Arriving in Mackay at 4:30am, we gathered all our things and slowly made our way off the bus. The driver was having a break here so they hung around for a while and he told us how drunk the lorikeets met as well as how one of the girls about to board the bus, worked in a topless bar. That was quite interesting. Not long after, everyone climbed back on with their early morning snacks, the doors were slammed shut and off they zoomed away. Hmmm. Now what could we do?
For a while we sat on the bench at the bus stop, quietly appreciating how silent it was and watching the bats fly over whilst the sun came up. It was really nice to be somewhere to see it, only spoilt slightly by the occasional car or truck arriving at the petrol station behind us. Luckily we’d managed to grab a few hours sleep in our spacious seats at the back of the bus so we weren’t suffering with sleep deprivation too much. It would have been nice to have had somewhere to go straight away though. After a little while listening to the buzzing of the telegraph poles and watching the last bats fly overhead, we decided to go and sit in the 24 hour cafe to while away some time and perhaps find something yummy as well. We both ordered toasties, chicken and cheese for me and bacon and egg for Codie, as well as chips because we were absolutely starving. They were surprisingly nice and filling to the point where it was a struggle to finish what we initially thought was quite a stingy portion of chips. One thing I am struggling with in Australia and will definitely appreciate more back home, is the lack of ‘proper’ homemade chips. They all seem to be some sort of McCain product fried and, whilst I love a McCain chip, they’re just not the same as chopped up, hand made ones.
We dragged out sitting in the cafe for as long as we could before deciding to take our time walking to the hostel, the Gecko’s Rest, just down the road. As expected, despite having a few bench stops to relieve the pain of the heavy bags, it took us barely any time and at 6:30am we flopped onto a bench across the road from it. It was a long wait. Very attractively, at one stage I fell asleep with my head on the back of the bench and my mouth wide open after watching the clouds drifting past. Not the best but perhaps when I can’t sleep, cloud watching is now the way forward. Due to it being Sunday morning, nothing was really open either so we passed some time watching a number of people driving up, getting out of their cars and then getting really annoyed that a certain coffee shop wasn’t open and leaving abruptly. I suppose that was quite entertaining though I did quite wish it was open for more tasty things. At one point, a french guy turned up wondering when the hostel opened and proceeded to wait with us until 8 when it did. He didn’t seem to believe me when I said 8 and had to check for himself which seemed a little be ridiculous; if we had a place to go, would be really be sitting outside on a bench with all our things?
8am finally rolled around and we lugged our things across the road and into the longest corridor ever. From the outside it looked as though the hostel was right there but you actually had to walk 20 metres if not further to reach reception. The french guy checked in first and was told he had to wait to go to his room as they understandably hadn’t been cleaned yet. I was really hoping that as we were in a double room rather than a dorm, ours would be ready and it was. Hooray! Whilst Codie had been checking in, I’d been frantically gathering supplies together in case we had to wait but we didn’t and now I just had an extra bag to carry. Oops. My first impressions of the hostel were that it was alright for a few nights stay; it certainly wasn’t as dirty and dingy as people had made out on Trip Advisor (you obviously have to check) and it seemed quite spacious really. Having said that, our room was quite odd in that there were no windows other than two frosted glass skylights right above the bed and it had a weird smell to begin with. Nothing we couldn’t cope with though and I’m sure we’ll stay in worse places!
I led on the bed, fully intending to just stretch my back after carrying the bags upstairs…and woke up at 12. Codie had woken up at 11am but I apparently refused to get up so we just went back to sleep for a bit instead. To be fair we did need it after our day of waiting and rather uncomfortable bus sleep. At one point on the bus, Codie had fallen asleep and swung over cracking our heads together so it wasn’t the highest quality nap in the world! Feeling a little more awake after this rest and the air con now being on once the remote had been found, we changed into our swimming things and set off in search of the free swimming pool I’d read about in my guide book.
I quite enjoyed the walk there as it gave us the chance to see a little bit more of Mackay and realise that it was a lot like Agnes Water in that there wasn’t too much to do. I think the fact that the Gecko’s Rest is the only hostel in the town should have been the biggest hint but in an odd way, I do like having a look in places you wouldn’t normally choose to go. Surely that’s what travelling is about? We wandered down a path by the river to reach the pool and saw lots of terns and other birds hovering around, presumably picking off tasty fish snacks. The ground was decorated with lots of bronze animals like sharks and turtles and though I wanted to get a photo of them, I couldn’t because I’d almost be knocked over by a too-fast cyclist. Grrrr. When we finally got to the pool, I was really looking forward to going in for a swim as it was now so unbelievably hot and burn-y. It was no wonder really as there was a sign saying that the UV levels were extreme which meant you burnt in about 6 minutes. Good job we’d covered ourselves in sun lotion! There was another sign with the usual pool rules but this one came with a snake warning too which was quite cool. I’d really like to see a snake and a pool seems quite a cool place to spot one.
