Magnetic Island – no hardship to get stuck there.

Welcome to Maggie – 5 miles off Townsville in Northern Queensland. Though Captain Cook in 1770 called it “Magnetical” Island – he thought something there was having an effect on his compasses. Later research has been unable to trace anything, hence it has become more simply Magnetic!

(Puts me in mind of the Harbour at Sydney Cove – where all the ferries come in and out – it was first called Semi-Circular Quay. Why? Because of the shape of the bay naturally.  But in true Aussie style, that’s a bit of a mouthful, so Circular Quay it is now called. I await further shortening: one day it will be Serky!)

But (again) I digress. Magnetic is a good name – the island drew me back (with a friend) 26 years after my last visit.  Sadly, I couldn’t remember a bit of it! Not entirely my fault; they have moved the Ferry from the mainland to another port and built a new terminal along the coast. Which simply wasn’t there in 1985.  It has to be said that much of the island looks as if it hasn’t changed a lot since then, though again I can recall only a rather backpacker-ish guesthouse with very lush gardens and whilst we saw one or two of them (and a fair few backpackers) nothing rang any bells.

But what we (my friend Robin – out from London) and I were seeking was sunshine, peace and tranquility – and we got that in heaps.


This is Jeffery Bay – 2 mins across the sand from our little un’s front door. Taken somewhat late, so here’s a daytime view on same beach:

 

Hmmm. I tried – without success – to turn this picture up the other way; I had intended to make a flippant quip about the distortion of the waistline being caused (perhaps) by gravity in far north Queensland. Unless you turn the page upside down you won’t see the joke. So I should reverse the joke to say that I was too heavy to be returned up the right way. Sadly it was too hot for much exercise – that’s my story anyway.

Another more reasonable shot on the beach!

The point behind me was famous for its rock wallabies – tiny, kangaroo-like marsupials which gather at dusk – so gullible tourists can feed them! They even sell little bags of “feed”in the local store much like we used to do for the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

Is that cute or not? And here is Robin being creative with a perching marsupial, silhouetted against the sky!

 

There’s little that creativity can do to help here :

As you can see, it is something of a small and very rocky island – covered, indeed, with these large, probably volcanic, boulders.

It is also quite a famous jumping off spot for the Great Barrier Reef and for deep sea fishing trips. I am sorry to say that we didn’t any nearer to the Reef than you see me now.  Our trip, basically, was R&R not adventure travel – as least that what it ended up as.

There are wonderful fish to be fished, if that’s your thing:

Blue and Black Marlin, Sailfish, Mackerel, Wahoo, Giant Trevally, Dogtooth Tuna, Coral Trout, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Red Emperor and Sea Perch. But, you know, I caught a Wahoo once – in the India Ocean off Mombasa during my acting days in Kenya. And that’s another story.

So meantime, we walked a lot around the island – it is not large and half a day would see you from one end to another. We were, unbeknownst to we pommie travellers, at the end of the season.  From November onwards, it gets wetter, businesses close, tourists disappear and in their place,  the seas start to fill with stingers of various kinds, up to (and including) the infamous Box Jellyfish. Though the Box can be as large as a metre or more, the tiny (finger-nail size) Irukandji is as deadly if not more so. The remedy for being touched by either? Liberal doses of vinegar and call 999 or equivalent. Don’t worry,  they will send a helicopter to get you : there isn’t a hospital on the Island!

 

Far cuter, far less dangerous. In fact, unconcerned and oblivious to passing tourists and clicking cameras:

I was completely convinced it was a plant, until we saw another (and with a baby!). Aaahhh!!!

I wish I could offer you a picture of the Dugong that swam within a metre of me as I paddled in one deserted bay, those that know me know that I don’t really “do”swimming. No photo because :

I was skinny dipping and didn’t have a camera with me

Even if I had a camera, I was too shocked initially as I thought it was a shark and then it was gone

There were a couple of “naturists” haunting the rocks a little up the beach and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself

Which leaves me with only one wildlife picture to show: our (almost) nightly dinner guest:

And strangely enough – is it something to do with eating lots? I can’t make this bird picture turn the correct way round either!!

It’s a bush curlew or plover and teams of them raid any outdoor eaters across the island. Chivvy one away, and three return so you learn to ignore them pretty quickly. Though they settle down very late at night and like to sing for hours before they do. A haunting, cur-lewing sound which can severely jar the nerves if you’re not in the mood! Sadly you’re not allowed to eat them, strangle them or (indeed) kill them off in any other way!

Despite them, we managed a few days of complete rest: lots of bush walks and (for me) a pretty severe case of sunburnt shoulders.Which, being  so surprised and embarrassed by, I shall discuss no further. Except to say that it was not for lack of sun-screen, just a failure to remember how hot it was (even with sea breezes) and how often you should replace your sun screen. At least once more often than I did, I now realise.

 

To conclude : I think my memories of Magnetic were coloured by the years that have passed; by the amount I was drinking in those days (maybe I was on an altogether different island?) and by the fact that it is probably a destination for ‘the youth’.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that except that I wanted more than just bars and surf hire or jetski shops and was disappointed. My attempt to bike hire was thwarted by indifference and end-of-season slow down. So probably won’t be going back again in another 25 years.

 

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