The Whitsundays and the WILDMOB

Brisbane - Airlie Beach - Gloucester Island

 
Almost 2 hours on the plane is an easy burden to bear when you arrive in Proserpine, advertised by a sign near the airport as, 'the Heart of the Whitsundays'. Our time spent here was short lived, we took a 30 minute bus South East to Airlie beach, where we checked in to our first point of call,  'Whitsundays on the beach'. With friendly staff, and fantastic location, our room exceeded our expectations, not only in quality, but in size, with 4 beds.
 
Airlie beach is a tourist driven town, with many shops, bars, restaurants and hostels. The streets are filled with young people, friendly dogs and sweet reggae music! The town portrays a boutique hippy vibe, which must have been enhanced by the array of campervans parked in preparation of Happy Daze festival to be held the following weekend.
 
Due to the prominence of tourism, prices, like the room, far exceeded our expectations in size. In search of affordable nourishment, we found success in a Thai restaurant which served a fantastic vegan adaptation of a Tom Kha soup for a very reasonable $7.90. Whilst awaiting our meal, we met Ben, who runs Happy Daze festival. 

 
Brisbane, Airlie beach and now aboard the Wild Cat. As new recruits to the WildMob volunteer group, we embarked on an adventure to Gloucester Island. The boat, a catamaran, skipped by Captain Bill Sykes. Alongside bill, is ecologist Phil, ex teacher Kate and an eager group of volunteers keenly awaiting instructions.
 
The sun glistens on the crystal waters of the Whitsundays and the boat glides for three and a half hours up the Queensland coast and finally heads out to Gloucester Island. 
 
As we weighed anchor in the bay, we gathered our supplies for the week, and prepared to load them on to the dinghy. Three quick trips between boat and beach was all it took to transport people and provisions. The two of us were on the last of the three journeys. We were in awe of what laid before us; the foreground - an idyllic beach with fish leaping out of the water (escaping what predators lay below). Behind the golden strip of sand stood the tall hills of the Gloucester Island national park, the bush painted onto the slopes was dense and wild. Our attention to be refocused, only by the gentle grounding of the boat, crunching over the sand, and the sound of waves lapping at the shore. 
 
This was to be the fourth and final of the WildMob trips to Gloucester island for the meantime, so whilst we had the luxury of a campsite already prepared, we would be the group to dismantle it at the end of our week. 
 
 

We took the tent to a more secluded location with a view of the back of the island and into the mangroves. Next to us was a Birdikan plum tree which was home to a colony of green ants - hopefully this wouldn't play a large role in our trip. Arranging our things and inflating our mattress took little time, and following this, we decided to walk down the beach and survey our new home! 
 
Corals, bleach white, and shells were woven into the sand following the lines of the tide, and soon our clothes sang the songs of jingle jangle, jingle jangle. Our pockets were filled with marine treasures. We turned back and walked by the waters edge, continuing to collect shells.
 
In the eating area, volunteers had gathered, and Phil was talking us through this afternoons project, setting up camouflage spy cameras, with the hope of catching a few Proserpine Rock Wallabies in action! Each volunteer eagerly grabbed a camera and together we marched down the beach and into the forest. 
 
We stopped for bush tucker of Birdikan plums, but Laura was more interested in making an invasive bouquet of Periwinkle flowers, which happen to be a high powered psychedelic when smoked we were told by Captain Sykes.
 
A delicious supper, our first vegan one on the island! Quinoa burgers and a diverse selection of tea let us know we had brought our own food in vain. The meal was devoured by all in near silence - a sign of hungry workers or good food (we suspect both!). A clear sky allowed for great viewing of Jupiter and Venus who were aligned with the moon.
 

 

 

Eventually, the cawing of the bush turkey and the sorry state of our "inflatable" mattress was enough to wake us. Despite being slightly disheartened by the quality of our sleep, we started our morning with an enthusiastic leap to the eating area to prepare two cups of green and jasmine tea, to compliment the first fuel of the day in the form of cereal and delicious organic lady finger bananas.

At 7am we were on route to Squally Bay in the Wild Cat. After landing, gloves (of both a plastic and canvas build) were distributed, along with several squirt bottles to administer poison to the invasive plants - rubber vine. These plants are making a mess of the Proserpine Rock Wallabies habitat, strangling the native plants, and blocking the wallabies paths. Without hesitation, our company ambled toward the jungle that lay ahead. After only a few strides, our attention was transfixed. A flock of butterflies took to the air, "it was like a rainbow stuffed with kalaediscopes” (Terry Pratchett). Cameras were torn from their cases as everyone scrambled to capture the moment.

