After a brief overnight stay in Rockhampton, I decided to head north to visit the Capricorn Caves. These are a series of dry caves that contain Rock Wallabies, Spiders and Micro-bats amongst other things. The caves consist of 14 chambers and the largest of these is called the Cathedral cave as it is used to hold weddings and classical concerts because of its almost perfect acoustics. Just when our guide was about to switch of the lights to show us how dark it was one of the group suddenly screamed 'SNAKE' as there was a 2m long Cobra snake climbing up the wall looking for micro-bats. This made the lights out section of the tour particularly interesting but everyone survived.
From there I headed south to the twin towns of Agnes Waters / Town of 1770 just down the coast. The town was named 1770 because Lieutenant James Cook himself visited there in 1770 when he 'found' Australia, despite the Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and Aborigines all getting there before him. Agnes is a developing coastal resort town as it has an excellent 7km surfing beach but the highlight of my stay was actually an onland Scooteroo tour. Scooteroos are "Chopper" twist and go style scooters (top speed 80km) and local eccentric Rod runs daily tours to go looking for Kangaroos and Rock Wallabies in the nearby national parks. The fun bit is that you travel around in gangs of 30-50 bikers 'terrorizing' the neighbourhood and the poor Kangaroos. In reality, it is all good fun and an interesting way of seeing the local neighbourhood and wildlife.
After stocking up with much needed supplies (books & food !!) in Bundaberg and Maryborough, my next overnight was in Rainbow Beach further down the coast. This is one of the launch points for ferries to Fraser Island, one of Australia's most spectacular natural phenomena and a World Heritage Site. So the next morning, I was up early so I could get to the ferry before the thousands of Australians heading north from Brisbane for their Easter vacations. Fortunately, there was no delay for the ferry apart from the difficulty driving through the heavy sandy beach on the way to the launch. Fraser Island is unique because the 120km by 50km island consists entirely of SAND but what makes it particularly unique is the fact that it is covered in rainforest, contains about 30 lakes and has Australia's purest collection of Dingos ! This also means that the roads on the island are also completely constructed from sand with the main 'road' on the island being the eastern beach. This means that when planing your trips around the island you also need to consider the times of the low and high tides.
I arrived just after high tide and this meant I had to plough through some fairly rough sand on my way up the beach. Having just passed the village of Eurong, I got stuck in some sand and then my engine suddenly cut out and I lost the use of my rev meter!! After multiple attempts, I was able to restart the engine but it would only stay fired for about 10 seconds. Fortunately, the tide was going out which meant that I had some extra time to get it restarted and after about 30+ attempts, I finally got the car to run long enough that I could get back to the local village. There I had a local look at it and concluded that the problem was probably related to the fuel pump. Fortunately, there was a mechanic 400m away on the island, although it took me about 90 minutes to get there as it took that long to get my car to restart again and because I was helping some other tourists who were using my spare battery to resolve their Battery / Alternator problems !!. Eventually, I got to the mechanic where the problem was eventually traced to a malfunctioning fuel filter and a broken fuse. Fortunately, the repair cost was just $25 but to be on the safe side I decided to camp close to the village just in case I had problems the following day.
That night, I camped on the beach front as all the local campings were full and the following morning I was up early to beat the tide and the crowds on some of the drives around the island. The first stop was Lake McKenzie a crystal clear lake in the centre of the island and during the following 2 days I ended up driving or hiking to another 10-15 lakes or lookout points around the island. The drives there were particularly interesting as they involved rough sandy tracks with 30-50cm tyre grooves and 100m hill climbs and descents. Many of the tracks were also single lane which made driving particularly interesting when you ran in to traffic coming the opposite direction. For this reason inland road speeds are limited to just 30km as many accidents have happened in the past. Both the lakes, lookout and rainforest are pretty spectacular however so the challenging drive is worth the effort. Back on the Eastern Beach, I checked out multi-coloured sand cliffs and an old shipwreck that got caught there during the 1930's. On returming to my tent on Sunday afternoon, I was also breathalised as the 'boys in blue' were out in force making sure the locals obeyed the road rules whilst celebrating Easter. As expected I passed and after an early night, I was up at dawn to catch the low tide back to the ferry. This meant that I was able to enjoy a spectacular sunrise whilst packing up my tent. Again I was ahead of the crowds so after an early breakfast in Rainbow Beach, I headed south again to my next stop Noosa, my last stop on Part 1 of my Aussie adventure !