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Published: October 2nd 2009
Hear My Train a Comin’
I now left sunny tropical Cairns and its hostels which seemed to be brimming with German backpackers and headed southwards along the South Pacific coast.
This time it would be different: no more catching lifts with random strangers; no more endless hours of driving, filling up at the gas station or more sadly camp sites. No, over here on the east coast there was the novelty of a railway line, several in fact - which after all of the road travel I had done since Perth seemed very appealing. I briefly considered taking the Greyhound bus but then I recalled the long overnight journeys in Burma and the Deep South (New Orleans to Washington D.C.) - a vicious losing fight against boredom and sleeplessness. Oh, and the slightly unnerving fear of being “stabbed, then beheaded and cannibalized”
So I bought a train pass for Cairns to Melbourne which allowed me to jump on and off on my journey southwards over six months. It cost about 240 quid - which considering the distance involved and the flexibility I would have - was pretty good. So, I could now add Cairns to Melbourne
to my previous train journeys of -
London - Dublin, Paris - London, Eindhoven - London and the Grand Canyon - San Antonio.
I was also getting low on funds and so I wanted to get to Brisbane quickly in order to get a job and to actually settle in a place for a while. I thought I’d stop at a few places along the way to Brisbane, and the first one was a quintessentially Aussie experience: sailing the Whitsunday Islands.
We pulled out of Cairns at 9am on the dot
and soon rolled past the Atherton Tablelands
again - a beautifully scenic mountain range. After that there weren’t many sights to report on - the only highlight was seeing the Pacific Ocean whilst passing through a town (only the second place you could see it from the train along the entire route).
I was kept amused every now and again however; as everywhere else in the developed world t is prohibited to smoke in a public space - but in Queensland this includes even the train platforms. Cue rush of smokers trying to get off the train as quickly as possible at every station for a quick fag (a derogatory word
We did some snorkelling here...
here - sigh
at the corrosive American influence) and outside the station or at the end of the platform. Anyway at one station I was staring out the window and then suddenly I saw one woman in her eagerness to get off the train fall off the train and onto the sidings- unfortunately for her the platform was too short!
We arrived at Proserpine
station at eight in the evening but my journey wasn’t over yet, I still had to get the (free) shuttle bus to Airlie Beach - one of the main embarkation towns for the Whitsunday Islands. 45 minutes later I was in town and I could hear as well as see Beaches Backpacker hostel from afar, it was pumping to say the least.
However, as you can imagine having been travelling since 9am I was pretty tired and not really in the mood for a drink so I quickly checked in and got a dorm. The party followed me it seemed because the ten bed dorm was overlooking the bar and the loud pumping music fed into the room. It also seemed that I was the only male in the dorm, a few
sleeping girls as well as strewn clothes on the floor and what I call ‘luggage explosions’ - quite common in dormitories I’ve found. Thankfully the music was turned off at midnight and I matched them by going to bed also. (There were a lot of hot looking girls in that room by the way - aren’t I good?)
We are sailing baby
The next day I woke up early and didn’t piss-about. I quickly made a decision that I wanted to cruise the Whitsundays on a wooden boat and I wanted to sail that day. So I walked down the street which was full of bars, travel agencies, backpacker joints, everything associated with visitors wanting to cruise the Whitsundays.
I popped into an agency and booked a three day boat cruise around the Whitsunday Islands that was sailing that day. I had two hours to retrieve my luggage (and there was a lot of it what with the camping gear too) and bring it over to the office for storage. I then walked over to the lagoon where I was taken aboard the Whitehaven
with a load of other lemmings.
According to the Lonely Planet: Australia (Nov
2007) the Whitsunday Coast is...
‘Australia’s Tahiti - a hedonistic tropical playground where you can sail glossy azure seas, camp on pearly white beaches under a blanket of southern constellations and snorkel in the brilliantly clear turquoise
.....blah blah blah.
It’s definitely nice; Whitehaven Beach on Whitehaven Island
is beautiful and the view overlooking it is clearly one of the nicest stretches of sand and beach I’ve ever seen - anywhere! The snorkeling was ‘okay’, not as many fish as elsewhere I’ve been to and a lot more dead coral plus we also to wear this ‘stinger suit’ - like a full body wet suit to protect us from killer box jellyfish. I can tell you now, it wasn’t a good look. Oh, the water was bloody freezing too. But again, there were nice views and nice stretches of water. We had some great sunsets sailing around the islets and I finally got to get a full body tan (not that full body mind). Of some historical interest to me was the fact the islands were named by a just passing-through old boy
Captain Cook who claimed the entire east coast of Australia for Britain - but he mistakenly thought it was Whitsunday (Whitsun, also known as Pentecost in the Christian calendar, is the seventh Sunday after Easter.) - it wasn’t but the name has stuck. I think they sound wonderful.
Our cabins were bloody small as hell, and I shared a room with two French guys who took turns in snoring the first night - loudly. That’s what smoking cigarettes do to you by the way. The cabin crew were a bit shite
to be honest; they didn’t seem to be that interested in entertaining us, retreating down to their quarters when they could. There were forced speeches of enthusiasm and the food was about as good as my student days, masses of spaghetti Bolognese, and some burgers in baps. Oh, and we only really got the sails up once in the entire trip, but it did look damned fine.
Meet my crew!
I did meet two British lasses on board though, Heather from Scotland (hehe) and Anne who was now living in Holland. It was interesting talking to Heather, who was leaving Australia before the end of her 12 month visa was up. She didn’t seem to like Australia as much as everyone else seemed to - in fact she didn’t think much of the Australians as a whole. Over her time here she’d found them to be racist, closed minded and boorish - hey, everything I’ve
found them to be! 😱 Anyway, it was nice to meet somebody who wasn’t like everybody else you meet here, in love with Oz, or rather it seems to me either 1) pissed off their faces, 2) getting pissed off their faces, 3) going to get pissed off their faces or 4) recovering from having beenpissed off their faces.
But we did have an interesting night on board though. Us Brits were down below talking to the cabin crew in their quarters (Aus, NZ, Brit): bonding over tea and breaking away from the Euro trash aboard (all these French and German travellers make you feel inferior about your lack of language skills I tell you)...or so we thought!
Suddenly this very
blonde Swedish girl plonked herself down next to us and proceeded to entertain us very much. I’d already chatted to her and her fellow Swedish backpacking friends (a loved-up couple). But she was quiet and withdrawn, hiding behind big glasses, sitting alone staring out into the ocean. I suspected she was playing gooseberry to her friends and at 20 years of age - I felt a bit sorry for her. Anyway, she’d been practically silent up to now,
but now we couldn’t shut her up! Being typically Swedish her English was perfect and her British accent impeccable! She was so funny, making these very teenage statements about things and declaring her undying love for U2!! Dramatically swooning over, yes, you’ve guessed it - Bono! Ha. Anyway, we had a good giggle at her and
with her and she even shared her goon
with me. But, she wanted a party, wanted to play music on her i-pod and there was nothing going - everyone had gone to bed at about 11pm and the crew weren’t having it. She was distressed and we were all distressed for her! So I just hung out up top with two other German chicks who were also wanting to party and get drunk - however the crew did say form the off that if there was to be partying, everyone had to party! And that simply wasn’t the case.
The Whitsunday Islands are a very nice spot, it would have been nice to camp on one of the islands, but having done some islands before, for example the Greek Islands, I prefer them more. I’d say that they are just that bit overrated.
New Aussie words learned:
ocker an uncultivated or boorish Aussie
Bogan an unsophisticated person - a bit like chav
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