After quite a chill-out, some relaxing, a lot of doing not very much and more kicking back than I think is normal… it comes time to leave Mt Isa.
Last night we drove up to the city lookout and ate chips. Talia and Ben also took me out to the lake, 15km or so from the centre. It’s nice out there. Very peaceful. There’s good fishing, too, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Aside from the expensive and sporadically-operating “mining experience” tourist trap, I think I’ve done everything here.
I checked my options for getting to Cairns where my $1-a-day campervan awaits. Flying can be written off on the basis that at short notice you’re looking at $500 or so. The bus was my next option. They depart each morning, take 12 hours to Townsville and that leg costs around $150. If you connect with the Cairns bus there, expect to arrive up north at around 1am and parting with an extra $80.
I’ve opted for the train. It takes 21 hours, roughly, but a seat costs $123. Sleepers of various classes are also available, but I’m not fussy. It also saves me money in accommodation and beer as I’ll be in transit overnight. As a bonus, it also means I arrive in Townsville in the mid-morning which gives me more time to explore the place.
If you decide to book a train trip, especially out of Mt Isa, the only place to get tickets from it one of the travel agents. However, the procedure is to ring Queensland Rail direct who then give you a booking number which you then take to the agency who then give you the ticket… and charge you $30 for the privilege.
However, this rigmarol can be avoided by simply paying by credit card over the phone direct to QR. They can email you a ticket or even just give you the reference number and your train seat number. Turn up on the train, quote your reference and name and the guard should have you listed. In the worst case, he can ring and confirm that you’ve paid in full. Quick, easy and around 20% cheaper!
The number (within Oz) for Queensland Rail is 132232. I dealt with Sandy who was incredibly helpful, answering my battery of questions and being a great help.
On Sunday I’ll hitch up to Cairns – it’s only a 4-hour drive so that should be easy enough. Then on Monday, I begin a 3-day drive to Darwin. I have the van for 5 days in total, but I want to get to Darwin while Katie’s off work. I am visiting her, after all!
As mentioned below, my flight to Japan is also booked. I’ve got one flight (JetStar) from Darwin to Cairns which was around $200, and another from there to Tokyo Narita which was $384. Being a budget flight, though, things like food and the entertainment centre are extra. I’m not bothering. $30 for airline grub seemed overpriced and the Air Asia X flight I caught from KL to Perth didn’t have any films that interested me anyway.
Dates: Darwin to Cairns at a stupidly early time on Wednesday 8th, then a lunchtime departure for Tokyo arriving at 6pm local time.
Then the fun begins. I am partly chomping at the bit, partly freaked about dropping myself into the Land of the Rising Sun with very little preparation.