Agnes Water, where I stayed 3 days as a castaway

Agnes Water, where I stayed 3 days as a castaway

Agnes Water is a small town in the coast of Queensland in Australia. It is next to a cape that has the name of Seventeen Seventy (1770). Which was the year when Captain Cook discovered Australia, and that was the place where he step foot on that continent for the first time.

The decision behind visiting that small town, out of the beaten path by the backpackers, was the result of an impulse on my first day in Australia. At the tourism desk the agent suggested me an adventure as a castaway in a desert island, and the idea of this experience sounded really great! And that’s how I ended up going to Agnes Water!

A short passage by Agnes Water town

The trip to Agnes Water started in Noosa. While I was waiting for the bus, and I was preparing myself mentally for another long trip. 9 hours inside another bus…, and I noticed that there was a familiar face almost by my side. An English girl that was in the same excursion as I through Fraser Island! We started chatting right away, and we sat together inside the bus, and that’s when we realised we were going on the same adventure! It is funny that I didn’t even remembered her name, but she had added me on Facebook. After all, these social networks can be useful…

The bus was full almost the whole way to Agnes Water, and despite the fact that it is a long trip, it is part of the East route in Australia. The best advantage of going to such a small place, is that it is also easier to have a more welcoming experience. Upon arrival we had someone waiting for us to welcome us and take us to the hostel. And right at the arrival I decided to book an extra night, since it would be complicated to make it to the bus the following day. It was the best decision I did!

Right in that same night I met a few people, and despite being summer and hot, they decided to throw a bonfire in the middle of the yard. It actually turned it into a more cozy mood. One of the things I noticed right away was the amount of small lizards everywhere. Since I really like reptiles, I really enjoyed seeing so many there!

The following day I went to the meeting point, where the lead of the experience scared us a bit with the dangers of the island. He seemed to be a bit crazy as well…, and that’s when I noticed that I lost my micro-fibre towel. I went back to the hostel, running, and the staff wasn’t very helpful, but they lend me a towel for those three days. In fact, I think someone stole it from me, I have a huge OCD with my packing, and I am absolutely sure that I had left it by my bed, and that it wasn’t there when I woke up. But who would want a stinky towel anyway? I really needed to wash it…

The trip to Middle Island

The trip started even before we got in the aircraft, we had to sign a statement of responsibility acknowledging that the organisation is not responsible for potential accidents. Right after we understood why…

To get to the island we flew on a ultralight aircraft, and a very interesting trip. If I am not mistaken we were about 15 people that stayed on the island, so we had to split in two groups, and each group in 2 ultralight aircrafts. And since the pilots have a lot better control over what they do on an ultralight…, our trip was almost similar to an aircraft crash. Not a castaway, but more like an experience as the tv show LOST.

From very harsh curves, almost flying over just one wing, to steep ascents and then equally steep descents to the point I could see my sunglasses raising due to an almost zero gravity. It was a somehow scary trip, but also a dose of adrenaline. Until we landed on the beach, to start our 3 days as castaways!

The problem of using the beach as a “airfield” is that it is very dependable on the tides. Therefore our experience was reduced to 2 days and a half, or maybe even less than that. But to compensate, they offered us a barbecue at the end.

Three days as castaways in Middle Island, near Agnes Water

Upon arrival we were welcomed by a camp’s volunteer. Ultra tanned, she was there for a few weeks (or even months?). Basically, she doesn’t get paid for the experience, except for the trips and food. In exchange she has to manage the camp. A quite unfair exchange, considering the responsibility she has, but it is an experience for someone who wants to spend a few weeks in a desert island of “paid vacation”.

We left our stuff at the tents, and then we went straight to the beach! An afternoon spent on kayaks and tires (as buoys). We have so much fun that we even forgot that there are sharks in Australia…, but apparently quite rare to show up in that area. Then we explored the area around the beach, and we went to collect oysters. In fact we didn’t catch anything, but the goal was just to explore a bit of that area.

