Ethan had arrived in Australia the morning before, and I was so, so excited! We had lots of wonderful, planned things to do…We spent that first day exploring downtown Townsville (not much to it, especially right now with their huge renovation efforts of Flinders Street)…but Friday March 26th was the highly-anticipated Full Moon Party on Magnetic Island.
After class on Friday (the dreaded Marine Plants lab), Ethan and I quickly packed up for our weekend on Magnetic Island. I was a bit stressed, because it was the night of the Full Moon Party, and we were the last of my group of friends to leave Townsville…and getting to Maggie was going to take a while with the wonderful public transport system of Townsville. But we finally got the time tables figured out and took the bus downtown around 7, bought some snacks for the night, and walked a few kilometers to the ferry terminal. From there we waited for an hour for the ferry to arrive. Once loaded onto the ferry, it was a speedy, bumpy ride on the large catamaran transporting a full load of already-intoxicated Full Moon party-goers. It took 20 minutes to get to Maggie Island, and from there, a 20 bus ride to X Base Backpackers, who were the hosts of the party, and nicely located right on the beach. We were the last to arrive (at 10 pm) from my group of friends staying together in one dorm – Kim, Jon, Brenna, Steph, Kayla, Elissa, and Charli were already there. We managed to sneak in a bottle of Feijoa-flavored vodka (delicious!) that Ethan had bought from duty-free in Sydney, and then it was time to catch up with the rest of the drunken crowd! Later that night, after some dancing, we all watched a bit of a fire-show and then got inspired to run out onto the beach and splash around in the warm ocean while the party raged on.
Fully soaked in ocean water and covered in sand, we collapsed into bed later. Everyone woke up to the sounds of the DJ playing loud music from 8 in the morning (their method of getting everyone up and out, I suppose). Check out time was at 10 am. While Ethan and I had pre-arranged staying on the island for another two nights, everyone else was deciding what to do. Some headed back to Townsville immediately, while Jon and some of the others decided to rent scooters for the day and explore Maggie. Ethan and I decided to head straight to our accommodation for the next two nights – Bungalow Bay Koala Village – which was an amazing little hostel – it was a nice forested piece of land with about 30 simple, clean bungalows set up around the property. We couldn’t check into our room until 2 pm, however, and we had arrived super early. So we decided to go back to the main bay where the ferry was (and had to wait for the bus for over an hour) to rent a “moke” – these awesome 40 year old door-less buggies. They are amazing little cars, perfect for exploring the island! Renting one on Maggie is a definite must, as the buses take forever to wait on as we experienced earlier, and you get to go wherever, whenever you want! There was so much to explore – Maggie has several different bays, collections of small businesses and residences – X Base was in Picnic Bay, Bungalow Bay Koala Village was in Horseshoe Bay, the ferry was in Nelly Bay, etc. Each bay had something different to offer. There were also lots of little trails to hike. One recommended activity was feeding the rock wallabies at dusk in Arcadia Bay.
After getting our moke, we drove back to our hostel to check in. Our bungalow (#33) was spartan, but clean and tidy with a bed (on the floor), air-conditioning, and a mini-fridge (even though we didn’t have anything to put in it, it is a thoughtful amenity). The communal bathrooms were also relatively clean and well-kept.
Later that day, at 4:30 was lorikeet feeding at our hostel!!!! Lorikeets are one of my favorite birds in Australia – colorful, cheeky little parrots that fly around at high speed in flashes of bright green, blue and red. So we showed up a bit early and heard the chattering of the large flock before we saw them, already gathered in the area where they knew they would get fed. Then the ranger showed up with their favorite food – soaking wet wonderbread. They went crazy!!! About 70 of the birds divebombed out of the tree, and the moment we grabbed a handful of the sogginess, we were instantly covered in lorikeets. They happily munched away at it while their sharp little claws dug into our arms and hands. They flew around hyperactively, and many times they would land on your head or shoulder, squawking loudly in your ear. It was quite an intense experience, to say the least, with all their hyperactive flying, loud chattering, and bright colors!
After all the bread was gone, we went to wash up (I got pooped on a few times and somehow, magically, Ethan didn’t!)…Then we wanted to make it to feed the famous rock wallabies down in Arcadia Bay near a dock. We were told that to get close to them we should buy some fruits/veggies to feed them with. So we went to the local corner shop, and bought some carrots. The lady even gave us some of her over-ripe fruit for free! So we headed down to the area, and parked the moke. Sure enough, hopping along the rocks, there they were!
For dinner we stayed in Horseshoe Bay, going to a Mexican-themed restaurant, Noodie’s, which served up some delicious nachos.
