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  • Writer's pictureClaire

15/02/24 Magnetic Island

The alarm going off at stupid o'clock, 0500hrs, was a rude awakening for this pampered little Princess ! However all for a good cause because we had a ferry to catch to Magnetic Island. You know how Si loves a dad joke? Well you can just imagine the puns I've been subjected to can't you? I'm borderline traumatised from him being 'strangely attracted to the island' and how 'hard it was to get away' etc etc.

The first ferry goes at 0530 and we decided we'd catch the 0630hrs one. Reasoning being, get there early, have a brew and maybe a bite to eat before picking up the car. Good plan. The early morning fast cat ferry was full of tradies on their way to work, and we sat up on the top deck, by the life rafts that were attached to the sides. Each one took 65 people. I fully intended to be like Rose from Titanic and keep flicking anybody off who tried to get on my bit of boat. I wouldn't have flicked Si off, I was counting on him to get me into the boat, and back to dry land. I was just going to flick everyone else off and blow the whistle using all of my now enormous lung capacity. After all the planning it turns out the lifeboats weren't required, but you have to be prepared right?

Townsville is regularly hit with cyclones during the wet summer months (like now) but today the ocean was like a mill pond and no cyclones forecast in the near future. Greatly appreciative for the lack of cyclone, we enjoyed the 8km trip over to the Island. Unfortunately the forecast was for rain, and we watched it come in over the ocean and get to the Island before us. By the time we arrived in Nelly Bay ferry port, the rain had moved on and it was just overcast. There was a small cafe in the port but we decided that there was bound to be more dotted around the Island and we set off in search of one. That was the first error of the day, nothing was open, we've got used to being in places that comes alive from 0530hrs and hadn't taken into consideration one vital thing.. Island time. Schoolgirl error! So not only had we missed out on breakfast and a brew, we had well over an hour to wait to pick up our hire car. We did kill a bit of time locating it, it was significantly further away from the ferry terminal than I was led to believe, but as I said, it killed some time.

The office for the car rental opened at 0800hrs, and by the time she had gone around each vehicle and videoed it there was quite the que formed outside the door. Finally we were allowed in to the office and while Si attended to the paperwork with the woman, I struck up conversation with an English girl, also there to pick up a vehicle. Turns out she's a police officer in the Met and works out of Brixton. Currently though she is in the process of transferring to Surrey because her department has been declared as critical incident and the whole force is taking a battering. Travelling solo for 7 weeks she is well aware that Queensland, Perth and South Australia have now opened their books for transferees. I think it's something she's given a lot of thought to because she knew a lot about it and the temptation is almost too great. It's something so would have done for sure. Now they wouldn't take me because I'm such a liability!!

The car paperwork all completed, we went back outside to colllect our chariot for the day, a little yellow MG3 called Pippin. Not all of the Island is accessible without a 4x4 so that just leaves a whole 20km of road to travel on. As it was early we headed towards the Forts. Forts aren't my thing in general but I had an ulterior motive for going.... Magnetic island is home to the largest number of wild Koalas with over 800 populating the Island. It's claimed as being the only place in Australia that is chlamydia free, something that Koalas suffer from apparently. They do succumb to an aids like virus but on the whole the population is very strong and healthy. The Koalas on the Island are smaller than mainland ones, and in the huge forests of eucalyptus trees they are as happy as pigs in shit.

We got to the car park via the narrow winding roads and to our delight we were the on my car there, it was still relatively early so we were hopefull of seeing some of the so far elusive Koalas. The track was just about wheelchair accessible, as long as you had superman to push you. It just so happens I have my very own superman with me so it wasn't too much of a problem. The scenery was stunning, massive conifer trees all leaning to the left on the mountain opposite to where we were. Beautiful little bays that were only accessible by some steep windy pathways (not for me thanks) and we couldn't have swum in anyway because it's marine stinger season. We were keeping our eyes peeled for sleeping Koalas the whole time, but not so much as a sniff of one. Although we did see an enormous eagle, and the info told us they have a 2metre wingspan. I think that's pretty big? There was great excitement from us and a young German lad when we heard a Koala! Hurrah, at last, a sign. We searched the trees for ages and failed to locate it. Although we did find a women's ablution block from ww2 where there used to be a secret code intercepted thing. Very nice but not a bleeding Koala! By the time we came to the end of the trail, we hadn't seen hide nor hair of one, and I was most disgruntled by this fact. After a breather in some shade for Si, we began to make our way back towards the car park, utterly convinced we'd see at least one. I had a theory they would be easier to spot as we were now going in a downward direction. Yeah, well, so much for that theory, I have now named it wishful thinking because not one Koala was spotted. I am now of the opinion that they were deliberately hiding from us, and this was absolutely reinforced to me when a goddamn Kookaburra started laughing at me as we approached the car. If that's not adding insult to injury i don't know what is!!

