May 18, 2010
|Fraser Island - the largest sand island in the world and of such significance that it is World Heritage listed. A few years ago on a previous visit to Queensland I had done a one-day tour of Fraser Island and had enjoyed it so much I had always wanted to return to see more of this beautiful island. So, we decided that now was a good time to take that opportunity. I researched all the options available from day trips, to staying in the resort, to hiring our own 4 x 4 vehicle and camping gear but in the end decided that the best option for us was a 3-day camping trip with a tour company called Sunrover Tours. This seemed to offer the best opportunity to see a good deal of the Island’s highlights at a cost that was affordable to us. We did a bit of negotiating to get the 3 days off work and organized dates that fell in between house sits. This was important because with the house sits comes the responsibility of taking care of their dogs which means we are unable to go away overnight. It all ended up a bit frantic for a few days as we packed up the house in Mooloolaba, gave it a good clean and tidy up ready for the owners return, transferred all our stuff to a little villa at the caravan park and of course continued working. In the midst of all this Mum arrived from WA for a visit. Whilst we were very excited to see her the timing of her visit meant we couldn’t be with her as much we would have liked to. She was totally understanding of this though and fully supported our planned trip.
Well the morning of our departure finally arrived and I was just SO excited. One of the wonderful things about our grand adventure is that I have been able to do so many of the things that I have dreamed about for such a long time and, honestly, never thought I would.
Steve (my brother in law) picked us up from the caravan park and dropped us off at the pick up point for the tour. We had only been there a minute or so when up pulled a small Landrover – this was to be our transport for the next 3 days. I have to admit – we were surprised at the size of it (we had been expecting a small mini bus or such like) but soon loved the idea of such a personalized trip with only a small group of people. We were introduced to Joel, our guide, and the 4 passengers already in the car - Celine from Switzerland, and 3 young lads from Germany. Joel quickly stowed our luggage onto the roof, we clambered into the back of the car and off we drove to Noosa to pick up the last of our fellow travellers. On the way we took the opportunity to get to know each other and find out what brought each of us here – always fun hearing other people’s stories. Upon arrival in Noosa we found Phillip from Belgium eagerly awaiting us and after a bit more adjusting to fit us all into the back of the car, we hit the road again. We headed up through Tewantin and onto the car ferry to cross over to North Shore and then onto the 40-mile road on the beach.
We had traveled this road once before with Tricia and Peter (my aunt and uncle) and were really pleased to be able to do it again. It is such fun to think you are driving on a stretch of beach that is classed as part of the official roadway system – all road rules apply. Last time we were on this road it quite rough and bumpy but today it was much smoother. Still bumpy enough though that Ken was very thankful for the pillows we had brought with us and which he put to good use cushioning his not very well padded bottom!! Our fellow passengers also loved the ride and the feeling of doing something so very ‘Australian’ (no chance EVER of driving on a beach in Belgium enthused Phillip). After a few very rainy days preceding this we had been quite concerned about what the weather would be like but it totally turned it on for us. Beautiful clear, sunny skies with just the right amount of warmth to it – happy days ahead J
We arrived in Rainbow Beach (a small seaside town) just before lunch where we all disembarked to find some eats and to make any other necessary purchases. Whilst here we also found out that there was a second car belonging to the same tour company with whom we would be sharing our campsite.
Another crossing on a car ferry and we were finally on Fraser Island – I was rapt! Joel drove us along the 75-mile beach highway for about 30 minutes until we arrived at our campsite. We had known we would be sleeping in tents (all part of the fun) but I must admit that when we saw the state of the tents we were very disappointed. Ken and I were fine – I think we ended up with the best tent being assigned to us but the other poor things!! Celine’s tent had an inch of water in the bottom of it and Phillip’s tent did not have one zip that actually closed!! Joel set to work mopping up and wringing out all the water in Celine’s tent with a few towels assuring her it would be dry by the time she was ready to go to bed. Given that she had actually chosen the option of sleeping in a cabin when booking the trip, she was a little put out to first be told that as she was the only one to have chosen this option they couldn’t deliver and then to find her tent in such a poor state!!!! She was such a trooper though – she didn’t complain – she just accepted that that was the way it was to be and trusted that it would be dry!!
After stowing our bags in our tents it was back in the car again heading further up the beach. Lake MacKenzie - often described as the jewel of Fraser with its crystal clear water and pure white sand. At last I was here!! I had not had the opportunity to go to this lake on my last visit and it had always been a goal to be able to swim in its beautiful waters. As we did not arrive until about 2.30 pm it had started to cool off a little so Ken decided it was too cold for swimming. No way was I going to let a little bit of cold stop me though! It was definitely very ‘refreshing’ and I couldn’t stay in too long but I totally enjoyed the sensation of swimming in this gorgeous setting. After about an hour and a half here it was time for a hike through tropical rainforest at Central Station (used to be an old logging station) along the banks of Wanggoolba Creek to Pile Valley then back to the campsite for the promised hot showers and dry tents.
