One of the things I used to most lament about my birthday was that it took place during winter. This meant that not only was it likely to be cold and grey, but that Alton Towers was always closed. Having my birthday suddenly moved to the middle of summertime was pretty exciting, although as my Mum pointed out, I still can't go to Alton Towers...
Choosing an option far better than a theme park I decided that the Beckett girls were headed to Magnetic Island. I was determined that I would hold a koala on my birthday. I wanted a birthday koala.
After Mum had finished work on Monday afternoon we all headed down to the Breakwater terminal to catch the ferry over to Nelly bay. Having sailed out of the marina so often it was strange to be so high up and able to see over the port walls. We also travelled a lot faster than usual - though I doubt that Panacea could ever outrun a massive catamaran!
We were staying over in Horseshoe bay so had to get a bus which seemed to take us on a lovely little tour. Maggie really is stunning and even though it's a tourist haven and home to 2,000 people it still has an untouched quality to it. Everything is green and beautiful; most of the buildings are half hidden in amongst the rainforest.
Our home for the night was to be Bungalow Bay, which came highly recommended by everyone, and as soon as we arrived I could see why! Rather than a large hostel building, the site has various 'bungalows', cute little wooden huts with their own deck and big pointy roofs. After Tash had got over the shock of having to stay in a room with no air conditioning on only her third night in the Tropics, we threw on our bikinis and walked down to the beach.
Our cosy little bungalow!
Happy to be swimming in a stinger net on Maggie rather than floating around nervously, and also some of the only people in the sea so late in the afternoon we stayed in the water until our fingers reached the point of being 'too wrinkly' and my stomach was demanding food rather loudly.
After a quick shower and an emergency timtam (thank god for emergency timtams) we opted (read:I chose for us) to eat at a lovely little restaurant/art gallery, mostly tempted by the steak special on the board outsid. Yum. Tash and I certainly enjoyed it.
I went veggie for nearly 4 years. I know, right?
We also once again ate our own body weight in cheese - the cheeseboard, weirdly, came with not just chutney but also strawberry jam - and may have also accidentally drunk quite a bit of wine.
Arriving back at the hostel we found the bar in quite a lively state, with two guys engaged in a dry all-bran eating competition to win a bar tab. Hmm. More wine was drunk, and I got chatting to two lovely Swedish girls. It turned out they'd just left Mission beach and had been in Zenbah (where I work) on Friday evening - when I'd been there too! Small world...
When Tash and Mum got too tired they declared that I couldn't go to sleep before midnight and had to stay up with them - luckily Mum always has emergency wine and she was kind enough to let us have a bottle. Not realising that the entire premise was licensed we were told off for drinking - and I quote - 'illegal wine', so we snuck off and found a nice spot in the carpark in which to sit and chat. I may have felt 14 rather than 24, but it was nice to have my new Swedish friends sing me happy birthday at midnight! Thanks Hana and Camilla!
Feeling sleepy I walked back to our cosy bungalow, only to hear splashing from the pool... Two of my other new friends from earlier, Alex and Luke, were having a swim and it took them about 20 seconds to convince me to jump the fence and get in. I didn't have my bathers on but then Alex pointed out that neither did she - it's just that she obviously had on nice matching underwear!!! It was a pretty cool way to start my birthday, and we have a fun hour or so chatting about life, the universe and everything.
I got back to our bungalow at about 2am to find Mum not there - she'd woken up and finding my bed empty had set out to look for me. Perhaps she worried that a rabid koala had kidnapped me?! When she arrived back I asked her if she'd tried ringing my mobile first to check...which she hadn't. Turns out you're never to old for your Mum to worry about you, and you sometimes worry so much that you forget about the wonders of modern technology.
We woke the next morning very hot and sweaty - it's hard to adjust when you're used to constant air con. After opening presents and cards from home we set off to scavenge for some brekkie, finding a lovely little seafront cafe that tempted us with smells of coffee and bacon.
Full of food, the sea proved to be too tempting. Luckily we'd come prepared with bikinis under clothes so in we splashed. It was very hard not to feel smug about swimming in the coral sea on my birthday - usually it's grey skies and sleet back home.
Very tired from all the eating and floating the hammocks by the pool proved way too tempting, so after a quick schooner...
*uber smug face*
...Mum and I had a power nap.
I am definitely getting a hammock installed when I next settle down somewhere for a while! It feels so indulgent, even though it's the most basic of sleeping arrangements.
Refreshed and revived we were ready to encounter some proper aussie wildlife, so with tickets in hand we followed our ranger into the park..
Our first critter was a little croc
She may have been small and named barbie but look at what her teeth can do...
We then had to give the black cockatoo Shadow a kiss - well, not a kiss exactly... That would be weird.
She is very clever, and uses her tongue to gently take a sunflower seed from your mouth so she can eat it. I was amazed by this, as you can see from the childlike wonder on my face after my turn:
There was another cockatoo, which the ranger told us had such a good sense of smell he could distinguish not only between men and women - but homosexual and heterosexual men. Aparrently he doesn't like the gays though. Homophobic birds? Who knew?!
I'm pretty sure there's a joke about cockatoos not liking gay men, but I'm far too mature now to make it.
Next up was the main event: finally, I got to cuddle a koala. We had Matilda who was only fifteen months old and very cute. It wasn't until we'd all held her that we were told that she'd bitten a child on the face the week before. How they get the energy to even open their mouths puzzles me - they barely move at all. I love koalas, if reincarnation is real then I hope I come back as one in my next life. Please God? I'd be totally happy just napping and eating all day, getting the occasional head stroke and inflicting the odd facial disfigurement on an annoying customer.
Mum being Mum, the rest of the group was instructed to sing me Happy Birthay while I held the koala - it was a proper birthay koala!!!
After Matilda had done the hard work of being put on to people ('stand like a tree, you are nothing but a big tree to her') we got to the part that Tash was most excited about - snake holding! Now, I love snakes. I think they're amazing creatures. But Tash doesn't like them. The Ranger tried to demonstrate how harmless they were by putting their heads in his mouth but Tash wasn't convinced. Mum on the other hand was a regular snake whisperer and as we posed for a picture with one snake on each of us, mine decided Mum made a better victim and snuck it's way over to her.
It was OK for Tash though, because she got revenge when we had a nice surprise on our way out - a spider! Hurrah! Unfortunately (cough cough) it was too poisonous to hold (you can imagine my despair) so I made do with standing right at the back, muttering under my breath that 'if anyone tries to put that on me I will punch them in the face'. I may have alarmed an elderly Kiwi couple, but all arachnids stayed at least five feet away.
Nice and calm now all spiders were back in cupboards (or wherever they're kept) we had just enough time for laurekeet feeding before our tour ended.
I'm really glad to never have watched the entirety of Hitchcoks 'Birds' because I imagine he got the idea from Laurekeet feeding time in Bungalow bay... As fun as being mildly mauled by tiny screeching birds was, the pool was calling us again and we managed a quick dip (and beer) before we caught the bus back to the ferry, and the ferry back to Townsville.
On my birthday last year, I remember being stood - in the rain - outside of The Lexington having just lost the pub quiz. Five ciders and two sambucas down, I declared that I'd have my next birthday in Australia.
And it was a pretty bloody good birthday.