Mission Beach – A Tropical Paradise

Mission Beach... can you blame me for going back agian, and again, and again?
Mission Beach… can you blame me for going back agian, and again, and again? Photo credit: Carins.com

Third Times a Charm!

The first time I stopped in Mission Beach was on my way to Cairns to help out with the permaculture group. The second time I stayed in Mission Beach was on my way back down the coast to Orpheus Island. Third time’s a charm! This time I actually got to stay more then a day, and I loved every minute of it.

Looking back on it, it’s hard to say what I actually did while I was there. Apparently I didn’t even take any pictures! Wierd!! I was there – honest!

The hostel, the Treehouse, had great lounging areas and I know I spent a lot of time reading because I got through three or four books.

Treehouse pool. Photo credit: olga_fd on Flickr

The Treehouse lounge. Photo credit: olga_fd on Flickr

The Treehouse lounge. Photo credit: olga_fd on Flickr

Fishing or Sharking?

I was lucky enough to make friends with Geoff from the Treehouse,  the local crocodile dundee. He let me in on all the local secrets, and took me fishing!

We went fishing on the reef (that Great Barrier thing) one afternoon, and I was instructed that bananas were strictly forbidden on board – no snacks for me! When I think about fishing, I think: rod, reel, hook, line… Here, all you fish with is a hook and line, and really tough hands or a high pain threshold for when the line slices through your flesh as you pull up a very strong shark. If you’ve caught a fish you might be lucky enough to avoid the flesh slicing. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch sharks! We were able to get them off the lines, and return them safely to the water. Geoff had a bit more luck, and took home 20-odd fish.

Glorious Gardens

Geoff also took me over to his mate Mic’s place. Mic has THE most beautiful garden I think I’ve ever seen (sorry Grandma!). There were tonnes of different fruit trees, a huge veggie patch, his son’s collection of medicinal plants, lots of orchids and other beautiful tropical flowers.

Jade Flower

Jade Flower

On one of our many walks around the garden, Mic picked me all the ingredients to make an Asian curry from scratch – turmeric root, ginger, chilies, curry leaves, thai basil, coriander, and a bunch of other stuff that I cannot remember the name of! He also treated me to a bunch of Red-Daka bananas – tiny pink ones! So cute, and so delicious! I also got a bag of the biggest grapefruits I’ve ever seen! They were twice as big as a soft ball, and made the best grapefruit juice.

Fresh curry ingredients from the garden

Fresh curry ingredients from the garden

Mic’s place was also cool because he had a composting toilet and a rainforest system for treating his grey water – I’m such a sucker for ‘green building’ techniques. The property was bordered on all four side by a creek that split to go around the property and then joined together at the bottom again. The water was super clear and clean – at the top and bottom of the property.  We had an interesting conversation about water privatization in the area. When Mic first bought the property he had to renew a water use license annually with the local government, but he didn’t have to pay anything. They just needed to keep a record of who was taking how much water and where. Then, a few years ago Mic got a bill from Sun Water saying that they’d taken over (privatized) the local water distribution system, and he owed them $75 if he wanted to continue using the water. Needless to say, he said “No thanks” and turned off his grid connection to water. Living in the tropics, it is easy enough to capture enough rainwater in the wet season to cover his needs. I asked whether farmers were paying for rain water, and Mic said that they did as far as he knew. How long will it be before he’ll have to pay for the rain water he collects for residential use?

On a less depressing front, I also got up close and personal with the largest spider I’ve ever seen. The female is the large one you can see in the picture, and the males are tiny-itsy-bitsy ones that live on the outer ring of the web. They stay on special strings of the web that the female cannot sense movement on… otherwise they’d get eaten! She was probably a hand-width across, and the males we found we maybe half the size of my pinky fingernail.

Freaky large spide... about a hand width across

Freaky large spide... about a hand width across

Crocodile Cruise

On one of my last nights in Mission Beach I did Geoff’s Crocodile Cruise. I was really excited to get to see some real salt water crocs, which are the ones that can get up to 7m long!! We (there was a group of 12 people) started out on the boat around 4pm. We wound through the mangroves and estuarine river system all the way to the mouth of the river. Nothing. “Fear not! We still have the spotlight to use when the sun goes down. It’s easy to spot their red eyes in the dark,” said Geoff.

We watched the sun set, and then headed back up the river. Each of us took a turn scanning the shorelines with the spot light at the front of the boat. Nothing. Not one crocodile! Not only did we not see any crocs, we also didn’t catch any crabs in the pot, and we didn’t see any sea eagles. Unheard of! Geoff was a little perturbed by the lack of action on the boat that night, and jokingly said that only a banana on board could bring such bad luck. That was when one of the other guests sheepishly piped up and admitted that he had brought a banana, AND that he was a fisherman and knew that bananas were bad luck!! We all blamed him, and crocodiles remain on my list of things to see at some point in my life. I believe Geoff’s superstition now.

No Bannanas on Board

If you’re as curious as I was about where the “Bananas are bad luck” superstition comes from, I’ve collected a few tidbits of info here.

” There are many stories why bananas have been thought of as bad luck on boats.  This is only one of the nautical superstitions that I know of  and is particularly prevalent amongst watermen.  Many stories have banana oil rubbing off on ones hands and “spooking” the fish; therefore  the fish don’t bite.  There is always the story of a crew member slipping on the banana peel left on the deck.  Some say that bananas  give you the runs so you are always in the marine head and can’t catch fish because you are busy “draining the pipes”.  Many other stories are told about bad luck and bananas, however the one that I find most plausible is a historical one.

Back in the days of the transatlantic crossings by wooden sailing ships many hazards would befall the captains, crew and passengers. Disease, pirates, shipwrecks, storms, etc., claimed the lives of a good percentage of the captains, crew and passengers attempting the dangerous voyage.  Needless to say, a transatlantic crossing in the 17th and 18th centuries was a very risky endeavor.  Often the vessels would stop along the way in tropical islands to gather provisions such as food and water.  There the passengers and crew would often purchase wooden crates of bananas from the locals and bring them aboard the ship.  These crates would have all manner of critters in them such as bugs, spiders, vermin and snakes.

These critters would make their way into the bilges of the ships, multiply, and then find their way into the captain’s quarters.  The captains circulated the rumor that bananas were bad luck in an attempt to keep the critters off the ship and out of their cabin.  The crew andpassengers were more than eager to follow suit because of the inherent risk of the crossing.  So, if the captain announced prior to the voyage that bananas were bad luck and not allowed aboard the vessel, everyone complied.  You must remember that these were the days of burning witches and the like, so superstitions were taken very seriously.” – Capt Jim


” The origin of this superstition is uncertain, but many believe that it began in olden times, when bananas were transported by rickety, overcrowded, top-heavy boats plying the tropics (now known as cruise ships). These boats would frequently sink, leaving behind a residue of floating yellow commas, thus leading witnesses to deduce that hauling bananas was unlucky. A more scientific explanation is that since bananas give off ethylene gas when they ripen, it causes other perishable foodstuffs to spoil more quickly. This expended-gas theory could be why it’s also considered unlucky to have a politician on board. Yet another theory suggests that crates of bananas would also contain unwanted pests, such as spiders, snakes, flies, mice and Beanie Babies.” –  Boating World Magazine


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