After one last party on the beach, it was time to leave Rainbow Beach (potentially the rainiest town in Australia), and board my last ever night-bus (until the next time I go travelling anyway). The prospect of leaving Rainbow at 3pm, and not arriving into Airlie until 9am was a depressing thought, but armed with plenty of snacks, a fully charged iPod, and a hoard of books (as well as WiFi on the bus I travelled on – at last Greyhound, thank you!), the journey didn’t seem too daunting.
A five-hour stop over in Hervey Bay was more or less the most boring part of my time away: after asking the Greyhound depot about things to do, it seemed ‘hop on a bus and do a round-trip of the town’ and ‘go to MacDonald’s for the free internet’ were my top options. Surprisingly, neither caught my attention and I curled up with a book instead. The actual over-night travel wasn’t too bad: I had two seats to myself, so could lie down (sort of) and attempt to sleep.
We rolled into Airlie Beach bright and early, and the wall of heat and sunshine meeting me off the coach was enough to melt away any remaining tiredness. After ditching my bag in the 32-bed hostel room I was staying in (reminiscent of every American military dorm/summer camp/boarding school film I’d ever seen), I set off to explore. Airlie is small but beautiful, and usually only visited as a gateway to the Barrier Reef or Whitsundays. Seeing as I couldn’t afford the Whitsundays and planned on doing the reef from Cairns, I was happy to keep to myself and wander around the Saturday food-and-craft market, before meeting a friend from Fraser Island for a quick swimming lesson in the lagoon.
Airlie Beach, as beautiful as it is, is dying to kill you. From what I’ve heard, you dip a toe in the ocean, and several species of shark, jellyfish and crocodile will instantly appear and drag you off to a watery death. To counter this, the town created an artificial lagoon on the seafront, complete with fake sand, uneven footing, and the welcoming scent of chlorine. However, Airlie was hot – and humid – so being able to take a dip without worrying about drowning in the ocean was a lifesaver.
Moving from place to place in quick succession makes cooking and eating very unappealing: I can’t be bothered to carry around the giant Coles’ coolbags, or fuss about making a meal (especially as it’s only me eating). Instead, I picked up a watermelon quarter – only to be given another quarter for free – and soon realised it’s near impossible for one person to eat half a watermelon before the ants get you.
One thing I’ll miss most about Oz is the wildlife – not so much the stuff that tries to kill you perhaps – but the birds make me laugh a lot. My incredibly strenuous day involved moving between sunbathing spots, and at one, I was entertained for a good half hour by a cockatoo; I’m not sure anyone can get tired watching them muddle along.
Airlie Beach was the perfect stopover between Fraser Island and Cairns: the weather was stunning, I finally turned a darker shade of pale, and my 32-bed dorm was bunkbed-free.