When planning a trip to Australia, most people hit up the major cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Cairns. And while I love all these places (Okay, I haven’t been to Cairns), there is also something to be said for venturing out just a bit. My favorite Australian adventure: the toad races on Magnetic Island.
To get to Magnetic Island, you have to take a 30 minute ferry from Townsville.
Where the fuck is Townsville, I know. T-ville is about four hours drive south of Cairns (or a 2 hour flight from Brisbane).
There are plenty of things to do on the island including Great Barrier Reef tours, jetskiing, and fishing.
As well, there is a lovely Forts Walk: an hour and a half round trip trek which offers a gorgeous view of the coast as you encounter several WWII relics.
It is also home to Northern Australia’s largest wild population of koalas. WHO DOESN’T LOVE KOALAS?
All of this pales in comparison, however, to the Wednesday night toad races. God fucking BLESS Queenslanders for coming up with this shit.
Every Wednesday at 8pm at the Arcadia Hotel, a small, drunken group gathers to place bids on Cane Toads, which are poisonous, invasive fuckers that not even a vegan could give half a shit about. A man named Vern hosts this event. His official title: Toadmaster of Magnetic Island. I’m not fucking shitting you.
Now, Vern is kind of an SNL character waiting to happen. He used to walk around barefoot all the time and people would say, “Hey mate, you should really put some shoes on.” And Vern was like, “No no no, mate, I’m alright.” And then some shit went down and he got gangrene and lost his leg. So now he rocks a motor vehicle like nobody’s business and hikes his stump right on up to the handlebars to put it on display for the patrons like a goddamn BOSS!
So the actual race:
There is a big ass circle drawn in chalk on the ground, and chairs set up all around this circle. 8 toads are introduced by Vern individually. He tells a story about them and sometimes kisses them much to the horror of the audience, and then allows a bit of a preview, so the people betting can see how fast the toad is. Then the auction starts.
This is where it gets really ridiculous.
People straight up bet HUNDREDS of dollars on a fucking TOAD.
Now, most of these people are SLOSHED two inches from horizontal, but still...can you imagine having to go home to your wife and be like, “Baby, I’m sorry, I threw our rent money away on some bloody toads.”
I should also mention that a majority of the money goes to charity so up your bets, fellas!
Also, I bet $50 on a toad. No regrets.
So once all 8 toads have a bidder, they are put into a contraption in the middle of the circle. On your mark, get set, GO! The contraption is lifted and the toads leap (or not, some of them were so over it) and the first one who crosses the chalk line is the winner. The person who bid on that toad gets a fraction of the money (again, the rest goes to charity), and then another round begins.
I didn’t win any of the rounds. I guess I’ll just have to return to Magnetic Island soon. I really hope Vern gives me a ride on his electric scooter next time.