townsville & magnetic island - Where's Byrne?

townsville & magnetic island

03.05.2012 – 10.05.2012 Sunny 28°C

The Greyhound picked us up from the bus terminal at Mission Beach and we settled in for our four-hour ride. We’d done a small amount of research on Townsville and didn’t come up with much although we weren’t too worried as Mick, the guy who we met in Patong, Thailand at the start of out trip, lived there and had offered to put us up. Bloody good bloke.

We sat in Molly Malone’s and had a beer while Mick came to get us. Townsville looked nice. Big, but with not a lot about, as with many other towns in Australia, the Aussies certainly like their space. Mick arrived and we jumped in his Ute, sharing the passenger seat the seven kilometres out-of-town to his house. It was smart, real nice. A four bedroom place on stilts with a white picket fence surrounding the perimeter. Inside, a fifty inch TV and an American fridge/freezer that dispensed cold, filtered water and ice made us feel right at home. A big double bed was a welcome change to scabby dorms too. That night Mick whipped us up some steak and chips on the barby and it was sublime. One of the best steaks I’ve had, Mick insists on buying his meat from the butchers and if it all tastes as good as that, I can see why.

The following day Mick offered to take us fishing to his own hut fifty kilometres up the coast. I’m not that interested in fishing but not wanting to miss a unique opportunity to go see and do something off the tourist trail, we snapped his arm off. His hut was cool, a treble unit of double garages complete with kitchen and beds. We rolled the barby out and gathered branches and sticks for our fire we’d need to keep warm later then went for a drive, burning twenty Ks of beach in his Ute, me sitting in the back. Fancying a beer, we got on it and polished a case off each, B drank a bottle of Rose we had picked up from the liquor store earlier, and I passed out. So much for the fishing…

I woke up with a massive hangover and promptly went to throw up over a tree round the corner from the hut. I wondered what I’d eaten for dinner the night before. Feeling really bad but still keen on the fishing we drove back down the beach and set up some rods to fish in the waters left by the sea as the tide was out. Nothing much happened for a while except me fighting the urge to chuck again, when all of a sudden the spare rod Mick had set up started to pull, I grabbed it and reeled in a Mango Jack Fish. I didn’t catch it in the traditional sense but I’ll claim it.

Back at Mick’s later that day, twenty blokes aged seventeen to twenty-five had arrived that were also staying at his for the weekend for Townsville’s annual festival Groove in the Moo. Still feeling rough I went back to bed but was up in time to meet them all. Although they had ordered a cab to town for to party the night before the festival, they didn’t turn up. Mick asked if I would drive them to town as I was the only sober one in the house, not wanting to sound rude I agreed but was apprehensive. I didn’t know where I was going and had a bunch of pissed up Aussies in the back. On top of that, when I got in the car, I couldn’t find the clutch, because it was an automatic. Automatic’s are easy you say? I know that now but when I sat in the driver’s seat I’d never driven an automatic in my twelve years of driving. As we set off, sure enough it wasn’t long before we were being followed by the Police. Great, the three in the back were slaughtered, the guy next to me was on acid, I had no driving license on me, I didn’t know whose automatic car I was driving and had no idea where I was going. They would have had a field day. To potentially top things off, I could have been over the limit still from the fishing piss up the night before, I certainly didn’t feel right, that’s for sure. Thankfully, after following us, turning on the lights, turning them off again, turning them back on again, and back off again, fucking around with the siren and driving generally like twats they pulled over and had a look at a train on tracks next to the road we where driving next to. I managed to drop the kids off and find my way back, just.

