It’s beginning to dawn on us that we are not a very organised bunch. In fact, it seems that we mostly get by on luck.
Last night we took our first night bus: a nine-hour journey from where we were in Airlie Beach to here in Agnes Water. Until the day before, we hadn’t realised that the only bus available to Agnes was overnight. We were happily informed of this by some Canadian girls that we met on our Whitsundays tour. Fate can be too kind.
So we’re only staying here in Agnes for the one night before we move on to Hervey Bay for our tour of Fraser Island – the last pre-organised booking of our trip. It’s a bit of a shame that our stay here is quite this short. We’re booked into a really cute YHA hostel, dead close to the beach, all wooden benches and beachy decor – and Agnes Water has the cheapest surfing lessons on the East Coast. For as little as $17AUD for three hours (compared to like $90AUD in Byron Bay), it sort of feels like we should spend some time learning here so we don’t have to shell out more further down the coast.
We’ve fit in a fair amount since our arrival on the idyllic Magnetic Island last week. We hired a Barbie car, took selfies with a sleeping baby koala, sunbathed on the famous Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays, and spent an afternoon sea kayaking out to a wreck in Airlie.
Still, nothing has yet compared to the excitement of being able to watch Come Dine With Me on the telly in our Air Bnb on Magnetic Island.
Our time on Magnetic Island was regretfully short: we all agreed that we could happily have stayed in our little hut for an entire week without getting bored. And that without even leaving the room.
Even so, we had a fab time hiring out our little pink toy car and irritating every pedestrian on the island by blaring out ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ and other similar cheese as we drove along. It was a little disappointing to discover that you can drive the entire length of the tarmacked road in under half an hour – it spoiled the road trip vibe somewhat.
On the plus side, having a car meant we didn’t have to walk to the shop in the morning.
We also went for a short(ish) hike along the Forts trail and, surprise surprise, bumped into Meg and Andy about a hundred metres in. They told us the exciting news: a baby koala was asleep in a tree just along the trail. For the next kilometre we crept along, scanning every tree for signs of life, having absolutely no clue what sort of trees koalas like, nor whether it made a blind bit of difference that we kept quiet.
Inevitably, once we came upon him he was easy to find. We should have known that the real trick would be to spot the crowd of tourists with cameras taking selfies.
Then we queued up to do the same, of course.
Eventually we made it (almost) all the way up to the top of the fort, speculating for a long while about why on earth Magnetic Island would ever have needed defending. After we’d had a look at what was a pretty spectacular view from the lookout point, we headed back down to where the car was parked.
That night we went out for our first meal since arriving in Australia (Dominoes doesn’t count because it’s as cheap as eating in). We picked a Mexican place, largely because it was located in the street just behind our Air Bnb, and after much painful deliberating decided that we could probably splash out $20 just this once. It was a really cute al fresco restaurant, somewhat bizarrely called Man Friday (was he Mexican?!), with colourful lights strung across the seating area. The guidebook also mentioned that there would be wildlife roaming about the restaurant, which I thought sounded fun.
What it didn’t mention was that the possums would be crawling about on the fence, eyeing your food hungrily and looking like they were about to jump, and that the curlews would howl their plaintive cry and hiss every time anyone seemed to be threatening their precious eggs.
Still, the food was delicious and much needed – we haven’t really treated ourselves much since our arrival, and it is nice to eat out once in a while, even if making the decision to spend that extra cash was a bit like pulling teeth.
After our meal we realised that we should probably book our onward travel, and a hostel for the next night, so we popped back to our little air conditioned haven to sort out a plan. We have inadvertently been taking the relaxed approach to travel a bit far on this trip. Sometimes we forget that we do actually need to have a place to sleep arranged before we jump on the bus to a strange new city.
Still, thus far we haven’t actually forgotten to book accommodation or transport, so that’s a plus.
Once we’d booked a place in Airlie Beach, we decided that we should probably attempt to be sociable, though the draw of air conditioning and the telly were strong. We made our way along the beach to Base Hostel, the closest bar. Romantic though a beach-side walk at night sounds, romantic it was not. It was dark and cold and progress was difficult in flip flops. Phea and Annie inched along behind me, phone torches out, jumping at all signs of movement (including leaves that jumped up threateningly in front of them). We made it to the bar, had one overpriced drink, watched in bemusement as some boys in dresses proceeded to climb onto the tables on an otherwise empty dance floor, and then went home.
At least we tried.
The next day we left our beautiful paradise for a ferry, a bus, and a new temporary home.
Airlie Beach provided the first test of our backpacker resolve: whether to walk an indeterminate distance with bags or waste some precious cash on a taxi.
We picked the walk.
Annie and Phea powered off ahead while I meandered along behind with Elsa and Cat, a couple of girls we’d met in Mission Beach. It was only about a ten minute walk, which was a relief. Then it started raining.
