I love riding on ferries. Well, I like riding on most boats, for that matter. I’ve yet to be on the open seas in a boat that will prove whether I get sea sick or not, because cruise ships have something that compensates for all the motion. That and the motion sickness “patch” keeps shiploads of people from hurling. I hope to find out how I stand it, someday.
So, we were off to Magnetic Island, a beautiful place just off the coast of Townsville. We got up (way too early for me) in order to get onto one of the earliest ferries, planning to see as much as possible.
Well, consider, we’d already had some pretty long days, but knew that earlier the better would allow us to do as much as possible at Maggie Island (as the locals call it). The plan was to get snorkeling gear and get into the water as soon as possible, so we didn’t get fried during the middle of the day.
By the way, for those of you that have been waiting for my account of visiting the Great Barrier Reef, I’m sorry to have to disappoint you. Imogen and I discovered that Townsville is not as close to the Reef, as the Reef juts out further in the Pacific, at the bottom of it. So, we were in the correct area, but the boat trip would take much longer, causing the excursions to be much more expensive.
This was a bit of a blow, but we decided we’d swing with the punches, and go to Maggie Island, which everyone insisted was too lovely to be missed. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to find a rip-roaring deal on a flight to Cairns for a weekend, sometime in the next few months.
So, we paid our $27 for the ferry, since we didn’t want to pay the $100+ fee to take our car across the water. The day was beautiful, the clouds were disappearing, and the breeze on the water was absolutely delicious. The day was starting so well!
My first impression, as the ferry approached the island, was that Magnetic Island is a pile of boulders, held together by some trees and grass. For the rest of the day, that impression did not change. Boulders are everywhere, and even some houses have been built on stilts, in order to live amongst the boulders.
We arrived at the ferry terminal and began exploring our options. The bus was going to be our main form of transport, as we didn’t want to rent a car, no matter how fun those “Flintstone” cars looked. Eventually, we decided to walk up to Mandalay Avenue to a store that rented snorkel gear. From there, we intended to decide the best place to snorkel.
When we rented the snorkel gear, which included stinger suits, as the marine stingers (every kind of jellyfish imaginable) had arrived for the season. This does not include the box jellyfish, just so you know. Those are the ones that are much farther north, and can kill you. The “normal” ones down here just cause you extreme pain, and you have to carry vinegar in your beach gear, to help if you manage to get stung.
We walked back to the ferry terminal, in the heat of the day, where we had about 40 minutes til the bus arrived. I had the beginnings of an earache, so I decided to use my remaining 35 minutes to walk over to the pharmacy. I thought it wouldn’t take that long, but after twenty minutes, when I arrived there, I knew I was going to miss the bus if I didn’t book it on the way back.
So, in the nearly 11 o’clock heat, I walked fast and ran (when I could breathe), in flip-flops, all the way back to the terminal. I made it with a couple minutes to spare. It wasn’t until that evening that I realized I must’ve lost my library book at the bus terminal, in the rush to get on the bus.
We didn’t know what stop to get off at, as the snorkeling store lady had told us the best places were Arthur Bay and Florence Bay. So, at the end of the line, in Horseshoe Bay, we asked the bus driver, he told us to get off at the Forts, and we waited twenty minutes til the bus went in the other direction.
As you may be able to tell, things were starting to go wrong. The lady had implied that it was a hop and a skip to Arthur and Florence Bays, and then two hops over to Horseshoe Bay from there. Boy, was she wrong.
We got off at the Forts stop, and we did notice the sign that said 3.5 km down a winding road. I was thinking it would be a winding path where our stops would be only a little ways in. Yeah, that was wrong. We went down roads and up, down roads and up, and it was noon. We stopped at a lookout point to see Arthur Bay and decided we weren’t hiking down to it.
Continuing on to Florence Bay, we were looking forward to this, less and less. Upon arriving, we saw that it was very beautiful, and thought how lovely it would be to see the reef. After getting into our stinger suits and taking appropriate pictures (hey, my friends deserve a good laugh), we headed for the water. (Side note: The crazy facial expressions in the suits were a result of me attempting to smile with the snorkel gear on.) And after the first time in, couldn’t find the reef, as the water was pretty rough, and our gear didn’t include flotation devices (which made us nervous).
