Suffice to say that while walking through the lovely tree-clad bays of Hinchinbrook, I felt I was well at home, and as the track was easy – just 32km in four days – I found I could spend plenty of time soaking in the atmosphere (literally, on the first day) and revelling in the contrast with Cairns. I'm finding a big benefit of the first opinion voiced above; because of my extensive experience walking through Australia and New Zealand, I can compare and contrast with lot of other walks, and I've grown to appreciate certain areas for what they are. Just as I can look at the sunset and it brings back memories of sunsets all over Australasia, when I walked through Hinchinbrook I thought of Freycinet, Wilson's Prom, Litchfield, Hollyford and others. It adds a whole new dimension to the experience, which is already pretty immense.
And the fact that I developed a stinking cold on the first day (undoubtedly caught in Cairns when my defences were down) which stayed with me beyond the end of the trail, didn't detract from the walk one bit, even if one handkerchief for four days with a streaming nose is pretty gross. In fact, what better place to suffer: a cold, a smog-laden city, or a fresh-air island? Indeed.
One particularly interesting thing about Hinchinbrook is the large number of rats on the island. If you aren't careful, the rats will gnaw through your tent and pack to get to your food – even toothpaste smells like food to them – so the rangers have thoughtfully provided steel boxes at each campsite for you to put your food in. I could see the rats hanging around at night, looking for a feed; big buggers they are, too. And on the subject of food, for the first time in a long tramping career I met not one but two couples who had brought along filter coffee systems. Now, I've seen people with all sorts of teas, but filter coffee? That's something altogether different. I tend to buy coffee in a tube – Nestlé do a tube of coffee, condensed milk and sugar, all mixed together in a tube to which you just add boiling water, which is perfect for tramping – and when I brought it out of my pack and proceeded to make a cup, you should have seen the look of pure horror on the filter coffee drinkers' faces. I'd have probably got the same reaction if I'd proceeded to make a nice, fresh rat sandwich.
After finishing the Thorsborne and returning to Cardwell for the traditional ritual of showering, clothes-washing and reacquainting oneself with life's little luxuries one by one (in this case Vegemite, Coke and cold remedies), I booked into the caravan park for another couple of nights, and settled in to do some writing. It was only then that I thought I might as well take my temperature, more on a whim than anything else; it was 100.4°F, and it's funny how you suddenly feel worse when there's physical proof that you're ill. My cold instantly changed from serious sniffles to full on flu, and I realised that taking it easy was not only a good idea, it was vital, and the first step had to be to get out of that leaky old tent and into a bed.
1 Just to point out how leaky my A$30 tent is, consider this. Dew, which is sometimes quite heavy in the tropics in winter, started to drip through the lining onto my head one morning. I thought it must have been raining, but no: my tent can't even handle dew, for goodness sake. Looks like I'll be saving the 2.5kg it takes up when I head off to Asia, and I probably won't shed a tear, even if I discover the perfect free campsite in some beautiful National Park in Indonesia and don't have a tent. Still, for A$30 it was a wonderful investment to enable me to walk the Thorsborne and, later, Fraser Island.