Day 37: On Fraser Island

I am cheating a little bit with the title of this blog entry, as we will spend all day on the island, and will go back to the main land around 5pm. You will just have to forgive me here. 😉

After sleeping in, we found out that the clouds had all moved away, and that all we could see were blue skies and sunshine! Yay! We quickly threw our stuff into the small bag we packed and jumped into the trusty Jimny. Back to the beach, and back to the shipwreck. It looks even more majestic and mysterious now than yesterday. The tides were still going out, and the wreck was half submerged this morning. I can understand why this is the most visited place on the entire island!

As the high tide occurred today at 07:30, we were not allowed to go out on the beach until 09:30, which meant we could sleep in and relax a bit before heading out. The beach is not wide enough, and in some places the sand has not settled quite yet to be hard enough to be driven on. The drive to the shipwreck this morning was great, and really a fun thing to do. We have outer selves gotten used to the wobbly nature of both the car and the surroundings, and we settled in for the day much more relaxed than we were yesterday.

Right after visiting the Maheno, we drove a little further north, towards The Pinnacles where majestic cliffs of coloured sands built up over the period of many thousands of years were exposed and viewable. The sand on the beach is very yellow, but the sands in this cliff are all colours ranging from white to very dark brown. What a wonderful sight!

We then had to drive about 40kms down south to Eurong Beach Resort, as this was also the gateway to the inland tracks to the barge locations. We arrived at Kingfisher Bay, and the other one is called Wanggoolba Creek, both will go to River Heads. Unfortunately, during our beach drive we haven’t seen any more Dingoes, which means the one we saw yesterday will probably be the only one we’ve seen on Fraser Island. The rest of the island is covered in very dense forests, and wildlife is notoriously hard to see over there. From the resort, we drove to Central Station, where we did a short walk through the rainforest. This site was the main location for all logging activities on the island from the 1860s up to the 1950s. The HQ was moved back then, and all logging eventually only stopped in 1992. They were mainly after tropical hardwoods, as the tropical softwoods were long gone by then.

Lake Birrabeen was the next destination, but it was kind of a downer. The route to it was 15km of the most gruelling road we have had so far, with lots of roots and huge bumps in the road. We even had to go to low gear for a couple of times, for if we didn’t we wouldn’t make it through. Arriving at the lookout on the lake, we found out that the lookout was pretty much fully overgrown, which meant the view of lake itself was almost complete obstructed by small trees in between us and the water. Oh well, off to Lake McKenzie then.

lake McKenzie is the most popular lake on the island. It is also the biggest one. It had really clear fresh water, and even some sandy beaches. As it is not connected to the ocean, there are no crocodiles, and it is safe to swim. The temperature today wasn’t quite right, so we didn’t, but a few locals did and they seemed to have a great time. 🙂

It was by then time to head for our barge, and so we went to Kingfisher bay, as instructed by the guy at Aussie Trax. But, we found out the hard way that we weren’t supposed to be at Kingfischer Bay, but at Wanggoolba Creek for the other barge. Both leave at 5pm, and finding that out at 16:48 is too late to do something about it. Auch. Luckily, as we only have a very small car, we could be fitted on the boat as an extra, and we were finally heading back for the mainland. Phew!

Tomorrow, we head back from Hervey Bay to the Glasshouse Mountains for our next to final leg of our journey.

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!