The train pulled into the new Townsville station at around 10:15. In case you’re using an old map, this is about 500m further out of the town to the west than the “proper” station. While walking into the city, I passed the old station which looks like a traditional British one. Fairly recently, I think, this was closed and the trains now only stop at the new station. It’s hard to tell, but I think the travel centre still operates at the old one.
Tourist information in the mall pointed me in the direction of the backpacker area, which is essentially South Townsville. The first hostel I spotted was the one built over the bus terminal and it turned out to be the same price ($22) as everywhere else. No need to walk any further, so I checked in.
It’s OK. All the rooms are airconned and have a fridge. Mine even has a telly. I’m sharing with a Korean guy and one other person I’ve not seen yet. The reception also deal with bus tickets so I checked the Cairns prices – around $50. The bus departs at 2pm and gets in after 7pm. The train also runs on a Sunday, takes 6 hours and costs a shade under $100.
So tomorrow I’m hitching. There’s a public bus I can take to more or less where the highway starts and I’ll thumb it from there. It’s only a 3Â½ hour drive, after all. I may as well aim to get to Cairns in the early afternoon than depart from Townsville at that time.
Right, I’m off for a walk up the hill (which apparently is only metres short of being classified as a mountain) and a stroll along the beach.
[later that day…]
I decided to start things off with a visit to the library to see if I could check any maps out. Only it closed at midday on a Saturday. So scratch that plan.
Instead I walked directly to Castle Hill and started up the “Goat Track”, a pretty steep climb up the side. It’s hard going, but not impossible. Water is definitely recommended – you can refill your bottle at the top. Partway up, the track splits. Stick on the Goat Trail until you reach the road at the top. The summit’s just around the corner. On the way down, follow the other route to be taken more toward the northern side of the hill.
The view from the top’s quite pleasant and you can see virtually the entire city from up there. The most impressive view, obviously, is out to sea. Magnetic Island is clearly visible only 8km off the coast.
Sweaty and hungry, I hopped down to ground level and through the Queen’s Park to Red Rooster where I picked up a burger. In a small shady spot just off the Strand, I munched on unhealthy food and read some more of my book.
I then walked the entire length of the Strand, starting at Kissing Point. This is the northernmost end and still has some military significance if the fences and “do not enter” signs are anything to go by. There’s an artifcial lagoon which is filled with seawater and about the safest place to swim between November and May when the jellyfish are in abundance. It’s sealed off from the sea and the water is replaced every three hours by a continuing pump system.
Further down the coastline are a couple of “stinger nets”. These are inflatable tubes with nets hanging off them. The idea being that the water within these nets is stinger-free and (hopefully) stays that way – although they’re not 100% safe. Canisters labelled “VINEGAR” are dotted along the coast where you’d normally expect to see flotation devices, along with instructions on how to deal with sting victims.
Typically Australian – Queensland in particular – is that it’s a beautiful place but there are natural dangers everywhere.
Again, I paused to read a book for a while before ambling further down towards the southern point and back to the hostel. Nobody was up for a night out, so I picked up a 6-pack from the local bottle shop and sat and watched films on the large projector telly. I had a good natter with a couple of Kiwis and a guy from London, then collapsed in bed just before midnight. I don’t think I slept as well on the train as I thought I had.