Next up was Townsville (obviously named by someone devoid of all imagination). It was Sunday and most shops were closed up. The main drag was typical Oz with shop fronts reminiscent of the Wild West – with verandas and awnings and some street art and murals. The natives were extremely friendly.
We wandered the waterfront promenade spotting lorikeets and black cockatoos, sculptures, and sprawling fig trees with dangling roots and branches, and stared at the empty cool sparkling sea bedecked with warnings about death from stingers. It looked so alluring with empty yellow sand and cool sparkling water, like a tantalising mirage.
It was apparent that the sea was a death trap. Not only were the crystal clear waters inviting but they were also deadly. Below their surface lurked a millions deadly creatures with fangs and venom and stings all waiting to pounce. Even the sand was duplicitous. One step onto it and you were bombardment with sufficient UV to set up a dozen melanomas. There were signs about that too. We settled for a pleasant stroll in the shade and torpid heat with cooling breaks for iced coffee and beer.
Bearing in mind our experience at Hamilton we scaled the mountain (well 12 metres short of a real mountain) but this time in a shared taxi, which was a lot less strenuous, to see the great views over the sprawling city and out towards Magnetic Island (so named because Captain Cook’s compasses all went haywire when they sailed close – a feat that nobody else has been able to repeat) on one side and the mountains on the other.
Then it was a stroll through the botanical gardens with incredible birds, one with vivid blue markings, and great trees and plants, before heading back to the seafront for a last beer and hopping back on board.
It was a bit like being in suspended animation. I did not feel that the trip had really got going yet – not until we’d finally cleared the shores of Oz and were heading out into less familiar places. Townsville was fine but nothing outstanding.