Well, a lot has happened since our last entry. Firstly, as you all may know by now, we got engaged! We’re both really happy and excited and can’t wait to celebrate with everyone in Canada, or else over here when some of you visit us (hint, hint). Other than being busy getting engaged, we’ve also been travelling great distances and encountering local wildlife.
We’ll start from the beginning. We left Hervey Bay, opting to head straight to Airlie Beach, a 14 hour journey. We thought about stopping for a night along the way, but the onlyworthwhile place to rest - Rockhampton - doesn’t offer much other than beef (it’s the cattle capital of Australia) and a nice river to wander along. However, in the past couple of years, there have been numerous photographs taken of a 12 meter crocodile basking itself along the river way. 12 meters! As far as I knew, crocodiles normally only reach 6 meters long, which is still quite disturbing. So, since we don’t eat beef and aren’t overly keen on wild crocodile encounters, we saved on a night’s accommodation by braving the night bus to Airlie. We thought we might be able to sleep most
of the way, but that proved to be futile, so instead, we wore out the IPod’s batteries and struggled to find comfortable positions for 14 hours. I just LOVE the night bus (note the sarcasm). Arriving red-eyed and groggy in Airlie Beach, we were met with rain. The rain actually didn’t let up the whole time we were there, which was a bit of a bummer, but we were still able to explore the town, and also check out the funky Saturday markets. Airlie is a pretty little marina town, full of backpackers all vying for the best deal for a boat trip to the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. Unfortunately, due to the rain, we didn’t make it out to the islands.
Our next stop was Townsville, the second largest city in Queensland. Although the population is greater than most other cities along the east coast, it still feels like a large country town. We had set up our first Wwoofing gig 8km from Townsville, on a small piece of land called Magnetic Island. We were going to be working on a small organic property, doing some house repairs and gardening. So after just one day in Townsville (there isn’t
much to do), we caught the ferry to Magnetic for a couple of days before our job started. We stayed at a very cool little guesthouse with an amazing ocean front location. The place catered for travelers of any budget, from safari tents to luxury suites, with heaps of areas to chill out. The front porch was especially neat; it consisted of part of an old boat, which was converted into a mini kitchen with barbeque. Our first night there, as we stood barbequing in this old boat, listening to the waves crash against the shore, we decided we couldn’t think of a better place to be.
The next day, we went on a mandatory pursuit of koalas in the surrounding National Park. 30% of the island is National Park, and it’s the largest natural sanctuary for koalas in Queensland, possibly even all of Australia. Spotting some of the cute marsupials in the wild was our sole determination for a 4 hour walk through the forest. The walk was beautiful with amazing views, and half of it circled around an area known as the ‘forts’. ‘The forts’ is a large area of land used in WWII, and many of
the original building structures and lookouts are still intact, including the commander’s watch post set way up in the mountains. However, with our walk just about over, we still hadn’t seen any koalas! I had half expected to see tons of the cute creatures dangling from trees right above my head. Perhaps my expectations were a bit high...
But then, in the last 5 minutes of our walk, we finally spotted one! Okay, the tour guide leading a group we stumbled across spotted the koala, but we were happy to see it nonetheless. The best part about this was that the koala was fully awake and eating. A koala sleeps for about 20 hours a day (because their diet of eucalyptus leaves is so poor and doesn’t provide them with any energy), and we were able to catch it in those 4 productive hours!
That night, we decided to check out the Toad Races. Yes, you read that correctly. We kept seeing posters advertising these so-called toad races, and upon inquiring with some locals, discovered that they are very popular with Magnetic islanders. We felt compelled to check them out. Where else would we be able to see a
bunch of toads hop around while people bet on the fastest one? So, after a couple of drinks, which I think is probably necessary for an event such as this, we headed to the races. Upon arrival, we saw at least 60 people crowded around a circle, while an older man in the middle walked around holding a toad, and rambling on in something that sounded somewhat like garbled English, taking bets for each of the ten toads. This was everything I had hoped it would be. One toad even fetched well over $100; clearly this was serious stuff. The frogs were then placed in a quadrant and let loose. Whichever toad made it over the outside line of the circle first, won. The race was over in 5 seconds. I think that the intermission in between the races, where spectators answer obscure questions to win pineapples, was longer than all three of the races combined.
So after a couple of exciting days spotting koalas, watching toads race, hanging out with rock wallabies, and getting engaged, we set about wwoofing. The place we’re at is a beautiful pole house (built using huge trees as supports), backing onto the national
The sweet ride that picked us up from the ferry on Magnetic Island.
park and teeming with wildlife (including very large spiders EVERYWHERE). The owner, Anne, is really wonderful, and needed some house repairs done as well as help with her backyard and garden. I think the best part about this place is the abundance of wildlife. On Magnetic Island in general, the calls of birds have replaced the noise of the city. On any given day, we’ll hear and see at least a dozen different types of birds. The Curlews have one of the most distinctive calls, and their nighttime calls sound disturbingly like screaming children. The Sulphar-Crested Cockatoos also have a distinctive shrieking call, which unfortunately for us, is very painful to listen to. And then there are the infamous kookaburras. I have some very friendly and vocal ones that visit me daily and will sit there all day watching me work. It’s amazing listening to a group of them communicate with each other; it really does sound like they’re laughing. There are also heaps of other birds, lizards, wallabies, possums, and bats. Very large bats. I never thought I’d say it, but they are pretty cool creatures. As soon as dusk begins to fall, hundreds of bats take to the
Arcadia Beach guesthouse
The guesthouse we stayed at on the island
sky, all swooping along above us to a particular spot. Surprisingly, it hasn’t taken us long to become accustomed to all the creepy crawlies either. I noticed this the other day when I walked into the bathroom and saw at least a dozen moths, a couple dozen spiders hanging around, a baby bat watching me from the ceiling, geckos scampering away, and the regular two frogs in the toilet peering up at me, yet none of this fazed me in the slightest. I forgot to mention that there are two frogs who have made Anne’s toilet their home. They mostly just stick around the inside of the toilet, strugging to hang on every time you flush, but they also sometimes climb out at nighttime to wander around a bit. I don’t know what kind of life it would be to live in a toilet, but hey, to each their own!
We’re really enjoying our time on this small island, hence why our intended few day visit has turned into almost three weeks. After we finished wwoofing, Adam got a paid job with Anne to build a roof, so we’ve been fortunate to be able to stay on the island
for quite a while. We’re only here for a few more days though, and then it’s off to the depths of the Australian rainforest, where we’ll be wwoofing at a sanctuary retreat for the endangered Cassowary birds. The retreat also functions as an eco lodge, with a whole foods restaurant and yoga studio, so it sounds pretty cool. Wish us luck!
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