Australia - Magnetic Island

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, February 6, 2006

Day 1

Having stayed up late the previous night to watch the (ultimately disappointing) Liverpool-Chelsea football match, we were in no mood to be getting up early to catch a 4 hour coach journey to Townsville, and then onto Magnetic Island. Unfortunately that was what we had to do. The 3 hours of sleep after the game felt pointless as we tiredly checked out of our motel and caught the mini bus down to the greyhound station.

Our lethargy and discomfort were heightened by the fact that the coach had no air-conditioning, or at least no apparent means of cooling us down in the growing heat of yet another scorcher.

We arrived in Townsville at 1:30pm, having just booked our accommodation for the next two nights on Magnetic Island. We had stumbled across a pretty good deal whilst trawling through the pages of various backpacker guides; 2 nights at 'Maggies on the beach' hostel, our return ferry, a free meal at the hostel and a free hours internet each - all for $89 (36 GBP) each. The ferry ticket alone should have been $25 each.

Magnetic Island is known as such because of the effect it had upon Captain Cooks compass as he passed by 200 odd years ago. It is a fairly small island, easily navigable in one day, especially as only the eastern side of the island has proper roads. The ferry journey was a relaxed 25 minute trip and gave us a chance to read a few things about what 'Maggie' (as it is affectionately known to the Aussies) has to offer.

There are four main bays starting in the south of the island with Picnic Bay and then running anti-clockwise along the east coast; Nelly Bay, Arcadia, and finally Horseshoe Bay in the north. Horseshoe Bay is where we stayed and is considered to be the most popular of the bays with more of the islands restaurants and shops located there.

The ferry gets into Nelly Bay and the main method of transport to each of the other bays is via public bus. There are two busses on the island which run in alternating loops; from Nelly Bay up to Horseshoe Bay and from Nelly Bay to Picnic Bay. They are really well run and providing you take note of the running times they can be a really efficient way of getting round the island.

Checking into the hostel we spent a bit of time looking around the hostel, adjoining bar and Horseshoe Bay (PICS). This didn't take long as most of the businesses on Horseshoe were closed for a month or so, either for renovation or for a holiday - they had obviously taken a break after the peak rush during December and January. The summer is also not one of the more popular times on Magnetic Island. The island is renowned for having about 320 days of sunshine a year and a very favourable winter climate.

We spent the majority of the evening sussing out our accommodation in Cairns (ultimately landing on the majestic idea of getting Verdi's parents to upgrade their apartment in the plush Lakes Cairns resort & Spa to a 3 bedroom) and our Greyhound journey to said destination in two days time. We took advantage of our free meal, supplementing it with a few side orders from the tasty, albeit pricey, hostel bar. With not much left to do with our evening and with Verdi still suffering from her cold (PIC) we retired to our room and read for a while before getting to sleep at 10:30pm. On the way up to the room we bypassed a couple of visitors in the stairwell, a strange coupling (PIC).

Day 2

Dragging ourselves out of bed at 9:30am, an 11 hour sleep behind us, we felt ready to take a whirlwind tour of Magnetic Island, a bit concerned that we might not be able to fit it all in.

We caught one of the two aforementioned buses and bought a day pass for $11 (4.50 GBP), to enable us to use the buses as much as we liked through out the day - it seemed to be a cost effective solution to our frenetic tour. Arriving back at Nelly Bay we grabbed an ice-cream breakfast before jumping back on the bus and taking in the second part of the loop down to Picnic Bay.

At Picnic Bay we wandered along the beach and took in the views (PICS) before returning up to the main street in order to catch the bus to our next destination. En route we recognized a face and went over to say hello, it was Hoobie, a German girl from the Fraser Island trip. She and a friend, Annie, had arrived in Magnetic the same day as us and were also doing a fly-by tour of the island - though their method of transport was a white and pink 'Barbie' topless car that they had hired for the day. They kindly offered us a lift and rather than wait around for the next bus we gladly accepted. The next stop on the journey was Geoffrey Bay (PIC), a small corner of the island known for the presence of the rather reclusive Rock Wallaby - luckily we managed to spot one just as we got there (PIC).

We took further advantage of the Barbie car and hopped along for the ride to Alma Bay (PIC). A beautiful little cove on the eastern edge of the island, unfortunately we didn't have stinger suits and didn't fancy dodging jellyfish so we were unable to take advantage of the clear waters - although a couple of people had decided to opt for the jellyfish dodging option.

The final stop on the tour was Horseshoe Bay, which obviously we had already looked around. We decided to relax on the beach for a while taking advantage of the sunshine and doing what visitors to Maggie are supposed to do - wind down. When the beach got too hot, and the cool but stinger-filled sea beckoned we padded across to our hostel and jumped in the tiny pool.

After grabbing a late lunch and trying to feed the resident Whistling Kite (PIC) we prepared ourselves for the Fort Walk.

The Fort Walk is essentially a 3.5km round trip from just south of Horseshoe Bay, which takes you to the peak of one of the hills on the island which was used in the Second World War as a fort to defend the island. The fort was never actually used and now offers spectacular 360 degree views over the entire island, and is a prime location for spotting wild Koalas.

We had been advised that the best time to undertake the walk was around 4:30-5:00pm, when it would be cooler and would get you to the peak in time for sunset. We opted to go for this 'sensible' option. The 40 minute trek up to the peak was still very warm and sadly koala-free, although we did see a Kookaburra (PIC), a few lizards and some more kites. The views from the top did however make the journey worthwhile, and although the sunset was partially obscured by the sporadic cloud cover it did allow for some pretty good landscape shots (PICS).

With the sun setting quickly we began our decline to the road so that we could catch the bus back to Horseshoe Bay. The 40 minute walk was shortened to a 30 minute canter as we tried to make use of the waning light, only stopping to take a few more pictures of the impressive twilight sky (PICS). Back at the road we realised that we had a 30 minute wait at the bus stop, in the dark, surrounded by bugs that were becoming progressively hungrier. We had to get moving! The walk to Horseshoe Bay was at least another few kilometers and thus out of the question. The only alternative was to hitch a ride. This was the first time we had done this on our travels, despite attempting it in Byron Bay.

A few cars passed and denied us a trip down the hill, and then, in what appeared to be a halo of light (okay it was just the headlights) our guardian angel pulled up in his Suzuki 4x4. Remarkably he was originally from Edinburgh, his thick Scottish accent still overpowering the fact that he had lived in Oz for about a decade. He reluctantly moved his grocery shopping to one side and squeezed us into his car, driving us right to the door of our hostel. Our Scottish knight in shining armour (well, a dusty 4 wheel drive anyway!).

Back at the hostel we again ate at the hostel bar and then made it to bed around midnight.
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