Road tripping in Bob - Part 2 - Rockhampton to Noosa, Queensland
Noosa Heads, Queensland
After our Whitsunday adventure, we left Airlie Beach to head further south, towards Rockhampton. We knew it was going to be a long drive, so we left early and made our way along the Bruce Highway. On the way down, the scenery began to change, we'd been in tropical rainforest surroundings also far in Queensland but now the landscape was becoming less tropical and more like we are used to seeing in the English countryside. After a few hours on the undulating roads, we stopped at a tiny town called Clairview where we sat beachside and had some lunch taking in the gorgeous view before continuing down to Rockhampton. We knew we weren't going to stay for long in Rockhampton, it was just somewhere to spend the night before continuing even further south the next day. We arrived in Rockhampton fairly late in the evening and after the long day of driving we were shattered. Not wanting to cook, we wondered if a pizza delivery company would deliver to a caravan park.... Yes they do! They even brought it right to the van! Amazing! Another early start the next day and we arrived at lunchtime in a town called 1770. 1770 is known for its cheap surf lessons so we booked ourselves into a lesson the next morning and spent the rest of the day by the pool in our woodland caravan park. After a nice walk down to the beach in the evening, we headed back to our van where we came across our neighbours having a small party. They were singing some lovely renditions of "I see you baby shaking that ass" and "heeeeey baby, oooh ahhhhhhh I wanna knooooow if you'll be my girl" - imagine our amusement when we realised that the people in the van next were two retirees! Very amusing! The next morning we were chatting with them about their travels, they were heading up the coast the way we had just come down and vice versa so we helped each other out with useful information. We also experienced a new sensation when talking to them -van envy! They had the most amazing contraption, it was like a trailer tent but with no wheels, on stilts so that is has two levels and that can be loaded onto the back of the Ute, complete with a toilet and shower! Our description doesn't do it justice but it was amazing and they also had a boat with them!!! Unfortunately on day 2 in 1770, the weather wasn't great so we had to cancel our surf lesson and decided that we'd make the most of a bad weather day by driving to our next destination of Hervey Bay.
The main purpose of visiting Hervey Bay is to go to Fraser Island. It's a typical beach front Australian town with shops, bars, restaurants and backpackers accommodation. We found a lovely campsite near the beach which had a spa pool which we made the most of that afternoon.
Next day we headed out to the front of your caravan park to be picked up for our tour of Fraser Island. We'd opted to pay a little extra to go in a 4x4 with just 6 other people, rather than a big bus load. There was a young couple waiting for the same tour and when we got in the car and the driver asked us all where we were from, it turns out they were also from Portsmouth! Small world, not only were we on the same Fraser Island trip, they were staying on the pitch next to us at the caravan site! Liza is a teacher at Court Lane School and also went to Springfield (Lou's school)! Our 4x4, including our very unpolitically correct Aussie driver, headed down to the ferry, where we would cross over to Fraser Island. Whilst crossing, we saw a pod of dolphins swimming next the ferry which was pretty amazing! Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island. It's also the third largest island off the coast of Australia. It's entirely made of sand and covered in rain forest, hence the need for a 4x4. The trees are able to grow on Fraser Island as their leaves drop more often than regular trees, turning into mulch and passing their nutrients back to the trees to grow which is pretty amazing! On arrival on Fraser Island, we could see that the weather was starting to turn and it was becoming a bit grey. For this reason, our guide decided to take us straight up to Lake McKenzie at the very top of the island. The lake is an extinct volcano crater, filled entirely by rain water. Making is crystal clear with beautiful white sand beaches surrounding it. We had a quick swim in the water whilst the sun was still out, before having morning tea with a local aboriginal guide called Smiley, whose family come from the island. He performed us a welcoming dance, whilst wearing traditional attire (a wallaby skin loin cloth and head dress) and paints. He explained that his paint marks were unique to him and they all had a specific meaning for example one of them was to signify looking after the earth as this is what provides your food, water and shelter. Next we headed down to the beach. This isn't just any beach; it's called 74 mile Highway and has the same laws as any other Highway in Australia, including a strict speed limit. The difference is, there is no road as such, it's just the beach that you are driving along, with sand dunes on one side and the waves licking your car on the other side!! There are even 2 resident Policemen on the island, ready to enforce the law. The nearest land from this side of the island is actually South America! The beach is actually quite a dangerous place for humans, the sea is full of sharks, who beach themselves in the shallow waters, ready to attack their prey, there are 4x4s charging up and down and Dingoes (a descendent of wolf, which looks much like a pet dog) prowling the beach looking for their next feed! The island also boasts 8 out of the top 10 deadliest snakes in the world!!! Luckily for us, we didn't see any of these creatures, apart from a couple of fairly young and small Dingoes who definitely weren't camera shy! We stopped at the Maheno shipwreck, which beached on the island in 1935 and still remains there to this day albeit quite decayed. The Japanese had bought the SS Maheno as scrap and a storm off the coast of Queensland snapped the tow chain and that's how it came it be beached on Fraser Island. Driving north up the beach, we took some photos of the rainbow cliffs which are sand formations which change colour creating a rainbow effect on the cliff face. Champagne Falls was the next location, which are some rock pools where the water is warm and safe to swim in however at this point, the rain had really started to come down so we donned out pacamacs and just went for a look and not a swim!! During lunch, Smiley played us his Didgeridoo and told us the story behind the song. He also told us that the Didgeridoo can only be played by the males in the family, it is strictly forbidden for females to play as it may harm their diaphragm and cause problems with pregnancy. He also showed us boomerangs that they use to hunt and also train children to hunt and an instrument which omits a noise and is used to make "telephone" calls. After lunch we stopped at Eli Creek, which is a rainwater creek that flows into the sea, you walk along the bank of the creek to some steps and then head back downstream to the sea. Normally, you would do this in your bikini and swim down. However as it was a bit chilly and wet, we waded down in our bikini bottoms and pacamacs on!!!! Quite a sight to behold!! On our way back to the ferry, we stopped to look at the oldest plant on record, which is a fern which can only be found in a few places in the world and is dated pre Jurassic and pre ice age. At this point, the rain was torrential, so a quick photo and we were back in the car. The car ride back to the ferry was quite an adventure, the roads on Fraser aren't great at the best of times being that they are just made of sand but with the torrential rain coming down, our driver was really able to show us what a 4x4 can do!!!! When we got to the mainland, our driver received a phone call to say that a severe weather warning had been issued for Hervey Bay and surrounding areas which was the cause of the bad weather on Fraser Island.
Next day we were due to be driving down to Noosa, about 2 1/2 hours south of Hervey Bay. However, it turned out that this would not be possible due to the severe weather. Parts of the Bruce Highway (the main motorway along the Queensland coast) were closed and many towns (including Gympie which was just down the road from Hervey Bay) were flooded so we had no choice but to stay in Hervey Bay for an extra night. The next day, although a lot of the roads were still flooded and closed, we decided that we needed to at least try to head south. With the great help of the park staff, we planned a route that would avoid the worst hit areas. Unlike England, where there are junctions that you can come off at say every 10 minutes and re-join a motorway at the next one, there isn't the option to do this in Australia. So, we had to take a massive detour inland to get to Noosa. A journey that would normally take 2 1/2 hours, took us 7 hours of continuous driving and across a couple of partially flooded roads! But at least we had made it to Noosa and saw some inland towns that we wouldn't have seen otherwise! Noosa itself was quite flooded, with the river encroaching on the pavements and the sand on the beach not visible as the water was right up to the esplanade. We just spent a day here because the weather meant there wasn't a lot we could really do and continued our journey south towards Brisbane.