Deeper into the enchanted forest we clambered, the birdsong - almost hypnotic - mesmerized us to the point that the fierce attacks of the green ants went unnoticed. Reaching our destination, we aligned and geared up for the kill. A brief lesson on rubber vine identification had qualified us to take the lives of many, in aid of the wallabies.

The midday sun ended proceedings, and with sap on our hands, we called it a day. Captain Sykes was waiting for us on the beach, ready to ferry us to the Wild Cat and ultimately back to camp.

We have not yet mentioned our film crew. Tony had been recording our every move and will be making a film about Wild Mob, encouraging people to take part. The return journey to camp was spent discussing their previous projects with GetUp, an ethically minded organization. This gave us a few insights into innovative possibilities for the development of our business (more to come on this!).

Back at camp, with our work done, it was time to explore, but not before a quick dip in the surprisingly chilly water of the Whitsundays! We embarked on our adventure in high spirits with motivated minds, but this quickly subdued once a perfect spot had been found.

The sun was going down, so the hammock went up. A spot down the beach in the shadows of the trees gave a breathtaking view, of sunset splashed across the horizon.

No more nightmares, our sad excuse for a bed had more holes than a porous piece of pummes stone. Our sleep, yet again, had been continually interrupted. We took day break with excitement and darted from the tent, only to notice everyone's morning had already begun. We were delighted to find that the vegan catering had outdone itself yet again, and we were treated to a hot breakfast with vege sausages laced with vegan cheese!

Full bellies and the first coffee in months quickly lifted our spirits, and we made our way back to the Skulley Bay. Picking up where we left off, we were in for another morning of rubber vine genocide.

Until now, the leafy balls, crawling with Green Ants had drawn little attention. Passing so many today made us inquisitive. The art of building a nest is one in which ants prove that their collective conscious is something we humans should aspire to.

This, however, was overshadowed by the presence of 3 snakes. Spotted individually, they made an excellent distraction from the job at hand. After much debate, we found them to be Whipsnakes.

Cutting down all of these vines, had left us feeling empty and confused. Whilst we knew that what we were doing was helping the habitat restoration for flora and fauna, plant murder felt wrong. So we decided to put these invasive corpses to good use, and Laura's artistic flare, shone brightly once again. In no time at all, what was once a hated plant, had transmorphed into the frame of a beautiful dream catcher to be. Quickly, 3 more followed, and soon enough we had a purpose for these previously wasted lives.

A quick refuel on the boat, and the addition of vegan mayonnaise to the chefs repertoire stood is in good stead for the afternoon.

Mask & snorkel - check, fins - check, stinger suit - check, 3, 2, 1, splash! Our sub surface vision, a collage of corals, schools of fish with more colours than the chakras, crabs ..., and a stingray!

Compression waves with the changing tide had brought a hazy sediment fog and poor visibility, but quickly the two of us headed for the depths, where we found a clear view of beautiful corals, soft and hard. Sadly, at these depths, temperatures were too low for 1mm suits. When our body temperatures had plummeted and with a mask which refused to stay clear, we headed for shore.

Snake suggestions: when cold, find a dark rock and lie face down to absorb heat.

When our body temperatures had risen to a level sufficient for a warm blooded creature, we felt re-energized and darted for the highest rock in sight to get a birds eye view of the beach. What a stunning view it was! On the left of the horizon the coastal mountains, a blue haze, and to the right, an endless stretch of ocean, in which was anchored our vessel. Further to the right and closer to us were the black neoprene bodies of our fellow volunteers, with fluorescent straws and fins following the route we had previously taken.

Our late afternoon swung by in the comfort of our hammock, so lost in the writing of this blog, that we almost missed the sunset.

Tonight was vegan night, spicy bean burritos for everyone! They were so delicious that another supper was spent almost in silence. 'Dad jokes' were the ignition to conversation for the night, as James pointed out the oxymoronic character of the word chili. From here, a snowballing effect took place and teacher jokes followed: The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar... It was tense.

We stood facing away from the beach, so as to keep the moon and the lights from the boats out of sight. Every star in the cosmos shone, illuminating the beach with a captivating pale glow.

WHOOOOOSHHHHH! Never have we seen anything like this. Both of us have been subject to meteorite showers, shooting stars, satellites etc. This however, was incomparable. A bright white light with a fierce orange tail, hurled itself across the sky only to vanish and then reappear with a second tail. The initial orange tail was the length of our hands held at right angles to a straight arm in front of us. We must have been seeing things, leaping into the air and yelping like adolescent puppies. Thankfully Peggy and Dan both saw this spectacle and we rejoiced in sanity! Chairs were reassembled under the stars and together we all wished on more.

