Sunday 25th to Wednesday 28th March – Fraser Island
Sunday was a travel day, dropping the car back to Brisbane (bye big SUV!) and getting on the Greyhound to Noosa to join our tour doing 3 days / 2 nights on Fraser Island. Wayne had done this part of his Oz trip 22 years ago so was keen to go back to a place he remembered as being really stunning and for some reason that meant I had to camp…
The journey up was uneventful and we spent the night in a motel called At the Sound without ever seeing the hosts before our 6.45 pick up with Drop Bear Adventures (we are yet to encounter the fearsome Drop Bear). We’d figured as it was well organised and more expensive than the normal back packer trips, it wouldn’t be full of 18 year olds on their gap year… wrong – there were 30 people on the trip and we still managed to double the average age by our presence but they were a lovely group and made us free really welcome.
The 30 people were split over 4 cars, with Troy our fearless leader in car 1 and anyone who wanted to drive spread across the other cars. I took the first shift getting the 4×4 to rainbow beach, and we were joined in the car by Chris and Karen from Hong Kong and Jean from France, till we picked up 3 Swiss ladies from their hostel in Rainbow Beach.
There is a car ferry that drops you over onto the island and then that’s it! No roads, beach driving and for us the threat of some seriously bad weather as Cyclone Debbie, which was building much further north so was no direct threat, swung the clouds into a swoosh up the whole of the east coast. But today we were lucky, clouds in the sky as we dropped our gear off at the Drop Bear Campsite but no rain, so we headed up to the ship wreck of the SS Maheno, which after life as a luxury ferry was then pressed into service as a hospital ship in the First World War before being wrecked on Fraser Island. It sits on the beach, slowly disintegrating and is an interesting contrast to the island which is almost completely free of man-made structures.
Next was the first of our fresh water dips. Eli Creek is a crystal clear creek that runs from inland out to the sea and there are wooden walk ways that allow you to head inland before you jump into the creek and either float on a tube, swim or wade back to the beach. Really fun but pretty nippy water!
We headed back to the campsite for sun downers, a beer, some really good BBQ prepared by Mark the owner and a couple of glasses of wine, before an attempt at star-gazing. Our early start did mean that pretty much everyone was in bed by 10pm… just in time for the rain to start, and I mean RAIN… being in a tent does mean all rain sounds like a monsoon but I did wake several times in the night to wonder if the campsite would flood.
Morning, and no flood, just several leaking tents but a great sunrise and breakfast being put together by the team along with lots of coffee.
Today we were going to start the trip with a hike inland to Lake Wabby across a giant sand dune imaginatively called a sand blown because the sand has been blown inland drowning the forest… you get the idea. We’d got an early start and Troy hoped we would be the first at the lake to enjoy being the first before all the other visitors descended. (we were… nice one Troy!)
It’s a really beautiful fresh water lake where the water is coloured a light brown by the surrounding tea trees. Troy claimed is one of nature’s best cleansers with antiseptic properties and a place where the original tribe used to come to bath when they needed to heal, well that was his reason for never washing but to be fair he didn’t smell. In the water were lots of little fishes – which if you sat really still – would come and nibble on any dead skin so a tickley version of a natural spa.
As the other groups arrived we packed up and got back in the 4x4s and headed up the picnic spot at Happy Valley for lunch with giant iguanas eyeing up the food before heading to the Champagne pools, a set of rocks with huge circular hollows that stay full of water at low tide, and have a whole host of sea life wondering why quite so many tourists have rocked up in their homes.
Then onto Indian Head, named by Captain Cook as he passed and saw some of the locals stood on the rocky outcrop. Wayne had seen tiger sharks circling in the waters below the cliff 20 years ago but we weren’t so lucky today and it looked like all our luck in avoiding the rain showers was about to run out, so we headed back towards the campsite stopping at Eli creek for a quick fresh water dip. It really started to chuck it down, so dinner was in the large covered area and after a few beers we all retired to our tents.
Last day and we were up nice and early to get to Lake McKenzie – the real highlight of the trip. It is a ‘perched’ lake, which means it contains only rainwater, no groundwater, is not fed by streams and does not flow to the ocean. The sand and organic matter at the base of the lake form an impervious layer, preventing rainwater from draining away.
The sand here is pure, white silica and is not only beautiful to look at but feels beautifully soft to walk on and a great exfoliant. The sand acts as a filter, giving the water its clarity and helping to make the water so pure it can support very little life, and makes the waters of the lake a range of blues and greens. Just gorgeous and we spent an hour quietly swimming and paddling in the clear, clear water.
Back in the cars we headed up to Central Station for lunch and a wander in the rainforest. Wayne tried on an Elk Fern for size – think green is his colour..
but we had to beat a retreat when the heavens opened and torrential rain came crashing down. We hid in the cafe at central station before headline back across on the ferry and back to the warm showers and soft beds of our hotel.
It was a great trip, despite the rain (and my dislike of camping!), and a beautiful part of Australia to explore.