On a ball-busting trek along Hinchinbrook Island’s Thorsborne Trail, CARL ROE encounters rats, wipes his arse on a mountain access permit and remains transfixed by Nina’s D-cup silhouette.
Just like a snoring roommate or an unscheduled stop at an immigration detention centre, a visit to North Queensland’s Hinchinbrook Island can be somewhat irritating. It’s not the mist-cloaked mountains rising defiantly from a turquoise ocean that’s the problem. Nor is it the seductively sweeping beaches or rockpools perfect for skinny-dipping with your Swedish travelling companion. What burns my bus pass the most is that once you’ve experienced true paradise, other ‘attractions’ can become as appealing as scrounging for leftovers in a hostel bin.
Hinchinbrook Island is so close to the mainland that travellers bussing between Townsville and Cairns might mistake it for just another mountain range, or a greasy handprint if the window is dirty. Despite its closeness, the island is still a rugged wilderness, a world away from the learn-to-dive, beer-on-tap backpacker scene.
The 32km Thorsborne Trail is my ticket to ride, a literal highway through terrain that would otherwise be impenetrable. Equipped with a lightweight tent, a fuel stove and a 44 gallon drum of insect repellent, I prepare for a D-day style assault on the island.
Our tiny boat motors across the Hinchinbrook Channel, a tiny speck rolling and pitching under a dome of angry sky. At George Point I hit the beach, dodge a barrage of seashells and duck behind a crocodile warning sign. With the beachhead secured, I slink north in search of pleasant camping.
To the west dark clouds envelop towering Mount Straloch. Near the summit lays the wreckage of the ‘Texas Terror’, a B24-Liberator bomber that crashed during an electrical storm in 1942, carrying a military payroll. The crash site is silent now, still shrouded in mist and mystery 60 years on, protected from souvenir hunters by the very terrain that was its untimely end.
A grey-haired grandmother carrying a fridge-size backpack soon cruises past me as if on roller skates. I ask for a lift. She declines. Not to be outdone I pick up the pace, my boots kicking up a flurry of sand in pursuit. The rainforest soon swallows us whole, triangular markers leading inland. I never did catch her. Rule number one: be afraid of old ladies, be very afraid.
The Rat Pack
After just 7.5km I reach Mulligan Falls and fall into its emerald rock pool. Tiny fish nibble my blisters. The campsite is abuzz with friendly campers, a sprinkling of international visitors and a few hardened bushwalkers with more miles on the clock than the average car. The locals are friendly too. Soon several fawn-footed melomys turn camp into a racetrack and bare feet into speed bumps. I don’t care what anyone says: they might be cute, but they’re still rats. The only thing missing is a shrieking ’60s housewife and a chair.
Overnight, rat-size holes appear in more than one piece of camping gear. To avoid their wrath, store your food in the lockers provided, hang your pack with fishing line and try to levitate while sleeping.
When I was 13, I met a girl called Zoe and ever since the name has conjured up visions of remarkable beauty and provided a strange tingling in my Speedos. The waterfall of the same name keeps this tradition alive. I plunge into dear Zoe’s mountain-cooled waters and suddenly feel very young again. There’s a reason most people plan to spend an extra day here.
Five minutes downstream I arrive at the campsite to sounds reminiscent of Sunday in the suburbs. A ranger wields a leaf blower, while campers mill around comparing shiny new tents. I don’t like the look of the campsite by the estuary, but camp there anyway, hoping to avoid a close encounter of the crocodile kind.
At sunset I amble along Zoe Bay’s flawless beach, 1100m high Mount Bowen standing defiant to the north, its craggy profile plastered with orange hues.
Out of bed, gear packed and on the trail before dawn. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I swap my toasty sleeping bag for cold boots and a surly companion, and head inland. Our destination is Mount Diamantina, five kilometres west and one-kilometre up. With a mountain access permit in hand we step off the well-trod Thorsborne Trail and into the unknown. One hundred metres later our legs are shredded worse than a cat’s scratching pole and tempers are frayed. We contemplate what would possess a person to choose a day of wrestling foliage over lazing in a rockpool? We justify and about-face with the vague feeling that we might have left the iron on. A mountain access permit makes great toilet paper, by the way.
Strolling naked along the palm-fringed shores of Nina Bay I realise that if I don’t mount something soon, I’ll finish the walk feeling unfulfilled. Suddenly, a stunning sight captures my attention. Nina’s D-cup silhouette rises seductively behind the bay to a height of 312 metres. I must have her.
I follow the main trail inland and soon join a sidetrack that begins climbing, occasional rock-cairns providing gentle guidance. The closer to the summit I get the faster I climb, my feet pounding her rocky thigh in anticipation. Rough bush gives way to emotional views and all too quickly I peak. Life doesn’t get any better than this.
The experience: You can catch a ferry from Lucinda to Hinchinbrook Island for $46; visit http://www.hinchinbrookwildernesssafaris.com.au/ or Ph: (07) 4777 8307 for more info. You can also catch a ferry from Port Hinchinbrook Marina in Cardwell.
Visit http://www.hinchinbrookferries.com.au/ or ph: (07) 4066 8270. The best time for walking on Hinchinbrook is between April and September. Plan to stay a minimum of four nights. Numbers are limited to 40 walkers at a time so book your campsite early at http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/ , or Ph: 13 13 04. Last minute cancellations do occur so monitor the website.