Saturday December 15th

      The bus was half an hour late so I sat around at the bus terminal at Airlie Beach. There are many different parrots flying around the trees, like a load of pets have escaped in England. Australia is full of colourful birds (both meanings).
      Arrived on time in Townsville and colected by Simone's mum Jenny and her husband David. I'll be staying with them in their house. Townsville is a fair sized town but well spread out, there seems to be plenty of space everywhere.
      In the evening, as it's Saturday I went out to see the nightlife. I usually don't bother on the first night of arriving somewhere, a little tired from travelling and always the differences to get used to, but this was well worth it. I walked up and down the main street with the bars and decided on the Mad Cow Bar as being the best. As it happened everyone there and my friends later on also said it was the best place to meet new people. I'd say this is the friendliest bar I've found outside Thailand and Spain. Met loads of people and even had drinks at a house a few miles away from the house where I am staying. Ended up coming back at 5am. This immediately qualifies as a place where I could live for a while!


Sunday December 16th

      Plenty of sleeping today, and Jenny and David drove me around Townsville, visiting Simone's brother Cameron at his house and having a look at the town centre including going up Castle Hill. This is a sudden tall hill right next to the centre of the town. No castle on top of it but just the kind of hill that would have in the UK. There are some good views of the town and Magnetic Island.


Townsville city


Townsville suburbs


Magnetic Island


Monday December 17th

      Another tedious day trying to sort out my tickets for returning to Thailand. The problem has been that in order to use my single ticket to Malaysia (returns are even more expensive this time of year, cheaper and more flexible to get two singles) I need to have a ticket out of the country before I can even get on the plane. 4 hours and several phone calls waiting for the status of the train ticket I'd booked into Thailand ten days ago. Finally they sorted it out and they said it was now with a courier on next day delivery to Townsville. I later found out that Flight Centre in Stocklands shopping centre in Townsville can also arrange this, quicker and more cheaply, very few places do this. So at least I have a backup if all goes wrong, though I'm running out of time.
      I uploaded this web site in the early (and not quite so early) hours of the morning, determined to get all the picture HTML finished.


Tuesday December 18th

      Still no ticket has arrived! I waited in until 1pm, and then gave up waiting and went into town to look around.
      This town is definitely as friendly as Airlie Beach, hopefully further north is just as good. The buses are few and far between and take a long time to get to the town centre, but much cheaper than a taxi or hiring a car. About 50% Aboriginees on the buses. There is a small reservation near to the house, though I think all the Aboriginal people I saw were going somewhere else. Quite a few very drunk Aboriginees in the quiet town centre, clearly most people go shopping in the big shopping areas further out.
      By the time I'd spent too long in the internet cafe it was too late for the Aquarium so I slowly came back home.
      Cameron and his fiancee came round this evening (sorry I'm terrible at remembering names!).


Wednesday December 19th

      After more phone calls it emerged that it was actually a two day delivery to Townsville and my tickets were already in town. So an earlier start for the town visit today.
      I posted 2kg of photos back to England! Every kg less helps with the luggage I have to carry. I want to get back down to 2 bags if possible before Malaysia. In town I visited the big coral reef aquarium, which is good, and similar in some ways to the Sydney Aquarium but concentrating more on the reef. They are rearing turtles upstairs. I managed to take pictures of some of the same things I'd seen from a distance at the reef from Airlie Beach, and some of the things I fortunately hadn't seen (box jellyfish).


Box jellyfish


Big blue fish (and sharks) like the one I swam with at Bait Reef


Leopard shark like the one at Bait Reef


Big fish like the ones that surprised me at Bait Reef


Starfish and naturally Union Jack coloured sea cucumbers

      Later I walked along The Strand, which is the beach in the town centre. Excellent water playground, plenty of reasons to be jealous of people who were children in Townsville!


Water playground, bucket being filled at the top



      Elise, Simone's very young niece, and Kerry, Simone's sister, came around this evening. And the tickets have arrived!
      Simone's seen my diary here and says the Australian houses are on stilts because they like to be higher up (they are almost all single level houses). It also helps keep the house cooler with more air circulating.


Thursday December 20th

      Malaysia Airlines have accepted my train tickets. A more relaxing time it's going to be after all that, though I should move more quickly now, plenty still to see.
      I hired a car for three days starting tomorrow. This should be enough to get me to Cairns seeing all the cool stuff on the way that everyone's been telling me about. I'll go straight there, not enough time to return to Townsville this time. I could have spent another month in Queensland.
      It has been very hot all the time in Townsville, 30-35C in the shade officially, and a little humid as well. Someone said he'd seen 40 on a thermometer in the shade. Useful in some ways though, like you can take bread or butter out of the fridge and in a minute it's room temperature and fresh, never much good doing this in England.
      Went out for dinner and drinks with Rachael and loads of other Townsville friends of Simone's, and came back not as late as last time for an early start for the further north tomorrow. Shame I am running out of time, someone was going to take me out jet skiing with dolphins and an unusual sea creature I can't remember the name of (it gave people the idea of mermaids).


Friday December 21st

      I was given a double upgrade on the car for travelling north to Cairns, perhaps because most people are travelling south for Christmas. Nice big Mitsubishi. Stopped at a few waterfalls on the way to Mission Beach today. Firstly the Little and Big Crystal Creeks, well named from the clearness of the water, and then Jourama Falls. There hasn't been a lot of rain recently so the falls were fairly dry, sometimes people have to wade through knee deep rushing water to reach Jourama Falls, now it's an almost dry river bed. Below the Big Creek rock slides (now just a trickle) there's still plenty of water at the Paradise Waterhole to jump in from the tall rocks at the edge. An extremely hot day though, after being out of the air conditioned car for just a few minutes I was in a full body sweat, unbelievable, once I couldn't bear not jumping into the water, though afterwards when I got out I noticed a 10 inch long black lobster shaped crab running around on the bottom.


The car for driving north to Cairns


Little Crystal Creek


Little Crystal Creek, deep rockpools to jump into, someone jumped off the big rock


Little Crystal Creek


Big Crystal Creek, clear water, and good rock slides when there is rain


Big Crystal Creek


Paradise Waterhole


Jourama Falls, bit dry, that's one of many rockpools at the bottom

      I had a quick look at Ingham as that's where Simone was a child. Just a little farming town, and with a large sugar factory between the town and the sea. It's the biggest sugar cane factory in the southern hemisphere, but maybe not quite as big as you'd expect considering all the sugar cane there is in Australia. Perhaps it seems smaller from all the mountains (or what I would call mountains) on the horizon, there is little else apart from flat fields between them and the factory. This seems to be the destination for all the narrow guage railway lines you see so many of in the Queensland countryside, taking the sugar cane to be processed. Simone's primary school is right next to the factory, the mountains are an impressive skyline to look at from the playground by English standards for sure.
      But the only picture I took was a short drive north of Ingham, looking down on an unspoilt area of large rivers and mangrove rainforest beneath mountains (or perhaps Hinchinbrook Island) near to the sea.


View down to a natural valley or coastline north of Ingham


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