As I hinted at in my last post, Andy and I just had a weekend away. Things lined up perfectly--Townsville was hosting a V8 Supercars race on the weekend, which meant the city was crowded full of rev heads, and we could hear the engines revving from our place, which is probably 5 kms from the race track. The same weekend, a National Geographic Student Expedition--a group of high schoolers from the US--was heading to Airlie Beach and through a few convoluted alumni connections I was asked to speak to the group about Aboriginal activism. I offered Andy's services as a marine biologist, which they snapped up without hesitation, and we had a room for two plus petrol expenses covered courtesy of NatGeo.
Airlie Beach is about 260 kilometres south of Townsville, a four hour drive. We headed down on Saturday and took our time, stopping in a few places along the way. In Bowen we went straight for the beach. Although Bowen is a sleepy town and is often overlooked for flashier Airlie, the beaches are just gorgeous.
Then we headed up Flagstaff Hill to have a look at the coast from up high. Look how blue the water is.
We ate lunch near the marina (cold pizza leftover from the night before) and then continued on our journey.
We checked into our accommodation, Bush Village, which was a total dump. We'd looked at their website and realised it was a backpacker's, but the description of amenities and facilities gave us high hopes that it would be comfortable at least. But it totally sucked, and was overpriced to boot. The cold water tap came off in my hand while I was in the shower; we had a private kitchen, but the kettle was covered in some sketchy black scale and the stove had no handles to turn on the burners; the bed was about as hard as the floor, and creaky. We were disappointed, but we headed out to the town of Airlie Beach to see what was around. Airlie Beach is a total backpacker's town, full of travel agencies, cafes and souvenir shops. The beach itself is fairly dumpy, but Airlie is popular because it is a jumping off point for the beautiful Whitsunday Islands.
After wandering around, we returned to our slum cabin and popped open a bottle of champagne and cooked up some veggie hot dogs for dinner. It was a weird combination, yes, but it was oddly satisfying.
The next morning we woke up tired from the terrible bed and took advantage of the free breakfast on offer (toast with jam) before going out for a walk. We wandered down the hill to Cannonvale Beach. Like I said, the beach itself is pretty undesirable but it was a beautiful day and the sun was shining.
From Cannonvale Beach we followed the path around the headland, past the marina and into Airlie village. We saw loads of fish jumping out of the water, gawked at excessively large yachts, and passed hordes of European and American backpackers.
Later in the day we gave our lectures, enjoyed dinner (veggie sausages, bbq-ed corn and pumpkin) with the group, and went to bed. The next morning there was a bit more group-time before we headed back north to Townsville. Again, we took our time coming up, keeping our eye out for roadside veggie stalls--Bowen is an agricultural town where lots of tomatoes, capsicums, potatoes, beans, and especially mangos are grown. Of course, we had to stop at Bowen's Big Mango. It is actually huge, as you can just see me at the bottom left of the mango.
We also found a roadside veggie stand where we giggled at the public toilet...
and then we loaded up on produce. We got spinach, zucchini, limes, beetroots, tomatoes, and capsicums. Some of our bounty, including a $10 box of capsicums and $1/kilo tomatoes...
And then we were home, where Nacho was happy to see us, and we were glad to have a comfy bed and a good shower once again.