Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Townsville, no minimokes and Cyclone Yasi

No photos yet - Im in a mcdonalds using the free wifi - Photos to follow soon....

Day 148 – Sunday 30 January.

A long day today – I was up bright and early as I had to move out of my apartment by 10am. I was surprised though, as I was getting ready at about 9.30, when the cleaner knocked and wanted to start. I asked her politely to come back after 10!! Bloody cheek!

Anyway, I left on the dot at 10 am and had a wander into the shopping centre where I vegged out for a while reading the local papers and buying a spare battery for my mobile – I already had one spare battery, but it is starting to run out halfway during the day!! I got a battery for $30 and then went and sat with my feet dangling in the jacuzzi at the apartments I had just left. It was a warm morning and this a much nicer way to spend the morning than just wandering around the town.

After a bit of munch I collected my bags from the reception where I had left them and took the 10 minute walk up to the bus stop near to the harbour and the lagoon. The greyhound bus was already waiting there and so I put my bag on board and sat on the bus in the cool air con, until we left at 1pm for Townsville. As usual the bus driver (or bus captain as he called himself) thought he was a funny bloke, where I think most people on the bus thought he was being a bit daft. Threatening us that we would have to sing if we were late back whenever we stopped for a pick up or a break. But he seemed OK to me, if not a little power happy. I chatted a little to the girl next to me, who had been spending the weekend at a friends in Cairns and watched the movie that the bus captain put on – The day after tomorrow. It was a good choice as when it finished he then warned us all about the cyclone that was due to hit the coast near Townsville tomorrow – cheers mate!!

After 6 hours, we arrived in Townsville, and I took a walk to Adventurers Backpackers resort – my home for the next 3 days. It is an old motel with loads of rooms and is pretty comfortable. There are only 2 people in my room – me and an Australian guy called Dale. He is staying here and looking for work and seems a nice enough bloke.

After chucking my stuff in the room I went out for a beer and to watch the one day match between England and the Aussies and also the tennis final where Andy Murray was hoping to win. But England and Murray both lost and the pub I was sitting in closed just after 9pm – what’s that all about!!? I had a walked around town to familiarise myself and then went back to the room to watch a bit of TV before an early night.

Day 149 Monday 31 January

I had a good look around Townsville today. It definitely isn’t the most exciting place I have ever been!! There doesn’t seem to be many people about at all and a lot of the shops, pubs and restaurants seem to be closed. I did find a good few things to look at though – A sculpture of a turtle, a fountain with red water and in the evening a multi-coloured dancing fountain, like the one in Las Vegas, but on a much smaller scale.

After having a good look around town in the early afternoon, I found an internet café and set about sorting my life out for the next couple of months. I didn’t have anything planned after NZ, so had a good look around what was available and flight prices. I was surprised at how cheap it is to get to and from Fiji, so I booked flights and a great looking hostel on a beach for a week in late March. I always wanted to go to Fiji, after Dave Lister used to go on about it in Red Dwarf!! Now, I am going!! After that its a flight to Melbourne for the Grand Prix and then a short hop to Tasmania where I found a great 5 day tour that was really cheap! So, that’s me sorted until April!!

It was getting on for 6pm, after I finished on the internet and so I found the local cinema and got out of the humidity for a while. I watched 'The Green Hornet', with Seth Rogan. Its pretty funny and worth watching! It was then a case of a quick beer and then back to the hostel for the rest of the evening. I’m up early tomorrow for Magnetic Island. There is also more news on the Cyclone – The original cyclone has not hit, but a second one is due to hit Townsville with 100mph+ winds on Wednesday evening – Phew – I have my flight out of her booked for earlier on Wednesday!! I hop the predictions are correct and I will miss all the excitement!!

Day 150 - Tuesday 1st February

Well today was interesting to say the least, but looking back I loved every minute!! Its been a proper adventure!!

