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MackayMackay is a working class city whose principal products are coal and sugar cane. As usual, it has access to beautiful, relatively empty beaches. By this time in the trip I have been warned and warned again about the deadliness of the Australian environment. In contradistinction to our country where it is not safe to walk in the cities (I have not been warned about this here), the countryside and the sea even worry the natives. The ocean and harbors have sharks and a "box" jellyfish that are dangerous or lethal. In fact, the swimming beaches often have netted areas for bathers.
The countryside's animals don't seem to be particularly large or dangerous (no lions) but the reptile life (including crocodiles) has scores of dangerous, mainly poisonous creatures. I am concerned about rattlers and copperheads in West Virginia. These people would see these as tame by comparison. They even have a snake called the "Death Adder" and this is not the deadliest snake! Spiders are also a concern. And so, we did what the locals do and went for a stroll in the rainforest. Actually, the environment is quite exotic. We only saw one orchid plant but there are birds and trees and other plants that are either new to me or that I have only seem domesticated. The so-called bridge tree is a tree that has been surrounded by the "Strangler Fig".
The place we are staying is a public beach facility that caters to campers, tents and has rooms to rent. It is clean and has indoor plumbing but otherwise is pretty rustic. There is a nice beach right outside and the morning walks are almost as private as on Cedar Island. The people are friendly; in fact they have been everywhere we have been so far. The food is pretty basic though.
On the first day's outing we were introduced to the local countryside and showed the public gathering places. The area has local farmers, retirees, and people who have weekend places. There is a local lawn bowling club (an Australian import that is still taken seriously in places - meaning they wear white). In the city, the young people have taken over and the dress code is casual. In fact, the dress code in the country at large is casual, If one goes to a high-end restaurant and the male has a shirt and tie on (coming from work), they ask if they can check the jacket!
The next days were either spent at their house, visiting their friends, or touring the countryside. One place we stopped for lunch (they have a choice of three places within reasonable driving distance), had a hang-gliding gathering. (That was not a close by place.)I have never seen them take off before. Of all the things I have never done, this is another that would make the list. The idea of deliberately jumping into space as part of a kite might have much to commend it, but I'll pass.
Hamilton IslandWe are packing to go on a boat to Hamilton Island, off the coast of Mackay, one of the Whitsunday Islands. The weather to this point has been great as the pictures show but it is overcast and windy so the ride may be interesting. Packing is getting old but we are becoming more proficient.
The weather has turned for the worse. High wind and sporadic rain. It made the trip to the island more exciting than it might have been but the big catamaran took it in stride. There are several islands (dozens) in the Whitsunday group. They are sailing destinations. A few have resorts. We are on one of these. The hotel is on the Great Barrier Reef and the views from the 17th floor are magnificent - even with the rain. Just before the rain squall a rainbow appeared and one of the many cockatoos dove off into the sky from the hotel balcony. The birds, beautiful to see and fascinating to watch soar, are noisy - all the time. They also take things from the room if you leave the door open. The cockatoos and Rainbow Lorikeets are fearless and station themselves on the banisters and overhangs all along the hotel.
Today is also overcast and so we walked in a shower over the hill that makes up the spine of the island to the harbor and had breakfast. We have decided to ship things back to Leeward after all. We are weeding out some of the articles that we have not used so far and will likely not need for the rest of the trip plus rocks and sea shells, etc.
Later in the afternoon we walked out at low tide to the exposed reef. Not much to see really but very muddy. Spent the rest of the day beachcombing - a Carol favorite. Another batch of coral, rocks, and shells to be shipped home. As I type this, a dozen Cockatoos have landed on the porch. They think there is something to eat there.
We walked over the hill again to the harbor to eat supper. As we were walking along the waterfront the sky became alive with bats. Not just ordinary, everyday bats that eat mosquitoes, but fruit bats. These creatures are the size of small cats and many have wing spans of about three feet! Seeing one of these up close after a pint would make one believe in vampires. In contradistinction to the meal the evening before which still had not come after an hour wait (Carol walked out), the food at the fish house was on time. The quality, although not poisonous, was merely adequate. We were told the reason was that it was hard to get people to take and keep a job on the island. They are mostly young people who come for a time, live in dorms on the island (it is too far to come back and forth each day).
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