As dusk set in so too did the cold, getting more and more so as the evening wore on. Luckily Ken and I had come prepared so layered with thermals, jumpers, jackets, beanies, gloves and scarves. Not so lucky our German visitors who had brought board shorts and sweat shirts!! Our wonderful tour guides (we had been joined by the other group by now lead by their guide, Brendan) prepared what turned out to be a very meager dinner (no fault of Brendan and Joel that it was so meagre) and then it was time to sit around the camp fire to try to glean some heat to warm our cold bodies while Joel and Brendan providing the campsite entertainment with their guitars and singing.
After a VERY cold night we awoke to a VERY cold morning but as the sun awoke too we could see we were going to be blessed with another beautiful day. Breakfast, change of clothes, then in the car for today’s’ adventures. As we traveled back along the 75 mile beach highway we listened attentively as Joel told us a little about the islands history. The Butchulla people are the indigenous people of Fraser Island and their traditional name for Fraser Island was K'gari which means paradise. I totally get why that name was chosen! As the Europeans came to Fraser they cleared the land for agriculture and logging. In 1992 it was World Heritage listed in recognition of its natural values such as the rainforests, lakes, mangroves and beautiful sandy beaches. The dingoes of Fraser Island are one of the purest strains of dingo surviving in Australia today and the island provides a range of habitats for a multitude of birds many of whom are rare or vulnerable. As we traveled along the beach we had the privilege of spotting some of this wildlife and were so glad to know they were being protected.
Midway along the beach was our first stop for the day – Eli Creek. Eli is the largest freshwater creek to flow directly into the ocean. A boardwalk provides access to the top of the creek and those that dare brave the cool waters can enjoy floating down the fastest flowing creek on the island. Once again I was not about to let a little bit of cold deter me and so in I went. Oh boy was it cold – as I floated down the creek I remembered how much fun James and Brendan had had doing this same thing when we came all those years ago. Mind you I remember the water being a whole lot warmer then!!
Further down the beach we came to the famous Maheno shipwreck. Built in 1905, the SS Maheno was one of the first turbine driven steamers who plied a regular route between Sydney and Auckland. During World War I she was commissioned as a hospital ship in Europe. In 1935, she was sold to Japan for scrap. The rudder was removed and she was being towed to Japan. Upon reaching Queensland waters, a cyclonic storm snapped the tow chain and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto the beach at Fraser. This was to become her final resting place. During World War II the wreck was used for air force target practice leaving her full of the holes we see in her today. Time and rust are slowly eroding this once beautiful ship but I must admit, marooned as she is on this pristine beach she now has a different kind beauty, which is recorded many times over by the thousands of tourists who photograph her (yep – me included.
Continuing along the beach we head north for lunch, swim (yes even Ken had a swim here) and a ‘nanna nap’ on the beach at Champagne Pools – an absolutely idyllic spot. We then climb Indian Head to see the magnificent views and try to spot sharks, whales and dolphins from our vantage point. On the return trip to our campsite we stop to marvel at the coloured sand formation of the Pinnacles sculptured by erosion and showing an array of red, yellow, brown, and orange sands.
Back at camp we relax and enjoy those hot showers and the bottle of red we had packed, whilst our guides prepared dinner. Around the campfire I get a bit of a giggle as I listen to the young Americans from the other tour vehicle discuss the weird sayings those Australians have not realizing that there was one among them (that would be me!!). Due to the cloud cover it was a much milder night this night, nowhere near as chilly as the previous one. As I lay curled up inside my tent that night and reminisced about all I had seen and experienced this day I felt once again that familiar feeling of being so blessed and privileged to be on the road exploring this amazing country of ours.
Last day on Fraser – how quickly it has passed. Every body is a bit slower to rise today – maybe it is because we all know that this is our last day and that by tonight we will be back in our own beds. We have our breakfast then pack up all our belongings to be stowed back onto the car. We only have one last place to visit today – Lake Wabby. Again I had seen so many photos of this lake and had so wanted to be able to explore it for myself. Lake Wabby is a green colored lake with a large sand blow that is slowly encroaching upon it. They say that in about 10 years the sand will have completely engulfed the lake and it will no longer exist. On the other side it is surrounded by native Eucalypt forest. It is a bit of a trek in (about 45 mins) but a very enjoyable and peaceful walk. There was a feeling of some eeriness as we approached as only yesterday the body of a Korean tourist had had been found in the lake. He had been part of a tourist group much like ours and had decided to go snorkeling on Friday. When the group was ready to walk back they realized he was not with them and so raised the alarm. No cries for help, no splashing, no sound at all - he must have just slipped quietly under the surface of the water and no one was aware. So very sad. In respect of this most within the group chose not to swim but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity – when would I ever get the chance again? Does this make me insensitive??
And finally it is time to head back to the car and drive back down the beach to the ferry making the most of my last photo opportunities. I am glad to say that this trip met and even surpassed my expectations and will definitely be up there as one of the highlights of our big adventure. It is a place of such beauty and peace – truly a paradise here on earth.