Saturday, December 15, 2007

Australia Story (p2) - Maggie

It's a quick ferry ride from Townsville to Magnetic Island. All I had for the trip was a backpack full of stuff, my bicycle, and a hostel reservation for a few days. From my previous research, I knew that there were three unofficial nude beaches on the island, each of which had a geocache nearby.

My impressions from the textile beaches were a bit disappointing. There were a good number of people at the beaches, but most had full clothing on. Maybe half of the men had swim shorts, and only a few women had bikini tops and shorts. For an island full of beaches, this seemed like odd attire.

I went to Picnic Bay on the southern part of the island and took the 20 minute hike down to the Rocky Bay unofficial nude beach. The trail is hard to stay on at the top of the hill, and the hike down gets somewhat steep. When I got there, I noticed a home-made wooden sign declaring the area as a traditional nude beach.

Behind one of the first rocks was a middle-aged woman, topless, reading a book and enjoying the company of her small dog. She was the only person that I saw at the beach, so I decided to talk to her for a bit. (Normally this is a bad idea, since women see this as a coming-on gesture. I was as non-intrusive and as friendly as I could be.) I asked her what she knew about the other two nude beaches on the island, but she didn't know anything about them. She said that this one suits her just fine, because she lives in Picnic Bay during the winter months. During our quick conversation, she mentioned that there were some other people further down the beach. She also suggested that I go for a swim.

For the record, I had previously decided to NOT go in the water in Australia, because there are a large number of critters in those waters that can kill me. I'm not much of a swimmer anyway, so I figured it was best to play it safe. I went to a lot of beaches during my trip, but never went in the water.

I politely told her that I didn't have much time, since I had to walk/bike back to the hostel. I didn't think it was safe to be naked here, because there is a lookout point on the hill next to the beach, and the ferry goes by at regular intervals. (The picture at the top of this post was taken from the lookout, and the first beach that you see is Rocky Bay.)

I approached the other people on the beach. One middle-aged man was enjoying a swim, and the other was an older man (clothed) who was there to watch him as a safety measure. I talked with the older man for a little while. He knew about the other nude beaches, and said that Balding Bay was pretty good but was too much hiking for him. I asked him what he thought about the ferry and the lookout point, and he said "they're too far away to really see anything, so don't even worry about them." (I could see the clothing they were wearing at the lookout point, so I didn't really believe his answer.) I asked him why there were only three people at the beach -- which ended up being a dumb question. He pointed at the sky, and said "no sun". It was a cloudy day. There were 10 or so that routinely enjoy the beach on the sunny days.

The walk back to Picnic Bay ended up with me losing the trail, bush-walking a bit, and ending up on a random street. I was looking around slightly dumbfounded, and noticed the woman from the beach. She saw me and pointed me in the direction of where the trail started, and where my bike was parked. I thanked her and went on my way. Rocky Bay was a decent beach, but I was convinced that Balding Bay was the place to go to try nudism.

The next day I went north to the Horseshoe Bay area. The east side of Horseshoe Bay is probably the biggest and most popular textile beach on the island. That's not where I was going... Instead, I took small gravel roads through the trees to get to the far west end of the beach. I emerged and took in the amazing view. There was an older couple, one nude guy swimming, and nobody else for a long way down the beach. I climbed the rocks to find the geocache, and observed that this wasn't much of a nude beach. There is a horse-riding tour that goes through, and occasional textilers that like really long walks down the beach. I'm sure this was a great area, but tourism (mostly periodic horse rides) has made this side of the beach not-so nude friendly. I didn't want to try nudism here. Bummer... This was strike number two.

Back on the east side of the Bay was the trail head to Balding Bay. Balding Bay is the most secluded beach that people can get to without a boat. The tourist literature says that it's the most beautiful beach on the island, but didn't mention the clothing-optional nature of it. The trail is about a 25 minute hike from the far east end of Horseshoe Bay. It looked new, and had a different (older) trail blocked off with signs mentioning death. (The wording on most Australian signs is a bit extreme.) I passed several tourists along the trail. There weren't any signs declaring it as a nude beach. Was this beach also damaged by tourism?

Sort-of. There were about 10 textilers there, but there were naked people as well. There was a group of four older people hanging out and chatting at the back of the beach, and a middle-aged couple at the side of the beach. The guy was taking closeup pictures of the girl, and the group was packing up to head out, so I figured I shouldn't bug any of them.

