A week away at a remote island makes a blogger forget how to write a post. Which is probably the most flattering thing I can say about our week long holiday to that chain of islands first sighted by Captain Cooke during an elusive Christian holiday. We stayed at the Whitsundays’ Hamilton Island, an island now answering to a private company that even built an airport over reclaimed land to support its enterprise of conveyor belt like tourism.
In effect, Hamilton Island, or at least the part of the island that has been developed, is one great resort. One is offered multiple options for staying at the island, ranging from luxury secluded houses to apartments and hotel rooms. We went with the latter option, which happens to be the cheapest, too.
The hotel, called Reef View Hotel, is not bad at all. It aged a bit and that shows, but not to a degree that troubles; the rooms are quite generous in size, and regardless – who cares about anything when this is the view you get from your hotel room balcony? I would say that this view is by far the greatest attraction Hamilton Island can provide.
I have good evidence to support this claim of mine, mainly in the shape of “there is not much else to do on the island”. There is a beach, a marina, some restaurants, sports activities, swimming pools, and that’s pretty much it.
On our second day we rented a golf buggy to explore the island. It dawned on us that even with the buggy being as slow as a mediocre jogger, one can venture from one side of the island to the other in a few minutes. That is to say, if one is not encumbered by the likes of little children, one can fully manage a Hamilton Island holiday by foot. Not that most holidayers to the island would agree, for Hamilton Island is that circle of hell devoted to the paid worship of laziness.
There are lots of free things to do on the island, once you’re in it, but there is also much demand for the wallet. On the island you’re captive audience, and it shows. There is no competition for your money: all the food options, for example, are closely related. For example, the same bakery that provides the donuts for the supplied breakfast does all the baking for the whole island. There are no other options but the island’s options, as evident by the absence of the likes of MacDonald’s or Burger King. They know they have you in their pockets, which is why they feel free to charge a two to three times premium over their mainland rivals in both food, entertainment (e.g., mini golf or mini zoo) and activities (renting that buggy for a few hours costs as much as renting a car for a day). It didn't take long before I started fantasizing of cooking facilities that would allow me to eat the things I actually want to eat rather than the things they want to sell me. The fact the island seems to boast Australia's worst coffee helped that mental state.
Things quickly settled into a routine of gulping a huge breakfast (very yummy, even if bacon is cooked to English standards rather than my much preferred crispy American way). From then we moved to our room for a change of attire before heading to the beach or swimming pool; insert breaks for reading and napping and you get the gist of it.
Hard times were interrupted once for a boat trip to Whitehaven Beach, located on the Whitsunday island that gave the islands their name. The whole island is a nature reserve and its beach is made of special silica sand that doesn’t stick: there’s proper fish swimming between your legs and guana lizards lurking in the woods. The whole thing is a pristine reminder for what the world was like before humans came and spoiled it all.
As much as we enjoyed our relaxing time at Hamilton Island, it appears our five year old enjoyed it even more. He enjoyed it so much he woke us up each morning at 6:30, “allowing” us to enjoy multiple sunrises we would have otherwise slept through. He swam (or rather, messed about in the water), he ran, he played, he mini golfed, he played checkers, and he had our undivided attention. Best of all, he wasn’t sick! This type of holiday, involving minimal effort on everyone’s behalf, seems to suit him well at his current stage of development. Much more than, say, dragging him across the streets of Amsterdam and into world class art museums.
For the tech inclined I will mention there are several free wifi hotspots on the island (e.g., at the hotel lobby). The unencrypted nature of these networks means one should be careful of snooping by fellow users; I was quite horrified to see the hordes of Internet surfers going their business totally oblivious to the fact that anyone can easily tap on their non encrypted communicados. Other than that there is good Telstra and Optus reception throughout the island. For data purposes, both supply slow ADSL like speeds (as opposed to more ADSL2 like speeds). Latency is horrendous and can be measured in seconds, but by far the biggest surprise was me being able to repeatedly clock Optus at twice the speed of Telstra. The world has gone upside down at Hamilton Island!
Put together, we all had great relaxing fun at Hamilton Island. It wasn’t the type of holiday I am used to, a holiday that involved much exploration, but it was a holiday that suited our current state (or lack of it). Indeed, the main problem with this holiday of ours is to do with what lies waiting for us in the near future: a move back to a newly renovated house. After that I am sure we will all be in dire need of a holiday.
I would like to note I contemplated various titles for this post. In particular, I was after “My Week Without Mass Effect” as a way to describe the detachment from normal life that this island holiday represented. However, it quickly became obvious this week of holidays is not and cannot be a week without Mass Effect: between iPad and iPhone games, comic books, ebooks and regular updates via the Internet, the only Mass Effect thing I didn’t do this holiday week was play Mass Effect 3 on my PS3. That is to say, in this age of the Internet, there is no real disassociation from stuff without significant effort – no even on a remote island.
I therefore ended with a title of an old Australian TV series that proved very popular with Israeli kids at its time.