Sunday one week ago I strolled a bit through the CBD of Cairns. Cairns itself has not much to offer, except an artifical lagoon near the wharf for some splashing, and a walk along the wharf. The wharf is just a muddy, and not very appealing, except you’re looking for some wild animals. Most of the CBD is covered with restaurants, bars, “tourist information”, as well as accommodation. There might be a botanical garden a few kilometres out of the centre, but each town has a botanical garden in North Queensland, so I didn’t go there.
Saturday morning one week ago I woke up at the beach of Balding Bay and went for a short swim during sunrise. Then I pitched down my tent and hiked back via the hill to Horseshoe bay. Even in the morning I was again soaked wet after I arrived at Horseshoe Bay. After I got some groceries from the local store I took the bus at 7:20 to Nelly Bay, from where I catched the ferry back to Townsville. In Townsville I walked from the ferry terminal to the beach for a few minutes in order to have a free shower and a bit of cool down. Afterwards I took the bus directly to the railway station. The train was as you can imagine again late by 40 min. So I had plenty of time for a second breakfast. The distance from Townsville to Cairns is only 340 km, but the travel time is more 6:40 hours. Hence, the average speed is with about 50 km/h only leisurely. Surprisingly the train arrived on time in Cairns Potentially as except for one stop in Innisfail all other stations are just stopped on-demand. Therefore, we passed a lot of stations without stopping, which saved some time. The journey along the coast was mainly featured by sugar cane in the plains, and the mountains of the Great dividing range to the west. The railway track was always a few kilometres inland, and the sea wasn’t visible for most of the time. The region around Innisfail has the highest average annual rainfall of complete Queensland with 2000-3000 mm per year. Therefore all creeks were full of water and even the plains were easily flooded.
Friday early morning 1 hour before sunrise I woke up and rode with my bicycle to the start of hiking trail to “The Forts”. The trail was much better than I expected. I passed several old remains from the Fort which was built during WWII, as protection side for Townsville against Japanese attacks. The highest point is the Command Post or signal point. The roof of the old concrete building enables a 300° view from the Cleveland Bay via Cape Cleveland at the south to the East and further up to the North to the Palm island group, which is about 50 km away. Due to the few clouds the colours during sunrise were just nice. I stayed there for about half an hour before I continued slowly going down. On the way I saw a wild koala crossing the trail. I stood away and was watching him. Once he saw me he escaped onto a tree. I watched him for a while. After returning to the hostel and checking out, I rode back to Nelly Bay to return my bicycle. In the end it wasn’t really worth having a bike, except for the purpose of having some physical excerise, as all the points can also be reached by a short walk from the next bus stop. On the way back I got off the bus again at The Forts, but now I was heading down to Arthur Bay, which is only a 15 min walk. This is another sheltered Bay with a small coral area in the northern part. I should have better invested the money in renting snorkel gear from the hostel, instead into a bicycle. But contrary to that, two people told me that the visibility wasn’t great due to the recent rainfalls. So I decided not to waste another 20$. I returned in the afternoon to the hostel. It was pretty hot during the day, and the walk back already made me sweat again. After having a shower and an early dinner I took my large backpack and started hiking to Balding Bay. This sheltered bay is less than 2 km away, but you need to pass a short climb of about 80 m altitute. The trail is well marked and easy to go, but as a thunderstorm was approaching I hurried up a bit (not too much, as I had 25 kg of additional mass with me…so I pulled at the earth, but also the earth at me. You know gravity is about equality 😅). Once I was at the bay, I was completely sweated, even as it was already after sunset, but humidity is also high during the rainy season. I hurried up, pitching up my tent due to the thunderstorm but also due to the mosquitoes around me.
