Good afternoon from hot and humid Airlie Beach - gateway to the world famous Whitsunday Islands. I am currently awaiting my short ferry to tiny Daydream Island where I will be spending the next 3 nights. I'm not usually one for beaches but am relishing the prospect of having nothing to do tomorrow. It'll be the first free day and lie in I've had all trip, and the resort looks really nice with a spa and swimming pool to keep me occupied. The Whitsunday Islands really do look picture perfect paradise on the postcards and I hope they live up to the billing. I am taking a cruise round them in 2 days time, and our boat will be sharing the bay with the world's most expensive and luxurious cruise ship, which is currently in town. The islands are also frequently used in Hollywood movies as doubles for the Caribbean - they look pretty similar.
This blog however is about another island we stayed on a couple of days ago, Fraser Island - the world's largest sand island. It was a 40 minute ferry ride over to the the island, which is 77 miles long and up to 11 miles wide, most of which is rainforest. Only 180 people permenantly reside on the island and one of them was our tour guide for the day on an overpriced 4 by 4 trip we did around part of the island. We left our "eco lodges" bright and early and set off in the 4 by 4 truck along the islands very bumpy sand roads, which had recently been smoothed over by the first rain on the island in months. Our first stop in the morning was Lake McKenzie, which proved to be the one stand out thing we did all day. The water was a phenomenal colour - light blue at the shore, suddenly turning to deep blue a few metres out. It was also nice and warm and we all took a swim there. The beach was also pure white, being 98% silica. It was probably the nicest, purest sand I've ever seen (apparently here in the Whitsundays the beaches are only 80% silica). We only got an hour at the lake before being driven down to Central Station, which was the centre of the islands logging industry before it became a world heritage site in 1991. We did a 40 minute walk through the rainforest there to try and spot some wildlife, but disappointingly the only thing we saw was a cookaburra (no snakes).
We then got driven to the eastern coast of the island to another tiny resort town, where we ate an appalling included lunch buffet. Australian food is definitely worst than British. Admittedly they eat a lot of the same stuff, but over here everything seems to be cooked badly and is very dry. Having got used to nice, freshly prepared food in South America, it isn't nice to come here and have something so obviously microwaved. Maybe we have just eaten at bad places as I didn't have the same problem in New Zealand. I hope so as I'm getting pretty annoyed with the high prices, small portions and low quality of the food served here.
The afternoon section of the trip was pretty poor in all honesty. We were driven down the beach for some distance to reach some coloured sand dunes, which weren't altogether spectacular and probably didn't warrant the drive. We then had a photo stop at the Moheno shipwreck, which was a pretty cool thing to see, and finally we had a walk down Eli Creek, which was essentially just a very shallow stream flowing into the ocean. The tour cost a fortune and I felt pretty let down by the day as a whole for the money I spent. The highlight came part way through our 1.5 hour rough trip back to the resort. On a one way road we came across a couple of blokes coming the wrong way who were bogged down in the sand. Our bus driver was really not impressed with the foreign pair and their choice of car for the road, but we had to help them out of the way because their was no way past. A group of us got out and pushed them back, getting them going, but further up we found them once again bogged down, this time much more seriously. Pushing by about 8 lads failed to do anything so our driver produced his massive tow rope and dragged them out, breaking off their front bumper in the process. He knew this would happen and he had warned that he'd be moving them using the bus should towing fail! It was a pretty funny scene for everyone but the stranded pair.
In the evening we watched sunset from a small pier-side bar, and then had a few drinks and a meal in the resort's main bar. I didn't stay late as we had a horrendous 5.45am wake up in order so we could be on the first morning ferry. 6.30am is pretty standard, but the past 2 days we've been up before then, so I'm feeling pretty sleep deprived.