Day 2 – Townsville to Airlie Beach

After today, it’s unlikely I’ll return to stay in Cairns.

The simple reason – you can’t swim in the sea there. This day by way of consolation, started and ended with dips in the Briny.

In Townsville, at 7.30 a.m., the bathing belles on the beach advertised the small bay. They’d already been in, and scoffed off suggestions of Salties. The water was beautifully warm.

Townsville is now my favourite town in Far North Queensland. Its waterfront is better equipped, there is sand in place of Cairns’ mud, and there are cafes and other tourist traps all along the while.

After again wrestling my push-bike in and out of the van for the second of dozens of times, I followed the Coast South-East to Airlie Beach.

Airlie Beach

I arrived mid-afternoon to a breezy little seaside town which has an official population of 1,208 people.

It’s compact, and as with Townsville ad Cairns, the town centre is right next to the seaside. Also like those two towns, I soon discover a large public area close to town, equipped with picnic areas, large open spaces, and toilets.

Again there’s a chlorinated pool labelled a “lagoon” like the ugly sister right next to the beach.

Petrol Prices

Coming into town I discovered an open secret. That is, Liberty fuel. It was selling at around AUD $1.35, competing with prices as high as $1.65 elsewhere.

Since it’s dawning on me that petrol costs won’t be much less than the cost of van hire, I start choosing petrol stations more carefully.

I headed for the higher-up and leafy suburbs this night, looking for slightly cooler temperatures.

I got some sidelong glances from a couple of elderly strollers at dusk, but a cheery “hello” put them at their ease, and I slept a little more comfortably.

Out and About

The boss – a champion of a man – gave me yesterday off to recover from  a sleepless night and the stress of moving.

So I grabbed the opportunity to hire a scooter, and head to the hills. In them thar hills be freshwater pools, devoid of “salties” ( crocodiles ),and no doubt clean enough to drink from.

Stony Creek , about 15km Northwest of Cairns, is ‘fresh’ – cool, but not cold enough to cause your gonads to escape upwards to safer and warmer parts.

It’s on the edge of Barron Gorge National Park, and brings to mind Whangarei Falls.

The next mission was buying some cheap curtains to shield myself from the interrogating street lights just outside. Ten dollars lighter of pocket, and I have some portable curtains as insurance against future cheap dives.

With the help of a flatmate, Roger the Aussie, I cleaned the filters in the old air-conditioning unit, and so got some blessed sleep last night.

Machen’s Beach

This morning I headed about 15 km north to Machen’s Beach, which is indeed – as a flatmate had said – an excellent swimming spot.

But like a tramp ogling jewels through a store window, I dared not partake. Salties. Not past my ankles anyway. When I told this to Roger, he glares at me – “are you insane“?

machens beach sign
“Swimming not advised”

‘Twas good to get back on a bike, the first time since Vietnam. These scooters are slower ( top speed around 55 km / h ), but the 30 km round-trip to Machen’s cost 0.50 cents. On the other hand, scooter hire is $50 /day, as opposed to $120 NZD / month in Thailand.

I took it back today.