So we checked into our hostel in the drizzle and the dark, directed by a terribly inaccurate map, and very confused by the fact that the hostel seemed to have been built in a jungle.
The next day dawned and everything was a lot less complicated than it had first seemed. The hostel was still definitely in a jungle though.
We set out to explore Airlie and took to it straight away. It seemed by far the most backpacker-y of any of the places we’ve been thus far, but a little further along was the posh marina, where all the Whitsundays tours depart from and where rich people go for dinner (probably).
Our Whitsundays tour was actually rearranged because of bad weather, so instead the next day we walked back past the marina for a spot of sea kayaking. The guy showed us the route we’d most likely take, out to a little island where turtles apparently liked to hang out, then on to a shipwreck and back. He told us that sometimes dugongs were spotted around these waters – and the occasional shark (great, just what I wanted to hear when we’re about to set off floating in a flimsy plastic boat).
Thankfully we saw no sharks, and as it turned out I got jumpy even at rocks looming suddenly out beneath the water, so to be quite honest I was pretty happy not to see much wildlife beyond some crabs scuttling around on the shipwreck. Annie saw two turtles, Phea saw one, and I saw none, probably because I kept getting preoccupied with trying to determine whether that distant floating log might be an imminent threat to my life (it was just a log).
Safely back on land, we decided to go for pizza at one of the posh marina-side restaurants (because it was 2 for 1, of course), and had a lovely time gazing out at the view and pretending to fit in. The pizza was delicious.
The next day was our big trip out to the Whitsundays. We’d decided to go for the budget option, heading out for the day on a speedboat, which we soon discovered was a bit like sitting inside a giant air conditioning unit (absolutely freezing). We got taken round to the viewpoint at Hill Inlet, then stopped for sunbathing and lunch on the famous Whitehaven Beach.
I have to say it lived up to the hype. Never have I seen purer white sand, nor bluer water. The sand is 98% silica, which makes it silky and fine – and, weirdly, makes it sound a bit like a carpet when you walk across it. We had a good sunbathe, and Annie got some Instagrammable photos in the sea while simultaneously keeping a keen eye out for jellyfish, which she seems to be some sort of magnet for.
Lunch was a big buffet, in which we all loaded up on a large plate of carbs and more carbs, and tried to avoid the biting flies and gigantic lizards that were roaming around our feet. We met some Canadian girls, who are coincidentally going to be on the same Fraser Island trip as us, and who thought that Phea’s fear of ferries was the funniest thing they’d ever heard.
After lunch we went back on the boat and round Whitsunday Island for some snorkelling. We lasted all of three minutes in the water before getting out and spending the rest of the hour sunning ourselves on the back of the boat with our new mates. The water was too murky to be fun: the visibility was terrible and every time a bit of coral came into focus I nearly jumped out of my skin thinking that it was some sort of enormous fish.
It felt safer on the boat.
We all snoozed on the way home, though Phea jumped to full attention when our guide told us that we were just passing the island where Taylor Swift had her birthday party.
The next day was essentially spent waiting for a bus. The bus down to Agnes was, as I’ve mentioned, overnight, and therefore not leaving until 9pm. We had to check out at 10am.
We spent the day sunbathing by the lagoon, and then to Phea and Annie’s delight I finally bought some new shoes and threw away my manky, mangled Birkenstocks. It was a tearful goodbye but even I had to admit that they looked a bit trampy with half the sole hanging off and the cork fully crumbling beneath my feet. I am very happy with my new ($2!) bright pink flip flops, though they have unfortunately not cured me of the tendency to trip over several times a day.
I think the girls just need to accept that tripping over my own feet is part of who I am.
After we got back to the hostel, we walked into the common room to find Meg and Andy (shock), who had just arrived from Magnetic Island that afternoon. Sadly once again we were leaving imminently – but we have promised that after we’ve finished our Fraser Island tour we’ll spend a few days chilling out somewhere and wait for them.
We then had a somewhat stressful evening trying to cook our dinner in a very overcrowded hostel kitchen. For some reason an entire extended Chinese family had decided to cook a banquet for ten just at the moment when everyone else would have quite liked to eat as well – so it was a case of keeping a beady eye out for a spare hob and claiming it whilst it wasn’t occupied by a huge vat of bubbling meat or obscure vegetables. We were all a bit frazzled by the time we sat down to eat.
It soon came time to leave, so we made the long trek to the bus stop with slightly sinking hearts, wondering what our first long and overnight bus journey would be like.
At least this time we were prepared for the frigid air con with jumpers and blankets.
There was a large crowd already gathered outside the bus stop. Even though I surprisingly did manage to bag two seats to myself, it still wasn’t a very comfortable journey. Note to self: next time wear trousers, not shorts, in order not to stick to the leather seats.
It was quite a delirious journey, full of stop-start sleeping. But we did eventually make it, alive but zombie-like, to our cute hostel, where Annie and Phea immediately leapt (crawled) into bed.
Overnight buses are maybe not our favourite thing.