Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Airlie Beach

Originally I wasn't going to write about Airlie Beach at all. Airlie was one of those jumping off towns to get to the real destination of a leg of my journey. Like Hervey Bay which is where most backpackers stay before going to Fraser Island or Townsville where people stop to get the ferry to Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach is where people stop before going to the Whitsunday Islands. The Oz Experience drivers referred to it as Airlie No Beach since it doesn't have much of a beach and generally gave a bad impression of it. Therefore Airlie didn't feature at all on my list of destinations.

That changed however when I had to spend a few nights there after my Whitsunday trip waiting for the next Oz Experience bus out of town. Airlie is actually a cool little town. There was not much to do during the day except wander around the few shops, lounge by the lagoon, or just chill in the hostel, but at night Airlie turns into a party town for backpackers with several bars and clubs. Beaches was the starting point for most nights out with good, relatively cheap, food, live music and a party atmosphere. After Beaches there are a selection of other bars like Paddy Shenanigans, Mama Africas, Moroccos and several others I cant remember now.

I have also come to the conclusion that what really makes or breaks a town for a backpacker is the hostel they stay in. Many backpackers come away from a town cursing the place, saying it is a total dive and telling people not to stay there but most of their complaints circle around the hostel they stayed in or the people they shared dorms with. If you have a bad experience in a hostel, say it's dirty and bug infested, or the people there are drunk and stoned all night, running around and keeping everyone else awake when you want to sleep then that's what you remember about the town.

In Airlie I stayed in Koalas hostel and while it wasn't the best looking hostel I've been in it was still pretty good but it was the atmosphere and people in the rooms where I was staying that made the experience. Each dorm was a like a self contained, semi-detached lodge, and with not much to do in town people just sat in chairs outside the dorms and chatted. This may seem boring but it was nice to just chill and watch the world go by with other friendly people who were perfectly happy to just chill as well. Of course if you stayed in those same rooms the night after I left there was likely to be a totally different bunch of people there and they could have been complete assholes. That's the backpacker lottery. At the time I was looking forward to moving on to the next destination, Magnetic Island but after a couple of hours on Maggie I was cursing the fact that I hadn't extended my stay at Airlie.

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