Day 36: To Fraser Island

Today is going to be a big day, we start off at the HQ of Aussie Trax at 6am to get our car and instructions for the next two days, as we’ll be spending those on Fraser Island! The worlds largest sand island. Fraser Island has no roads, but only 4×4 tracks and a very long and wide beach.

As it is an island, you need to be on a boat to get there. The boat leaves from River Heads, just a few kilometres from Hervey Bay, and we need to catch the 9am barge. Straigh after arriving at the HQ of the rental company, we get to watch a video telling us of all the dangers on the island, like a Dingoes, you yourself, and other people in cars. We are also instructed on how to drive a 4×4, and get extra instructions on how to work the two gear sticks. When to drive in 2WD, 4WD and when to drive in high gear and low gear.

The car is a VERY battered Suzuki Jimny with 220K kilometres on the clock. The car is shaky, rusted, broken on the inside with tatty upholstery on the seats, noisy, wobbly, but technically and structurally sound. The body of the car is fully neglected by the technicians at the workshop, as that is wasted energy as the rough terrain and salt on the island are merciless and ever present. Repairing those things is lost time and effort which you’ll never see returned. The mechanics are all that matter, and they seem to be fine. Although, we found out the hard way that the back door of the car will not stay shut when it is not locked. 😉

On the 25 minute drive form HQ to the barge, it becomes clear that this car is not built for the tarred roads. It sits too high off the ground to be comfortable, and the noise it makes while driving 85km/h is ear shattering. The car by the way will not go faster than 90. Period. That probably has to do with gearing and wind drag. The barge takes us from River Heads to Kingfisher Bay in about 45 minutes, and straight off the barge we engage 4WD as instructed. And boy, do we need it. The island welcomes us by throwing in the roughest and toughest road we have ever seen. It ascends a hill at about 20 percent on a single lane track, with lots of holes and other mischief. We have seriously felt that the car wouldn’t take the beating and just fall apart.

It didn’t. We got over the hill and drove further east to the drivable beach, as that is also where our accommodation for the night is. The inland tracks are mostly fully sand single lane car tracks, where the speed limit is 30 km/h. I for one have not the faintest idea on how to get up to 30, as we barely reached 20 because of the roughness of the tracks. Along the way, we have visited Wabby Lake (deepest lake on the island), Hammerstone Sandblow (right next to it) and Stone Tool Sandblow (largest Sandblow on the island). Finally, after a long and intinsive drive (30km) we reached the Eastern Beach, or 75 Mile Beach.

Later in the afternoon we drove from Happy Valley, where our accommodation is, further north to the wreck of the Maheno, a WWI hospital ship, and before and after that a luxury steam-liner. It stranded in the 1930s on the island, and has been there ever since. It is really photogenic! But, as the sun is already low on the horizon by now, and the clouds have moved in on us, it is not as good as it might have been.

Tomorrow, we’ll go back to the wreck as it is only 9km from Happy Valley to see what is is like then. We are bound to the tides though, as driving on the beach is limited for us to be four hours before and four hours after low tide. In other words, 2 hours before high tide and two hours after that (when the beach is at its smallest) we cannot go out on the beach in our car. Also, we are prohibited from driving when it is dark. And it gets dark up there! Today, the high tide was at 06:50, which means we were able to drive on the beach from 08:50 to 16:50. Basically from 9 in the morning to sundown, which is plenty of time. Tomorrow, high tide is at 08:30, which means we can sleep in!