Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia


Contrary to what you might instinctively assume by the name “Airlie Beach,” there is in fact no practical beach in Airlie Beach. The town would be more appropriately named “Airlie Fake, Salt Water Lagoon,” but that’s just semantics, I suppose. I booked a ticket to Airlie Beach because I was led to believe it was a lively city with lots to do. It was indeed lively. Plenty of beautiful people walking around mostly naked and drinking 18 hours a day, but there were precious few distractions beyond that. It wasn’t until the bus was pulling into Airlie Beach and I was leafing through a borrowed Lonely Planet that I made this realization, but it was too late. I was committed to a night in this oven-like, beach town.

In all fairness, Airlie has a roaring sailing market. Multi-day trips are launched from Airlie Beach by an innumerable collection of companies. Most are respectable, but some are reportedly dangerously inept. A few companies promote a genuine hands-on crew sailing adventure, but most outings are little more than booze cruises. You gets exposed to the sailing milieu the instant you meet a representative from your hostel/bar/restaurant/Internet café/tourist office (They like to cover all of the bases in Airlie). My guy hadn’t even started the van to ferry us back to the hostel before he was launching into a sales pitch for a sailing trip. Not only did I not have the time or desire for a days long dehydration excursion with light-weight 20 year olds, but I had just learned that my timeframe to tour the east coast of Oz had suffered yet another, but albeit wonderful snag. A flashy and hip American travel magazine that I had been pitching to for months came out of nowhere after a firm rejection and accepted my pitch for a Sydney to Perth run on the Indian Pacific Railroad. While this was exhilarating news in every other manner, the sting of losing 5-7 more days of east coast time caused some alarm. I promptly cancelled my second night in Airlie Beach (I would have undoubtedly opted for this even without the time crunch) and start alternately rehashing my itinerary and getting the ball rolling with Rail Australia.

Once I had finished a frenzy of running back and forth between the Internet and the phone bank by the taxi stand tackling the train trip details, I returned to my eight person dorm room to clean up in anticipation of getting a few cold beverages into me. Seeing as how Airlie had such a regarded party atmosphere, it would’ve been a shame to waste it. I bumped into several of my roommates in the room, all young English guys who immediately invited me out for a few dozen beers. We retired to an outdoor pub next door, planting ourselves in front of a giant TV, where we watched in awe as the American rugby team (who knew we had one? ) was inconceivably beating the Australian team (the Aussies came back in the final quarter and slaughtered us.). While this was going on, several enthusiastic girls were going through the crowd trying to sign up female contestants for a Jello wrestling match. This is when my companions decided to break my heart with the news that I had missed an unhinged wet t-shirt contest the previous evening. This loss re-ignited a very troubling pet peeve of mine. Why is it that I am 34 years old, have been through five years of college, visited Cancun, Acapulco and Mazatlan on numerous occasions and I still haven’t ever managed to witness a live wet t-shirt contest? Does that sound bizarre to anyone else? I mean, I haven’t exactly been seeking them out, but one would think I would have stumbled onto one by now, but alas no. Anyway, the Jello wrestling tournament was looking to be very girls-gone-mild. The girls were all going to wear regular shorts and disappointingly ample tank tops, some even with bras. The guys and I concluded that while this arrangement was much less sexist and objectifying of the drunken girls, there was about zero chance that the wrestlers would inadvertently have their shirts torn off and then accidentally start French kissing each other and what self-respecting guy would pay a $5 cover knowing that information? We used those funds to invest in yet more beer (cider) and retired to bed at a responsible hour.

The next day was filled with more desperate phone calls and emails and brain frying heat. I managed to fill 10 hours of time with the above tasks and a multitude of continually overdue writing duties and at 8:00PM I boarded the 12 hour bus journey from Airlie Beach to Bundaberg.

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©Leif Pettersen 2012