Monday, March 28, 2005

Hervey Bay to Cairns


we left Hervey Bay on Sunday, Feb 20th directly to Airlie Beach (the gateway to The Whitsunday Islands), our route taking us via Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton and Mackay arriving at about 9pm after a monster 10 hour drive. Jesus, yeah, I just remembered that really was a long drive - I think it was about 850km. I also managed to pick up a speeding ticket, kindly granted to me by the Queensland Police and I have never managed to get around to thanking them enough for putting me in a shite mood for the rest of that day, but whilst I am on the subject, thank you Queensland Police for making me $250AU poorer, your generosity overwhelms me!

Back to the matter in hand. Airlie Beach is nestled between the sea and the pine forests with just about everything to be found along a shortish stretch of road... Shute Harbour Road and the short Esplanade. Contrary to the name, Airlie Beach offers sod all in the way of beaches due to the fact that beach bathing would almost certainly mean death in this part of Queensland due to the ever increasing population of Irukandji Jellyfish If you get stung by one of these fellas you might as well save yourself by cutting your head off, far less painful way to go.

There is however a beautiful lagoon (shagoon) which kinda makes up for it. But as I have touched upon, Airlie Beach is where nearly all the trips to the Whitsunday Islands depart from. The nightlife here is more than respectable, it has to be as hundreds of backpackers pour into the place either waiting to get on their respective boats or come off their boats waiting to leave the next day. Anyway, we arrived quite late Sunday evening and very soon after met up with Lacey Laye (from Fraser Island trip) and our buddy Jay who Scott lived with in Manly. We managed a few shandies before throwing in the towel and accepting that a meat pie and bed would make much more sense, so meat pie and bed it was.

Monday was pretty much a day of relaxation as we headed over to the office for our sailing trip confirmation, wrote some postcards and filled up on Sushi. Monday night however was a very different matter. Scott and I had noticed the rather heavily advertised 'Foam Party' @ Mass Nightclub so resist that we were definitely not able to do. After a pretty good feed at our hostel, which incidentally was awesome, Beaches Backpacker Resort.. I introduced Scotty to the legendaru Vodka and Ginger Ale combination. Suitably impressed we met up with Lacey Laye and persuaded her to accompany us to the foam part. Rather reluctantly she did and I'm not sure she stayed very long, especially after the 20th time that Scott and I tackled her into the 5ft of foam around the dance floor. It was here that Scott and I met, Andrea (Montreal), Vanessa (Montreal), Megan (Montreal) and Lindsay (Indiana). An absolutely amazing group of girls who we later hooked up with again in Cairns. We had a great night in the foam, I lost count how many Bundabergs and coke that I lost on that dance floor, but who cares! For those of you that haven't made it to a foam party yet, do it, there are very few opportunites that allow you to face pie people and rugby tackle them to the floor with almost no repercussions, quite remarkable, although I am sure that people wouldn't be quite so laid back about it in the UK!!
Hangovers in full flow our Tuesday morning was spent moping around searching for nurofen (or any other brand of high-strength/high-quality pain killer for that matter) and preparing ourselves for the 3 days ahead onboard the New Horizon. We managed to get to the marina for 2pm all in one piece. Bought plenty of beer and boarded the vessel. Attempts were made to meet our rather unresponsive shipmates for the next 3 days. We were introduced to our amazing crew Pete, Pete, Izzy, Miranda and Captain Roger. These guys were truly class and did everything for us, they cooked great meals, washed up, made tea, taught us how to dive etc etc and bearing in mind the cost of the trip they must have earned peanuts for their efforts. Day 1 was rather quiet as we caught some rays (sun not fish) and were fitted with our stinger suits. Stinger suits are highly unfashionable but highly necessary when in the waters of Tropical Queensland, because of course the jellyfish. Suits, gloves and hoods are required at all times as looking like a tit is far less important than having multiple heart attacks and dying as a result of making contact with an Irukandji Jellyfish. Our boat was particulary stringent about this as the week before a 35 year old bloke was stung and yes he had several heart attacks and the last report was he was still in hospital and still in a coma... nuff said.. After a great meal that night and few beers, Scott and I got into bed (together), yes we had to share a bed, such is life on the ocean. Scott was very amused when the 6.30am call for breakfast was made and he woke me up for me to say: "What? Where the hell am I?.... Oh yeah on a bloody boat, Great!"

