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ReportsFriday, 10 May 2002
Mackay --> Hamilton Island, Australia From Mackay I travelled up the coast again and from Airlie Beach I got to my 4th Australian island: Hamilton Island. Here I was invited by Chris and Marilyn Roche, who both work on the island's resort. It is like a kind of Jurrassic Park island, only without the dinosaurs but with the funny cars.
Lara Payne helped me out with some breakfast this morning, before I left her place, heading up north again. It was around noon when she dropped me off on the Highway and I thanked her for the night out yesterday (however me mostly walked around finding empty clubs or dull pubs) and for letting me stay at her place.
I didn’t take long to get a lift to my destination town for today: Airlie Beach. An Australian couple was also going all the way to Airlie Beach (some 130km up north the east coast).
The couple has been travelling the world themselves, for the last 8 years (!) and were now doing their Australian road trip to find out where they will be settling for the rest of their life.
Some three hours later I arrived in Airlie Beach and was dropped off at a taxi stand near a long row of payphone booths. At every phone there was somebody aged 17-25 and talking in a British accent. I was in another backpacker’s resort town!
Airlie Beach is known by most backpackers as a place to party or relax a couple of days before taking off to explore the neighbouring Whitsunday Islands. It’s a small, lively town, which nurtures a party reputation, as I could see from all the announcement banners of the local nightlife clubs (‘Foam party at Magnums!’).
Geologically the Whitsunday Islands are all drowned mountains. Prior to the last Ice Age they were connected to the mainland and would have all been prominent mountains in the area. The melting of the polar caps drowned the valleys between the mountains creating a network of 74 islands. Seven of these islands now have resort facilities. Beyond the resorts the whole area is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the uninhabited islands are all controlled by the National Parks and Wildlife.
The late Captain James Cook travelled through the area on his journey up the eastern coast of Australia in 1770. He passed through Whitsunday Passage, a narrow channel which lies between the mainland coast and all the islands, on Sunday 4th June - which happened to be White Sunday (the seventh Sunday after Easter) hence the name of the area.
On the main street of Airlie, Shute Harbour Road, I met up with Marilyn Vaillant-Roche (married with Chris Roche) who had invited me to stay with them on Hamilton Island today.
Another island?! I hope things go well with me this time ;-)
But this weekend Marilyn had her parents from France visiting over. And as she has not seen them in quite a while, she’d stay with them in Airlie Beach today and she had arranged an apartment for the whole family on Hamilton Island from tomorrow on. This all was good for me, as I could stay at their own staff apartment on the island for the whole weekend!
Yes, indeed, staff apartment. Because Marilyn and Chris both work on Hamilton Island. Marilyn is the big accountant and spends most of her working time in a small office counting all the money made on this island. And her husband Chris is the assistant manager of the island’s security – almost the local police.
The island is situated in the heart of the Whitsundays and is one of 74 tropical islands that lie between the Queensland Coast and The Great Barrier Reef.
As Marilyn was going to stay in Airlie Beach, she paid for my ferry to the island and around 5pm I arrived on the beautiful Hammy where I met up with Chris Roche.
He was happy to meet up with me, as he had been following me on this website for quite a while. Christ showed me around in a little buggy (the main transport on this island, just like a golf kart) and Chris showed me the ‘town’ (with its marina, restaurants, pubs and souvenir shops), ‘the resort’ on the island (the hotel tower, the apartment buildings, the cabins and the 5-star beach shelters) and the ‘staff accommodations’ (where everybody lives who works somewhere on the island).
It is strange to imagine that I was actually in a big kind of ‘Jurassic Park’, except without any dinosaurs. It is a factory, based on the tourist who visit this place and the staff who serve them with honour.
I have not seen something like this before, especially not with over 2,000 heads of personnel for all the guests.
Chris let me drive the buggy and I enjoyed the surrounding view onto the other islands as the sun went down and it was dark immediately. At the Island Bar (in the middle of a tropical pool in the resort) we drunk a beer and Chris told me all kinds of fascinating stories that happened on his duty as a security officer on the island. Mix that with all kinds of love affairs among the personnel, tragedies and some heart-warming events and you have yourselves a soap series for TV!
After I dropped my stuff at their small apartment with a kitchen and bathroom, a living room and a bedroom (indeed very small), Chris took me out for the night. First we had dinner at the Mackay Café in town, then we drank a few beers at the Yacht Club and moved on to the Boheme's Bar and Night Club around midnight.
It was a fascinating night, where I met loads of people (who –strangely enough- all new me from TV or the radio) and listened to lots of stories from Chris' job. It seems to be great to be a security officer on this island. Things happen all the time and I hope Chris will once write a book about this job.
In the Boheme’s Night Club I was suddenly introduced to the deejay, who told me to play a few songs. I was like: “What? Now?” and he hopped away from his wheels of steel and went to get a drink. “Go ahead!”, he said.
So suddenly I was there selecting and mixing in the songs that filled up the dancefloor and probably made some 200 people dance to my music. That was intriguing! However after half an hour I really had to break off, because I am just not that used to it any more. I did it entire nights before starting this project, but that was when I was very much involved in the latest music and I knew my own collection.
As it was Friday, it was even pay-day for most of the staff workers, so that made it even busier in the club later this night.
The rest of the night I enjoyed the dance, the free drinks that Chris kept on giving me, and the atmosphere of this island club.
I guess we struggled up and down the hills back home again around 4 am in the morning, as you are not allowed to drive a buggy after 1am. If Chris would drive one, he –as a security officer- has to write himself a ticket, haha.
Oh. There comes the hangover! Good morning Hammy!