Cairns Arrival & Lizard Island

So, we reached Cairns. The terminus of our great trek up the East Coast and our locale for both Xmas and New Year, we’d done our research and booked ahead at the Trip-Advisor-adored Tropic Days, to ensure a place and to minimise Holiday Season stress. Although we had a fair wait for the courtesy bus when we arrived, any minor worries about the place were soon swept away. The lady on reception, Helen, was fantastic. The decor was from the heart; other guests friendly; and mostly everything was free*, decent and in good supply. The hostel’s only real drawback was often cited to be the 45 min or so walk to town; but with a free courtesy bus a dozen times a day, this was hardly fair criticism!

Not long after we arrived, we had the opportunity to fly up to Lizard Island for a day trip. Can I resist the chance to take a flight on a light ten-seater plane? If its destination also happens to be snorkelling off a remote island usually inhabited by no more than a few Monitors and a handfull of people paying two grand a night to stay there… well then that just seals the deal doesn’t it? And so we were off to Cairns airport, to board a plane for…

Wait wait wait. We’re going snorkelling. I need a camera. A camera that goes underwater. For tomorrow. I have a freaking brilliant idea! Continue reading

Townsville – Reef Lodge

Hello there once again dear readers. In this installment I shall be portraying our time spent in Townsville. Although only there for 2 nights we packed a fair bit in so there are a few tales to be told.

Before even starting on Townsville a mention should be given to the Greyhound driver who brought us to Townsville, as he was a bit of a character; Alex named him “the Book”. Up to this point the journeys on the Greyhound had been fairly easy going, everyone just piles on, finds a seat and sprawls out if they can … not on this coach though. The driver (I don’t recall his name) was adament that you were NOT to stretch over the seats; you were NOT to have your legs, arms and bags encroaching on the aisle space; you MUST wear seatbelts as it is the law in QLD and if you chose not to you would get a fine and be taken off the coach at the next available phone box. This of course is the shortened version of the rules, for if I was to go into detail you would be here for an extra half an hour and we still haven’t even reached Townsville, which is to be the central piece of this entry.

Continue reading

A Culture of Paranoia

The Western ‘Developed’ world likes to think its got everything right. It is, ultimately, ‘ahead’ of everyone else in the world. In some ways this assumption is understandable; although it is still arrogant. Western Europe, North America and so on have comparitively colossal amounts of wealth and resources at their disposal. They are able to offer support to even their poorest, to a luxurious standard by comparison with the most impoverished nations on Earth. Yet the titans of the financial industry, the companies on which this wealth and power is largely built on, deal in the business of offering peace of mind for these already cushioned citizens. They might call it the business of pragmatism, although you could just as easily call it the business of paranoia. What am I talking about? Insurance.

It is literally everywhere. You only have to look at the names on the skyscrapers around you to be reminded that insurance is business; BIG business. How many people know someone that works in insurance? It’s an entire wing of human endeavour with the sole aim of catering for the (individually) unfair nature of probability. At first thought this can seem a noble task, and undoubtably in some cases it is. However, this should not make it big business; not the massive, global juggernauts that we see second only to perhaps banks (with which they are sordidly interconnected). No, I think the reason they are so significant is that we have been conditioned to worry, disproportionately, about What Ifs.

What if you crashed your car? What if you lost your job? What if you ordered a pizza and it didn’t turn up? There’s being prepared, then there’s just pointless worry. It seems there’s hardly an eventuality in life you can’t get insurance for. You’ve got your building insurance, contents insurance, car insurance, pet insurance, income insurance, life insurance, investment insurance; heck, there’s usually an insurance insurance on top if you really want it (no claims protection premium, anyone?). And after you’ve paid the monthly cost of all of those, you might even have a bit left to enjoy this lifestyle you’re fighting so hard to preserve. Continue reading

Airlie Beach – YHA

We arrived at Airlie Beach in the early hours of the morning. We’d originally intended to visit Mackay for half of the time we eventually booked to Airlie, but there seemed to only be one hostel in the entire town and it didn’t allow check-ins after 10pm. As the only Greyhound with a sensible transit time arrived in the middle of the night, we decided to just go straight up to Airlie. It was not a decision we would regret.

On our first morning we look a look around the YHA to get familiar with our surroundings. The hostel was putting on pancakes this evening, at $10 a head. Sign me the heck up for that! Then we got to know the vicinity of Airlie Beach by walking in the direction of the supermarket, Coles; which ended up being an afternoon adventure across mountains, rivers and beaches (apart from there were no rivers and not really any mountains either) in the oppressive midday heat of mid-Queensland. By the time we’d picked up the shopping, the sky was threatening downpour. We had no idea when or where the rumoured bus to Coles and back could be caught from and were lumbered with heavy shopping. There was that unspoken notion again that, y’know, maybe we could walk this. I then pointed out that we should have learned our lesson by now and suggested a taxi. Lucy agreed and we took a ride from the rank outside back to the hostel. No sooner had we got in and unpacked, a heavy thunderstorm exploded above, raindrops hammering every horizontal surface. We also noted a couple of guys outside that had decided to enjoy the storm in the superconductive vat of the hostel swimming pool. They are probably mental, I thought. As it turns out, I didn’t know the half of it! Continue reading

Rockhampton – YHA

When we arrived at Rockhampton it was a little after midnight. We collected our luggage and called for a taxi to take us to the YHA. After waiting for about ten minutes a taxi pulled in to the forecourt,  Alex went to see if it was the one we had booked, but as he spoke to the driver at his window, a drunk guy opened the passenger door and plonked himself in – meanwhile gesturing to his friends to get in. The taxi driver immediately told them to get out (turns out it was our taxi) and luckily the drunken party left of their own accord, mumbling complaints under their breath about the taxi driver being rude. Once we had packed our luggage into the taxi we were on our way!  As we were arriving at the hostel out of hours, we were in possession of a secret code that would grant us access to our dorm key. We found the room and entered in to darkness, we could see that both bottom bunks were taken and the occupants already asleep. We tried to be as quiet as possible but when you have to climb onto the top bunk, noise was inevitable. They didn’t seem to complain though, in fact they didn’t say much at all as they checked out first thing the next morning.

Our reason for coming to Rockhampton was the Olsen/Capricorn Caves. However it wasn’t until we were chatting to one of the staff at the hostel that we realised just how difficult it could be to get there. No public transport goes to it and hiring a car for the day would cost us around $90. The manager of the hostel did however know someone who would come and pick us up, wait while we explored the caves and then bring us back to the hostel again. This sounded great but we needed to wait until the manager got to the hostel which wouldn’t be for another half hour. Therefore we decided to go into the town that day and out to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo and that we would speak to the manager later about arranging the Cave trip for tomorrow instead.

Continue reading