5 shooting stars later (still non compared), and the team packed up and headed for bed. This was halted by Greg who had almost crossed paths with a 2meter long Python. We reassembled to witness this beautiful creature slither through camp and also to make sure it left our camp and didn't end up in someone's tent! The first night without the (arguably) inflatable mattress left laura on a thin single and James on the sand. Sleeping on the sand isn't advised as you immediately make a comfortable mold for yourself, only to roll over later that night and wake up trying to lie side ways in grooves made for your arms. This happened as we both woke at midnight - although this time we were rewarded. A moonless, clear sky, the Milky Way stretched across it, abundant with light from our intergalactic neighbors.

We squeezed on to a single mattress for the rest of the night and awoke pleasantly with the rising of the sun.

A quick breakfast prepared us for the day ahead. Today's work was to be picking periwinkle and Bulls horn from the sandy bed of the arid forest adjacent to the beach. Initially we were fairly unsuccessful as the invasive species were well hidden. In the meantime, we enjoyed an abundance of wildlife, a pair of sooty oyster catchers were perched on a rock 30 meters off the beach waiting for the tide to drop to reveal their lunch. 3 Ospreys circled a portion of the beach and the ocean in search of food, returning to land to settle together in the high branches of a leafless ash. Kelly was determined to find the forest of periwinkle we found on the first days walk, and eventually success arrived. Collectively all of us began to clear he dense periwinkle cover. Periwinkle is a beautiful plant with bright pink flowers (these played an integral part in Laura's invasive bouquet.

The walk back to camp presented a beautiful spider, some small brown wasp nests hanging from a tree, and a variety of other insects. It was time for Laura to be interviewed by cameramen Tony and Dan. The video for which, we will post below.

Back at camp Laura noticed she had a cyst on her knee. Luckily, one of the volunteers on the trip was a doctor and advised us to go to hospital to get it drained. A dense grey cloud began to condense above our day. This was an awful shock to us, and great disappointment that we would have to finish our volunteering early. We rang the hospital in Proserpine to speak with them and were told to come with the hope of them sending Laura into surgery this afternoon, and if not, then definitely the following day.

Phil got on the radio and called for Bill to come into land to collect the two of us and take us to the nearest point of mainland, Cape Gloucester. James called Monties beach resort to ask whether there was a shuttle bus or any form of transport to take Laura to hospital. Sadly there was not, but we were in luck, as one of the hotel managers happened to be driving to Proserpine and offered to drop us at the hospital.

The journey was not long and James engaged the driver in conversation regarding the hotels environmental policies whilst Laura played with the her daughter Mia.

On entering Proserpine hospital a mix of emotions overcame us, devastation for leaving the island, hope in anticipation that the surgery would solve everything, and nerves as surgery is not the easiest thing to undergo.

We were taken through to a room where a doctor was there to see us. She explained that surgery was needed, but that there were no available surgeons for the day and (contrary to what we had been told over the phone) no surgeons work on Fridays or weekends and so we would have to wait for Monday. This made everything worse. We had rushed back from the islands based on what we had been told by the hospital themselves. Needless to say we were not happy.

After speaking to the doctor, the head surgeon, unable to speak to the head of the hospital and being threatened to be thrown out of the hospital by security, we left!

We had let frustration take hold of our minds but a call to Colombia and a soothing motherly voice was enough to leave all our worries behind. Although it failed to alleviate the annoyance we felt with not being able to return to the island. So we headed to the supermarket for the only vegan biscuit we know of - Oreos.

We decided to return to Airlie beach.

A phone call to Whitsunday on the beach permitted us to change the night of our next reservation to today instead of Saturday.

A veg fried rice from a Chinese restaurant was devoured in a bus stop and finally the bus arrived.

A couple of stops passed before a friendly local climbed aboard and invited us to his case of VB he had at home! We politely declined this well intended offer, explaining that we don't drink. Following this he proceeded to offer us money, which again we politely declined before he departed us at his stop. Before bed in airlie, once more, we had to ingest another delicious Tom Kah soup!

Day break, a night in a comfy bed was a great reward for the struggles of the previous day. Our souls were welcomed into the day from the astral plane by our usual avo mash.

We should mention at this point, that we have been trying to astral project for a while now. We have both had several lucid dreams, but actual astral projections are yet to come!

Saving money was our primary concern leading up to the flight on Sunday. Expensive accommodation and food in Airlie beach was not going to help. We remembered we had seen Ben before heading out to Gloucester Island and we got in touch to see whether there was any help needed at Happy Daze. The decision was made to hitchhike to Mount Charlton where it was held. Leaving most of our bags in the lockers by Magnums hostel, we headed for the road.

Immediately, we crossed paths with a dog named Turkey who we had previously encountered in Airlie beach. Turkey and his humans were also hitchhiking to Happy Daze, so whilst we were happy to see some familiar faces, quickly we realised isolation from the group was the only way we were going to get a lift!

