Magnetic Island's name has nothing to do with the fact it is magnetic in any way, so let's just all calm down and face the front of the class. Apparently, that jolly old fellow James Cook had a compass that went a bit berserk when he sailed near Maggie Island (so-called by locals, and by locals I mean every other backpacker who visits), so his crew was all like WOAH IT'S TOTALLY MAGNETIC and he was like YEAH I AM SUCH A BADASS EXPLORER and one of the crew said NO I THINK YOUR COMPASS IS BROKEN GOOD SIR and Jimmy replied DON'T BE RIDICULOUS, SCURVY HAS CLEARLY SENT YOU INSANE, BOYS GET THIS MENTALIST TO THE PLANK AND MAKE SURE YOU ALL EAT NUMEROUS ORANGES.
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I digress. To reach Maggie, you hop on a little ferry from Townsville. It's fairly straightforward.
We stayed at YHA Bungalow Bay, which in typical YHA form is quite dull but nice and safe, as well as being generally good value for money. Rather than typical dorms, the rooms are three-bed wooden huts, set in the grounds of a wildlife park. It's all very cute, if a little contrived, but fun.
Or so I thought.
You know in horror movies, right at the end, when you find out who the killer is, or all the zombies have been killed (zombies are un-dead though, so is killing even the right word?), or the ghost has been exorcised, and the protagonist looks all pale and clammy and even though they're okay and all their friends are dead, bar the ones played by really famous actors, you know they're going to be really screwed up for a bit? Well, that's how I looked after two nights at Bungalow Bay. They were terrifying. I'd been in Oz nearly a month by this point but hadn't really encountered any of the legendary spiders or snakes or creepy crawlies you hear of. Until now.
The first night, it's just me and my friend in this three-bed hut. The roof is, at its highest point, probably about seven feet high. There are gaps between some of the wood planks, with low beds and a kind of mesh section of wall right at pillow level.
We go to our respective beds. The friend is out like a light. I am not. All of a sudden, something crashes on to the bin. I let out a yelp. We turn the light on. There are two geckos on the floor. Until now I had never seen a gecko, let alone realised they are not just harmless but actually good to have around, as they eat mosquitoes. One of the geckos has fallen into the bin. They have suckers on their feet which make them able to cling on to ceilings. But not this one, which has clearly been cursed with some rubbish gecko DNA. They scurry about everywhere. I figuratively shit myself. Not literally, as that would be not just gross but a severe overreaction. I spot something moving on the wall. Yep, they're legs. Eight of them. It's a massive dob-off spider hiding behind the light switch. We ignore the geckos and try to kill the spider with bug spray. Not only does it not die, it legs it (pun fully intended) down the wall on to the floor, where I squash it and hit it with my brand new Havaiana flip flops. Crisis averted. The geckos bugger off. We decide we need the loo. During the walk outside to the loo, something - probably a possum or similarly evil being - bobs right past us. I figuratively shit myself again. It's a dramatic night overall, and I get little to no sleep after we come back from the bathroom. Later that week, I learn the noise made by geckos - it's a smoochy little kissing noise - is them flicking their tails. Not some fang-exposing, stomach-rumbling signal they're about to eat you whole.
The next day, I'm grouchy and bitchier than my usual self. Not just due to tiredness, but of the fear of what's to come that evening. We do a pub quiz with a couple of friends we've met in Noosa, come third and drink the winnings. Fantastic! I'll be able to sleep thanks to this booze!
I wake up at 3am. I hear rustling. Something crawls over a carrier bag on the floor. I am actually sweating with fear under my sleeping bag. I hear a footstep next to my pillow, behind the mesh panel. I bolt out of the bed and sit on my friend's. Another footstep. It's like whatever's out there is watching, waiting, planning the right moment to pounce. Either that or it's a possum trying to get about in the night without waking anyone. But oh my god, what's that I hear on the doorstep? I open the door. It's a mega-sneaky possum going through the bin (I knew I should have destroyed that Tim Tams wrapper).
I can't take any more of this. I admit it. I admit defeat, and I admit being a pussy. But when a giant, genetically mutated possum-gecko hybrid with eight legs takes over the world, we'll all be sorry. I fall back asleep and wake again two hours later. I need the bathroom. Friend is fast asleep. Gods damn it I'll have to go alone. So I do, and it's so scary, Blair Witch Project-style scary minus the gratuitous snot scene, but I make it back, and I think that counts as facing a fear, especially as the YHA receptionist told us earlier there is a massive golden orb spider who lives above the door to the ladies' bathroom. And I just swanned right past it. Spiders: 0, Me: 1.
To celebrate this victory, enjoy some pictures of Magnetic Island in all of its horrifying glory.
Just like the guy from Crimewatch says, "don't have nightmares".