A guy walking along the water told us the reef was on the other side of the bay, so we went back to our stuff and I tried to figure out why my backpack was open, but my wallet was still there. We moved it all to the other side, went in, and found the water too murky, and we still couldn’t find the reef. After not being able to touch bottom, getting dumped around by the waves, and finding no coral or fish, we gave up. I also discovered how exquisitely painful getting sand in your swim fins was (getting it rubbed against the bones in my feet).
Back at our stuff, we found that our previous visitor must’ve been an animal, because Imogen’s food had been removed from her backpack and the package was on the beach. We debated the possibility of a goanna stalking us to steal our food. Then we removed the stinger suits, lathered on more sunscreen right over our liberal coating of sand (oh, the exfoliation!), and headed back to the road.
We no longer believed our informant about the distance to Horseshoe Bay, so we began the long trek back to the bus stop, knowing we had to make this one on time, if we were going to make it to our kayak trip in time. It was now 2pm, we were worn out, roasting in the sun, and I was getting dehydrated, despite drinking plenty of water. We had to drag ourselves up that last hill, swatting marsh flies the whole way. Even Bushman’s doesn’t keep those off.
With all our hard work to get places on time, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, except for a few nectarines, so by the time the bus dropped us at Mandalay to use our mostly unused snorkel gear, we stumbled down to a café. I’m sure the guy who brought us our food was amused, as we just wolfed it down. My chicken schnitzel (how is that breaded chicken, not pastry and chicken?) with gravy was delicious, as was the Solo lemon soda. And by the way, with our tight schedule, we never, ever entered a store or gift shop during our entire time on Maggie Island. No souvenirs for us, except for my tan.
No buses were running in the direction we wanted (north) in the 3 o’clock range, so we dragged ourselves up, slightly refreshed, and hiked it down to the ferry terminal to get a taxi. Our cheerful driver got us to Horseshoe Bay with twenty minutes to spare, for which we were grateful.
We’d been told we needed shoes that could get wet and long socks, so we bought Aussie men’s football socks, and I figured since I was already going to look hilarious, mine could be red, white and blue, to go with my purple shoes. We were visions of loveliness, but it gets even better.
When we arrived at the kayaking area, our fearless leader, Steve, told us that we would get to wear a different type of stinger suit, in case we either capsized or the waves got rough and washed stingers onto us. So, we were asked to remove our shirts and shorts, and leave the swimming togs on, because the more undergarments we wore, the hotter we would be.
We got to pull on huge baggy pants and a baggy shirt, which we zipped up to the neck. The shirt had to be tucked in, and my pant legs dragged on the ground. Then, we put on these other things that were for in case the water got rough, which we tightened with an elastic band, under our chests, making it look like some really messed up pregnancy skirt. And I mean REALLY messed up. If the water got rough, we would attach these to the holes in the kayak, to keep the water from coming in.
I took the front, and Imogen the back, so she got to work the pedals to control the rudder, and I was supposed to be the muscles. Well, that’s what he SAID. My arms were SO tired after this. We kayaked around most of the bay, ending with an area that’s full of sea grass and protected as a favorite snack area for sea turtles. We saw quite a few of them, though I never saw one close up. I always seemed to be looking in the wrong direction.
You can judge how tired we were at this point. Steve tied us up to a buoy to watch the sun go down, and pulled out a bottle and started pouring drinks. It looked like a wine bottle to me, and when I asked what it was, Steve said “Champagne”. I opened my mouth too fast, and said “Oh, no, thanks”, and he then told me it was sparkling grape juice. I had realized immediately that it would be ridiculous for him to spend a lot of money on champagne, or even wine, for a trip like this, but sure, I let my tiredness rule my mouth and brain. He’ll just put me down as an idiotic American. Oh well.
Finally, we landed, put up the kayaks, hosed off our clothes, and returned the stinger gear to him. We ditched our awesome socks, and spent half an hour waiting for the bus, and then finally reached the ferry terminal. By the time the ferry took us back to Townsville, I think it was around 8:30pm. That was a really long, hot day, as we first got on the ferry at 8:45am.
So, perhaps you’ll see why I didn’t have the energy to do any blogging on Wednesday night. There was enough energy to eat some takeout from Noodle Box (yum, seafood nasi goreng!), though I didn’t actually finish it. I ate the rest of it for breakfast on Thursday.
Now, if the photos upload properly, I’ll finally have this up on Christmas Eve (Aussie time), so I’ll wish everyone a slightly early Merry Christmas, as I’ve been tied up with power outages and trips to the emergency room. Have a wonderful time with your families, and I’ll hope to be talking to you again soon! MERRY CHRISTMAS!