Back in the car we cranked up the air con as the humidity was really high and it was also very hot. Despite the heat the heavens opened and we were suddenly really glad to have gone for a car that had a roof. I had wanted to hire a Barbie car, but they were all booked up. Apart from the rain issue Si would have looked REALLY silly driving one. . . The other downside of open top vehicles were that we would have had to drive around with tarpaulin over us like we saw several people doing. That's just not cool, I mean, could you imagine Bob in a vehicle like that? His street cred would be in tatters!!

We pulled out of the car park and drove towards Horseshoe Bay. I spotted a brown tourist attraction sign on the verge for The Koala Park. If we didn't get to see one in its natural habitat, then we'd have to go visit rescued ones instead. The Park had great reviews and besides Koalas had, a massive Wombat and snakes. The place is also an attraction for travellers and has little hits for accommodation. As a result, the cafe, and bar area was packed with backpackers. We found a table and sat down, as we did so the rain got heavier and it was bouncing back up off the ground so a decision was made to have a drink and something to eat while waiting for it to ease off. We were joined at the table by a lad from up North (Yorkshire ish maybe?) he'd been on the island three days and was visiting a mate from home who was living and working on the island. While chatting he mentioned he'd been told by his mate to stuff the Island views, and the best and only thing he had to do whilst on the island was Toad Racing. Yup, Toad racing. The Arcadia Hotel in Arcadia claims to be the longest running Cane Toad Race, having been a regular event for over 40 years. All the money raised from it goes back into keeping the beaches on the island clean, tidy and safe. So, back to the road racing, it starts off with an auction, and you bid to try and win a toad, the lad won his for $70. The bidding goes on for ages and the spectators are building up to the main event. There is a large circle painted on the floor, and in the middle of it are around 8 toads, in a big glass jar thing that is upside down over them to stop them escaping. The toads have little elastic bands on them to distinguish which one is which, and once the crowd is at fever pitch, they lift the jar off them and let them go. First one to get to the outer circle wins. The lad we were talking to was over the moon because his toad won the race and he collected $300 as his winnings. He did have to kiss his toad when it won. It didn't turn into anything, just stayed as a Cane Toad. There were four races in total and he asked the organisers what sort of money they generally manage to raise. He was told that that night they'd made well over a grand after taking out the prize money for all of the races.

On my phone, I'm now checking out Toad racing, guess what it's a once a week thing, the rest of the week the Toads are in training, on the weights and protein shakes. Race night was last night, meaning we'd missed it. Bugger. I asked him about the Koala Park and he'd visited it yesterday and said it was worth a visit and good value for money. We could book it at the reception and he thought there were two sessions a day. Our breakfast arrived, and we tucked in, once we'd finished Si went and checked if we could book in for a visit. He came back... Park is shut for three days. What the actual feck is going on here?! I am now utterly convinced there is not a single Koala on the Island and it's just a marketing ploy to get you there!!! I am also of the opinion that they are like unicorns...Once the rain stopped we went back to the car, loaded up and carried on to horseshoe bay. It started to rain again so we sat in the car and between storms got out and took photos! Horseshoe Bay has a fenced off swimming area so you can swim safely without getting stung. There were also adverts for water sports, but strangely it was all very quiet! Maybe the rain had something to do with that? Thinking there was another road that went further around the Bay we drove down a piece of road about the length of our drive that came to a dead end with an Island in the middle to go around to go back along the road. That's Horseshoe bay done then. There were a few little cafes and eateries that looked nice, but we had clearly peaked too early with our food having had a snack at the Koala Park.

We drove back along the road we'd just come down, and passed pretty little Bays, and due to the weather, quickly let the window down, took a pic then got the window back up as fast as possible to keep dry. Nelly Bay is ok, but not that much to see other than the harbour, and there is a little beach just around the corner from the ferry terminal. From there we went to Picnic Bay, which had a brewery, it was shut. So we parked the car up, overlooking the beach and went to sleep with the rain hammering on the roof so loudly we could hardly hear ourselves think. After a little Power Nap, we decided that as the weather was so pants and we'd been on every road on the Island we would take the car back and get back to Townsville. Si dropped me at the Terminal and returned the car, making it back in time for us to catch the 1330hrs ferry. This time we were sat downstairs and it was really comfortable, nice plush seats, tables and a complimentary drink for the return journey. Excellent.

Back on the mainland, the weather was slightly better, it wasn't raining so that's gotta be good. We stopped in Juliette's for an Ice Cream, after our disappointing day on Maggie, we felt we deserved the treat. Treats inhaled because you can't take too long to eat ice cream because it melts too fast, we went back to the hotel, and that was the last anyone saw of me for the day. Si went down for some supper but I was sleeping, and when he came back up after a rather splendid steak chips and lager meal deal in the hotel bar, bless him he went back down and got me a hot chicken sandwich with chips. I had a couple of the rather tasty chips, made better with the chicken salt (I need some of that in my spice drawer ) but the sandwich was on the large size and I was about stuffed! It was also delicious and after enjoying every mouthful and practically licking the chicken salt off the plate, I was ready for some more sleep. Alarm is set to 0500hrs again for the morning so we can catch a bus to our next destination of Bowen.

Much Love


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