attack. We saw the positions of various guns as well as storage shelters that are now home to tiny bats, some of which we were lucky enough to see. We finally managed to clamber up the many steps to the top and were greeted with a perfect panoramic view. We could see perfectly over to Townsville and the surrounding land as well as further inland on Magnetic Island, it was nice to finally have a bit of a breeze as well. As always the walk down seemed to take half the time, not that we were complaining though as it meant we would get to the Rock Wallabies even quicker!
Again it was Fiery who had informed us of Rock Wallabies living in Arcadia just off Alma Bay so we found the turnoff for the old ferry terminal and before we knew it there were tens of the tiny little things in front of us! After seeing the Wallabies at Australia Zoo we were surprised that they were so small, most of them didn't even reach our knee. A kind man who was just leaving gave us some chicken feed and told us that if we approached them slowly and shook the feed they should come up to us and feed from our hands. It really was as simple as that, the Wallabies slowly but surely came up to us and nibbled the feed in our hands, holding on to our hands with their claws to ensure we didn't run off anywhere. Mark did a bit of a Dr Doolittle and fed two at one which he was very proud of! It was amazing to see the Wallabies in the wild and in their natural environment but it was something else to have them actually feeding from your hands! As the sun was beginning to set we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the hostel for a relaxing evening under the brightest full moon we have ever seen.
On our last full day on the island we got up relatively early as we had hired the car for twenty four hours and we wanted to make the most of the time that we had it. We pretty much followed the same route as yesterday ensuring we all had a decent drive of the car, we even tried to find a waterfall we had been told about but to no avail. We couldn't drive past the Rock Wallabies without saying hello so although we didn't have any feed this time we trundled down the little dirt track again. They were all hidden in the rocks when we got there so we went for a walk along a little rock walkway to a small lookout point where we learnt that there are around 5 or 6 shipwrecks around Magnetic Island. On returning to our car we saw a man had had the same idea as us but had come prepared with food and was surrounded by the little creatures, all wanting an easy feed. It was such a cute sight and even our car starting up didn't startle them or scare them away from their food! After a quick lunch back at the hostel it was time to take Paula to the ferry terminal as she was leaving a day earlier to spend a night in Townsville. That was our last trip in our mean machine, oh now she will be missed but at least we have our campervan in New Zealand to look forward to now! The rest of the day was very uneventful, consisting of a walk on the beach and a mess about in the pool followed by the most unusual moon rising we have ever seen. A huge glowing orange ball just seemed to appear on the horizon and at first we weren't too sure what it was but as it slowly rose and transformed from orange to its original milky colour we realised it was the moon. Magnetic Island has certainly enabled us to see the moon at its most beautiful.