March 11, 2020, Townsville, Australia
In our lectures we’re warned of several different types of jellyfish with stingers that can cause a range of reactions from discomfort to heart stopping paralysis. Then there are crocodiles, sharks to eat you, fish and coral with various degrees of toxicity and, of course spiders. Whew! But still “Go out there and experience Australia.” Of course, actual fatalities are relatively rare so we are enjoying Australia.
In Townsville, Queensland, sitting on the Tropic of Capricorn, it’s raining. The bus driver told us Townsville has 330 days of sunshine a year and we’ve hit on one of the off 36 (leap year). The threat of rain was enough to cancel the ship’s tour to Magnetic Island (so named because it confused Captain Cook’s Compass) but it did not deter us. The rain is intermittent, not hard and has cooled the place off by nearly 10 degrees so Suzi and I took a bus to the end to The Strand and walked the mile and a half back. At the end is the “rock pool” fed by the ocean but safe from stinging jellyfish, sharks and crocs. It was closed for cleaning given it was a Wednesday. But along the beach there are safe areas enclosed in a net box, a jellyfish screen, although the warning sign says they offer no warranty. First aid for jellyfish stings in vinegar (followed by CPR in bad cases), which is in little posts along the beach. At first, I thought they looked like the tubes for newspaper delivery. But instead of saying “Daily Sentinel” on the side it says “Vinegar.” Stinger jellyfish season is all summer, October through May, in the Australian winter, swimming is ok.
The walk was delightful, there are some classic tropic seaside balcony buildings mixed with 40s art deco, attractive public art, fishing piers, gazebos and playgrounds. There are a variety of royal palms and banyan trees to sit under. We stopped along the way for a coke.
As we approached the town center we ran into “Reef HQ” an aquarium that mirror life on the Great Barrier Reef and has exhibits of fish and that explain dangers to the reef. We planned to visit the reef the next day for snorkeling so decided to spend a couple of hours in Reef HQ, both as a preparation for what we may see and as an insurance policy in case we saw nothing. It turned out to be a good investment.
After HQ we strolled downtown, which, for a work day, seemed deserted. Someone told me it was the weather, in rain people stay in. But it was not really raining and temps were in the high 70s, not at all a disincentive to stroll down-Townsville. The place had several Irish Pubs offering pub lunch for only $10 Australian dollars (US $6.40). We weren’t hungry but I was intrigued by “Rusty Yak Gingery Ale” on tap. It’s an alcoholic ginger ale, actually more like a ginger beer. A cool interlude for our day in Townsville.