Chapter IV: Thursday Island and the Torres Strait

Mario and Kat have a very dear friend that lives in Australia with her boyfriend. We took advantage that we were in Far North Queensland to visit them in the even farther north Thursday Island, in Torres Strait. After one and a half hours of flight from Cairns, we arrived to Horn Island; when we landed we realised that it was warmer than in mainland, and also very isolated, much more that what I have imagined. From Horn Island we took a bus and then a boat to our destination, in the centre of Torres Strait. After a couple of minutes in a small a a little bit crowded taxi-bus, we arrive to Cecile’s place. She was waiting for us outside, and waved her hand in excitement to see us.

Mario and the nature :)

Mario and the nature 🙂

She is definitely one of the most charming, positive-minded and sweetest persons I’ve ever met. Did I mentioned that she is very brave, too? She is, and I will tell you why. Cecile, Mario and Kat met in The Hague, some years ago. She used to work in an International Organisation, but that didn’t stop her adventurous feeling and perspective of live. So, you could say that she had a really nice job in one of the most internationally driven cities in Europe.

Fair enough… Well, she moved to Australia following her heart; but she didn’t move to a big city, she went to live with her Australian Doctor boyfriend, Mark, to one of the most (according to me) unusual places to end up as an expat: Thursday Island, in Torres Strait. I say that Cecile is brave because it isn’t easy to leave all behind for someone, neither to leave all behind for a person and live with him/her in a remote place, without access to technology, frequent public transport, cinema, theatre, and many of the comforts that you can get when you live in Europe, for example.

Thursday Island Harbour

Thursday Island Harbour

Anyways, she is very courageous and beautiful soul and, with her super nice and friendly boyfriend, made our weekend in Thursday Island idyllic and fantastic. Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for more.

During our first day, Cecile walked with me and Mario around the town. In just one and a half hours we completed the circumference of the island. Yes! It is very small. Afterwards we jumped into the mini rubber-pool she had installed in her garden and then we went for dinner in the best restaurant in town. The food was delicious as well as the service, the company and the fun conversations. We got to know Mark a little better, and found out that he’s a crazy adventurer that cures people during the wherever he is and, whenever he is free of duty he explores the nature and (sometimes) gets into trouble.

The colour of the water is amazing: all the shades of blue...

The colour of the water is amazing: all the shades of blue…

After the dinner we went to meet up with Cecile’s and Mark’s friends, all of them with a similar story: exchanging the busy and stressful city life, to life simpler, happier and more relax in the paradise. They were great fun, specially Marianne and her boyfriend, a young French couple experiencing the life in the remote paradise of Thursday Island for more than six months. With them and other friends, we went to the quintessential karaoke bar: a bunch of people singing 70s and 80s hits under the influence of alcohol. The best thing about it is that Mario, who is always reluctant to go to a karaoke and sing, joined us and sang too. It was epic.

We woke up slightly hung over, but ready for the next adventure with Cecile and Mark, so we drank some coffee and had a very light breakfast because our next stop was Friday Island at Mr. Takami Kazu of Kazu Pearls. We took a short boat ride and arrived to this hidden jewel. Mr. Takami Kazu not only has his pearls company there, he also runs a very small sushi restaurant (it can only host 10 to 12 people a day and you have to book in advance) with treats that I have never tasted before. Simply DELICIOUS. Needless to say that wherever you seat you’ll have the aquamarine sea right in front of you, and the soft breeze gently touching your face. It’s idyllic, as simple as that.

Friday Island from the boat

Friday Island from the boat

Then, we were invited to hear Mr. Takami‘s explanation about pearl cultivation: he explained us about the materials, the technic, the type of pearls and how to differentiate between a natural pearl from a cultivated one. It was very interesting.

It was already the beginning of the afternoon and the boat took us from Friday Island to another one very close by, I believe it is totally deserted, only the sea, the corals and the wild. We made a very long walk along the beach and mangroves, it was very hot and humid, and if it wasn’t for the food we ate and the water and the sunblock we had, we wouldn’t have had fun at all… But we were prepared, and the long walk was forth it. After we arrived to the other side of the island and saw the most beautiful and pristine water we have ever seen, we didn’t hesitate to get in the water. I was a little bit in doubt, though, because of the very infamous stingers – since we were in a place untouched by human hands.

At around four or five the boat was waiting for us and then we went home. It was a fantastic day with Mark and Cecile. When we arrived at the harbour, Mario and I decided to rest and take a nap, while the others went walking around the town for while. In the evening Mark and Cecile prepared a delicious dinner with sea food, rice and salad, some wine and bear. And for dessert French chocolate and the 70s Japanese samurai film Hanzo the Razor.

Sunset from the harbour. Friday Island

Sunset from the harbour. Friday Island

The next day Mario and I had other plans, and decided to leave earlier to Horn Island and wait for Blasco and Kat there for the afternoon flight to Cairns. In Horn Island we visited the war museum. It is very small but very interesting. I knew that Australia was active during the Second World War, but never imagined that the Islanders were very active as well, and that Torres Strait was an important point for both the Allies and the Axis in the Pacific Theatre. The Horn Island airport (which is small) was actually used as a staging base for Allied aircraft moving between Australia and New Guinea. Also, back then, there was still a lot of tension between whites and indigenous people (both islanders and aborigines); however, and despite that issue, both groups fought together as Australians to defend their land from attacks.

At the beach in the deserted island

At the beach in the deserted island

Torres Strait was an surprisingly great stop in our itinerary. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but on Sunday afternoon, waiting at the airport for our flight to Cairns, I told Kat that I was probably the very first Venezuelan to ever set foot in Thursday Island – or any other island in Torres Strait for that matter -, she also thought the same. I confess that I didn’t check any records or ask people about it, but (as Kat told us) not many Australians have ever been that far north, in such remote places; I also like to believe that I have been the only Venezuelan so far to ever visit the Torres Strait Islands.