About Us

Contact Us


The 21st Century

Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters
Lifestyles 1
Lifestyles 2

The International Writers Magazine
: Australia

Townsville & Cairns
Rich Cooper

Welcome to Townsville. The portly man at the Globetrotters hostel took our money and slipped back out the back. He must have been with Jack, Daniel, Tia and Maria for most of the afternoon. He smelt like the Bundaberg distillery. The bloodshot look in his eyes clearly demonstrated that at 6pm he was in the advanced stages of his weekend drinking.

His wife seemed to take it all in her stride, this was probably a daily routine that she she accepted rather than fought. 'Under friendly ownership' read the sign on the way in. These surely can't have been the owners.

We put our bags down on the nearest table and wooden seating area adjacent to the stairs. A minute to relax and to gain our bearings. "Where yous guys from?". A half slurred, half Australian accent came from the next table. "England" we replied. "Ahh yeah, went to England when I was twenty five, Oxford I think". He was a weathered and bearded fifty-ish year old man, still trapped with the hippy movement of years gone by. "I don't smoke tobacco" he added. "I smoke pure Cannabis". A long dark pipe was attached to his face and seemed as much of a fixture as his nose or ears. His eyes had trouble focusing on the most simple things. If he had trouble fixing his eyes on his matches on the table it was amazing that he had spotted us. When he turned around to retrieve some skins from his bag he realised that the three men sitting on the table with him had vanished. "Where did they go?" he muttered. We were his next prey. To be polite Fred asked "Where are you from". The reply was as muddled as his beard. " I've got two existing fines to pay for smoking this stuff in public". The answer proved how badly his brain had become disconnected from his mind. We lasted ten minutes and and made the same excuse as most do when you want to get out of uncomfortable situations. "We are just going for something to eat".

Wondering around Townsville confirmed what other people had said about this place. It was Friday night and the place was uncomfortably quiet for a city. There were a scattering of backpackers dominated by men in black trousers and shirts. The streets were American in style with drive-in Bottle shops (liquor stores), drive-in motels, drive-in tyres and other large pink shop fronts like drive-in memad. There was a competition going on as to which establishment could have the most garish advertising boarding's. 'Johns Knob shop' won my prize. The local pubs were certainly, local. As you walked past the occupants caught a glimpse of you. The music was bad. I even felt like walking in there just so the music would stop. The confusing part about this place was it could be so uncomfortable and ugly one minute and pleasant and enjoyable the next. One dark deserted road one minute, one overflowing outdoor happy restaurant the next. We did go out country to Jack, Daniel, Tia and Maria's friend's advice. We did make it back. In the celebration that followed we decided not to risk it one more night and leave the next day.

Gilligan's. Built in November 2003. This was the new funky hostel that pretended to be more like a funky hotel. The reception was lined with television monitors. The reception was space age in design. The lifts 'pinged' and a softly spoken female voice kindly told you that she was going down. She even told you when you got to first, second and third base. What can't it always be like that? In it's attempts to be just like a hotel the they adopted a 2pm check-in time. They also insisted on manning this 500 bed venue with just two members of staff. They also insisted on a thirty minute checking in process which involved filling in a registration form and then signing three separate pieces of paper which contained just three words on each of them. For all I know I could be have been signing up for for three nude skydiving packages but by that point I would'nt have cared. This hostel was like going out with a beautiful woman. It had little personality, was expensive, you waited for ages for it to be ready, but it felt nice to be around and it always made out that if you didn't want to be there then there was a large queue of people more than willing to take your place the next night. And just like going out with a beautiful woman you put all these things to one side and paid for another night. Of course these conclusions were based on what my friends had said after they went out with the beautiful women.

In the room we met Hans. A typical blonde haired blue eyed German. His English was good but not perfect. He had the amazing ability to be blunt. This was not somebody that was afraid to get to the point. "She is like a pig, her face is crocked and I detest her". We only asked what the person was like staying in the room, we were not divorce lawyers. "This place smells, I demand to be moved!" he added. And what do you think of Cairns? "It is boring, it does not amuse me". "Have you been out?" we countered. "Yes" he defended. "Down the road". He was quite upset that his trusty alarm clock had failed to wake him that morning causing him to miss his bus. How inefficient. "Can you make this thing work?" he enquired. When we tried to explain that we were not that efficient in electronics I thought he was going to say "I demand to see your papers!". He didn't.

Cairns is the capital of the north. Sydney is the capital of the South. That is where the similarity ends between these two cities. In 1934 a huge two kilometre in diameter asteroid called 'Rocky' plummeted from space and devastated large parts of Cairns. Of course it didn't. But it may well have just done. It was if some overweight person had sat on on the city, causing the sides to squelch out from the centre. The buildings were as low as the buildings in Sydney were high. For this city seems to have a problem of being able to fill itself with people and cars. You could quite happily walk along the main streets and not encounter a single person or car. You could walk from one end of this place to another and not know where you were going to or coming from. All the streets were the same. Same in diameter, same shops, same trees, same pavement. You could walk for miles without finding the centre of town. Then again there didn't seem to be a centre.

A few miles north of Cairns is Kurunda. The clientele did not do a great deal to remove the 'tourist' tag that this town had acquired over the years. Middle aged couples and their children paraded the market stools laden with bags. Japanese tourists blocked off large sections of the pavement, doing what Japanese tourists do best in the street. Standing there and doing absolutely nothing. The elderly couples were busy purchasing the best Australian gifts for their beloved back home. The tacky gifts were on a par with the bright red inflatable London bus, the flaking fake silver Eiffel tower key ring, the 'I love USA tee-shirt'. I have never seen an inflatable red bus on someone's mantelpiece, neither have I seen the flaking tower jiggling on someone's key ring. I have also never seen an American wearing an 'I love USA' tee-shirt, well maybe I have. These were the sort of gifts that you saw only ten days of the year. The ten days when your parents visited.

So I rushed straight in and bought one snake skin purse (100% REAL of course!), two Kangaroo skin rugs and a boomerang that will never be used simply because they don't work. The Aboriginal statue was a must. Like most of these statue's you would never put it in your own living room but that wasn't the point. As I was handing over the three hundred dollars I paused for a moment to think about the Kangaroo I had stroked and who had consumed eighty five cents worth of nuts and grain from my 'feed the animals' bag at the Billiabong sanctuary. What a waste. I then started to feel guilty purchasing this skin. We had been friends. He had licked my hand. I had tickled his belly. He had hopped away in happiness. I was feeling really bad. I mean there were plenty of dead Kangaroos on the roadside that were fresher and a great deal cheaper than the hundred dollars I had just paid. And now the Kangaroo rug would be sitting proudly on my parents lounge floor. For ten days of the year of course.
photos, stories and diary

From Sydney to Byron
Rich Cooper takes the bus
Surfer's Paradise
Rich Cooper in Australia

Cairns the opposite of culture
Rich Cooper

Nights at the YHA
R. C

More World Journeys

© Hackwriters 2000-2004 all rights reserved