Wednesday gave us plenty of time to get to know our stinger suits more intimately and explore the magnificent Whitehaven Beach and the Whitsunday Island National Park. After some most impressive and unforgettable snorkelling time we headed back to the vessel and sailed north to Pearl Bay where we dropped anchor and watched the sunset. Roast beef dinner and plenty of Tooheys New and another sleepless night followed. Day 3 gave us an opportunity to do some more snorkelling/sun worshipping before heading back to Airlie Beach to the marina in good time. Another night at Airlie Beach allowed us to attend the post-sailing dinner where we actually got some free beer courtesy of our crew, we then headed to the huge hostel bar for some more 'entertainment' and then I decided to throw the towel in and hit the hay as Piers and Scott headed out for more debauchery.

Friday, Feb 25th... Off to Townsville or should I say Clownsville, for our two nights on Magnetic Island
We got to the ferry terminal in good time and after heading back into Clownsville for some nosh we made the ferry having opted to leave my car at the port. After a very pleasant ferry crossing we made it to our hostel.. Arkies, which had definitely seen better days. Oh well you can't win 'em all! Friday night was the last Friday of the month, and on Magnetic Island that means that everyone (from Townsville too) heads over to Base Backpackers Resort for a 'Full Moon Party'. Now I will keep it brief here but never has anything been so overhyped! What a waste of time that was, Friday Freak Show would have been a more appropriate way to bring in the crowds. So we gave it our best shot and headed back to Arkies around 6am to bed, where we stayed for about 10 hours only to eat and go back to bed. Believe me kids, Magnetic Island ain't all that and should you ever head that way my advice would be to pass Townsville and spend a few nights at Mission Beach soaking up some sun and getting some well needed rest before hitting Cairns.

Which moved me nicely towards... yes, Cairns. We got to Cairns on Sunday afternoon where we headed to Captain Cooks Backpackers, and why not we did have two free nights there after all. Now let us pause for a second... How bad must somewhere be for you to make the decision that staying there for free would be foolish? Very, very bad is the answer.. and that is why we decided to head straight to Gilligans..... Now quite simply this place is the best hostel I have and ever will stay in, so rather a wise move opting to knock back the free beds.

That evening Rob was arriving from Sydney and we (I) had rather foolishly (in hindsight) advised him to get his ass straight to Captain Cooks from the airport, so rather embarrassed I hoped that he might call me on arrival at the shitehole once he had noticed a) what a shower of turd the place was and b) that we were not staying there after all. Luckily he did call and he obeyed my instructions to get in the first available vehicle to Gilligans where there was a bed waiting for him. After shouting more instructions at Rob (something along the lines of 'stick your bags in the room and come with me we're going on the piss') we made our way down to the highly impressive bar at Gilligans along with Scotty and Piers (with Marie naturally following shortly behind, with longer preparation time needed than us chaps) where we were soon met by some old faces in the form of Lacey Laye, Vanessa, Andrea, Megan and Lindsay who duly accompanied us to 'The Woolshed'. The Woolshed is a truly debauched establishment and is something of an institution in Cairns. Apparantly it has been going for aeons and the overwhelming smell of stale and ingrained booze comes as testimony to that. That said, it's a pretty surefire place to have a bloody good night, if of course you enjoy drinking like a fish and dancing like a retard, so I fitted in rather well as you can imagine. As you can also imagine some rather impressive hangovers usually follow any visit to this place and I can safely say that mine was a rotter. But that didn't stand in my way of getting up on Monday to rob the opticians... well when I say rob it was actually their carelessness that did them out of $100 and I simply couldn't bring myself to be British about it and point out their error as they gave me 3 months worth of daily disposable contact lenses for 20 quid, I am a 'backpacker' after all. A day of good food and sun worshipping lay ahead, I had planned to attempt to sell my car that day but fear of possible drink-driving offence while doing so prevented me from doing so. Met up with the girls again that evening, and my better judgement, and the fact that Dave, Paul and Zooks were arriving from Sydney for a week the following lunchtime, meant that it was one beer and then in with the towel for me whilst Scotty, Piers and Rob headed off to 'Sporties' for the $5 as much as you can drink in an hour deal (nuts hey!).

