Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 8, seeing koalas for the first time and driving a Moke!


6 November 1997, Townsville, Australia:
We went back to Cairns the day before yesterday, along some stops that felt unnecessary, at least for us, since we wanted to get back to Cairns as soon as possible. The driver was slightly strange, was humming, sighing and babbling about uninteresting stuff… But at least I won a tropical ice cream at the enormous value of AUD 3… Melbourne Cup – a horse race was on that day, and everyone on the bus got a ticket with the name of the horses participating in the race, and mine, Might & Power won. Received the ice cream in a tropical fruit farm, a typical guide-stop to get us to buy things, then onwards to Mossman Gorge where we only had 30 minutes to swim and take photos. Drove through Port Douglas, a holiday destination and a place where the well to do live, before arriving in Cairns at around 6 p.m. Got a nicer room than last time, rested there for a while before going to the Beach for free food – good deal from the hostel. Ørjan woke up yesterday morning with fever, very warm, so we went to a doctor, and Ørjan was given some antibiotics for a throat infection. Both of us also took blood tests to check for malaria – luckily negative but might apparently still be dormant in our bodies. Quite expensive – AUD 30 to see the doctor, and 35 for each of the blood tests. And of course, I nearly fainted – again… Quite a shabby looking couple who got back to the hostel a bit before check out time, asked to stay a bit longer, and got to keep the room until 12 p.m. Also got to do a bit of laundry, so a hectic morning. We both felt better after a while, and arranged a few small things, like rebooking our tickets, so we can stay for one extra week in Australia, meaning one week less in Tonga. We also booked Oz Experience from Townsville on Monday, will stay in Magnetic Island for four nights before that, and are currently on the ferry taking us there. Sent some negatives, slides, jewellery and letters for mum and gran, and picked up two new rolls of developed photos – nice pictures! Spent some time at the promenade by the sea in Cairns, watched the lovely pelicans. Had lunch at Hungry Jack’s – the equivalent of Burger King, then pizza and garlic bread for dinner – a bit much greasy stuff for one day, so didn’t feel great… Went to the cinema to watch “My best friend’s wedding” to kill some time, then went over to the Grey Hound bus station at around 11 p.m., waiting for the bus to leave at 1 a.m. We arrived in Townsville at 6 a.m., now it’s 8.45, and I’m tired. We’ve booked a room at Geoff’s in Magnetic Island – hope it’s nice, so we can stay for another three nights. Just want to get some sleep if the room is available when we get there.

Magnetic Island friend

We arrived in Townsville in the morning at 06:00 and after a quick wash in the public toilet next to the ferry terminal that had the boat to Magnetic Island. We bought ferry tickets and a night at Geoff’s Place in Horseshoe Bay for 29 dollars. The ferry took 20 minutes and we got picked up by a minibus at the dock. The place looked OK from the outside and we had booked a 4-man room, we found the “house” to be tiny with 4 beds and not much space for anything else. 4 persons plus backpacks was an impossibility. It was unclean and the toilets and showers had a foul smell. We wanted to move straight away. We asked for a discount on the room closed for 4 people, but no way we got that, rip off! We took the bus to Arcadia and got lucky on the first try, a 4-room flat, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom, it was TV, fridge, and oven. All that for just 15 dollars! There was no doubt that this was it! All we had to do was survive a night at Geoff’s or Bates place as we had dubbed it, and we could move into cheap luxury tomorrow! Geoff had two nice peacocks and a possum in the roof, best two things about the place!


7 November 1997, Arcadia Resort, Magnetic Island, Australia:
The room at Geoff’s Place was horrible! A tiny triangular cabin that was supposed to house four people. Claustrophobic, horrible, dirty, the same goes for the shower and toilet area, old and derelict, with a sleazy manager. We thought we’d stay if we’d get the room for AUD 10 per person per night, but they wanted 14. After some sleep and a walk along the beach in Horseshoe Bay, we took the courtesy bus to Arcadia and got really lucky! The first place we entered, which looked way too expensive for us, cost from AUD 4 to 15 per person. And it wasn’t just a room either, but an apartment with two bedrooms, one living room, kitchen, dining room, toilet and shower – we were over the moon, and wished we could move in straight away. But, back at Geoff’s we took use of the only nice thing there, the pool, then we had something to eat before going to bed at around 10.30 p.m. Called mum too, she had decided to pay the 700 NOK phone bill – very nice of her! Slept well last night and checked out at 9.30 a.m. this morning, the bus left at 9.45, then we got into our luxury apartment together with Pernille and Rikke, unpacked all our clothes – nice to get some control of what we’ve got after a few one-night stays. Went to the supermarket to buy some food for tonight. Ørjan and I are now taking some time out, lying in the sunbeds by one of the two pool areas, nice weather – Walkman in my ears. Have decided to relax all day – have some proper vacation. We’ve booked a moke – an open jeep-like car for tomorrow – to explore the island. Sunday we’ll either just relax again or go for some short walks – nice to have a few days in the same place, so that we don’t have to be constantly on the road.


