Our alarm is set for 6.15a.m. We pack our bags, leave them on the path outside our room and rush to breakfast. Everything is rush. We have another hard day ahead of us if we are to make Hamilton Island tonight. We should have arrived there yesterday.
Again we have limited stops. Everyone is tired and aware of the pressure and stress Danny is under.
We stop at Ayr for a tea break, about three hundred miles north of McKay.
I see a Storm flying. This is sugar cane country. Danny says they can’t grow rice because white and black magpies arrive in flocks and decimate the crop. We don’t know if this is true or it is another of Danny’s jokes.
We see Magnetic Island which was discovered by Captain Cook. He couldn’t get his compass to work properly but the story goes that it was a misladen ship. (A Danny joke?). We pass through Ayr-Bowen cyclone country. The mountain ranges are too far west to protect the land. All the iron roofs on the buildings are secured with large nuts and bolts to hold them down in severe weather.
When we stop at Airlie beach for lunch I buy a T-shirt and two pairs of shorts. We see a Sausage Tree when we stop for afternoon tea. This is the only one existing outside a botanical garden.
The ten minute drive to the Chute Harbour ferry crossing is pretty bumpy and there is obviously more rain on the horizon. We have no guide on the ferry to explain about the Whitsunday Islands, or the names of the islands we are passing.
When we arrive at Hamilton Island, we are upgraded to a better hotel because of the delays. The hotel is beautiful with glass lifts on the outside of the building. Lots of marble in the hotel.
Our room overlooks the most beautiful bay and we make tea and set ourselves down on the balcony to savor the view. We last only minutes as all the balconies are home to masses of yellow crested cockatoos. We have looked forward to these birds as advertised in the brochure, but they are much larger than we believed and quite aggressive as they dive bomb us for a share of our food.
We close the sliding mesh screen from the invaders. We have been warned to keep the doors locked as the cockatoos trash bedrooms.
The bathroom is great, almost as large as the bedroom. We have a full shower, full bath, cupboards and coat hangers, iron and ironing board.
We meet Tizania at 5 o’clock. We should go on a boat trip around the island tonight, but we are boated and tripped out. We arrange to hire a golf buggy, and choose a de-luxe model, courtesy of Maureen’s credit card. We insure it but are still responsible for the first 200 dollars’ worth of damage.
We walk outside and are shown how to switch on the motor. Tizania says she can’t drive, Maureen won’t so I am chauffeur. We head first of all to the nearest bay. We watch as a beautiful bride and her groom have photographs taken. The backdrop is the sand, sea and a large yacht moored at the pier.
The sky darkens and the heavens open. We head to a cafe and sip coffee until the rainfall lessens. We cross the road hopping under shop canopies and look around the gift shops. We can’t go back to the hotel until the rain stops as there is no shelter for Tizania who has to sit on the back of the golf cart. Someone who is catching the bus back to the hotel gives us an umbrella for Tizania.
I fumble switching the engine on and then in the gathering dusk try to find the switch for the light. We are off but I am unsure where I should be going. I know our hotel is uphill, across a four-way junction and then down a steep slope. There are no windscreen wipers on the buggy. It is left hand drive so I drive with my head out the side peering into the darkness for the edge of the pavement through the streaming rain. I am relieved when I recognize the left hand turning and we make a steep clime up until we come to the cross roads. I remember that we go straight across the other side of the hill.
I feel confident and the buggy races freely downwards. Suddenly there are frantic screams from both Maureen and Tizania. I brake gently as the road is slippery and turn to see Tizania hanging on for dear life. The large umbrella has been blown inside out because of the speed I have driven down the hill and Tizania resembles Mary Poppins. Thankfully she starts to laugh as soon as the speed drops. Maureen and I are in hysterics but poor Tizania is soaking wet. We return to our hotel still laughing but when we meet up later to travel back to the bay for dinner, Tizania decides to take the bus.
We select the piece of meat we want cooked in the restaurant and join Tizania, Anne, Chris and Valerie outside after our meal. The girls have had a too much to drink and Tizania has told them of our earlier escapade. They decide to join us on the buggy for the journey back to the hotel. There are now six of us on a buggy made for four. Tizania stands beside Maureen in the front and under the canopy. The three girls are squeezed on the back seat.
We take off with a great deal of shouting and screaming. I know I have the lights on but they seem to have dimmed. People are waving and gesticulating as we noisily pass them and we wave back. We don’t know until the next day that there is so much weight on the buggy that the lights have dropped down too low for others to see us and that’s why people are waving.
We make slow progress along the front and then start the climb up the hill. Our speed declines as the road rises and eventually there is a grinding noise and clouds of black smoke. The three girls sit on determinedly but eventually as the buggy threatens to reverse down the hill they get off to walk. Without their weight the buggy starts to move slowly forwards up the hill but the grinding noise is as bad. Danny has directed us to a viewpoint on the island and although we follow the correct road, we can’t find it. We turn around and try to find our way back to the hotel. We see wombats feeding on a grassy bank near the hotel and as we turn into the circular driveway, Tizania says she wants to drive.
Maureen jumps out as soon as we near reception and I become the passenger as Tizania takes the wheel. She has never driven anything before and it is quite hair raising as we speed around the bends in the darkness. Our lights are sill no use. We meet the girls still walking on their way back to the hotel and they shriek and cheer us on. When Tizania tires we decide what we must do with the buggy.
We are off the island at 9 am tomorrow and should hand the keys into the office by 8.30 am. We are now certain we have caused major damage to the buggy as the black carbon smoke that billows behind it wasn’t there when we started out. We slot the buggy in the car park behind the hotel amongst the other buggies and walk back.
We all have a late night drink with the girls in their room and a lot of laughs. Maureen is worried that the buggy hire people will trace her through her credit card. We all promise to share the cost of the damage we have done but none of us can stop laughing.