Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 313 (123)
Saturday 15th January (2005)
After breakfast this morning, we toyed with the idea of hanging around in Tully for another day. We had a lot of fun with some of the other guests last night but, on reflection, there really wasn’t anything else left to keep us occupied so we decided to checkout, get in the car and found the main Bruce highway again to take us still farther north up the Queensland coast. We had absolutely no idea where we were heading but we knew that we were making our way up to Cairns and that that was in a northerly direction so that was good enough for us.
Mission Beach is probably the next touristy destination on the map that was in our path so we followed the signs to there. Mission Beach in one of the few places in the country where wild Cassowaries still roam free. There are less than fifty of these huge, blue, and emu-like flightless birds left in the wild and there are signs everywhere warning drivers to beware of them crossing the roads. Road kills are apparently a huge problem with the ever-diminishing numbers of these gentle giants but try as we did, we could not spot one ourselves anywhere.
Following the advice of both our guidebook as well as a couple of other backpackers that we’ve met in recent days, we were heading for a specific hostel called the Beach Shack. We did try to call them by phone but cell phone reception in and around Mission Beach is extremely poor. We pointed out to them that we were expecting the room rate to be just AU$40 (€24,40) for a double room as per the guidebook but they insisted that it was going to be AU$49 (€30) instead. The woman on the other end of the phone started to say something about this when we lost the connection so we carried on under the assumption that they were going to honour the price listed in the guidebook. We had no directions to the hostel so we stopped in at the information office in town when we arrived and left with a huge bundle of leaflets and brochures under each arm. Thereafter, it took us several passes along the same stretch of coastline before we finally found the place. Even after quite a bit of discussion about the price of the room, they weren’t willing to let us have the room for anything less than AU$49 (€30), regardless of what was printed in this year’s guidebook. During the drive up, I had decided that AU$40 (€24,50) was going to be my threshold. Other than the one pristine stretch of beach, Mission Beach has little else to offer so we decided that the disagreement over the rate was enough of a reason for us to carry on with our northerly sojourn and we left. There are a few attractions in North East Queensland left that we are still keen to take advantage of as we pass through and chief amongst these is a place called Paronella Park which we will tackle some time over the next couple of days. With this in mind, we scanned the map to see where we would best be able to base ourselves and the closest town large enough to have a few accommodation options was a place called Innisfail so we set off in that direction.
Once again, we called ahead to verify that the hostel we had picked out of our guidebook was open and had rooms available. Fortunately, they did and the price was right too at just AU$20 (€12,20) per person per night regardless of the type of room. They also had full kitchen facilities so we would still be able to continue saving money by cooking our own food. Naturally, we got lost despite Sandy’s best efforts at remembering what the directions she was given. To be fair, the man told us to turn right at a roundabout that didn’t exist, apparently as a result of some very recent road works. Still, we found it in the end and the man at the front desk was quite friendly and helpful and gave us the choice of several rooms from several houses that have been converted into backpacker’s lodgings. As was the case in Tully, most all of the backpackers that stay here do so for the local fruit picking work and most of the rooms are unoccupied during the day so it is quite quiet here. As an added bonus, there is an Internet room with a couple of terminals and a broadband connection that is completely free for all guests. As if that wasn't good enough, he even found a spare network cable that would allow me to hook up my laptop without having to disconnect one of the other terminals.
After checking in and spending some time on the Internet, updating everyone on our progress, we set out to find a supermarket to collect some shopping for the next couple of days. Completely out of character for me, I walked around the supermarket and actually paid close attention to the prices as we equally uncharacteristically frugally shopped. I was amazed at just how well we did by the time we got to the checkout till. We managed to secure enough food for two days' worth of meals, perhaps even more, including some provisions for future use, such as washing up liquid, ketchup, vinegar, salt, and a box full of instant noodles all for just AU$24 (€14,60). This works out very much cheaper than eating out at restaurants all the time.
Our room is one of three that occupy the ground floor of one of the hostel houses. We are the only guests on this floor and we have the bathroom and kitchen all to ourselves. We cooked (Sandy cooked would be more accurate) and ate our meal in relative comfort whilst watching the TV. Life is good.
Later, after spending another hour browsing the web and sending and receiving e-mail, we sat for an hour in the main TV room up at the main hostel building. After a while, one of the other guests called out for some Monopoly players and I was glad to join in whilst Sandy continued watching TV. Together with four other players, we got to know each other a bit and started the game. We’d no sooner started when one of the other players pulled out some marijuana-smoking implement, through which each of them drew a lungful of the drug every few minutes. Now, I’ve never taken any form of drug (other than alcohol) nor will I ever do so but I was already committed to the game by now so I just sat and enjoyed myself as each of them slowly became more and more mellow as the game progressed. They dropped out one by one but even with a head full of marijuana, one of the other players managed to beat me in the end. I’m not sure what conclusions, if any, I should draw from that.