Magnetic Island

Arrived on Magnetic Island (so named by Captain Cook when his compass went a little wonky near it) last night, to be confronted with the disappointing realisation that I would not be able to make it to the Barrier Reef after all. I apologise for the title of my blog entry from Sunday which is now misleading. It transpires that there are only a couple of companies running daytrips to the Reef from these parts, one of which had a trip today which was already overbooked (next one Saturday); the other had no trip until Thursday, by which time I will be back in Sydney.

The girl on reception at my resort seemed quite enthused that I was staying in one of their apartments which backed on to an area of bush/jungle. The Aussies seem to call any area containing more than one tree ‘the bush’. I would, she said, be able to entertain rock wallabies and other Australian wildlife delights on my terrace, of an evening. However, the only wildlife I have seen so far have been the lizard and spider (probably just a baby tarantula or something equally harmless) in my bathroom. And the lizards constantly scooting across the paths which join up the different buildings in the resort. These paths are very narrow, with dense ‘bush’ on either side. Walking through them after darkness falls (and it falls quickly, 0-to-total darkness in about 25 minutes shortly after 7pm) gives one the overwhelming feeling that a giant lizard/snake/spider à la Lord of the Rings is about to emerge and take one hostage. Realistically, it probably doesn’t give anyone else such feelings – I AM a little jumpy when it comes to insects and such like. Drying myself after a shower last night, with my eyes firmly fixed on the lizard on the wall, I let out a strangled yelp and almost did a somersault when I caught, out of the corner of my eye, something large and black swinging towards my leg. Reassuringly it was only the hairdryer, swinging on a hook underneath the sink unit.

There’s a slightly strange feeling about this place. I understand it’s technically the wet season up here in Queensland, and so I guess this is probably off-season tourist-wise. Not that it’s been wet since I’ve arrived – been hot and sunny (and humid). There are people here alright, although the place certainly isn’t jam-packed, and most of them seem to be sitting around looking relatively bored.

Perhaps that is why these companies are only running trips one or two days per week out to the Reef, rather than daily, as I expected. Or perhaps the number of trips they can run out there is restricted for conservation reasons, I’m not sure. It all comes across as a bit contradictory – after missing out on the Reef trip due to it being too popular, I phoned up a place that runs sailing/snorkelling day trips around the island – searching for something to do in lieu of going out to the Reef. They need four people to make it worthwhile, and I was only the third person – so will have to phone back tonight to see if it’s on. I phoned a place that organises snorkelling tours early this morning, and they weren’t running a tour today, but kindly supplied me with my own tall blonde Dutch girl. For snorkelling guide purposes only, I should add. So I snorkelled a bit around the edge of Geoffrey Bay, taking in the colourful fish, coral, and a bit of a wreck in the bay. My Dutch guide pointed out a fast-moving ray at one point, but without my glasses or contacts in I’m afraid I saw nothing. However, this has provided me with a good strategy for avoiding the lizards on my path. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that. Until I squash one with my size 12s, I suppose, but they’re a bit too fleet of foot for that to happen.

I confess I’ve been feeling pretty despondent today. I had my heart set on getting out to the Reef, which is why I’m here on the island at all, and that’s not been possible. I should have booked on a trip via the internet prior to coming up here, but I was trying not to be too anal about it all, booking everything in advance, which can work against you if you arrive somewhere and find you’ve booked on a naff trip and there are other much better ones around. However, I haven’t really had enough time to do it the way I did – arriving Monday late afternoon and leaving early Thursday morning. My solo traveller despondency has kicked in strongly today – being on an idyllic island with golden beaches, palm trees and warm blue-green ocean to swim in doesn’t seem so great on your own. Cities are more fun, somehow.

However, tomorrow is a new day. If the sailing trip doesn’t come off, I’m going to hire a ‘Moke’ – a little 4-seater buggy – and go cruising for chicks. Maybe go kayaking and jet-skiing as well. And who knows, maybe England will win the Twenty20 match against Australia tonight. Frankly, there’s probably more chance of me bonding with Australian wildlife.

PS Posted this sitting outside the locked reception area (it closes at 7pm) which contains the internet access and wireless network. Thankfully wireless networks transcend doors and locks 🙂