So I was up like a flash on Tuesday as fresh as a daisy and after a good feed I met Dave, Paul and Danny and with the emotional reunion out the way - i.e once I Danny had stopped hugging me - I headed off to scour the used car dealers of Cairns, and with offers ranging from $2.5k to $4.5k in the first 5 stops I knew that I was in for an interesting day. And after meeting several aussie reincarnations of Arthur Daley the 'interesting day' thought was definitely a certainty. After about 12 or so dealers I found one that was willing to exchange cash for my beloved '93 Toyota Camry even though both rear shocks were blown, all it left was for me to take her away, get her cleaned and pay my speeding fine! and return with the goods tomorrow. Which is exactly what I did but not necessarily in that order. I went to the Queensland department of transport first and after about 45mins of mindless queuing clutcing hold of that dreaded yellow slip I sauntered up to the desk with my cash and paid the fine, at which point the lady asked me whether I would like to keep the ticket as a souvenir of my stay in Queensland. At this stage what I should have said was: 'No but you can almost certainly feel free to stick it up your a***', but what I actually said was, 'You know what I will, thanks.' So off I went to Gilligans to inform the crew of my success. That evening we decided to host a little gathering in our room with Vodka and ginger ale as the theme and ipod cracked up. There was a pretty good turn out as the girls rocked up and Dave, Danny and Paul brought along Marvin the Misfit from Hamburg, quite a character I can tell you. He was later nicknamed Marvin Gaye and I can tell you right now it wasn't because of his soulful voice. Needless to say we had a blast and need I say that we headed straight to The Woolshed for some after party frolics. Once Marvin had taken about 300 photos of us all the quite rightfully took Dave's crown of 'Snap Happy King' then we were able to relax and get on with the madness that The Woolshed provides.

Now let me pause for a moment folks, I am aware that you are noticing a pattern emerge here, a pattern somewhat coloured by alcohol... Well, that be Cairns I'm afraid to admit. Wednesday did have one notable achievement, Dave and Danny accompanied me to drop off my motor at Arthur Daley's Motors, which in itself was adequate amusement for the day. The madness started when the sales manager, Arthur himself, informed as that there was an aboriginal lady that had drunk a few litres of meths and had locked herself in the boss's office. She had then put on his shoes and coat and was making random phonecalls, to where we don't but I am not entirely convinced that she did either. This whole fiasco went on for about an hour until the police turned off to cart her off, well actually carry her by her arms and legs into the back of a paddy wagon. It was a genuine Australian Cultural Show that I won't forget in a hurry. Once that mayhem had passed I was able to sign over the car to Arthur and get my cash. The only thing was they actually forgot to get the car keys off me..... These used car dealers really can't get the staff. So I did the right thing and went back to give them the keys, and off we headed to Gilligans to prepare ourselves for... wait for it folks.... The Cairns Pub Crawl.. the official one that is, not just us wandering around battered.