After a night of heavy coughing, we moved to Arcadia resort. A nice place with 2 pools and we had plenty of space in the flat. We shopped some food and spent the rest of the day by the pool. In the evening I made dinner for Tanja, Rikke and Pernille and we watched Indiana Jones on TV. We also booked a Moke for tomorrow, so that we can explore the island a little.


8 November 1997, Arcadia Resort, Magnetic Island, Australia:
Strange feeling that it’s November, at home it will be wet, dark and cold, while here we are soaked with sweat. Today has been terribly hot and taking a two-kilometre hike when the sun is at its highest, not drinking enough, then you’ll get a bit faint and feel a bit unwell like I did earlier today. Anyway – we’ve had a nice day. Picked up the moke around 9.30 a.m. but were a bit disappointed to find out that we could only drive along the south and east coast, meaning the west and north coast was unavailable to us. Anyway – first we went to Picnic Bay where we arrived by ferry, then to Nelly Bay where we bought some food, then to Radical Bay and Florence Bay – a lot of unspoilt beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, there’s the danger of encountering box jellyfish, so we don’t dare swimming. Carried on to the Koala Park where we got to pet and take photos of the small, extremely cute animals who can sleep around 18 hours a day, we even saw a baby of about four months old who was in his mother’s pouch. There were also talking birds, saying things like “Hello darling”, and “You dirty old thing”, two big emus, and some kangaroos and wallabies, that we got to pet. Adorable!

Chilled out for a while at Horseshoe Bay before the girls wanted to go back for a swim at the apartment, then we went for a hike to see wild koalas, and we got to see six of them, including a mother and her baby – they are just so cute! Quite docile, they were sleeping in the trees, but some woke up and started to climb and eat a bit and we also heard some loud roars from males in the forest looking to mate. Amazing to walk around listening to all the sounds from nature, especially from all the birds, they sing and make a lot of noise. Magnetic Island has beautiful scenery, covered in forest it reminds me a bit of Norway, except from the palm trees and eucalyptus trees – there’s even rocks by the sea like where we go swimming at home. Have just eaten some very nice Ørjan-spaghetti and feeling tired. Nice to chill in the room by ourselves for a bit, too.


We picked up the Moke at 09:00 and I found it a bit peculiar to drive on the wrong side of the road for the first time. We drove to Radical Bay and Florence Bay which were both stunning. Horseshoe bay was equally as nice, and we saw koalas for the first time! I have dreamt about seeing koalas ever since I got a small stuffed koala bear (fake) from my uncle when I was a kid. Amazing! We got up close to the koalas. We visited a koala refuge and they had koalas we could pet plus kangaroos and wallabies. So cute! Lounged at the pool later. We drove on to The Forts, a second world war fort in the hills. It was a 1,4 kilometres trek, and on the way, we saw 5 wild koalas sleeping in the eucalyptus trees. We also saw a koala mother with a baby on her back. I cooked dinner for the ladies again. The antibiotics work but I still have a bad cough.

Magnetic Island

9 November 1997, Arcadia Resort, Magnetic Island, Australia:
Last day in Magnetic Island, ferry leaves at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow. Very relaxing day today. Slept in, had breakfast, went to the pool, had a shower, had BBQ for dinner and have done some packing. Tomorrow it’s exactly two months until we get home – feels like a very long time. Strange to be on a journey most people are envious of, and still feel a bit homesick now and again. Probably because we’re so far away from home, and because we’ve been ill as well. Ørjan is on his last day of antibiotics, but still has a bad cough and doesn’t feel great, hope my love gets well soon! And of course, I’m thinking of my family at home, hope everyone is doing fine. Worry a bit about our budget, we seem to spend a bit too much almost every day, and it won’t be easy saving money going to Whitsundays, Fraser Island and New Zealand with all its exciting adventures… Have talked about skipping Tonga and going home for Christmas and a couple of weeks earlier than planned, but then we’d miss out, so don’t think we’ll do that.


Delivered Moke, fell asleep when I returned to the flat, woke up at noon. Lounged by the pool until 17:00. We got to wash our clothes; it was time! We had a BBQ at the hotel restaurant, and it was good. We are now packing to leave tomorrow; we are going to Airlie Beach and possibly to the Whitsunday Islands. I am worried that my cough is still bad, and this is my last day with the antibiotics.

Seeing koalas for the first time was just awesome, both in the wild and in the sanctuary were we got to feel their incredibly coarse fur. Magnetic Island was our first few days spent in the same location in a while and it seems like we enjoyed it.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Up next: The Great Barrier Reef and Pricilla, Queen of the Desert!

Categories:Around The World 1997, Travel

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