I finally arrived in Hervey Bay, a small little town much like any other Australian town so far.It has two things to offer trips to Fraser Island and whale watching.Knowing this I arrived specifically on the Wednesday, as the tour company only runs the Fraser Island trips three times a week, one of which being on Thursdays.I booked in only to find out there were not enough people to run the trip and I would have to wait until Saturday for a larger group.
I was a bit pissed off as I had planned to do the Fraser Island trip on Thursday & Friday then drive down to see my Friends Sarah & Dan in Brisbane on the Saturday.The attitude of the hostel receptionist (who I affectionately named gitface) didn't help either.
I was restricted to the kookaburra hostel/tour group as it was part of a discount package I'd booked up at the Whitsundays.So I couldn't book another Fraser trip, the whale watching is only from August to October so that was out too!
It was fairly late so I decided to use one of my free nights at the kookaburra hostel and get a hot shower, sort out my camper van etc.Because of the lack of people on the Fraser trips, I was the only guest at the hostel.The hostel was a very strange place, a timber 1950's built bungalow, all the original features, polished wood floors etc. it was pretty impressive for a hostel, but it did have a musty smell that reminded me of the cottage in Norfolk.The main problem the place had was it had no guests, I was the only one!It felt very much like the shining.The continued attitude from gitface didn't help either, bloody POMs!
With the only entertainment in Hervey Bay being antagonizing gitface, I decided that I should do something a little more constructive for two days!So I headed down to Noosa National Park and I nearly made, I stopped for the night at a National Park called Rainbow Beach, I paid my $4.50 about 2.25uk (I can't find the pound symbol on my laptop) to the park ranger and duly parked in the wrong place which meant that the warden came along a moved me on.The warden that had lived in Oz for forty years, but had originated from Leigh-on-Sea & worked in Smithfield's.We exchanged stories over a couple of beers before I moved 10km up the beach to camp site.The campsite was pitch black when I got there so I just found a spot on hard ground and camped for the night.When I woke in the morning I was on a deserted beach, just two other vans, I had a cup of tea and my muesli before heading back to town.I pulled in to the car park of the surf club at the same time as Fran & James a couple I had been travelling with in Vietnam & Cambodia.James and I hired a couple of boards and perfected our surfing skills, whist Fran laid on the beach laughing and taking photos of us being bashed & beaten by every wave.
Knackered and slightly defeated we stopped for lunch before walking up to investigate the huge multi coloured sand dunes from rainbow beach takes it's name.The 5km walk was well worth it, I'm not sure that the photographs do it justice, it was a pretty magical place.
That afternoon I said my goodbyes to James & Fran and headed back to Hervey Bay.The two and a half hour drive took me back through some pretty spectacular scenery, the coastal roads and pine trees made a refreshing change from the sugar cane that had preceded it.
I got back to Hervey Bay in time for the Fraser Island induction.I met with the other six in my group as gitface put on a two safety DVDs for us to watch, as we signed away our lives and paid additional sums to insure this & extra bonds to protect that, I was relieved to find out that I was not the only one to dislike gitface and each of the group thought similarly of him.I was quite bemused by the guy's attitude, I like to think of myself as someone that will get on with anybody, in fact I can count with just three fingers similar people who I dislike so much. I stayed at the hostel two nights and gave him three rather explicit views upon his character in that time.Anyway I shall not speak of gitface again as it will just annoy me further and become very boring for you to read!
Just to spite gitface (ok last time I promise) we snuck in some beers and sat like naughty school kids drinking in our dorm.The other six were Agra & Seth to lads from the UK, Nadine a Swiss and Laura, Anais & Fred three French girls.
As we packed all stuff in to Tara the Toyota we became team TT or as the lads quickly re-christened ourselves team Titty!Crammed in to the Toyota Land Cruiser, I was quite glad that the group was only seven strong had there been eleven of us as planned it would have been sardine like.
Three weeks before our trip two people died on Fraser when their jeep overturned, so understandably the company was paranoid that we would do the same, so we endured another safety briefing before we were allowed to leave.Knowing that the company would stitch us for every penny they could if the car came back damaged, I went over the battered jeep with a fine tooth comb (I was probably worse than Derek picking up a new car). The list of dings, dents & scratches lead to three pages, whilst I was doing this the others counted tent pegs, cutlery, plates etc. the b******s weren't going to get any more money out of us!!! And they didn't, despite bending the front bumper as we hit a 2ft sand washout at about 60kph.
The ferry journey across was only forty minutes or so on a little roll on roll off ferry, there was a great air of excitement on the boat as there were only us and four other 4x4s doing the same journey.You could tell the drivers who had been nominated to do the first stint of the off road driving as they all had that look of intrepid excitement on their faces - me included.
Driving on the island was great fun, only four of us had valid driving licenses and Agra & Nadine weren't so keen on driving, so Fred did the first seventy five mile beach drive and I did all the fun stuff!
Our itinerary was written out before we left the mainland and was very much determined by the tides, something I was a bit nonchalant about until I saw the size of the waves and the force in which they were hitting the East shore of the island.
