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Reports

Tuesday, 4 June 2002
Mission Beach --> Bingal Bay, Australia

Today's fishing trip with Malcolm Hill didn't really work out as it was planned, however I can say that I have done some little white-water rafting with the charter boat. I also moved on to a next place today, the Treehouse Hostel in Bingal Bay. Beautifully surrounded by a jungle, but inhabited by guests who seem to be on magic carpet rides. Although, most of them....



After a good night of sleep at the Hill family in Mission Beach, I woke up and had myself a corn flakes breakfast. Dawn ran around, getting ready for her part-time job as a house cleaner and Malcolm was preparing all the stuff to take along on the boat. We were going on a fishing trip!

We left around 11am in the morning. Fully packed, insect repellent on, sunscreen on, sunglasses on, radio on: ready!

Malcolm drove me out of Mission Beach, back south on the highway, where we passed the quiet little sugarcane mill city Tully (where strange things seem to happen), all the way to the Murray River (the Queensland one, not that long one that is one of the longest rivers in the world, which crosses three Australian states).

Then he lowered the boat into the water of that tropical tidal river and we got on board. Within minutes we were navigating the quiet water through a real tropical forest. It was so unbelievable green, which even hurt with my sunglasses. It was however fascinating. Suddenly we were way out in real nature, the only sounds we heard were from birds and other animals here.

And then the outboard engine turned itself off. Hey? What? There we were, in the middle of a rainforest on a tidal river and the engine bailed out on us. Malcolm was very surprised, as he bought a new engine last week and this was his third trip with it.

He couldn’t get it started again and it had to do with the gear-shaft or something. All the gears were out of reach, he explained.

There was nothing else to do now than paddle back to the boat ramp and get the boat out of the water again. And we even had to hurry a bit, because as this was a tidal river, the tide was going to change soon and then we’d be stuck somewhere up the river for some eight hours.

Malcolm really felt sorry about this. He wanted to take me out fishing and let me catch some barramundi fish and now this happened! He also wasn’t that happy about the company who sold him the engine last week, this shouldn’t be right. He was going to make some heavy complains later today.

So, we peddled back (pretty hard with small peddles and such a big charter boat), got the boat back on the trailer and moved up to Mission Beach again.

Time had gone passed as I stayed at their home again, watched the over-excited kids to return home from school and see Malcolm run around to get his boat engine fixed. Of course, if charter fishing is your profession, you can’t really go around without a boat. What if he had six people on board who paid for a full day of fishing? He was lucky he had only me on board; I could come back any time later the coming weeks. But later this week he had paying customers again…

But I had to go again, I had a new place to stay for the rest of the day and Malcolm drove me to the Treehouse Hostel in Bingal Bay, just a few kilometres north of Mission Beach. Here I met up with the young manager Pat and a lady named Muriel showed me around this place.

This place wasn’t really a treehouse, it was more a king-sized Queenslander house in the middle of a rainforest. The ground floor had the facilities like bathrooms, laundry, phones and in the big stretched back garden there was a nice swimming pool. The first floor was the main area of the hostel, with a communal kitchen on one side and a living room area on the other side. The rooms and dormitories were in the wings of the building.

Manager Pat had invited me through email: “Yes, you can stay for a day,” he had written after he heard about my project by email. I thanked Malcolm for his hospitality and loaded my stuff to my dorm room. I had another few walks around and it all looked pretty nice. Buddha statues were dotted all over the place and the living room area had mainly pillows on the floor.

And it was quite busy. On the outside veranda an all-you-can-eat-BBQ was being prepared and people were looking hungry towards this dinner. Pat handed me a Victoria Bitter beer and a ticket for tonight’s barbie.

Dinner was good, I had a few sausages and hamburgers and plenty of salads. But someway things were a bit strange around here. Let me simply say, the place was a bit hippified.

Most of the people just did their thing: read books, had conversations or listened to the loud music that was played all night, but a big part of the guests seemed to be on a journey. They were not only backpacking Australia, but also they were on those magic carpet rides, flying over the surrounding jungle, while their bodies stayed at their current position in the Treehouse. They weren’t really there with their heads, if I can say that to make the situation even more obvious.

For the rest it was a cool place, however I think it’s a pity to have a public stereo on a high volume until 11pm (that’s a rule), while you are surrounded by some magnificent natural environment. Honestly, if you had just dropped me there and I had to guess where I was, while the German rap-funk-music of “Die Fantastischen Vier” blasted out of the speakers, nothing would tell me I was in the jungle of Bingal Bay.

Therefore it wasn’t surprising I was already in my dorm bed before 10pm, as there wasn’t much else to do or see around the place. And I wasn’t the only one; my roommates thought the same thing as we found out we could perfectly socialize in a dorm, where the music wasn’t that loud. Hey – you could even manage to read a book.

And there came the stories of fellow travellers, who had been here and there and who were sharing their do’s and don’ts with each other. It occurred to me how fast most of the backpackers I meet move through Australia. Within three or six months they climb up the east coast of the country, spent over 20 hours in a bus and make jumps of over 300km. It’s mostly Sydney, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise, Brisbane, Fraser Island and Cairns, which is on their list of places to visit – hand in hand with the Lonely Planet guide. Some think it even is a pity that the buses make overnight stops in dull places as Bundaberg, Mackay or Townsville, because it only takes time and it costs you another hostel to stay at.

I just wished more people would just see a bit more than what is exactly described in those thick paperback guidebooks. I mean: Magnetic Island is not even mentioned in it and it was paradisaical to me!

Good night Bingal Bay!

Ramon.