We spent a little while swimming around the pool, watching a girl unable to climb out at the side and a guy jump in a bust his nose open. Perhaps not the best swim in the world but the pool itself was lovely and the fact it’s free and hasn’t been destroyed is amazing. It was then that we realised that we were burning a bit so got out to dry and cover ourselves in more lotion. Whilst we were drying, I watched the swallows swimming the water’s surface, narrowly avoiding swimmers and wondered how much damage the saltwater and chlorine must do to them and hoping not much. There was no sign of snakes though the moon had popped out which I found quite weird. It’s night time at home and day time here and yet the moon is here in the middle of the sky so I could look at it here and people in the UK could see it too. All very odd.
Once we were dry, we decided we were actually quite hungry and so headed off to see how overpriced the cafe was and were pleasantly surprised. This may have been because we were only charged for one portion of chicken nuggets and chips when we actually ordered two but it was great. So much food that didn’t actually taste rubbish We also managed to log on to the free wifi and book the Greyhound bus for tomorrow to go to Airlie Beach. That’s what’s so great about the kilometre passes, you can just leave when you’ve had enough. Mackay is alright and the blue lagoon is lovely but I’m not sure we’d get much out of staying another day and I’d much rather move on to somewhere else. The bus leaves at 7:05am though so we’ll have to have an early night!
Following our food, we headed back along the path watching planes fly overhead and the birds in the river. I managed to get a photo of a bronze coloured turtle on the floor this time just so I’d remember what it all looked like. As we crossed the road back onto the main street, I realised that Mackay reminds me a lot of an old western town from a film. Everything seemed to be wooden like the huge wooden signs sticking out above shop windows and even parts of buildings. It was still quite deserted which also made it seem as though everyone had disappeared inside to escape from a quick draw fight and I quite liked it. It’s certainly a lot more interesting than the huge, built up cities cropping up everywhere now and it definitely has a lot more character. With it being sunday, nothing was really open though so we headed back inside the hostel for a shower and relax on the lovely double bed. It was about this point that we realised that despite our careful sun lotion application, Codie had still got quite burnt and I had on my back. It just shows how strong the sun’s rays are here and how much more careful we’re going to have to be in the future.
As I headed off across the hall to the showers, I wasn’t very optimistic. The showers we’ve encountered in a few places haven’t been too great though there is currently a drought so it’s probably for the best. The showers here were amazing though! There was space to hang everything so it didn’t get wet and the water was lovely, hot and powerful. Careful to be quick and not use up too much water, I enjoyed every minute of it before hopping out and going back to the room to get changed. That’s another good thing about having a double room in this hostel, it’s right across from the toilets so you can nip back to get dressed out of the humidity. It’s the simple things really. I say that, the male bathrooms were a bit further down so it wasn’t as easy for Codie. Hehehe. Once we were dressed and comfy on the bed, we focused our attention on finding a hostel to stay in once we got to Airlie Beach. It took a while as we were both getting distracted by reading various other things but in the end we settled on something called a “camp-o-tel”, a permanent teepee style thing, for $35 a night. I’m all for shaking things up and making it a bit more interesting so staying somewhere like this seems the perfect way to do so and very exciting. I can’t wait to get there now!
After all the excitement, we decided we were thirsty for something other than water and so set off on a wander around Mackay at night. It’s really very pretty at night with lots of fairy lights strung up and perfectly pruned trees around, there’s just nothing open at that time. Again, it might be because it’s Sunday and, like with many places. shops aren’t open at that time but I have a feeling that it’s simply because it’s a small town with little demand for them to be. Still, it was nice to see it in a different light. In the end, after looping around the hostel we gave up and headed back only to find that there was a shop at reception all along. We invested in a coke to share and a strawberry milk shake for Codie and then headed back to watch TV in bed and have an early night, ready for tomorrow’s early wake up. Of course there was melted white Kit Kat involved, any decent night in has this, but it was very sticky which tinged my enjoyment slightly. Damn you hot weather!
Mackay wasn’t what I was expecting but it wasn’t necessarily in a bad way, it was just different. Perhaps if it was slightly busier or there was more to do, we would be staying longer however as it is the “sugar capital of Australia”, it’s fair and understandable to say that tourism isn’t their priority. To be honest, touristy places aren’t always the best as they don’t have the culture you’d like and that’s something I’ve enjoyed about being here; people know they are in Australia.