Enough food! Time to get on with what we came for – discovering new places and the joy of opening the curtains first thing and seeing somewhere new, just waiting there ready to be explored.
Actually, it wasn’t quite Townsville this morning, since we weren’t scheduled to arrive till 11am. But the Queensland coastline was looking lovely in the morning sunshine and after a day at sea we were ready to get going.
But at the same time, the warmth of the sun drew us outside, to sit for an hour on the balcony and do a little drawing, read a magazine and simply watch the world go by.
As we approached Townsville we were buzzed on several occasions by this noisy little boat, a chap appearing to film the ship as he went by. We got our own back by taking several photographs of him!
We were a little early into port, arriving just as the inhabitants of the city were getting up and about their Sunday morning business. The catamarans were toing and froing to Magnetic Island, small jetskis zoomed out to sea and small groups of people stood on the breakwater, watching the ship come into the harbour. Once again we did one of those turns on our axis – a remarkable manoeuvre really, and with a small tug alongside our berth was secured.
(I think I could post a blog focused completely on photos of tugs of the world, but for now, I’ll spare you that!)
We were booked to visit the two museums in town and to drive around the city, so turned up on time and joined a crowd to be led by a rather vague and slightly dotty guide. First call was a little orientation tour of some of the suburbs, which looked, errmmm, rather like suburbs of many small towns – that is, slightly scruffy in places, a bit sleepy on this Sunday afternoon and for an outsider, not especially interesting.
After a while, we turned up at the Palmetum, one of Townsville’s main attractions, particularly so because of the old building which had been imported from another location to be used as a tea room here.
Sadly, there wasn’t time for us to get out and take a look, so we simply sat in the car park and listened, in much the same way as losers on a game show are told all about the prizes they might have won…if only!
From there we drove along the Strand, which seemed to us to be a most attractive promenade, created after the cyclone a few years ago. Here, in the sunshine, families were out and about, enjoying the fresh air and the thoughtful amenities which had been planned into this new construction.
The children were having a great time at a water playground and I could imagine that the children of Townsville have to be dragged away from here when it’s time for home.
Our next stop was Reef HQ, a large aquarium and research establishment for the Great Barrier Reef. Thankfully, a most capable, enthusiastic and energetic guide took over here and the ten of us heaved a sigh of relief as we were taken on a whistle stop tour of all things aquatic. Not only could Lyn name every fish, every coral and other sea creature, she was able to communicate her knowledge in a way that captivated us all – what a contrast!
I know this is a lousy photo but I particularly liked these patterns formed by a kind of sea anemone (sorry, Lyn, I forgot already!) As we stood watching, they were pulsating gently.
I took loads of photos and though some of the most colourful fish came out ok, others remain best recorded in my head. This little magenta and yellow fellow stands out nicely, though, doesn’t he?
Above all, there was a feeling of calm. We stood and watched these amazing creatures hardly move a muscle as they slipped silently through the water. Such bright colours, beautiful patterns, elegant forms. Altogether magical.
Mind you, there were menacing faces too.
We loved the place and could have spent longer there, perhaps taking out paper and crayons to draw and paint?
Because in every little tank, there was something lovely, interesting, beautiful and gracious to see. But of course, we had to move on, regroup and make our way to another place.
At least it was just next door.
The Museum of Northern Queensland is another newish building right next door to the Reef HQ. After a short introduction by another enthusiastic volunteer, we were able to explore the place independently, although like everyone else, we began with The Pandora.
This ship is the focus of the museum and indeed, in Townsville’s history. Unsurprisingly, I’d never heard of Pandora, but soon learned that this ship was sent to trace the mutineers of the Bounty and bring them home to undergo trial. It was shipwrecked just off this coast and discovered by divers relatively recently. The treasures and the story of the ship and the people aboard are all here to see.
As is this very cleverly constructed replica/interpretation of the vessel. I loved the way it had been envisioned and as an exhibit in its own right, it was fascinating.
Looking down from an elevated walkway, the shape of the ship was worked into the carpet and it was easy to picture the size – actually rather smaller than one might think.
Also in the museum were replicas of the curious prehistoric sea creatures, the remnants of which have been found in the North Queensland desert and a huge number of corals – the largest collection in the Southern Hemisphere – which made me want to get out my drawing things again.
Great place, super afternoon which turned out so much better than we feared when we started. As always, we could have spent longer here but indeed, we felt lucky to have visited it at all and took away good memories of two fascinating places.
We jumped on our bus again and just made it back to the ship in time for Trivia, but found ourselves on our own since the rest of our team were still cuddling koalas or something. Never mind – with the assistance of Ron from Toronto and Judy the Pilot’s wife, we missed out on a surprise win by one measly point. Never mind – we didn’t know that Jerusalem means “city of peace” and the winning team did. Better luck next time, eh?
A fine dinner tonight, Cordon Bleu style in “Signatures” but you’ll just have to imagine the deliciousness that we enjoyed this time!