: Penultimate Australia destination: Magnetic Island. We had wrestled with our options for the last week without a trusty motor in Oz, with The Whitsundays and/or Fraser Island definitely on the list if/when we ever return. We'd been promised nature and snorkelling from Magnetic Island and it seemed easier to do everything a bit more independently and was looking a little less pricey than the alternatives, so 'Maggie' Island (as it's known locally) it was.
It was set to be a long-ish day of travelling and both of us had grown soft to long waits and journeys after having the luxury of the car being able to start and stop whenever and wherever we wish. We ('I', while Nick took his place behind the sink washing the dishes as is the usual division of labour during lunch prep) made up some salad and a bagel to share on the side for our lunch and headed off soon after the 10am checkout time. We were heading from Byron Bay to Brisbane to drop off the car and catch our flight north to Townsville, where the ferry for Maggie Island leaves from. After a couple of hours driving and some difficulty locating
the car drop off location (sat nav: "destination is on your left", cue lots of straining necks left to see where it might be in the barren industrial estate when actually the bloody place is on the right...) we arrived at the airport with a few hours to spare before the flight. Luckily, we caught the ferry 10 minutes after we arrived at the ferry terminal in Townsville, which otherwise would have led to a further two hour wait... Fortune favoured us even more when we arrived at our final destination at 8pm with no food; the only local restaurant finished serving at 8:30pm. Lucky us! After a day's travelling we felt the need for a burger and a pint and watched the funny local birds (of the avian variety) as they scrounged for scraps, one of them entering the restaurant and hiding between/under the tables when anyone walked past. They're quite fussy though and weren't interested in my chips (which I thought were pretty damn tasty!). && Day 1: We started navigating the local bus system on the first day and figured out that we could walk the 25 minutes to the nearest supermarket with 15 minutes shopping time
and manage to catch the approximately hourly bus back. It was a bit of a supermarket sweep but we made it!
Unfortunately that was about where our luck ran out and although we've had some ups over the last few days, a lot of the time we've felt that we've been fighting against the tide a bit in the metaphorical sense! Shopping stowed we headed back out on the bus up the coast to see some of the more picturesque bays than the one we were staying near (Picnic Bay). The beaches and the scenery were indeed beautiful and we walked for a good few hours from bay to bay anticipating some top notch snorkelling in the calm, clear blue waters once we picked up our snorkels the following day. We ended the day feeding lorikeets from our hands with a stunning sunset in Horseshoe Bay before getting the bus back and putting together some veggie pasta for din dins.
Day 2: The way the few little towns work on Magnetic Island meant that we were staying in one, the supermarket was in the next, the snorkelling shop was further still and the places that we wanted to
go snorkelling were still further. Anyway, we weren't in too much of a rush ('Island Time', you see, no rushing allowed) so we got the bus in the morning to the snorkelling shop to purchase a couple of snorkels for use here and hopefully take them on to Asia with us and hung around for the next bus. We arrived at the beach that was supposed to be best for snorkelling but it was considerable rougher than the previous day. The sun was shining though and the water was inviting and so in we went, snorkels and all. Instantly, Nick's mask started filling up with water. I carried on snorkelling but given the choppiness of the water there wasn't much doing! Not wanting to spend another morning trying to sort out snorkels we headed back to the bus stop (up a massive hill) to get the bus back to the snorkel shop to see if they could help with Nick's snorkel issues. The woman instantly informed us that the 'tache was to blame and short of shaving it off, a generous application of Vaseline may help seal the mask. We had thought this might be the case and so made
our way to the supermarket to pick up some Vaseline. We were now getting in to mid-afternoon with one failed snorkelling attempt under our belts. To avoid the hill and to try and rescue something out of the day in case the snorkelling failed again we headed to a beach closer by that also has friendly wallabies that hang around to get fed where we could also test the Vaseline method. The wallabies really enjoyed their mid-afternoon snack of 'wallaby pellets', with one brave little bouncer eating out of our hands! Vaseline around the mask on Nick's hirsute upper lip did indeed keep the water out for the most part (a thinning out of the 'tache was scheduled, however, to optimise leakage reduction). The beach we had ended up at was pretty crap for snorkelling and the day was almost done so we hopped on the bus back to our gaffe, where a BBQ was planned to try and lift our spirits after what had been a pretty frustrating day!
The BBQ was a great success: sausages and lamb chops, salad and corn on the cob - delish. The night also ended on a high as we caught a
late bus to the hostel down the road where there had been a wedding that day. The bar was still open to the public so we joined in the dancing with some Aussie Navy boys and girls on shore leave. The music was ace and we threw some seriously cool shapes but we were glad we didn't stay in this meat market of a hostel! A fun night was had and after the last bus sailed past us as we staggered out the door a kindly taxi driver took us home for free!
Day 3: Right, snorkels...check, Vaseline...check, early start...nope, nice sunny day...you should be so lucky. However, we decided to persevere with the snorkelling and so headed out to Arthur Beach (bus ride, walk down big hill). When we got down there, as we had anticipated, the sea was quite choppy again and the snorkelling would not be at it's best. Never-mind, a snooze on the beach was just what the doctor ordered...until as soon as we sat down, the rain came in and looked set in for the day. Not much fun for reading and relaxing. Reluctantly, we set off back up the hill (at which point
the rain instantly stopped) to a walk that started at the top of the hill and continued up another hill. Not quite what we had in mind for our relaxing beach day and on our return from the walk we made the decision to head back down to the beach to try again. The first beach was waaay too windy for the snooze that we had in mind, so we walked another 20 minutes up and down a hill to the next beach. This beach was a little more sheltered, but still too choppy for snorkelling. A nap was attempted but the finer sand was being blown in to every accessible crevice and did not make for a relaxing time. We gave up on the day and walked back up the hill(s) to catch the bus. We've just finished some salad and are finally getting the rest that we craved all day. Tomorrow's forecast is not brilliant, but hey ho, after two days that were more or less write-offs, we have zero expectations and worse things have happened at sea! Should have expected nothing less from an English bank holiday weekend!
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