Wednesday, March 26, 2008

DAY 153: Ayr to Townsville then Magnetic Island

95 km at 17.3 km/hr
Tue 25th March 2008
Distance to date 9322 km (5826 miles)
Hot / sunny intervals

After saying adieu to Jacob and Honorata (we may well meet again) I hit the road before 8, and was pleased to see that the traffic was lightish. Once again the landscape was pleasant enough with isolated, wooded, hills dotted all around and as far as the horizon. Not such a good shoulder today for at least half the ride, and the traffic built up later and became a nuisance again. I mostly got a wide berth though. I had been interested in the 'warning pole’ that Jacob and Honorata had employed sticking out horizontally some 800mm at the back of their bikes - they reckoned traffic always gave them a wide berth as a result. As it happened I spotted a car aerial on the shoulder and picked it up with a view to doing the same myself. They have little yellow flags on the end of the poles so I’d need something similar if I went ahead with this.
There’s a roadhouse at around 35km from Bowen and another at some 70km, but I only stopped at the first, for a Devonshire Tea as it happened (with spray-on cream; yeucchhh). Before I hit the second place I had already stopped in a shady bus shelter and taken 20 minutes rest and snack.
I’d no idea what time it was as my watch has packed in - since I wore it in the shower by mistake lol - but it must have been around 3 when I arrived in Townsville. What kind of a name is that? Town’s Town?? Hmmmm. It’s a big place with a huge pedestrianised shopping area, but not very tourist-orientated apparently. I had planned to spend a night here and then do a bit of shopping but last night Jacob was talking about Magnetic Island which is just a few km offshore from Townsville, and it sounded quite nice. I learn’t there was a boat at 1545 so I decided to get it - I can always do my shopping on the way back through the city. I’d also seen a brochure about Bungalow Bay Koala Village on the island which sounded good - it fringes the National Park and is full of birds and wildlife it seems - and there’s a YHA Hostel and cheapish camping there too.
I duly cycled to the pier and bought a return ticket for $26.50 (£11), and half an hour later we were docking in Nelly Bay. Just as well as the scores of schoolkids coming home to the island from school in Townsville were running riot all over the boat - what a racket!! By now the sky was blue and it was a beautiful sunny day, so the island, the beaches and the blue sea looked idyllic, a real tropical paradise. The lady in the VIC in Townsville had thought it was 16km from Nelly Bay to Bungalow Bay but as it turned out it was only 7; mind you over 1km of that was a VERY steep climb over 15% in places, and I was crawling along at 4 km/hr on a very hot and humid afternoon for a while, but then the 2km descent made up for it and all was forgiven. And there wasn’t much traffic on this 15km or so long island, and NO lorries. There are lots of Mini Mokes though which are for hire here. The Koala Village is a very nice place, shady rainforest camping sites, $12.50/night camping, lots of birds making lots of noise (including hundreds of screaming Lorikeets) and possums wandering around all over the place looking for grub (humans=food). There’s a nice camp kitchen too with everything one needs, and a good-sized pool. I decided to stay at least 2 nights as there is also lots to see around the island - beautiful beaches, rainforest walks etc.
I have booked a special ‘Bush Tucker Gourmet Breakfast’ for tomorrow which was a bit expensive, but sounds delicious - more about this tomorrow, and this includes a 2-hour tour of the adjacent Koala centre at 10.
After setting up the tent, just before dusk, I cycled down 400m to Horseshoe Bay and couldn’t resist going for a swim - there is a stinger net here so I could splash about in safety. Jacob was telling me that a sting from one of these poisonous jellyfish (like the deadly Box Jellyfish) can be fatal in minutes if you are stung on the middle of the body, so I kept my cycling top and shorts on just in case. He reckons a sting leaves you scarred for life with whiplash-type marks - if you survive the ordeal that is. The water was very warm and there’s no hint of a shudder as the water hits your body. It was so relaxing floating around and watching the sun slip behind the white craggy cliffs at the end of the bay - mmmm! Shangri-la.
I braved some 30 others in the camp kitchen to cook my spag-tuna concoction then sat and chatted with a German couple and a young Frenchman. A one-eyed possum came begging by the table and I was able to stroke it, but next thing it was actually on the table and trying to get into the bag containing my bread. Just as I was typing that last sentence a possum (same one maybe) tried to get the bread again which was inside my tent close to the entry flap; hope it doesn’t do any damage to tent or bags.
There’s just been a chorus of whistling by birds unseen too - dozens of them whisltling a single long note in chorus - not heard that before and not sure what they are, I’ll try and find out tomorrow. I think they may be Catbirds come to think of it.

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