The first car to approach was a white Toyota, Tyson lowered the window of the passenger side and invited us in. He was driving to Bowen, much further north! He said that he could drive us to Bowen and then back through Airlie to Mount Charlton when we was to return this evening. This sounded perfect!

From Airlie we headed north and got to Bowen surprisingly quickly, although this was probably due to Tyson's incredibly efficient driving! We pulled into his friends house. Dane is an avid gardener and was keen to show us around. How blessed we felt, being driven everywhere and in great company, we could not have asked for more.

A short stop and quick turn around in Bowen was followed by a cold but fast journey through the Queensland bush as the evening crept upon us.

A variety of different coloured lights twinkled through the bush to our left, and as we wound down the window, we knew we had arrived.

With no tent, we strung our hammock between two trees and made a sock out of bin bags for it, in which we stored our possessions...

Whilst only a few hundred people had gathered, the location was perfectly designed to give the festival a busy-but-not-too-crowded feel. Intricate decor and a spectrum of lights led us to an exhibition of Adam Scott Miller's work which engulfed our attention in sacred geometry and psychedelic colours.

Towering over a mass of souls, stood the stage. Purples, greens, and blues coloured 3 dimensional faces and shapes. Formidable vegetable sound system educating through rap of the benefits of permaculture, and after this Tijuana Cartel brought a new twist to bass music with a front man playing Spanish melodies on his guitar. Following this we were treated to drum and bass all night with hints of jungle. This had to be the best music of any festival we have been to in Australia! On top of this,incredible fire dancing and a slack-line show were the other focal points of the dance floor.

With only one stage, we felt we needed to find a place to relax seeing as we lacked a tent. A short walk took us to a point overlooking the festival, and this hill became part of our circuit around the festival! But our day had been busy and we felt it was time we headed back to our hammock before we had to leave in the morning to get back to Airlie Beach.

Last 3 pictures taken by: Hapy daze

We did not expect this: the best sleep so far was squashed into a hammock, incomparable to the tent or a bed! A trio of hippies ambled past our hammock, only to stop to tell us about a secret garden which follows a creek through the festival. They were particularly excited about this, most probably due to the fungus harvest which had taken place this morning, in which many had partaken. We had slept through this activity, and it became apparent that we had been one of the few. We headed to the secret garden for some tranquility amidst the mushroom mayhem. Trees hung over our heads, shadowing the slow running creek. The trickling journey took us passed various signs promoting a life of peace, love, and unity.

A circle had collected in front of the main stage. In the centre, a traditional owner of the land we stood on. His didgeridoo resonating with a vibration so encompassing, yet penetrating to the ear, truly an audible phenomenon.

Joining him, was a member of Juicy Rap News. An hour long freestyle decorated the indigenous song of the hollow log, which predominantly discussed the topic of consciousness and its qualities of connection. This connection illustrated beautifully, through his interaction with the crowd - notably in his tangent about the reef in which the crowd joined him in the formation of a wave of consciousness to be sent to humanity in an effort to prevent further reef destruction... Fucking hippies...

After deciding that surely no one could top this spectacle, we headed to the hammock to pack up and head back to Airlie, we had not planned to stay for long, as this was a money saving trip whilst we had time! As we proceeded out through the gate, Ben (organizer of this great festival) stopped us and offered to find us a lift, as we were planning to hitchhike back. Before we had time to thank him we were bouncing down the path which led to the main road in the car of Charlie - of Formidable vegetable sound system! Charlie had in his lap, not a formidable vegetable, but an arguably formidable fruit. A member of the family which includes custard apple and chirymoija, this was considerably bigger than both, and decidedly more formidable. [name of fruit]........

At the Proserpine - Mackay road intersection, Charlie and his formidable fruit left us. Once more we reached for pen and cardboard to make a sign for 'Airlie Beach'.

It was not long before a 4x4 pulled over and offered us a lift. The family of 3 were heading to a beach next to Airlie and we're happy to have us accompany them. Sadly, by this point we were struggling to keep our eyes open, but just about kept conversation ticking over.

Finally, back in Airlie. We marched between backpackers hostels in search of the cheapest before we collected our bags from the locker, eventually checking into the Magnum hostel. By 5 o'clock, our sixth day had come to an end. Our dreams convoluted with the depressing prospect of our return to civilization the next day.

Last 3 pictures taken by: Hapy daze

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Hola and Hello,

We write this blog as passionate travellers and explorers seeking enlightenment. Our journey is about growth through sharing experiences with new and old souls. 

The footprints we leave can shape the world around us and it is imperative that we leave these with a better future in mind.

Happy Travels!

Laura and James