Thursday morning Jarrah dropped me off at the ferry terminal, so I could easily catch the second ferry of the day to Magnetic island. On Magnetic island there is a regularly bus service (at least once an hour) from Picnic bay via Nelly Bay, where the ferries arriving, to Horseshoe Bay, where my hostel was. So I took the bus to Horseshoe bay. Check-in was for sure not yet possible. Also there was no option for renting a bicycle. Hence, I took the bus back to Nelly Bay and rented there a bicycle for 24 hours. The bike was alright and with the narrow tires also pretty fast, especially downhill the hilly streets of MI. So I rode via Picnic bay to Cockle Bay. From there you could spot the wreck of the former S.S. City of Adelaide, which is now an artifical island and just a few hundred metres offshore. But it was high tide and the water was, probably due to all the rain fall the days before, pretty muddy. So I just had a rest in the shade at the beach, and didn’t go for a swim to the wreck. On my way back I had a snack in the shade at Picnic bay, as the sun was shining pretty hard all day long. At least until early afternoon. Once I arrived at Alma Bay which is in Arcadia, a small afternoon thunderstorm passed by. Nevertheless I decided to go for a swim, as the water in the bay was pretty flat. I’ve had never such a nice and calm swim in the Pacific Ocean at the East Coast in Australia. But also here the water quality wasn’t that good, as the creek was pouring all the debris into the bay. After the rain passed I rode up to the Petersen Creek, or Petersen Falls. Well the waterfall is nothing special, but due to the rainfall there was a nice pool to splash and relax in. It’s freshwater without the fear of box jellyfish or salties 😆. I continued to ride the road further uphill and ended up at the Arcadia lookout, which gave me a pretty view over the bays of Arcadia and in the background to townsvielle shortly before sunset. Unfortunately, all the mosquitoes were out and about, so I decided to leave quickly and ride over the hill back to Horseshoe bay.
Wednesday morning Jarrah dropped me off at the Marina, where I embarked the Adrenalin boat. After about 3 hours of sailing in choppy waters, we arrived at the wreck of the S.S. Yongala. This ship sunk in a cyclone category 5 in 1911, and all 122 lives were lost. It was almost forgotten and just detected after WWII in the process of clearing of water mines, which was not before 1958. And due to the remoteness and lack of precise GPS coordination system, it was even afterwards hard to find in the middle of an ocean. The wreck site is in the middle of the East Australian current. Hence, the current is pretty strong and if you don’t hold yourself at the ascent and decent line, you’ll may end up in Tasmania. That said, the diving conditions were a bit challenging, despite that my experience is still limited in that topic. Nevertheless, with my dive instructor, I needed one as we dove deeper than 18m, which I’m licensed to, we were even able to complete circumfent the wreck. At the front there was a large Queensland grouper. It was large, but not yet huge. On the hull the current was pretty strong, and after just a few minutes we were back mid ship, where a swarm of trevally was waiting for lunch. Having past several soft corals on the hull, we went back to the lee side to escape a bit the current. During the second dive, I was more used to the strong current and had still a lot of air, but my dive buddy was running low on air, so we needed to already turn around mid ship. When we did this a large bull ray, probably two metres span, was hanging around the ascent line. Our dive master made us aware of that. I got a new dive buddy and could stay below for a few more minutes, but there was not too much to see around then. In the end, as the dive was advertised as one of the top ten wreck dives in the world, and also as the best dive of Australia, I was thinking afterwards: Well, that’s all you’ve to offer, nothing more? Maybe I’m a bit spoiled after swimming with whales and dolphins in Mo’orea, snorkeling with 9(!) large manta rays in Maupiti, and see the colourful corals together with sting rays and the lemon sharks in the deep blue water at the outer reef of Bora Bora. I’ve never seen something before, and also not afterwards.
In the afternoon we arrived back in Townsville. Jarrah picked me up, and as it stopped raining, we grabbed our climbing gear and went to castle hill for a multi-pitch rock climb. It was the first outdoor climb for Jarrah since a couple of months, and for me for almost a year since I left Tonsai. Furthermore, it was my first multi-pitch since two years (the last one was an ice climb at a waterfall in Tyrolea) and the last multi-pitch in rock since 2.5 years. I wasn’t doing too good in the first pitch, which I was seconding, as I had no experience with that kind of rock. It’s quite different to limestone, it’s similar to granite. Hence, you only have a few crimps and slopers for your hands, but the rock is not getting slippery as limestone sometimes does. So I was leading the second pitch, which was only graded as 16. I started at the first quick draw with an aid move (A0), but safety first, as some patches were still a bit wet. After the third quick draw, and a short traverse over some water, the slope wasn’t that steep anymore, and I started to read the rock much better. After several breaks I successfully finished that pitch. The last pitch was rated 19 and the hardest. Depending on the conversion scheme it’s something like 6a+ (French) or VI+ (UIAA), but for me it felt more like at least 6b. It wasn’t physically hard, as it wasn’t overhanging, but if you don’t know how to set your feet, you might stuck in the middle of the route. Additionally I forgot my chalk bag, not a good idea, if you’re completely sweated. So Jarrah gave me his, but then he struggled as everything got pretty wet and slippery. In the end he also used some aid (A0) to make his way up. I did finally the same, as I really was out of idea, how to position myself for some moves. In the end it was a very nice experience to have done again a multi-pitch after such a long time.