On the first night we were scheduled to camp about midway along seventy five mile beach, just after our first stop.We were running a little behind schedule as my co driver got me a little lost and we had to do a little unchartered off roading!So we opted to skip the first set of sand dunes and just set up camp early whilst we still had light, sun sets here at the moment at about 5:30.Whilst we were in the bottle shop on the mainland, we had this group notion that we were going to be stranded on the island forever and as a result bought far far too much alcohol!So we started on the beers whilst we were setting up camp and then a few glasses of goon over diner (goon is an aboriginal word for pillow, which has lead to cheap wine in boxes being called goon as the aboriginals get drunk on the cheap wine and inflate the silver bag inside to use as a pillow, educational & amusing).Needless to say we all got very drunk and had a little party for seven whilst exchanging some Anglo Franco stereotypical racist jokes, all of which were taken and received very well, whilst as usual the Swiss stood neutral.
We had our first encounter with the local Dingoes, so therefore took heed of the warnings given by the ranger and amusing went to the bush toilet in twos armed with a shovel!
The second day we got up early and the resident chef yours truly rustled up some breakfast as we packed up camp and headed for the first tourist spot on our itinerary.This was a fresh water creek leading down in to the sea, now we had been told not to swim in the sea as aside from the killer jelly fish and immensely strong currents, there had been sightings the week before of a 14ft Great White Shark in the shallows.However we were able to swim in the tranquil safety of the small creek.I think technical term is bloody freezing.
After mucking around in the creek for a while and trying to get action shots with the rugby ball we dried off and headed for the ship wreck.If I were up to date with my blog I would be able to tell you the name of the ship, instead I shall wow you with some vague history.The ship was owned by the Aussies, and sold to the Japs, the Japs didn't have quite enough money to buy the whole ship so bought it minus the two giant brass propellers.Obviously this meant the ship had to be towed back to Japan, upon this voyage it encountered rough seas, broke loose from it's tug and washed up on Fraser Island.As the ship was unsalvageable, the Aussies agreed the Japs could leave it on the shore where the Aussie military blew it to kingdom come testing their magnetic bombs.And that is the story of the ship XXXXX which is strewn upon seventy five mile beech.I was just glad it was there as there is b***** all else to see for seventy five miles other than sand dunes, sand and sea.
We continued up the beach to Indian Head, the furthest point on the island, where we parked on the beach and explored the head land before walking forty minutes to the Champagne Pools.Call me a sinic but I didn't see the resemblance, they were fairly large rock pools and impressive but not so sure if they were worth the hour twenty minute round walk.
Our itinerary said to leave Indian head by 1pm, luckily we got back a little early as the waves were only a few feet from Tara the Toyota's tyres.We hurriedly jumped in and drove forty minutes back down the beach to our new camp site, traversing the beach and the breaking waves trying desperately not to get Tara wet with the salt water.This is where I imagine the poor guys who died a few weeks previously cam unstuck.We had to drive fast to avoid being stranded by the tide, but you couldn't always see the tidal washouts, little inland fresh water creeks that have washed areas of the sand away.They were mostly only 6-8 inches deep and you could cautiously hit them at 50kph.The one we didn't see was probably about 2ft deep and I hit doing 60kph, we came through it relatively unscathed a little ding to the front bumper but no injuries!The unfortunate group who got killed weeks before, tried to swerve to avoid such a wash out and at 50-60kph tragically rolled their jeep, killing two of their group.
Anyway due to some expert driving we made it to our camp in one piece, well seven pieces.In the process of setting up camp Seth managed to find a 7ft 4'x4' timber post, which he erected in the middle of the camp and declared 'Laura's Titty Pole' for the girls to entertain us that night.Needless to say we all ended up dancing on the pole being very wary of splinters!Our Aussie neighbors camped twenty minutes down the beach joined us and we played silly drinking games until the wee hours.Despite our efforts we still had a ton of grog left in the eskies! And for the record the Brits drunk the light weight Aussies under the table!
Our only task for the final day on Fraser Island was to get to McKenzie Lake, a huge fresh water lake in the middle of the island.Although thousands of years old, the crystal clear fresh water is still too new for it to support life??? So aside from us splashing around like fools there were no other creatures, fish or anything living in the lake.The lake is phenomenal, the photographs like all of these natural wonders just won't do the place justice, and it was spectacular.We got to the lake and dived straight in, despite the weather being cold overcast and pretty miserable.We dried off and had some lunch, and the skies cleared the sun came out and that spectacular view just became ten times more beautiful.So like fools we were straight back in the water, surprisingly the 30 minutes of sunshine hadn't warmed the water at all!
Ahh yes I nearly forgot to tell you about the F1-11s.Seventy five mile beach is used as a road and an air strip for light aircraft, so the odd plane overhead wasn't too much of a surprise.But when you are minding your own business and a bloody F1-11 fighter jet screams passed you at about 200ft doing goodness knows what speed in scares the living hell out of you!Twice the cheeky git nearly scared me to death!
We got on the ferry back to the main land where all of us collapsed and fell asleep on the life boats.
Not wanting to give any of the food back to gitface, as I was the only one with a camper, I stocked up my eskie with lots of Jam etc. whilst the rest of the salads and beers we pooled and had a farewell bbq on the beach that night, not before one last running with the man himself!