The next morning was extra special – a champagne brunch amongst the hostel’s on-site little wildlife park. It was surprisingly delicious – we were served spiced lamb chops, with outback chutney, and other Australian brekky specialties, all washed down with guava champagne. While we were eating, the rangers brought out some of the animals, but my favorite was Shadow, the handsome red-tailed black cockatoo that they had sitting on a perch near us. They compared him to the naughty white sulphur-crested cockatoo, saying he is not as intelligent, which I thought was a bit of a mean insult considering how sweet Shadow was. He sat on our arms and gently took sunflower seeds from between our lips!
After the brunch, we were given our photo ops with a koala and a wombat (Wombelina, another super-sweet and cuddly resident). Turns out that koalas, the icon of Australia, are actually not very smart or exciting at all, with a brain the size of a peanut, and are not very sociable or friendly animals. All they want to do is sit in their trees and sleep (18-22 hours a day) and eat eucalyptus leaves. When I was handed the koala (Ethan took a picture with the wombat), they were like “DO NOT MOVE! They think you are a tree and if the tree moves then they will use their claws to grip harder!!!” They freaked out when I was just shifting my feet a bit. But the koala seemed pretty out of it anyways (although it is a myth that they get “high” on eucalyptus leaves).
Then one of the rangers gave us a tour of their little park, which had koalas, pythons, freshwater crocs, the wombat, some bearded dragons, and the two cockatoos. We were also instructed on what to do if bitten by a venomous snake (of which there is a startling number of in Australia) – do not rub the wound or try to suck out the venom, instead, wrap it with a compression bandage up and down the limb as tight as possible, So one of the most important things in an Australian first aid kit is a compression bandage. I made a mental note to buy one as soon as possible.
For the rest of the day, we didn’t have much of a plan except to drive around Maggie in our moke and explore wherever we ended up. So we drove to Nelly Bay and ate a light lunch at Fat Possum’s, owned by a cheery Irishman. Afterwards we hopped out to chill on the beach there for a bit. We had brought the hammock so we strung it out between two palm trees and napped for a little while. On the way back to Horseshoe Bay we stopped by at The Forts trail to hike for a bit, until we realized how late it was and that we would miss the lorikeets! So we hurried back to our hostel, just in time for the feeding. But for some reason, this time, the lorikeets hurt so much with their claws as they landed on our arms and scrabbled for some wet wonderbread. I could barely hold them – after that time our arms were so scratched we had cuts for days from it.
After our lorikeet encounter, we drove to the little corner store and bought some veggies to feed the rock wallabies with again. This time we arrived earlier, and there was this interesting old man there who seemed liked he had lived with the wallabies for decades – he knew them all as individuals, who was boss, who was mean, and who we could pet. We fed them all the carrots and fruit we had brought, and then headed back to the hostel for a curry dinner from their on-site “curry house”.
The next morning, we woke up super early to do the famous Forts hike – all the way this time – and it was wonderful. We had the trail to ourselves, and it was beautiful. On the way up, Ethan spotted a wild koala in one of the trees on the side of the trail! I don’t know if I would have seen it – their fur is the same color of the eucalyptus tree trunks. He was sleeping, and as we excitedly gathered around beneath him, he woke up and sleepily observed us, with not a lot of interest. Koalas were introduced to Magnetic Island when they were more endangered on the mainland as an effort to increase their populations. I was so excited that we got to see a wild koala!
We continued on, and reached the area of the forts, where WWII establishments had previously stood – not much currently remains except for the foundations, so it wasn’t much to look at. Further on up the hill, however, was the still-standing ammunitions depot with a colony of tiny brown bats. And at the top of the hill were more buildings – some heavy machinery related stuff. The best part was the view, however. We climbed out on some large boulders and I felt like we were the only people on the entire island.
There used to be indigenous people on the island. They were, of course, eventually displaced by the white settlers, but they had an interesting story of the creation of Maggie Island. They believed that the Great Carpet Snake, during Dreamtime, was slithering about in the ocean, and that eventually his body was dismembered, his head forming Magnetic Island and his vertebrae other nearby islands.
We had a beautiful view of Albert Bay – an uninhabited, forested bay with a lovely beach. That’s whats so awesome about Maggie Island – most of it is protected national park, and we were looking down on most of it. But eventually, we had to leave because our checkout time was approaching rapidly. So we hiked back down and drove back to the hostel to check out. Then we went to eat a hearty breakfast at Butler’s Pantry – really delicious and nicely presented – but when we tried to drive away we found that our moke was broken down and wouldn’t start! So we called the company and were picked up. Our time was cut short by a couple of hours, unfortunately, so we took an earlier ferry back to the mainland. Then…it was back to Townsville. We had a lot to look forward to the next day – we would be beginning our trip down to Fraser Island!!!!