Days 6-7. Sydney to Magnetic Island

Note: My internet is currently too weak to upload the photos that should accompany this post. I’ll upload pics of the art and island mentioned below at a later date. 

After returning from a weekend in the mountains, I decided to have a mellow Monday in Sydney. I headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens, where I found the “Sydney Fernery.” These ferns weren’t quite as impressive of those I saw in the Blue Mountains, but they were equally prehistoric looking. The Botanic Garden also has the largest green wall in Australia, currently blooming with a colorful array of flowers. On the edge of the gardens is an interesting piece of public art: Memory is Creation Without End, a collection of relics from demolished buildings and structures in Sydney. These sandstone pieces lie scattered, almost as if someone decided to throw the pieces of the past haphazardly down the hill. This artwork covers the turf above the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, quietly commenting on the city’s evolution.

After eating my lunch on a quiet bench in the gardens, I wandered over to the Museum of Sydney. I was interested to learn more about the history of Sydney, as it served as the location of the first settlement. The museum is relatively small and somewhat eclectic, but I was pleasantly surprised by the progressive and, at least to my knowledge, honest telling of the country’s beginnings. I was particularly impressed by the exhibit describing early relations between the British settlers and the indigenous populations, which clearly was designed by members of local Aboriginal communities. I was, however, startled when the friendly museum staff, after learning that I was from the states, noted that Australia was founded in part because of the American Revolution. The connection between US independence and AUS beginnings had never occurred to me. There was nothing in the museum exhibits that hinted at this, but here’s my paraphrasing from the one sentence on the History of Australia Wikipedia page: The Brits were sad that they lost the US and thus wanted to establish a replacement colony. 

On Tuesday morning, I said goodbye to Sydney and headed towards Magnetic Island. A train, a plan, a shuttle, a ferry, and a bus later, I made it to Nelly Bay. While I took five forms of transit, I was only traveling for 5.5 hours. While, unsurprisingly, the ferry was my favorite part, my plane ride proved interesting: I was not required to show ID at the Sydney airport. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get on a commercial airplane without showing some sort of identification. To be fair, I think the airline staff were supposed to check my ID when I gave them my bag and boarding pass and may have just forgotten. Or perhaps their CCTV is such that they don’t check IDs. Big Brother is watching…

Upon reaching Townsville, I hopped a shuttle to the ferry terminal. My shuttle driver provided an interesting overview of Townsville: It’s a town of 180,000 people, has 300 days of sunshine, and the highest unemployment rate in Australia at 14.5%. For a town right on the coast, with at least one college, a significant aquarium, and access to wrecks and coral, it’s surprisingly dependent on industry. Unemployment rose to its current height last year with the closing of a nickel plant. The town, however, is hopeful as a proposal for opening the Carmichael coal mine which would be Australia’s largest, was just approved and the company intends to be headquartered in Townsville. Although, based on statements by the company, the mine will not employ (directly or indirectly) even half of the 26,100 people unemployed in Townsville and protests have erupted over the impacts of the mine on human health and climate change. My shuttle driver, however, did not go into these nitty gritty details and, understandingly, was happy that Townsville may have additional employment opportunities soon. It seems that the same arguments about fossil fuels happening in America seems to be playing out here in Australia.

After this interesting tour, I hopped the ferry from Townsville to Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island. More to come on Maggy Island, but for now, I’ll share the view from my hostel.

-SMC, 7/18, sitting at Base Magnetic Hostel with my unidentifiable free welcome drink

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