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Published: February 22nd 2016
Townsville transit centre was part of the bustling port and harbour area. It clearly had its act together for all the passenger traffic and had a taxi rank as part of its facilities. Hooray! It wasn't big and yellow but a taxi quickly delivered us to the Aquarius on the Beach hotel, easy to spot as it was the tallest building on that part of the seashore. The taxi driver reckoned some backhanders had been involved somewhere along the way as everything else was pretty low rise and the locals viewed it as a bit of a blot on the landscape. Nevertheless, we got a great view of the sea and beach, the harbour and port and across to Magnetic Island (Maggie!) from our seventh floor room and it suited us perfectly. The Watermark bar and restaurant was right next door and local shopping amenities were close by. We felt it would do us just fine for a week and we were ready for an enjoyable relaxing stay, hoping the weather would be good so that we could take advantage of the beach.
As things turned out, our relaxation was more or less forced upon us. We'd noticed that the
esplanade (it was actually called The Strand in Townsville, it being a bit more pretentious than usual down-to-earth Australia) was, once again, very well used by joggers, dog walkers, skateboarders and the like and I passed many an hour watching them promenading up and down from our lovely balcony. What I couldn't see was anyone on the beach or in the sea. I thought it strange as everywhere else in Australia the wonderful water had played a key part in people's activities, be it paddling, swimming, surfing or sailing, but I didn't ponder too much on it. As time passed and we felt sufficiently recharged to explore further we discovered that this part of Australia's coast is blighted for six months of the year with stinging jellyfish, particularly toxic things whose tentacles can pack a punch enough to cause cardiac arrest. Oh my, no paddling for me then, or anyone else it seemed. A netted area to keep the jellyfish out was provided for anyone wanting to venture into the water but this seemed to me, inevitably, to be somewhat restrictive though it was well used. There was also another of those wonderful free water parks for the children and
big kids amongst us. Otherwise, those brave enough to want to risk sailing or paddle-boarding ensconced themselves from head to toe in wet/drysuits and hoped they didn't fall in I guess.
Still, there was always the lovely beach to sit and read and laze around on, wasn't there? We could always utilise that. Best of all, it was deserted for miles in both directions. Well, the reason for that, it turns out, is that Townsville is apparently the skin cancer centre of the entire continent/world/universe! Something to do with the geography/position/clear skies/good weather/ozone layer. It seemed a cruel irony that the beautiful sea and sand could not be utilised due to the vagaries of Mother Nature.
So, we were really forced to chill out in Townsville, which was perfect for us at this point in our travels. We spent some of our days gently exploring the place - nothing too strenuous or too far - we're supposed to be recharging, remember? I thought there was some tautological thing going on with the name - I mean why call it a town in two different languages? Some days we wandered round Townstown and other days we explored Villesville, depending
on how francophile we felt. As it turned out we were really exploring Mr Towns' town as it was named after some significant person in its history. The Strand provided lots of BBQ facilities, and some impressive street art to pique the interest of visitors and locals alike. The plentiful seating areas were all positioned out of the damaging sunlight; even the fishermen at the end of the pier were provided with overhead 'sails' to protect them. The ever-plentiful street cleaners and outdoor workmen were covered from top to toe in protective clothing, including hats and gloves, which had to be uncomfortable to say the least in the scorching temperatures (39° one day) and I could imagine them being slowly braised inside all that gear.
Australia is exceptional, I found, at commemorating its war heroes and every town, no matter how small, had a war memorial of some sort. In Townsville, it was a huge, impressive affair with several walls listing all those who had served in the various battles and some lovely (shaded!) seating areas were provided for quiet contemplation amidst lawns dotted with tinkling water features. We spent some time there one day, exploring some of the
individual stories and the Book of Remembrance. As we left, I knocked a fly from Steve's back, then spotted another, and another. We realised, too late, that the lovely grassy, watery war memorial was the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes who had a field day with us, drawing blood from me (mine was obviously better quality than Steve's who was less tormented than I was) and my wonderful emergency travel kit (handcream, tissues, perfume and, most importantly in this instance, anti-bac wetwipes) that lived in my bag and went everywhere with me was nowhere to be found! Given the toxicity of everything dangerous associated with Townsville, I felt the only possible antidote would be copious amounts of alcohol in the system, and we duly attended to this medical intervention by imbibing plenty of Carlton Mid (for Steve) and Pure Blonde (for me). Unfortunately, this didn't necessarily have the desired effect as the following day I had the most dreadful headache which can only have been a side effect of the mozzie bites and had absolutely nothing to do with too much of anything else ...
The busy port area could be seen in the near distance from our balcony.
Australia seems to have taken a decision to manufacture very little, probably as a result of initial shortage of manpower and relevant skills, instead relying on the export of raw materials as its main trading asset (lots of soft wood as it turns out). I watched the cargo ships arriving every morning, after watching the sunrise, while Steve slept soundly on. They queued up on the horizon overnight then made their passage into harbour the following morning, being met half way by two pilot boats who steered them safely in, dodging the ferries and pleasure craft, then turned them 180° before they berthed. It was impressive to watch these two little boats manoeuvre huge tankers and literally turn them on the spot. I amused myself checking out the arriving and departing vessels, seeing where they had come from and what their cargo was (the wonders of the internet!). We had, for example, vehicle carriers from Japan and oil tankers from Taiwan and one day a huge cruise ship from Cairns arrived and deposited hundreds of tourists into the town. I don't know what they did all day because, in keeping with everywhere else, Townsville town centre seemed to be pretty
well closed for most of the time and their emblem, a huge spider strung across the street in a giant web, was enough to scare anyone away!
We had decided to cancel an upcoming later trip to Argentina but it had disappeared from our on-line Round The World flight schedule. We ideally wanted to speak to a live person and spent some time walking the deserted streets of Townsville town (or should that be Townstown town or even Villesville ville?) looking for a Qantas office supposedly located there. It turned out that the office closed four years previously because, you know, the internet. Ah well, we would try to manage this via e-mail because costs associated with phone calls on the mobile were just too extortionate to contemplate.
Townsville was exactly what we needed when we needed it. We were so lazy that one day we didn't venture out of the hotel room once (well, we sat on the balcony if that counts!) and one day even I had a lie-in until 9 am! We left there feeling somewhat more rested and eager to continue our travels.
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