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Hostels, Horchatas, and Harrowing Hikes

Grab a seat, get some snacks, and make sure you’re comfy, ’cause this is gonna be a long blog. Unfortunately, I am not comfy, because I’ve been sitting at this picnic table for about two hours, probably longer. That’s because I have two 2500 word papers due on Friday, May 6th . . . and I have a final exam the same day. Hence, this bench outside the library is my friend.

But onto the good stuff. Over Easter Break I was at (drum roll) Magnetic Island! It’s known as Maggie Island to the locals, so that’s what I’ll call it. I’ll start by saying that the trip was not at all what I expected. In fact, on the lengthy bus ride down to Townsville, I was constantly thinking, “This could really, really suck. I hope it doesn’t suck.” I was thinking this for several reasons, though I’ll list the major ones. First, one of my friends who I’d planned on coming with couldn’t come because there wasn’t space on the trip. And there wasn’t space on the trip because of reason number two: the rest of the people on the trip were about forty foreign students who had come here to learn English. None of their first languages was English. My friend Katie was taking the train down there, so she wasn’t on the bus with me, and I was worried I’d be stuck doing stuff with the program group, instead of getting to frolic around the island as I pleased. Plus, it was a long day of travel, and I was in pretty much a bum mood.

But the trip didn’t suck, and those foreigners had a good part in it.

Whenever I wasn’t hanging out with Katie (I’ll get back to what we did later on), I was hanging out with people like Min from South Korea, who had been studying in Christchurch until the earthquake, and then she’d had to come to Australia. Or Aki (I never did find out how to spell his name) and Hatsumi from Japan, who were about ten years apart in age difference, but who both called me “teacher” because I spent a lot of time teaching then how to pronounce words or telling them the meanings. And then I learned about all the different parts of Switzerland, because there’s apparently four parts, and now I’ve met people from the French and German parts. And met guys with names like Viktor and Donovan. And the forty year old guy whose name I never really figured out, but who I think is French…And since I was the only native English speaker (apart from Australian Stu, but he doesn’t really count), and also the only American person many of these people had ever met, I was asked a lot of questions about language and culture and stuff. Some evenings I’d spend an hour or more trying to help Hatsumi learn how to say words like “learn,” which she still can’t say, because there are certain sounds that just aren’t part of the Japanese language. In teaching them how to speak, I learned a lot about what sounds are difficult to make and why, and I had to find ways to convey that to them. To get Hatsumi to say the “L” sound, I literally had to make her stick her tongue out between her teeth, otherwise she’d revert to this other sound that sounded absolutely wrong.

In short, my nickname fit. I was a teacher, and it felt kind of cool.

And then I’d spend some evenings chatting with the German girl and the other Korean girls, and we’d talk about the differences in education (by the way, never study in Korea), and differences in culture. I just felt very involved, like I was actually interacting with different parts of the world. I mean, Australia’s different and everything, but these people were of all different ages, all trying to learn English, and all coming from different parts of the world. Aki taught me how to say “My name is Allie” in English, and also a few other words. I now know that in Germany, students go to different schools based on their intelligence. I know that the seven hours I spent a day at high school is nothing compared to the eleven hours South Koreans spent, six days a week, with no extra curriculars.

So I learned a lot. I feel so . . . cultured. And I like it. If not for anything else, the trip was worth it for that.

Now onto what I did besides playing English tutor. The island had tons of bays, some of which were only accessible by foot, but some by the bus. We stayed at Alma Bay, which had the little village (though I’m not sure it could be called that), with the breakfast cafe and gift shop. The hostel we stayed at was called the Magnums, and I was in a room with ten other women . . . and one bathroom. I practically cried for joy when I got home and saw my own personal bathroom, so neat and tidy, without any permanent layer of water on the counter and floor. Though I wasn’t expecting a hostel to be the Ritz anyway. Hostels are supposed to be cheap, not clean. We fed some of the rock wallabies by Geoffrey Bay that first night, which is right across from the Magnums, and the hostel even gave us some complimentary wallaby food. I’ve learned that the Japanese are very gullible, if not because Hatsumi believed Stu when he said we fed the wallabies and then ate them, then for the countless other times when Hatsumi and Aki believed whatever they heard.

Day two, Katie and I took the bus to Horseshoe bay, laid on the beach a bit, ate at Noodies (a great mexican place with a surprisingly nice coffee shop inside) where I had a horchata: possibly the greatest drink ever. I got it because it had the same name as Vampire Weekend’s latest album, and I was thinking, “Wait, this is a drink?” And it was great. I’d go back to Magnetic Island just for the drink. We were planning on doing the Forts Koala Walking Trail later that day, but after going kayaking to look for sea turtles (didn’t see any), we were too tired. I think we just laid on the beach for the rest of the day. That night was live music at the Magnums: the singer was Scottish, which was the only positive thing I can say about his performance other than he played the guitar well. Guitar=good. Vocals=bad. Accent=wonderful. We all agreed that we would’ve preferred for him to chat with us instead of singing.

