February 21st – February 24th
The last few days have been interesting to say the least. We’re coming to the end of our road trip and are trying to make the most of the time we have left, but we seem to have spent more time planning the rest of our trip in McDonalds, than actually getting around to doing things. That being said, on Tuesday we headed to the Whitsunday Islands, which apart from Fraser Island, was the one place that we had decided on visiting before we got the van.
We’d previously been advised to book more than a one day tour to visit Whitsundays, but as Paige and I are now Australian veterans, we decided to ignore this advice based on two factors. One was that we get bored and distracted very easily so two days doing the same thing didn’t appeal to us (we’re sort of like impatient children), and the second was that I would much rather spend my money on important things like food, than on unforgettable experiences. It turns out that I needn’t have worried, as Paige and I ate enough cake to feed the entire population of Denmark. This is just an estimation, as I don’t know the eating habits of the Danish people, but I do know however that the cake was free, and we like cake.
The first stop of the tour was to Hill Inlet, which is effectively a place to take a photo of Whitehaven Beach, which looks completely different everyday, depending on the tides and the weather. This would have been a wonderful experience, except we had to walk through the jungle, on our own, to get to this view. Early on in our trek (ten minute walk), Paige was fortunate enough to spot a pretty large Golden Orb spider, and so we spent the walk in silence, apart from the occasional squeal as Paige touched/saw/smelt anything that had the possibility of being a spider.
The view itself was spectacular, and we then hiked down to the beach, where we realised that you can’t swim in the sea, because you’ll probably die. There are two types of jellyfish in the sea around Whitehaven, and neither of them particularly appealed to us. One type of ‘Stinger’ is the Box Jellyfish, which causes “instant and severe burning skin pain,” which could make you “stop breathing and rapidly lose consciousness,” while the other is 1-2cm long and if you’re stung, “symptoms such as severe back ache, muscle cramps, sweating, nausea, vomiting and a dreadful feeling of anxiety and ill health may arise 20-30 minutes after the initial sting.” Now I love a good bit of back ache as much as the next person, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered with the nausea, so, assuming it’s a package deal, we played it safe and stayed on the beach. We did however come across baby sharks in the shallows, which we were informed were Lemon Sharks and were in fact harmless. It all sounded very convincing but knowing that those babies had to have come from somewhere, we opted for a read in the shade, as far away from the sea as possible.
Despite the sharks, jellyfish and probably slightly murderous dolphins, I decided that I’d quite enjoy a little snorkel after lunch, meaning that I’ve now officially snorkelled in Africa, Asia and Australia. Apparently if you get stung by a jellyfish and you have asthma (which lucky for me, I do) it could quite easily be fatal, so I accidentally neglected to tick that box on the Health and Safety form. Oops. The risk was worth it, as I swam right off the beach and over part of the Great Barrier Reef, without coming even remotely close to dying. I have to say that it put snorkelling in the Gili Islands and in Zanzibar to shame, and I was devastated when it finished.
We spent the rest of the day on Daydream Island, which I think is quite a cocky thing to call your plot of land, but the name was quite accurate. Unfortunately this daydream turned into a bit of a nightmare (haha) when we got back to the mainland, and realised that during all of the fun we’d been having, we’d neglected to find a place to stay for that night. As it was getting dark we turned up at a ‘campsite’ that we’d read about, which turns out is actually a random man hiring out his front garden in the middle of nowhere. And we were the only ones there. And he had a lot of big dogs. And a lot of friends. We quickly established that this wasn’t the place for us, but not because we were scared, but more because we were very scared. We rang up three or four more campsites, all of which were closed, and so began to panic a little bit. We drove into Bowen, which is a lovely little deserted town that I would definitely recommend driving straight past, where we picked up a Chinese takeaway (priorities), and tried to figure out where to stay. In the end we drove on for another hour and parked in a genuinely very welcoming free rest stop, where the chances of getting stabbed were next to none.
The next day we got up early, as always, and drove to Townsville, stopping on the way at Billabong Sanctuary. Paige and I disagree with zoos, but are more than happy to visit places where the animals have been rescued or are unfit to be returned to the wild. Plus we really wanted to hold a Koala, which we did. I was getting desperate, and had been getting tempted to pose with a roadkill one if necessary, so I’m glad we stumbled across somewhere we could do it properly. We also stroked a Wombat and fed Kangaroos, so all in all it wasn’t a bad experience. We did pay a decent amount for the photos with the Koala, but have somehow managed to lose the hard copy that we got given within the first day, which is brilliant.
After finding our campsite (this time before it was pitch black), we decided to drive into Townsville for a bit of late lunch. Apparently Australians don’t know about late lunch, because despite being in the city centre at three o’clock, everything was closed. Luckily the Australian equivalent to Costa (The Coffee Club) was still open for half an hour so we stuffed our faces quickly and headed on back for the evening.
The next day we got the ferry to Magnetic Island, because apparently three different islands in two weeks wasn’t enough. Magnetic Island ended up being a bit of a waste of time, as we got there, paid for a day long bus pass, went to Horseshoe Bay for some lunch, got the bus back, and then got on the ferry home again. It was an experience that I can highly recommend to anybody, unless you enjoy life, in which case maybe you should give it a miss. I do think it would have been worthwhile, but for the first time our ‘make it up as you go along’ attitude didn’t really work in our favour, and we didn’t know enough about the island to make the most out of it. Lessons have been learned (they haven’t), and we spent the rest of the day fighting off mosquitos, eating and sleeping. We’re so good at this travelling business.
We drove halfway up a mountain the next day, before realising that this particular mountain was not designed with campervans in mind. We should have known after a man in a 4×4 drove by laughing at us, but we chose to ignore this and continue. After nearly falling off the mountain several times, we realised that perhaps this was not the place for us. Luckily this road was about two metres wide, so there was plenty of opportunity to do a quick U-Turn and head on back down. What I mean by this is that we had to continue driving up the mountain, despite the fact that at this point we were both on the verge of tears, before eventually finding a place where we could do a three (hundred) point turn.
We ended the day in Mission Beach, which I have given the pretty witty and catchy nickname of ‘Definitely Don’t Come Here There’s Nothing To Do Just Drive Straight Past’ Beach. The campsite we stayed on was lovely, and had a really nice seating area, in which we had a very tasty Thai takeaway. We’d read in reviews of this particular campsite that a lot of the permanent residents are very protective over this kitchen/seating area, but we passed this off as nonsense and continued to eat there anyway. When one of these permanent residents began clearing up our plates and rubbish before we’d even finished our meal, we realised that in fact these warnings had been true. He was a very friendly man, but he did make it very obvious that we were encroaching on his turf, so we ran back to the van as quickly as possible.
The night ended with Paige brushing her teeth, and determining that the toothpaste had “gone off”, due to the fact that it had been left in the sun over the course of the last month. Turns out that this toothpaste was in fact Deep Heat, which can be poisonous when put in the mouth and swallowed (obviously), so we spent the next couple of hours looking up how much trouble she was in, and FaceTiming her family, convinced that she was going to die. I’ve been told we should look out for the sharks and spiders, when in reality the biggest danger to our lives is Paige.