A detail about this experience, everything has to be local and ecological. According to Kristina, our guest, the deal the organisers have with the National Park Services is that they can use that beach as long as they don’t contaminate it with external things. Hence a camping site, a biological “toilet”, and a shower with rainwater (really stinky…). And of course, a constant contact with Nature. For the best and the worst…

Beach next to the camping site in Middle Island
Beach next to the camping site in Middle Island

The toilet part deserves a dedicated paragraph. So, being a biological toilet, it is basically a “tower” with a whole where to where we do our business directly. And since this smell attracts a lot of insects, they also attract a lot of spiders… By luck by that time of my trip I was already quite used to spiders, and my fear for spiders was way more under control. There are certain first needs that we can’t simply do them at the sea, and holding it for 3 days isn’t an option either. And yes, it is quite uncomfortable to be surrounded by spiders that big, but they don’t even move. And the tower has a prime view over the beach!

But not everything is “made on site”, the dinner was stew and it came with us in the aircraft, with other goods. And it was well washed down with wine, the famous “goon” in Australia. It is basically cheap wine sold in boxes. It is what most backpackers drink. And with a few drinking games, we got to meet each other a bit better.

A hike to Pancake Creek on the second day in the island

The downside of sleeping in the middle of Nature, is that we are also eaten alive by Nature. Right after dinner we were already struggling a lot with the mosquitos, constantly being bitten. And to get inside the tents, only in the dark to avoid drawing them inside. And still, a few got in.

The good side of sleeping in the middle of Nature with new friends, is that we can also have a lot of fun. Some pranks to scare each other, and also to get scared with any sound we hear around us.

In the following morning, after waking up full of mosquito bites, I went to the sea and swim a bit to wake up. The sea just for myself! The other ones joined afterwards, before we started our adventure to the other side of the island to see something completely different.

Dead forest in Pancake Creek
Dead forest in Pancake Creek

It seems that mosquitos don’t like the beach that much, or the salty moist. But to cross the island we had to go through the bush. And there was no repellent that would work, I even covered myself with the towel and even then the mosquitos managed to bite me. It was a hard crossing. But on the way we had several distractions, several goannas and wild Australian turkeys.

Almost at the destination we passed through a quite different landscape from anything I’ve seen before. A kind of dead forest, in a dry swamp. With giant conchs everywhere! A scenario almost post apocalyptic, and honestly I don’t even know what happened there, but it all seemed to be natural.

Trail next to the swamp trees in Pancake Creek
Trail next to the mangrove in Pancake Creek

Pancake Cree is a kind of a mangrove canal, and from what I red it is an area rich in biodiversity due to these trees. But we went there just because of the beach, a really calm and crystal clear water. We stayed there just having fun, fighting on the shoulders of each other, and when we got too tired we decided to go back via another path.

The way back was next to that mangrove. These trees are almost fully at the surface, with exception for the trunks and roots underwater. There were a few spiders on the way, which didn’t please me much, but nothing too scary.

Back to the camping site and afternoon at the beach

When a group of youngsters is in a desert island, the normal is to spend a lot of time at the beach. They highly recommended not to adventure alone inside the island, but that we could be absolutely free at the beach. After returning to the camping site, and having lunch, that’s where we spent almost the rest of the day.

Afternoon kayaking at the beach next to the camping site
Afternoon kayaking at the beach next to the camping site

Sea kayak was a great experience, mostly thanks to the waves! I paired with that girl I met in Fraser Island, and it was laughing the whole time! I lost track of how many times we flipped the kayak due to the waves, and I almost lost the GoPro doing that… thankfully I have a floating stick, otherwise I would have lost some of my memories right there.

At the end of the afternoon the airplane returned, this time with another campsite volunteer. A new volunteer for the camping site, whom would learn about the island and later become the new main coordinator. We hung out at dinner with more drinks, but completely wrecked so we ended up going to bed early.