Castle Hill and The Strand. Mick had to leave for a few weeks for work but said to us we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted, which was unbelievably good of him. He even offered us use of his Ute. He suggested taking it to Castle Hill for the view and then to The Strand for some fish and chips. That’s exactly what we did. Castle Hill is a huge mountain in the middle of Townsville. It’s a slow and windy three kilometres up to the top for the view, not a problem in a 3.0 Ute but I didn’t fancy being one of the many runners we saw on the way up and down. The view itself is pretty spectacular, if predictable. Townsville, Magnetic Island, the Airport and the Train Station are easily identifiable but not much else. Worth doing, if only once. The Strand is the long embankment built ten years ago which consists of beach areas, grass patches, gas barbecues, nice palm trees, a few kiosks and the Marina. Very similar to what Cairns has, minus the lagoon. Verdict: Worth seeing both if you’re in ‘Towny’ or ‘The Ville’ as the younger crowd are calling it these days (Mick informs me).

Townsville Aquarium. We decided to see the Aquarium the following day, again on Mick’s advice because it is the largest living coral reef Aquarium in the world. For $26.50 each though, we shouldn’t have bothered, it was way over-priced. The Aquarium itself is centred around the big tank in the middle which you are able to walk around and at one point, under via a tunnel. Inside there are some fantastic fish including Sharks, a big Turtle, a huge Catfish, a Saw fish, some Rays, a Leopard Shark and a few others I didn’t recognise. These are impressive, especially when walking through the tunnel, shame it’s not longer though. Around the main tank are a few other tanks with different fish inside, some of which were OK, others were just boring. Don’t know where the Turtle Hospital was and the café was being renovated. Exit through the gift shop. Verdict: It’s not bad, not the worst Aquarium I have ever been to but far too expensive for what’s there. London’s Aquarium can’t be much more than £17 each? The coral was uninteresting, and that’s being polite. www.reefhq.com.au.

As Mick had kindly offered us his mansion for as long as we liked we thought we’d make Magnetic Island a day trip rather than an overnighter and save the sixty odd bucks we would have to pay out on a hostel.

09.05.2012 Sunny 26°C

B had a friend from Uni working at Bungalow Bay Koala Sanctuary and we arranged to meet her before we dashed off to Airlie Beach. I’m glad we did because we had a wicked time.

We left Mick’s at 8am and got a bus to town, narrowly missing the nine-thirty ferry crossing, instead having to settle for the 10:30 one for $29 each, return. The crossing was fast and smooth and once on Maggie we got the bus to Horseshoe Shoe Bay to meet Rachel at the Sanctuary. The bus ticket was $7 for a hop on, hop off pass valid all day.

Bungalow Bay Koala Sanctuary. We arrived at the Sanctuary via the windy cliff edge roads and bought a ticket for the 12 o’clock slot with Kerrie, to take us round and show us the animals. ($21 each). Luckily, Rachel showed up and tagged along with our group of six (and got us a free photo holding a Koala, normally $15). Kerrie and Rachel certainly knew their stuff, spouting unbelievable facts and trivia. As we went round we held various animals including Barbie, a seven kilo fresh water crocodile, Scooter, a small (and very fast) Wallaby, two huge Pythons, I have forgotten the names of, five lizards and a Turtle. A twenty-five kilo Wombat was there to hold too but he wouldn’t wake up and move out his log so he wasn’t forced. The Koala was smart, only a baby but was still heavy enough with massive claws. Cue awkward picture. All the animals are free to hold except the Koala and Rachel explained this is because of Government tax, not extra for the sanctuary. The Queensland Government doesn’t want Koala’s held left, right and centre so charge for it to weed out the people who aren’t bothered. A walk through a stretch of forest’s included too and you get to see some Butterflies. Not great, but OK. www.bungalowbay.com.au.

After the rest of our group left, Rachel took us back into the park for a behind the scenes look at a pregnant Koala. Rachel molested her just enough to see the baby in the mother’s pouch. Verdict: For $21 it really is worth it, even if you don’t have a friend on the inside.