The next day was the long, long hike. I’d say there was a pretty decent chance I could’ve died on it, or at least gone to the hospital, but I’ll get to that. Katie and I started the Forts Walking Trail, which led to some great views and old WWII hideouts built into the mountains. We saw two koalas, which was awesome. After taking some good pics, we got back to the bottom of the trail, and decided to hike to Horseshoe Bay. We were close to Arthur Bay, and looking at the map, it looked pretty decent. And it was a really good walk . . . right up until we ran out of water.

I guess Australians have the water-storing capabilities of camels, or else the trail managers at Maggie Island hope to kill off their visitors on these hikes, because there was no water anywhere. And you know what? We were on roads the bus route didn’t cover. That Australian pick-up-hitchhikers hospitality I’d heard so much about doesn’t transfer to Maggie Island, either. Half-way through the walk, Katie ran out of the last of her water, and I’d ran out of mine ages before. Uphill…in the sun…stopping at bay after bay looking for a water fountain, only to find at Florence Bay that the water in the bathroom isn’t “suitable for drinking.”

Damn you, Florence Bay!

But seriously, thinks were looking pretty bleak toward the last portion of the hike. We’d finally found a sign pointing to Horseshoe Bay, and started the hike. Entirely up a mountain. We were stopping pretty frequently, the sun was still scorching, and I was licking my lips every few seconds or so at that point. I was dizzy, my muscles weren’t working properly, and I had a feeling my legs would give way at any minute. Now I know how castaways feel.

Long story short-ish, we made it. I was kind of slap-happy at that point, and the walk across the beach to Noodies felt like it took an hour. When we were finally given water, my hands were shaking and I couldn’t drink it properly. I also ordered a strawberry daiquiri and a horchata. The last horchata had just been given to the person in front of me, a fact that I would’ve been more disappointed about if I weren’t dying of dehydration.

So that was my lunch. Two jugs of water, a daiquiri, and a milkshake: my replacement for the horchata. Once I was fully-functioning again, Katie and I hung out at Picnic Bay, and watched the sunset from the rocks.

And then that night I watched a Maggie Island tradition that I plan on bringing to the states: toad racing. Seriously, it should be a classic. Everyone was in this huge circle outside the bar, and the announcer had the best Australian accent, and he’d pull out each cane toad one by one and describe them to everyone. They all had ribbons tied around them, with names like Baby Toad, Purple People Eater, Yellow Rose of Texas, Red Devil, etc. Then he’d set them on the ground so people could see how fast they hopped, and people would start shouting out their bids. And people of all ages bid in the auction. The first winner was this teenager who’d paid 50 bucks for his toad. If you win your auction, you get the toad for that round. If your toad wins, you get the pot of what everyone paid for their toad. So each race, eight people had money in, and the pot got close to four hundred bucks most of the time. During the last round, the man behind me had bought a toad, and his wife ended up getting the Purple People Eater for 65 bucks. It was great, hearing all these people outbidding each other for a frog.

The next morning was the ceremonial Anzac Day service on Alma Bay at 5 in the morning. The service was really nice, and I got to watch the sunrise from the bay. So I got to see the sunset and rise within a span of a day.

As it turns out, islands are great for relaxing…and that’s about it. I was really bored most of the last day, since you can only lie on a beach for so long before you worry about getting skin cancer. But I found that, when in doubt, buy some gelato and go feed the rock wallabies. They’re always adorable, and the gelato is always good.

So, all in all, the trip was a success.

Now I’m back at school, insanely grateful to have my flat and bike and fridge and all the other wonderful things I missed. And while I was on the island, I was thinking, “Hey, I miss home.” And home was Cairns, not VT. The reunion moment I had with my flat is probably a more subdued version of what I’ll feel when I go home home, but for now, I’m just showing my love for my flat by buying some veggies and looking up recipes so I can use the kitchen to its full advantage.

Living mostly on yogurt and bread for five days isn’t all it’s cracked out to be.

Run Run Run As Fast As You Can (List of Things to Stay Away From and/or Avoid)

1. Running Out Of Water (For the love of god, bring extra, bring an entire cooler if you have to. Otherwise, you’ll die. Just sayin’.)

Check It Out! (Yadda Yadda Yadda)

1. Rock Wallabies (Very skittish, but very cute and fun to feed. They only come out when it’s quiet, so make sure to give the tourists that drive up on their noisy vespas dirty looks.)

2. Forts Walking Trail (Gotta love those koalas.)

3. Horchatas (I still don’t know what’s in it, but it’s the greatest milkshake you’ll ever have. If it’s even a milkshake…)


Find more photos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University


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