Mystical Maggie and Peeping Possums

Trip Start Feb 05, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Bugalow Bay Koala Village

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, February 22, 2012

From Cairns we had to endure a 6 hour Greyhound journey down the coast to Townsville. The Greyhound wasn't as painful as I'd been expecting. I got two seats to myself, spread out and enjoyed the journey through small town Australia.

We stopped halfway at a town called Cardwell. Here, Loz bought a local newspaper and we all gathered around to have a read. There is a trial prominent in the press at the moment of an American man named Gabe Watson accused of murdering his wife Tina on their honeymoon in Queensland. The couple had married after a whirlwind romance and were enjoying a scuba diving trip on The Great Barrier Reef when Tina had unexplained difficulties with her equipment and met her end. Watson wasn't initially charged with the murder and cashed in the large life insurance policy he had taken out on her weeks before. A case was opened in light of new evidence - including photographs a fellow diver had delayed getting developed, taken that day with an underwater camera and showing Tina's dead body in the background lying on the ocean floor (in a way which conflicted with Watson's account of the incident). It surprised us how the joyous time we experienced on the reef the previous day could easily turn sinister.

When we arrived in Townsville we had to get a twenty minute ferry across to Magnetic Island. Magnetic Island has around 2,000 permanent residents, the majority of whom make this journey ten times a week back and forth to school and work in Townsville. We shared our journey with a gaggle of schoolchildren on their way home - all bright eyed, tanned limbed and enjoying their tropical childhood.
However, upon arriving on Magnetic island (or Maggie to locals) it is hard to see where all the people are hiding. Main roads are populated by around four houses, spaced out like camels, which snake off into dead ends. The people who got off the bus quickly vanished into the greenery. The island appeared to be under a sleepy, supernatural trance.

Captain Cook had similar feelings us unease when first sailing past the island all those years ago. As he passed, his compass started behaving in a wild manner and soon broke, He concluded that the island must emit some sort of strong magnetic current and consequently christened the island with its name. Although his theory was later proved to be false,

Maggie's mystical feel is probably best attributed to its composition. With 90% of the island occupied by National Park, it is easy, deliberately or not, to disappear. In fact, Maggie's layout is much like a mini Australia - a vast wilderness dominates its centre, whilst a few settlements congregate around the edges.

We stayed at Bungalow Bay Koala Village. A hostel built inside the national park with a back to nature feel and its own animal sanctuary attached. The place had real character, with possums, parrots and other exotic animals given free reign. Bunk beds sit in wooden cabins with little mesh panels in the walls, that allowed you to wake to the sound of the animals having breakfast by the trickling brook and feel the sunrise filtering through onto your face.

It could almost have been a high-end rehab clinic in disguise. I kept half expecting Pete Doherty or Gazza to stroll past. We had to make do instead with Clive - A friendly, pudding faced forty something, travelling alone( for reasons we loved speculating about) and shoved into our cabin amongst us six over-excitable, vulgar girls.

We spent our first evening chilling out in the beautiful surroundings. We took some alcohol down to the beach at Horseshoe Bay and sat drinking and enjoying the novelty of gazing at stars that we'd never seen before. When we arrived back at the cabin, a sleeping Clive was treated to scenes of uproar when a couple of golf-ball sized cockroaches were discovered in the room.

Life on Magnetic Island dawdles along and we spent the next day exploring at an appropriate pace. We spent the morning splashing in the picturesque pool and cotching in the hammocks whilst the birds sang their tropical hits around us. Late afternoon we attempted the island's famous 'Forts Walk.'

During World War II, Townsville carried considerable military significance. Maggie is perfectly strategically positioned to defend Townsville, and The Forts Walk leads you along a path showcasing the remains of this military occupation. The walk was mainly uphill and gruelling to say the least (it took us two hours to reach the top and half an hour to walk down). It seemed initially as though we were going to be disappointed. The guidebook promised that this was the best walk on which to see koalas in the wild. We had not seen so much as a paw. Additionally, when we reached what looked to be The Forts, we felt cheated by a few plain concrete slabs dotted randomly about which could only be reached through trekking off the path into leg scratching bush. 

However, we persevered and practically at the top of the mountain were rewarded by tomb-raider like relics, gun emplacements and old artillery stores. It made the long, energy sucking walk suddenly seem worthwhile. At the very top of the mountain we enjoyed uninterrupted views of the island and ocean in every direction. We sat and chilled on a rock for a bit soaking up our small triumph and greedily taking in the view. Loz announced that if Cook had climbed to the top of this mountain all those years ago and enjoyed this very view he would probably have named this spot 'The Rock of Contemplation,'   

That evening we flopped tiredly into the bar area and a bolshy possum with a baby on her back crept up to us to have a gander. Caz and I enticed her with a pot of crusty leftover wallaby food and she was soon practically eating from our palm. In the morning another possum greeted us as we came to make our cornflakes. He had made his home for the night in a broken fridge and peered lazily at us through the glass as we bustled about. It was a delightful way to end our stay. It highlighted that although Maggie's pleasures are simple, it has magical qualities that make it well worth a visit.

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