Fraser Island

A twenty hour train journey, and one hour bus journey, brought me to Hervey Bay. The town itself is nothing to write home about really – its primary purpose seems to be as gateway to Fraser Island, being the nearest town on the mainland. An hour on a solidly industrial vehicle ferry took me to the island itself where the transport for the two day tour I had booked was waiting.

The car barge to Fraser Island The 4WD bus

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world at around 75 miles long, but instead of just being a huge sand bank, it actually supports a wide variety of fauna and flora due to a particular kind of fungus which exists in the sand. There are no paved roads on the island at all, so every vehicle must travel along constantly changing bumpy sand roads which could be a lot of fun when driven along at speed – our driver warned ‘the seat belts aren’t there in case we crash, they’re to stop you hitting your heads on the roof’. The tour made its first stop at an old logging station, and took in a walk through the rainforest. Apart from general sandiness of the area, you couldn’t tell that the entire forest was grounded on what is essentially a big dune. The creek whose valley the path followed was an indicator of things to come – crystal clear waters filtered through the sand which, while not recommended, tasted very refreshing.

Creek on Fraser Island Goanna

The next stop was Lake Mackenzie, the largest of several freshwater lakes on the island. I managed to get in a good half-hour swim, a proper exercise which I hadn’t had for weeks, and surprisingly it felt good šŸ™‚ The stillness of the water, the size of the lake (and thus distance from the more noisy of the tour parties) and the warmth of the day made it possibly the nicest swim that I’ve ever done. Not what I’d expected when I got up that morning. After a quick stop at the resort where we’d be staying overnight for lunch, the tour bus headed up to another swimming hole – Lake Wabby – reached by a 45 minute hike through the bush. This lake was a sandblow, where a moving sand dune slowly encroaches and fills in an existing lake, itself created by the sand blocking off a creek. It wasn’t as spectacular as Lake Mackenzie, but the swim was very welcome after the long trawl to get to it. The evening back at the resort brought good food, and a fair amount of comedy too. The tour operator staff had all participated in Movember (the international prostate cancer awareness drive), and after a fair amount of beer, a mass moustache shave-off was held. Our particular guide looked completely different after his shave – I thought his Fu Manchu suited him a bit too well…
With a frighteningly early start the next day, I walked down to the beach to watch the sunrise with a couple of the other members of the tour group. Despite constant attacks by the local flies (big, annoying, but relatively easy to whack) the sunrise was gorgeous, and we were joined by a small family of dingoes though they helpfully kept their distance. Fraser Island is one of the few places where dingoes can be easily seen in the wild, though the increasing numbers of tourists are causing problems for them – mainly dependency, by leaving food scraps which the young dingoes will eat.

Lake Mckenzie Sunrise by the resort

The rest of the day was spent on a long drive up the east coast of the island, stopping at several spots. Eli Creek is a… creek. Very cold, fast flowing water which (in less dry seasons) you can float down to the sea (but not into the sea – it’s populated with Tiger Sharks). The shipwreck of the Maheno, which ran aground in 1935, was quite picturesque, as waves pounded through holes in the hull. The Coloured Sands were just that, different coloured sands looking like cliffs on the beach. The most northerly point of the trip was the Champagne Pools, by Indian Heads. Here, rock pools are constantly washed through by cresting waves which leave the waters looking gently fizzy – yet another nice place for a swim šŸ™‚

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Back at the hostel that night, I had the good fortune to be invited across to the next chalet (the Hervey Bay YHA was laid out like a holiday village) by an American ex-pat who was celebrating his 67th birthday. A friend of his (an Aussie sea fisherman) was manning the barbecue, loading it up with freshly caught banana prawns, sausage, steak, and burgers. The food went down well – my first ever ‘prawns on a barbie’ – and the wine flowed freely. Possibly a little too freely for my newly found comrade-in-arms, Chris, who was pretty unwell for the night, and bus ride the following day. I, of course, was perfectly ok… ahem…

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