Last day as a castaway

It was a short experience in that island near Agnes Water, but it was a great experience that stayed in my memory. But even the last hours were properly used.

I woke up early, the sun and the heat didn’t let me sleep longer. I had some first needs that don’t require the panoramic tower, so I headed to the sea. Quite early, with the sea just for myself, and totally relaxed, until I hear some strong steps at the sand quite close to me. The first thing I thought was that someone was going to try to prank me, but as soon as I turn around I see two wild kangaroos crossing the beach!! I run to the camping site to grab my camera to record that moment, but I was too late. In the meanwhile the rest of the group was already waking up, and the kangaroos came back! Then I managed to take a few photos!

We had coffee, and we headed towards another part of the island. But this time with a smaller group of people, while the rest opted to stay at the camping site.

Agnes Water, where I stayed 3 days as a castaway
Agnes Water, where I stayed 3 days as a castaway

From my point of view, when we have the opportunity to visit more, then this is a priority to me over staying at the beach. There are beaches all over the world, but certain landscapes are unique to certain places. So I had an easy decision to make.

We went to the Middle Island Lighthouse , where we saw more kangaroos where apparently they spend more time. And from there we went down a hill with a gorgeous view to see some sea caves.

My fear for spiders didn’t get completely under control in Australia, but it helped a lot to be more chill about them. But it was there when I realised what scares me the most about them. It isn’t the spider itself, but when they move. We had to pass under a huge spiderweb, with a spider right at the middle. I was okay with that, but always with my eyes on it… Until our volunteer, Kristina, decided to break the web and the spider obviously moved. Panic. But that didn’t spoil the experience for that half of the day.

Going back to Agnes Water and the ending of our experience

Once we returned to the camping site we saw that the aircrafts were there waiting for us. We just had to pack and go back. This time I went with another pilot, and I think he is the “owner” of that experience, Bruce is his name. And a bit crazy…

The flight back was way more eventful than the one to the island. At some point he asked me to stop recording, and as soon as he saw that I wasn’t recording he turns off the engine during the flight. That silence of the engines was deafening! I think the best way to describe how I felt was: I shat myself! Not literally, but I was genuinely scared! It was a fun experience, and kind of a “preparation” for the sky dive I would do a few days later, but there were things I really didn’t like.

One thing is teasing the guests of the event, but there is a clear line between teasing and abuse. At certain point, during the flight, the pilot decided to do a few “jumps” with the airplane, he grabs my camera and says that it is to record the “girls jumping”. Needless to say that none of us found that funny, in fact, after that moment the mood became a bit odd. Each time he did that kind of things there were no smiles to be seen.

Ultralight flight back to Agnes Water
Ultralight flight back to Agnes Water

Back to the ground, I went to the hostel where I had a well deserved shower and I rested a bit. A few hours later we went to the barbecue with the rest of the group, where we drunk homemade beer! The idea to book an extra night at the hostel was a great decision, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the barbecue and the gathering with the rest of the group.

At night we hung out at the hostel, where we met another guy who was with us in Fraser. He would also do the same experience in Middle Island, but apparently with less “commodities”, named “Survivor”.

That night I slept as a baby, the first time with some comfort, and ready for the next destination! It was one of the experiences that left its mark on me in Australia. Mostly due to the group, but also because it was so remote. A pity that I didn’t have time planned to explore the town of Agnes Water, but maybe I will be back one day.

Where is Agnes Water?

Agnes Water is located in the East Coast of Australia, a small town far from everything, but on the Greyhound buses route which are so popular among backpackers.

Agnes Water and 1770 are two towns very close to each other. In fact I even thought that 1770 was the name of the area and that Agnes Water the name of the town, but apparently that’s not the case. These towns are located at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, and despite the fact that it is out of the main roads route, it is a passing point for backpackers.

By Gil Sousa

Portuguese expat in Cork, traveler and food enthusiastic.

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