It’s hard to believe I’m here in Airlie Beach and that in a few days’ time, I’ll be at sea, taking on the challenge of a lifetime.. I’ve seen the boats and they are impressive, all lined up in the marina side by side – it makes me really excited about getting started! A lot of the anxiety I had about the race has diminished since arriving in Airlie, though there are of course still some nerves. Today we have a boat induction, first of the whirlwind of events that will be the next few days. The goal is to get all my essential shopping and research done this morning, so that I can focus on being a helpful team member for the rest of our time here.
We came to Airlie Beach from Mackay, which, on a side note, was much bigger than we thought, a place of rest for us as we’d both taken the overnight bus to get there, and needed a bit of time off after all the adventuring we’d just done and the adventuring to come in Airlie. We were very lucky when we arrived around 8:30am to have a room already free for us, so we napped until the afternoon and walked around Mackay a little bit before watching a movie and having another early night. Well, as early as was possible with a very loud live band playing very close by.. Still, a good sleep. It was much needed, much appreciated rest.
We came to Mackay from Agnes Water, a small town by Seventeen Seventy, which we were highly encouraged to visit. Though we only had one full day there, we took full advantage by going to a kangaroo sanctuary to feed and pet young kangaroos!! Couldn’t believe it was real life. Some interesting things about kangaroos: they have really long claws on their feet, the females can pause and restart pregnancies as it suits them, and they hardly ever get sick because of their grass-only diet, which is alkaline when most viruses live in acidic environments. They’re also completely peaceful and like to play, which is the absolute cutest! We also saw dolphins later in the evening with the sunset off a Seventeen Seventy beach. Real life. Unbelievable.
Finally, we had come to Agnes Water from Hervey Bay, which we visited as it was one of the places from which you could get to Fraser Island, another famous location highly recommended to us. Seeing as tours were quite expensive, we decided to do it on our own, booking a camp site at Central Station, planning to walk the 5km from the ferry to the site on the first day and back on morning of our third and last day. Well, things did not exactly go to plan. First, it turns out there was no 4pm ferry to the location we wanted, as they hadn’t been running all day (because of tides they said?) and we were two minutes to departure for the ferry to Kingfisher Bay, the last of the day. So, we were very lucky to get to the Island in the first place, but it meant a 16km walk instead of 5km, and we would only arrive around 5pm, meaning we were racing against the clock to reach our campsite before running out of daylight. We did not. We also found out on the ferry, that Fraser Island is the largest SAND island in the world. We were NOT prepared for this, and is the main reason why getting around took us so long – it’s much harder to walk in sand than it is on dirt, even when it is reasonably compacted like it was on hiking trails.. we were also quite nervous about dingoes, and venomous snakes and spiders, though thank goodness we did not encounter any of those at all while we were on the island.
So, we didn’t reach our campsite the first evening and so instead wild camped on the side of the sand roads for vehicles. We set up in the last bits of daylight, had dinner and went almost straight to bed, only to wake up with the sun the next morning around 5am. It was easier to just get going, especially as we were not at a proper campsite, and we were packed up and walking before 7am. We arrived at Central Station a couple of hours later, only to be very confused by its layout, not being able to find the showers, or bins that were marked on the map. In the early afternoon, we were finally told that this was in fact not the campsite, and that we had to walk 400m down the road to find the campground! So we got up and moved down the road, to find a properly fenced in area, with toilets and showers, and nice flat sites, each with a picnic table and space to park a car if you had one. Much nicer, and it all made so much more sense.
I did say that we didn’t see any venomous snakes, but in the evening, the family on the site next to us started getting very excited about a 2m python that was between our two sites.. they started picking it up by its tail, and trying to move it and just generally playing around with it.. we thought we’d stay firmly in our tent, as we did not know at this point that it was not venomous (it can still bite, but it won’t kill you..), and thought they were completely bonkers. Who pulls on the tail of a 2m python?! Australians… They made fun of us but we were very okay with that, we stayed safely out of reach.
On our last morning, our 8km walk that I had originally expected to take about 1h30 to 2h took us nearly 4h, which made me very glad that we had departed in the morning instead of 2h before our afternoon ferry departure time! A combination of walking in sand, being tired from not excellent sleeping, and a navigation mistake contributed. Although, if it weren’t for that navigation mistake, we might not have run into the couple who let us ride on their trailer for the remaining 3km we had left to the ferry terminal, so it’s all good. Once back at the hostel, we repacked our things and went off for the bus to Agnes Water. Needless to say, the shower that evening was one of the most appreciated so far!