I didn't want to try nudism with so many textilers around. I figured that if the majority were nude, I'd join in. Being in the minority just doesn't feel right, especially for a first-timer... This was my third and final nude beach for the trip -- the one I was looking forward to since Rocky Bay -- and it was about as disappointing as the other ones. My goal was to try nudism on at least one of the beaches, but they have all been disappointing so far. It's still early afternoon, so I have at least a few hours to wonder around here. I haven't given up hope just yet...


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Australia Story (p1) - Intro.

This is the untold story of my trip to Australia. (You know, the bits dealing with all the nudity.) I'll be writing it in 10 parts through the rest of the winter. I encourage you to follow along because there are many important lessons to be learned from it. Also, it offers a peek into Australian nudism and the tells the story of my lonely, persistent journey into social nudism.

Sometimes, life can put you in some very unique situations. As I was finishing my bachelors degree, I was having a lot of trouble finding a good job. Just as I was giving up hope, I got an email from the university: Something like "most of you have already found jobs or graduate programs, and we wish you the best of luck on your future careers. However, if you don't fit into either category, you may want to consider our masters program." Their timing was perfect -- I signed up. There was just one issue -- the program requires a semester of study in either frosty Europe or sunny Australia. I ended up being the first person from my university to go to JCU in Townsville, Australia.

I spent the fall semester of 2006 on the other side of the world. I had no idea what to expect since I was the first person to be sent there, I had a shoestring budget, and my family, girlfriend, and everything that I knew was 8,000 miles away. Keeping in contact was difficult, because the phone system was expensive and nearly impossible to use, and internet wasn't cheap. (JCU charged $22 AUD per gigabyte, so Skype was certainly not an option.) My main forms of communication were a blog, photo album, email, and IM. Anyone who knows me personally can have a link the first two, if they ask, but they only cover half of the story. (The other half is here.)

I had three main goals during my stay:
1. Do well in school (to keep my 4.0).
2. Do as much as I can as a poor temporary local. (Don't be a tourist!)
3. Visit every nude beach I can.

I have been interested in nudism for many years previously, and often went nude at home. I have never before been nude outside, but I knew this was the place to try it. Australia has a lot of legal nude beaches, and the beaches are paradise. Townsville is in the tropical north-east, where the tropical rain-forest meets the big white sandy beaches, and where the big white sandy beaches meet the clear water and great barrier reef. This place was just as beautiful as any other pacific island. Every day was sunny (about 5 rainy days during my 5 month stay) and the temperatures were perfect (highs of 75 to 88F year-round). This was the perfect place to be nude, so I knew I had to try it!

Come to find out, Queensland is the ONLY state in Australia that has NO legal nude beaches! In fact, Queensland doesn't even allow topless sunbathing at their beaches. Bummer!

However, here are some other neat facts:
  • There are over 10 porn shops in Townsville, many along main roads and brightly decorated. (One was right across from a candy shop full of kids!)
  • Australia's media allows nudity, both on TV and in magazines, so it seems to not be as big of a deal as the laws make it out to be. I picked up a few postcards that have topless women on the beaches from a tourist store.
  • Nobody that I saw at the Townsville beaches went top-free, and very few wore anything revealing.
  • There are a lot of laws for a lot of little things! But...
  • There is a sense of lawlessness, especially once you get outside the city.
  • There really isn't much civilization outside the cities, and there are so many beaches and trails that it's easy to have one to yourself. (Therefore, it's difficult and not worth the time for police to patrol anything outside the city.)
Many of my adventures consisted of hiking, biking, geocaching, and seeing places like no other tourist does. When planning a trip, I tried to visit places where either geocaches or unofficial nude beaches were. This really gets you into the wild! Geocachers have good taste and lead you to some amazing places, and nudists generally congregate in very secluded areas. Geocachers pointed me to the tops of mountains and some memorable trails that not many people know exist. And nudists pointed me to some of the most beautiful, and empty, beaches that I have ever seen. Who needs tourism -- this is an adventure! This is exactly the type of adventure that I like!

My first stop was only a ferry-ride away -- Magnetic Island.

* Picture is of Townsville, with Castle Hill in the middle of town and Magnetic Island in the distance. Taken at the break of dawn from Mt. Stuart.