I looked at the dilapidated buildings and half-paved roads and saw an impoverished community. Horn Island and Thursday Island were poor mockeries of civilization; just built up enough to have destroyed the island’s natural beauty and without the resources or infrastructure to make a well-run city.
My poor Couchsurfing travel buddy, he had showed me around Cairns and jumped at Willi’s invitation to crew on Mr Blues until Darwin. He had been so excited to see Thursday Island. What a disappointment. The poor guy was missing a week of classes to see this? Turning to my travel companion I was shocked to see a beaming face.
“We are in paradise!” he gushed. “Look, there are passion-fruits growing on the vine,” he pointed to some stringy vines winding their way over a high fence. “The people are so friendly… How could you ask for more?”
I was somewhat relieved that Dave didn’t feel cheated. He had been playing Seaman Dan’s tropical strains on repeat as a soundtrack on the way to the island. The light-hearted island-y music conjured pictures of sipping icy drinks on laid-back lush islands in the sun with palm trees. The reality had fallen short of the picture painted in my mind. To me, it seemed like the Bahamas’ poorer islands, just without the advantage of being set in crystal clear azure waters.
Dave, on the other hand was enraptured, these islands were rich in culture. I shouldn’t discount the islands so quickly. The locals produced amazing artwork; the music that came out of here was world-class. There was more than met the eye – if you gave it a chance. I just needed to get into the rhythm of the place. And Dave was right, the local woman I did meet was extremely nice and Seaman Dan was fun music. But we were traveling with a flotilla, not on our own.
The World Arc Rally only spent one day in Thursday and Horn Islands, and with the errands we needed to run this wasn’t even enough time to visit the local museum. The type of travel where you stop a day for a cursory glance at places type of travel really isn’t my style. I like to get in-depth in a culture, dig beneath the touristy veneer. But I am trying a different type of travel this time.
Many of my favorite places are ones that take a bit longer to get to know. If you don’t have previous knowledge of the culture and history of the island then I do not recommend just popping by Thursday or Horn Islands. A quick glance doesn’t display these islands in their best light. The way to get to know these places is certainly through a local’s eyes, something you can’t really do when traveling with the ARC.
If by some chance I do happen to make it back to Thursday or Horn Islands I will try to mingle with the locals a bit more. After all, the connections, experiences, and insider’s viewpoint are what makes solo travel so rewarding. But traveling with the Rally is a wonderful way of getting a snapshot of places and an idea of where I will want to spend more time in the future. As culturally rich as Thursday Island may be, there are one or two other places and cultures I have more interest in exploring first.