140km winds, beer pong and a couple of stolen bananas.
On Magnetic Island we had the perfect day. Great sun, Margherita and Hannah went to a hands-on zoo where they hugged koalas and echidnas, Jonas and I went hiking, snorkelling and long boarding around the bays. That night, we camped on the beach. Bonfire, stared at a stunning sunset and woken up by the birds at dawn.
Sticky, dirty and full of sand, we caught the first ferry in the morning to go get our stuff left at the hostel in Townsville. With the memories of great survival skills in a breathtaking night, we hopped on a bus to Airlie Beach.
A friend from New Zealand, Alex, lives there with 4 other friends. Being extremely nice to us, they hosted us on their sofas for what originally had to be only a couple of days – but turned out to be about a week. For the last few days we had heard rumours about a cyclone coming. When travelling though, it is difficult to keep track of everything you hear, especially about the weather – in a few words, we didn’t really pay attention to these news. On the second day of our arrival in Airlie Beach Margherita, Jonas and I decided to go and hike Long Island, one of the Whitsundays islands. Hannah went scuba diving, since she hadn’t done it in Cairns, and then left a couple of days later back to New South Wales.
The three of us got a ferry early in the morning, arrived on Long Island and started hiking it from side to side. The view was just incredible. We could spot tens of turtles in the water, climb trees walking in the middle of the forest, enjoying the wilderness and the view of all the other islands around us covered in vegetation. Of the 74 tropical islands belonging to the archipelago, 66 are inhabited, and the wildlife is lively. In the afternoon we crashed at the resort on one of the bays, where we blended in pretending to be residents and played tennis and enjoyed free Jacuzzi and chips. Later in the evening, we started the final hike to Sandy Bay, where we were planning on camping and sleeping – we could not imagine what was waiting for us. After about 3km we reached the bay, just in time for it to start turning dark: the tide was coming up and clouds were gathering in the sky, making us feel very unsafe about the whole area. The bay was just down a hill: it would have gotten completely underwater if a storm would have hit the place. A quick an easy decision made us turn our backs to SandyBay and start walking back to an abandoned, very sketchy resort that we had walked through on our way there, hoping for shelter. Not even two minutes later, hell happened: in pitch black, in the middle of the forest, cyclone Oswald made its entry. The rain was so thick we were drenched in a few seconds, the only torchlight we had was my phone, which drowned in not even 5 minutes. Literally, our guides were the fireflies. Luckily enough, the storm didn’t last for a very long time, giving us a bit of hope to be able to get out of the forest, its mud and its carpet of cane toads. Walking slowly and trying to orientate, step by step we tried to remember the direction of the path. Thanks to the moonlight that was seeping through the branches of the tall trees, we managed somehow to get back to that ghost resort which meant (at least temporary) safety. We tried to camp outside by a gazebo in front of the sea, but the wind was blowing so strongly that the tent would just not stay up and protect us from the cold.
We didn’t last very long. At about 3am we were all so cold and uncomfortable (we were trying to sleep on a wooden surface, Margherita wearing a plastic bag and me covered only by a small jumper – see photo) that we decided to break into the reception area of the resort and crash on the sofas. We were a bit concerned about what would have happened if the owner had shown up in the morning, but even though he did show up he laughed about our whole adventure together with us, chatted and even offered us a job there. We kindly declined the offer and left, making sure we hid carefully the skins of the bananas we had stolen from the kitchen as cheeky breakfast.
We caught the ferry back at about 10am the following morning, and as soon as my face touched the pillow of the sofas at Alex’s I magically fell asleep finally comfortably. What an experience.
For a few days it rained all the time, so we chilled at home. Margherita and I planned to stay in Airlie until Australia Day, the 26th of January, travel to Whitehaven Beach on the following day and then leave to Agnes Waters. Jonas left us the day before Australia Day and kept on travelling southwards, ‘direction nowhere’.
Australia Day was really good fun, in all Australian tradition we started beerpong-ing at 9 in the morning, played cricked (with a guitar hero guitar as bat) and had a barbecue. Pool party in the afternoon and evening, which ended with another storm that we enjoyed as relief from the hot day. The boat trip to Whitehaven was very bumpy but great fun, too. Whitehaven is incredibly stunning: rated the 3rd most beautiful beach in the world, white and pure, the sand of which was used by NASA to build the Hubble Telescope. There, we could go snorkelling, saw a lemon shark and a few rays, too.
Thanks to gumtree.com we met Daniel, very friendly Israeli guy who was going in the same direction and offered us a ride down to Agnes Waters and Town of 1770. So, the night after our boat escape back to the Whitsundays, we hopped in his car and drove away from Airlie Beach.