8th - 10th December (Magnetic Island - Cairns)
Did I mention before that travelling by Greyhound was too punctual and predictable? This journey to Townsville proved me wrong, not exactly exciting but the driver learned of a lorry accident further up the road so stopped at a service station with a little cafe until the road was cleared, this turned a five hour journey into nine hours (I managed to pass a little time playing shit-head). I had been planning to stop in Townsville to Scuba dive the 'Yongala' shipwreck, supposedly one of the top dive spots in Oz and I was really looking forward to it, however, the weather conditions aren't good at the moment so I decided to go straight across on the ferry to Magnetic island where I continued to monitor the reports. I decided to try Bungalow bay resort in the north near to Horseshoe bay as it sounded good in the Lonely Planet, I got the last dorm bed available thanks to someone who booked but didn't show up. There are eight people to an A-frame bungalow with adjoining bathroom, pretty basic inside but full of charachter. One end wall is just wooden trellis and wire netting which allows all the wildlife sounds in in the morning. The resort is really nice, the staff are friendly, the restaurant isn't particularly cheap but my $16 chicken risotto was the best food I'd eaten in quite a while. I ate with two of my dorm mates (an American lad and a lad from Plymouth) who had to go to bed fairly early as they were working the next day so then got chatting to 21 year old Michelle from Oxford. Spotted some possums.
The following day, with dive conditions still no good, walked about twelve kilometres along the various north east bays of the island and along the fort walk for some decent views - a very hot and humid day with more walking than I had planned wearing sandals and having had nothing but a little fruit for breakfast. The island was formed when molten granite came to the surface and has since decomposed along fault lines creating rounded domes and boulders, some of them are massive and precariously balanced. Some fault lines have eroded to form valleys and amongst all the rock there are plenty of trees (not rainforest). I returned to watch a parrot feeding frenzie, a relaxing swim in the cold pool, a shower, a dissapointing pizza and a drink with the lads and Michelle.
With little prospect of diving from here or Townsville, I decided to head to Cairns, hopefully to do a reef dive. A local bus and ferry got me to Townsville, then the greyhound - raining virtually all the way and I was worried that it would be too hot up here. Passed through a place called Tully which holds the record for the highest annual rainfall in Oz, 7.9 metres in 1950 - it looked like it was on course to beat the record in one day! Booked into 'Tropic Days' hostel, seems like a very nice place with only four to a dorm and a 15 minute walk from the centre of Cairns. $24 per night. Arrived on Sunday, dive conditions are supposed to be a little better by Tuesday, can't dive Wednesday as I fly to Christchurch on Thursday (not allowed to fly within 24 hours of diving), so booked up for Tuesday (it had better not get cancelled as I can not come to Oz and not dive the barrier reef, especially as I missed the Yongala!). Received a free food voucher for the woolshed in town so got the courtesy bus there, upgraded my freebie to a nice lemon chicken plus a couple of beers (2 for 1) to wash it down, all in fourty minutes to catch the courtesy bus back again.