Quite why I got drunk on the Tuesday night, I don't know; the excuse was something about it being my last night in Cairns, and the next thing you know... but whatever the justification, Wednesday morning was a struggle, boarding the 8.45am coach while still quite drunk. I slowly surfaced throughout the day, but there was one good thing: I was out of Cairns, camping again, and looking forward to some good walking.
Cardwell was the little town I stopped in, which is famous for neighbouring Hinchinbrook Island... and the reason that Hinchinbrook Island is famous? It's the biggest island National Park in the world, and it's got a wonderful four-day walking track down the east coast, the Thorsborne Trail. Like a horse to a carrot, I was drawn to the walking track as if my life depended on it, and I managed to book onto the number-limited track by the skin of my teeth, getting the last camping permit and avoiding a wait of four days for the next available slot. Lucky old me; you'd almost think it was fate.
As I walked, I span between two different and quite opposing opinions of Hinchinbrook Island and the Thorsborne Trail:
On one hand, the rainforests in Fiordland are more majestic than in Hinchinbrook; the swimming holes in Karijini are more surreal than in Hinchinbrook; the beaches in northern Western Australia are more beautiful than in Hinchinbrook; the mountains of the Southern Alps are more striking than in Hinchinbrook; the sandflies and mosquitoes of Fiordland and Kakadu are bigger than in Hinchinbrook1; the views over Mt Cook are more stunning than in Hinchinbrook; the weather of the western desert is more reliable than in Hinchinbrook; the walking of the Pyke Valley is more challenging than in Hinchinbrook; the waterfalls of Litchfield National Park are more awesome than in Hinchinbrook; and the transport to and from the track is cheaper almost everywhere else than in Hinchinbrook.
However, walking under the rainforest canopy, trundling along beaches, climbing hills, swimming in clear pools at the bottoms of waterfalls, camping by crocodile-infested lagoons, experiencing rain and shine within minutes of one another... these experiences, all rolled into one walk, are the reason that Hinchinbrook Island is just wonderful for bushwalking. Sure, I've seen 'better' somewhere along the line, but they're just memories now; Hinchinbrook Island was reality while I was walking the trail, and it was just great, which only goes to show that presence in the present is all you need to experience the here and now. Yes, there were drawbacks, such as my A$30 tent I'd bought in Brisbane, which leaked like a sieve2 and made my first night on the trail more like Taka than Thorsborne; but my kit worked well, nonetheless, and I've proved that I can go out, spend very few dollars, and still come up with a survival kit for the bush. (For the record, my tent was A$30, roll mat A$10, stove A$7.50, food A$20, and the rest of the stuff I already had, making the equipment cost roughly the same as the ferries to and from the walk.)
1 A handy hint, picked up in Shark Bay, that's worth repeating. Take 70 per cent baby oil and 30 per cent Dettol, mix, and smear on your body for the ultimate insect repellent. The sandflies stick to the baby oil and die, and the mozzies simply hate the smell of disinfectant. It worked a treat for me on Hinchinbrook – it beats paying a fortune for normal sprays, and it works better, too.
2 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. It 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, so no harm done.