After relaxing in Airlie Beach for a few days after my sailing trip, I was back on the bus and continuing north to Townsville. The scenery along the drive was quite beautiful, and despite the lush tropical appearance, still somehow managed to embody a little bit of the sparseness typically associated with the Australian landscape. In the distance, green hills covered with vegetation sat on the horizon, but as we drove by I realized that the trees were scattered rather thinly over the landscape, and they never seemed to have quite enough leaves.
I arrived in Townsville mid-day, and immediately felt the difference in the heat. The forecast for the next few days was 33 degrees and sunny, which was a welcome (if somewhat sticky) break from the rain. Most people come to Townsville as a departure point for Magnetic Island (see a theme with Australian coastal towns?), which is a short ferry ride from the mainland. I would be heading to Magnetic the following day, but figured I might as well stay one night in Townsville. As most people just pass through, Townsville is not as infested with tourists as almost everywhere else I’ve been to in Australia, which was a nice change. The town feels a lot more local. It has the unmistakable signs of this, not all of them good; the number of closed storefronts along the main street was rather depressing. I was couchsurfing with someone who lived out in the suburbs, and the 45-minute bus ride helped to pain me a miniature picture of Townsville. Large shopping centers along the outskirts appeared to have taken over the small business core. Among the remaining shops downtown were some funky offerings, but I couldn’t help but wonder how long they would manage to stay open, much to the detriment of the town. I did discover the best coffee shop I have stumbled upon thus far in Australia. This is saying something, as coffee in Australia tends to be very good. The Sweatshop served up not only delicious, but reasonably priced coffees of all stripe, and didn’t even charge extra for soy! I visited it twice in the 24 hours I was in Townsville, and am looking forward to going back on my way back through the town.
The main reason I was there, such as the rest of them, was to visit Magnetic Island. My old coworker, Nikkie, was coming down from Cairns to meet me, and we had tickets to the Full Moon Party on Friday. This concept originated in Thailand in the 80s, and has grown and morphed and spread to different countries. It now essentially involves backpackers drinking for 12 hours, painting themselves in fluorescent body paint (a very serious affair – see photo), and dancing the night away while fire dancers and related entertainment pop up around the outskirts. This particular full moon down under was a bit quiet, but still had all of the necessary ingredients, and with the help of three Red Bull, I powered through the night to the bitter end when the music shut off at 5 a.m. The goal to see the sun rise sometime after six was a bit ambitious, as all of our group except for three had escaped to bed long ago, so we called it a night and spent the majority of the following day moving from lounge chair to pool to hammock to pool to bed to deck. Oddly enough, probably the most important component of the full moon party, it’s namesake in fact, was missing. At around 9 p.m. I looked up into the sky and marveled at the beautiful, shining crescent moon in the sky. Not sure who misread the calendar on that one.
It was most excellent to see Nikkie again, and I’m looking forward to the next few days on the island where I will be (hopefully) completing my PADI Open Water SCUBA dive course!