October 14, 2017
Its been quite a few weeks since I was last at Townsville’s little piece of paradise. So today two of my friends and I headed back over to Maggie Island and had a marvelous time. Our itinerary for the day consisted of hiking up to a spot that a local recommended to me, snorkeling, getting dinner, and watching the sunset. With a full day planned, we hopped on the first bus to the ferry terminal and made it to the island as quick as we could. When we were pulling into the marina, a few raindrops were falling, but not enough to be called rain.
After disembarking, we headed from Nelly Bay to Picnic Bay, about 4.5km on foot. Along the way, we walked along a beach and chatted about how likely we thought that rain would be in our forecast. Since earlier this week, people around town have been talking about rain, hedging their bets on whether or not it will actually rain in Townsville or just around everywhere but Townsville. I wasn’t holding my breath waiting for rain, but I sure knew it would be good for the surrounding landscape if it came. The spot that was recommended to me is called Tom’s Thumb. All I knew was a few sentences about how to find the trail head and that it has 360 degree views of Maggie Island and the ocean from. When my friends and I saw this site above Picnic Bay, I knew that it was probably the rock sticking up in the center. I wasn’t sure if I should tell my friends or not, because it honestly looked pretty far away from here and I had no idea how long it would take to get to or how tough the climb would be. But, I was also pretty sure that they figured it out as well once they saw the view.
As we walked through many neighborhoods across this part of the island, which I had not explored much at all, we admired the sights and scents of many tropical flowers growing in people’s yards. Once we finally got close to where I thought the start of the trail was, I consulted the only directions I had. “You’ll see a white barricade gate… go around that fence and follow the road…you’ll come across a trail and the view from the top is spectacular.” Amazingly, as we wandered through the neighborhoods around Picnic Bay while heading in the general direction on Tom’s Thumb, we happened to turn a corner and see a white gate. I figured it must be it, so around we went and then up. Up, up, and up, just like earlier this week at Triple Falls and Many Peaks. My friends were a bit surprised by the steep climb, but I was just thankful to be walking along a paved road instead of bush bashing through vines and spider webs. As we gained elevation, the clouds burned off and the sky became a saturated blue. At the top of the road, we did indeed find a trail that quickly lead to the promised views that were as spectacular as promised. We had reached the thumb! Underneath the backside of the large boulder, I found this amazing plaque underneath that read:
Frankie Steele (aged 13 years) climbed this rock (Tom Thumb) in 1927.
Helped by classmate Charlie Olsen.
A log was balanced against the rock and a note in a can left on top.
The adventurous challenge the unexpected.
I love the final words on the plaque. “The adventurous challenge the unexpected.” That phrase summed up my friends today, because they agreed to come find this spot despite the fact that they knew even less about it than I did. In the end, any doubts that they had along the way were made worth it with the views we found.
From the top of the thumb, we could see a green field that may be a golf course, the neighborhoods around Picnic Bay, Townsville across the water, and a ship wreck with mangrove trees growing on top of it off to the right. The tide was very far out at this time of the morning, only 11am, but the sun was high and hot in the sky. We decided to have lunch up here, to allow for more time to admire the view. I pondered how the view must have looked when Frankie and Charlie hiked up here 90 years ago. I wondered if they lived on the island or came over to visit for the weekend, how beautiful the coral reefs must have looked back then, how many other notes they may left around the island in hopes of being found by future adventurers like themselves. Once we hiked back down to Picnic Bay, we checked the bus schedule and found out we had an hour until the bus came to take us across the island. We enjoyed our wait fully as we found a perfect picnic spot, walked along the beach, sat out at the end of the pier, and made friends with the sea birds. When the bus came, we paid our $3.60 each for a daily bus and dozed off a bit as we rode across the island. Our stop was Arthur Bay, and it also happened to be many other people’s stop that day. I hadn’t been to this bay before, so I was keen to check it out and curious about how the snorkeling would be. When we first arrived, it looked like a beautiful place to spend our afternoon, both in the water and on the beach. After finding a shady spot to drop our bags, we grabbed our masks, snorkels, and fins and dove into the water that felt unrefreshingly like a warm bath. We had gotten so hot and sweaty on our hike, that we were all looking forward to cooling off in the water. But, refreshing is not quite how I would describe the water today. Additionally, it was incredibly murky. I could see large grains of sand floating in the water. As I swam away from the shore, I was optimistic that the corals would look better the farther out I went and that the water would clear. But my optimism did not yield true in the end. There was an impressive amount of marco algae growing on this reef, leaving coral cover sparse and unattractive. Additionally, fish were scarce. I only saw a couple of butterfly fish and one parrot fish. I rinsed my mask out dozens of times thinking that it was foggy, thus making the water look murky. But, unfortunately it never helped.
The more I snorkeled, the more I realized how incredible the snorkeling was on Pelorus Island. The water there was so clear, the corals were so colorful, and the fish and other organisms were diverse and abundant. Right about the time I was getting pretty bored of macro algae and annoyed with the murky water, I swam over to my friends to see if they had found anything interesting. And it turns out they had! They had found a large ray. When I first looked, I could not even see it through the water. Then, after staring a while, a faint outline came into view. It was pretty big; with a tail over a meter long, and a body nearly as long and wide. Sara was able to capture it with her camera, despite the horrible visibility. The ray was the best thing I had seen in the water at Arthur Bay. As I swam back to shore, I spotted a few more smaller rays on the sandy bottom.
After we had snorkeled for about an hour and a half, we dried out on the beach. I think that my friends both read; they always have books with them. I fell asleep to the sound of waves lapping at the shore and sunshine warming me to my core. It was so peaceful and relaxing.
After drying out, we packed up our bags around 5pm and walked back out to the bus stop. Next we had dinner at Horseshoe Bay, as per usual. Two of us had cheap, but ohh so good, burgers with pineapple (my favorite) and the other ordered a steak from another restaurant. We all thoroughly enjoyed our not-dorm-food food as the sun set on another incredible day in paradise. Maggie Island truly is my favorite place around town. I feel so fortunate that it is only a bus and ferry ride away. I am not sure when I am going back next, but I sure hope that it is before I leave town in a few weeks.