And what a fascinating 'cultural' experience that turned out to be, there was a horizontal bungee where opposite sexes had to pluck bananas outof various orifices with their mouths, there was 'strip musical chairs' lost only by a slight technicality by Danny to some Irish girl, there was a bizarre game at Gilligans which can best be described as 'strip musical sexual positions'.... errrrrrr.... best stop there...
Thursday the girls and Kubus left us, but that wasn't enough to stave off our hunger for The Woolshed. Thursday did however start off rather amusingly as Dave, Danny and Paul had booked themselves onto a Great Barrier Reef trip.... well, only Dave actually made it as the still drunk Paul and Zooks couldn't quite make it to the boat for bouncing off the walls of the hostel. Friday was a shock to the system as we all had a 6.30am start to make it out the front for our Cape Tribulation Tour buses. There was quite an unforgettable moment when Danny (still quite drunk/very very hungover) rushes outside to be met by his driver who asks a very reasonable question; "Where's your ticket mate?" to which Danny's response was.... 'F*** this man, I'm gonna go tomorrow or something!".... Quite hilarious and quite what Danny was thinking I will never now, however Dave appeared shortly afterwards to reassure young Daniel that a ticket is of course required and to hand ot over to the nice gentleman driving the bus... problem solved and no need for Danny to rebook for tomorrow. So off we headed in different buses, I was with Scott and Marie and we headed north to Mossman with the first stop at a small wildlife sanctuary where we fed Cassiowary birds, held some tree gliders (flying squirrels) and had some brekkie. It was then off to The Daintree for the ferry crossing across the croc infested Daintree river for the drive up to Cape Tribulation. Just to add to the experience it was raining in the rainforest and we stopped at the Marrdja Botanical Boardwalk to errr.. take the boardwalk through the rainforest where we saw plenty of king ferns, spiders and the rather far out looking Mangrove Swamps. Bitten to shit by the midgies we headed back to the bus for the trip to PK's Hostel where we would stay for the night. Now it's at this point that I have just remembered the pair of rather young, rather naive english girls on our tour that had a quire remarkable ability to ask the MOST insanely stupid questions known to man. I wish to God that I could remember them all, but a) you simply wouldn't believe most of them actually came out the mouth of a human being and b) it would just be far too traumatic for me to relive such stupidity. How I restrained myself from throttling them I simply don't know but I did. Here's one for a taster.. "Are you serious? Emus can't actually fly?". Like I said, sorry to disappoint but recounting any more would be far too traumatic as I have done my damnedest to banish that madness from my memory banks.

Our hostel was pretty good, although spider infested, the kangaroo burgers were to die for.. ask the kangaroos. One we had all regrouped at the hostel from our various tour buses it was time for some relaxation by the pool, some pool, and booking our morning of sea-kayaking for saturday. We also made a visit to the 'Bat House' where we had a very interesting talk on the flying-foxes that they foster there and then Paul and Danny headed off around 7pm for a rainforest night safari, as I headed off to bed for an early night.
Saturday we headed off to our kayaks and took to the ocean for a totally amazing morning kayaking off the east coast of Cape Trib. Danny and I chose to take a 2-man kayak which as you can imagine was a total laugh. Danny persisted on continually scooping water into my mouth rather than grasping the physics of the paddle's relationship with the water, but funny it was. We stopped briefly for some photos and then paddled to the shore for some coconut husking and passionfruit eating. We then went for a little wander with our guide and found some green ants. She then pointed out that if you lick the arse of a green ant it tastes rather like a lime, so I grabbed one and naturally as you do, I licked it's arse much to the disgust of the rest of the group. Paul then decided he would follow so I picked one out for him whereupon he decided to french kiss my fingers rather than the ants arse, very amusing! It was then time for the kayak race back to beach. It is here that I would like to claim that Danny and I won, however we came second to Piers and Dave. I was nearly sick when we finished again due to the amount of sea water Danny had scooped into my mouth.

We then headed back to The Daintree where we embarked upon a river cruise to do some croc spotting, and we weren't disappointed as we saw several crocs. This is truly amazing seeing these beasts in their natural environment, an unforgettable experience. It was then time to head home via Port Douglas, a rather upmarket tourist trap that left little to excite the senses. Basically a five star version of Cairns where your money would last half the time. We stopped briefly en route back to Cairns to watch some paragliding then headed straight back to the hostel for one last taste of The Woolshed.

Sunday we said goodbye to Marie and the rest of the day was naturally a rather painful day as I was also leaving that night, but of course the adventure has to continue and although I had to say goodbye to some truly great mates, I can safely say that I will see them again. So all the boys saw me off as I took the 10.55pm flight to Perth to catch up with my old mate Drew now living in Perth with his wife Janie. So thanks Dave, Danny, Paul, Scott and Piers for such fantastic times.. like I said, see you again. And that's where the east coast trip ends... But that's not it folks, next stop Perth........


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