For my 28th birthday, we planned a lovely island camping trip in the Whitsunday Islands, renowned for their golden beaches and clear blue waters. We arrived in Arlie Beach (another touristy/backpacker mecca) and enjoyed the warm climate and funny tall ducks wandering around the caravan park. As a testament to the endlessly friendly nature of Australians, when I asked the lady at the front desk where I could buy some simple beach towels (not the over-priced ones downtown), she gave me some ideas and then hesitated, and promptly confessed, as long as I didn’t tell anyone, that they had some clean ones left behind that should could give me. Free towels! Woo hoo!
Unfortunately, my beach snorkeling birthday turned into a windy, rainy, stuck-on-an-island adventure. We had to wake up at 4:45am to catch the Island Taxi (our campsite can only be reached during high tide), and it was dark, cold, wet and gusty. We wondered whether or not to cancel, but decided that what the hell, it might clear up… There were a few other people on our boat, a trio of Aussie blokes going kayaking/camping and a Canadian couple taking a break from school in Melbourne. At least we weren’t the only fools going out in the nasty weather.
We camped on Sandy Bay on South Molle Island for two days and two nights. A French couple was there the first night, but we had the whole place to ourselves the second day and night. Not that it mattered because we spent most of the time cowering in our poorly-made tarp shelter or in the tent. I did enjoy some tide-pooling, finding lots of crabs, a shrimp and what I think was a baby eel (only 5 inches long). We walked up and down the coral-rubble beach and poked at the strange green ants that occupied the picnic table. Day two we decided that it was time to jump in the water and attempt some snorkeling while the sun was out (peaking through clouds for more than 5 minutes at a time). When I say “snorkeling” I mean that we had booties and masks on, walking waist-deep carefully between rocks with just our faces in the water. Ridiculous. Cold water and terrible visibility, but we saw a few fish and some pretty corals.
Here’s a little timelapse of the tide coming in. You can see all the crabs running about, too:
We were so happy to be off that island, and more happy to finally be couchsurfing! Our host for the night was Katie and Irish husband Andy. She said she accepted our request because she was excited to meet a science/nature documentary filmmaker (glad by degree is paying off!). She was incredibly welcoming and even made a roast chicken dinner. We also got some local beer and ginger beer (it’s alcoholic here!) and talked for 4 hours straight about wildlife, politics, traveling and the universe. Our conversation was only interrupted by flying foxes (giant bats) whizzing by the balcony and by the little possum that visits regularly, named Delilah (she scurried across the railing and tried to eat her potted jalapenos).
The next morning we took a beautiful drive back inland (recommended by Katie) to a town in the Atherton Tablelands called Yungaburra, through rolling hills of bananas and sugar cane. We setup camp by a lake and satisfied our craving for mexican food with delicious quesadillas.
That night we went on a nocturnal wildlife tour in the rainforest, that I had been looking forward to for weeks. It was just us and our guide Alan, and we managed to see at least a dozen possums (green possums & coppery brushtails) and a bandicoot.
The next day we visited Crater Lakes National Park (both smaller than the one in Oregon). We strolled around Lake Barrine (6km) and spotted several rat-kangaroos hopping along the forest floor.
Then we headed over to Lake Eacham, which turns out to a great swimming spot, so after some sandwiches and the 3km walk, we donned our swimmers and jumped into the crisp fresh water (it was actually sunny, too!). Since there were fishies swimming about, I grabbed my snorkel and GoPro and stalked them.
On our way back, we spotted a little bookshop based out of a garage, so we had to stop.
Next stop, Cairns!