I was up early again, to head over to Magnetic Island. After a short walk to the ferry terminal, I was surprised when the girl at the counter said it would be better if I didn’t go – They were expecting to cancel ferries later today and didn’t want passengers to get stuck on the Island during the upcoming Cyclone. I knew the cyclone wasn’t due till tomorrow evening and so after checking that ferries would be running till at least 3pm, I bought my ticket and jumped aboard. It was a nice ferry ride and after landing on the Island I made my way to the MiniMoke hire company. Unfortunately, they had taken all their minimokes ashore to protect them from the cyclone too, so I was given a tropical topless car instead. Its like a mini version of a peugeot 205, but made by daihatsu and apart from the Barbie seat covers -no joke! - it was pretty good. I spent the next four hours zooming around the island at break neck speed and in between the rallying had a walk up the hills to look at an old fort and get soaked in the sudden rainfall than enveloped me. It was a hot day though and I dried off pretty quickly. While I had a spot of lunch I listened to the radio and was shocked to hear that Townsville Airport, might be shut that evening! Bugar! My flight is due to take off at 1140 tomorrow morning. Shit! I drew up a quick plan in my mind, headed back to the port, gave in my minimoke and headed back to the mainland on the next ferry. On the way, my first plan was shot down – I was going to get a greyhound bus out of town, but I got speaking to a couple of ladies, who had tried to book the bus and had been told it was full. My second plan was to visit the airport itself and speak to the airline and the customer service staff to find out the score, but just in case I was going to book a hire car for later in the evening. As I spoke to the ladies about this and bloke next to me passed on the number for Avis rent a car and 2 minutes later I had a provisional booking made for 6pm. Just in case you haven’t heard about the Cyclone that was heading my way, it is 400km wide and has winds up to 300kmh. It is a monster and is going to destroy a lot that it meets – I am not going to get caught up in it – Plus, my flight to NZ is in 3 days and I need to get to Melbourne to get it. I’m not going to get stuck in Townsville!

After the ferry, I jumped on a local bus, got dropped at the airport and after speaking wit the airline and customer services, I was assured that my flight would go on time in the morning. Relieved, I headed back into town and went to an internet café to catch up on stuff. Just before 6pm, I checked the local news and saw that an airport spokesman said the airport was going to close soon – Bollocks!

Within 15minutes I had ran back to the hostel, booked a cab, checked out of my room, said goodbye to my mate Dale and was waiting outside for a lift to the airport. Within the hour I was heading out of town, in a 3.6 litre sports estate car!! It was all done so quick I don’t know where the time went!!

I decided to head south and see how far I could get before getting sleepy. It was a good night for driving and after 4 hours I stopped to fill up with fuel. It was a shell garage and I picked up the unleaded pump and started to fill the tank, but then stopped shocked as I saw on the back of the car the model – S.I.D.I. ….D.I? Diesel Injection!?! Fuuuuuucccccck!! I had just put 20 litres of unleaded into it!! Shit!! I panicked for a minute and then checked the handbook (For some reason, Australian hire cars don’t have a fuel type sticker by the tank!) and saw to my relief that the D.I stands for DIRECT INJECTION and not DIESEL!! Phew! It was petrol after all! I will blame my panic on it having been a long day so far -It was nearly midnight!!

I continued to drive and was really surprised when I eventually pulled over for a kip to see that the time was 0337. I had been driving for nearly 9 hours and had covered nearly 1000km! You don’t do that in the UK – especially since I have been driving on normal 2 way roads!!

Day 151 – Wednesday 2nd February

I woke up after just 2 short hours of poor sleep and continued my journey. After stopping for fuel and a quick breakfast and check of the internet at a Macdonalds, I saw that my flight indeed had been cancelled and I was right to take the chance to get out of Townsville. The radio was just full of impending doom and every reporter was telling tales of evacuations, storm shelters and the hell that was to come down in the town I had left just 12 hours ago. I was really glad to be out on the road instead of waiting for the destruction!! I drove for most of the morning, with a few stops to rest and fuel up, before I started to get tired in the early afternoon. By now it was topping 40 degrees Celsius and I found a nice little car park ,by a river with overhanging trees where I parked up and got an hours sleep. It was then back on the road and heading further south towards Melbourne. I was averaging well over 100kmh and with the roads pretty clear, I made really good time. All the while the radio reported the Cyclone bearing down on the east coast and the winds rising. The storm has gotten stronger than expected and the hostel where I was staying, being on the marina front would probably have been flooded if I had stayed. I will find out tomorrow just how bad it has been, but for now I just kept driving.

By early evening I had done 1800km and so when I reached the town of Dubbo I took a rest and saw that the cinema was open – so I headed and watched 'The little fockers'. It was OK and got me out of the car for a couple of hours. I’m now sitting in macdonalds using the free wifi again, drinking a coke and watching the England v Australia one day cricket on telly. I’m going to head off in a minute and find somewhere to sleep for the night before continuing to Melbourne in the morning.


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