Horseshoe Ranch, Horse Riding. We booked the 3pm slot at the Horseshoe Ranch to go riding after Bungalow Bay ($100 for a two-hour ride). I was a bit apprehensive having only ever ridden once before but after missing out on something similar in Bali, made myself go. As we arrived we were offered a choice of jeans and trainers to wear as shorts and flip-flops weren’t appropriate apparel, apparently. Luckily there was a 32″ pair of jeans and a semi-cool pair of size ten sneakers to wear. I was given Jack, a brown horse, 14/3 hands high (doesn’t mean anything to me either). I jumped on him using a concrete block and settled in to the saddle, which was surprisingly comfortable. The gorgeous blonde bird who gave me the reigns said ‘left is left, right is right, nudge him with your heels if you want to go and yank on the reigns if he starts to eat, and he will eat’. Sounded easy enough.

The rest of our group mounted their respective animals, B being given Little Man, and I just hung around letting Jack munch on anything green in sight. I thought the reigns were too short as I had to bend over his neck to let him eat, but I’m told this is normal. We set off, all ten of us for a walk through the forest, at a nice and easy pace. I was quite enjoying it until Naomi, the Arkala, suggested going for a trot. I didn’t want to trot but  when she asked if anyone didn’t want to, I wasn’t about to say ‘me!’, so just got on with it. Trotting, is harder than it looks. at first I was just bouncing around in the saddle like a rag doll, holding on to my horse for dear life, but after a while I watched Naomi in front of me and noticed she was standing up with every other trot. I gave it a go, which stopped me bouncing so much but it wasn’t comfortable.

We arrived at the beach ready to go for our swim in the sea. I dismounted Jack and Blondie tied him up for me under a tree and whipped his saddle off while I went to put a stinger suit on. Back on Jack, we walked towards to sea-line, but Jack didn’t seem too shore (pardon the pun), slowing up as we approached. I wasn’t happy at this point. I could see myself falling off quite easily, especially as I didn’t have my trusty saddle to hold on to, just Jack’s mane. To his credit, he followed the rest of the horses in to the sea though and before long I was up to my waist in it. Jack seemed to enjoy blowing bubbles, sticking his snoz under the water, I then knew why Naomi called him snorkelboy. Jack was strolling through the sea by now and was getting more and more confident the longer we were in there. After a while though, Jack pulled up sharp for no reason. I gave him the nudge in the ribs I’d been using to get him to move before, but had no joy. A French woman then rode past me and told me he was having a piss. Nice, I was still sitting on him, waist deep. Standing there for thirty seconds or so, Jack then made an odd grunt and shuddered which made me think he was going to throw me off. Naomi told me though, a fish bit him on the nob while he was having a piss. Enough to make anyone shudder, that. Ten minutes or so later we walked back on to the beach, de-suited and got back on our horses, complete with saddles.

Walking and trotting back through the rainforest was as good as the journey there, except for one poor woman who got thrown off by her horse, Billy, who had played up for a while. B was behind her at the time and said she took a nasty tumble, but to her credit, she got back on Naomi’s horse and allowed herself to be led home, Naomi holding the reign. It was her first time riding, maybe the horse picked up on her nervousness?

Verdict: Brilliant. It’s well worth the $100 (£65). Naomi made me feel at ease beforehand and I never felt as though I was in any danger. Jack was great, apart from stopping to eat a lot, he did everything I asked of him. www.horseshoebayranch.com.au.

After horse riding we met back up with Rachel and went for some dinner at Noodies. Mexican was the theme so we had Fajitas, which were very good, if a bit pricey. We got the 9:10 bus back to Nelly Bay and the 9:30 ferry back to Townsville. Unfortunately though the Townsville buses had stopped running so we had an hour and a half walk back to Mick’s place. You can’t have everything can you?

Maggie Island is definitely worth at least a day trip. You can go Jet-Skiing, Fishing, Sea Kayaking, Skydiving, Scuba Diving, Snorkelling, fly in a Red Baron Seaplane, play golf, go bush walking or just lay on the beach, as well as all the stuff I did.

On ‘The Ville’, staying at Mick’s had been fantastic. You can’t put a price on living in a real house again as opposed to dorms, especially when you’re made to feel so welcome. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay forever though and had to move on to Airlie Beach. Townsville is well worth a stop, even if just to get to Magnetic Island.

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