Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fraser Island - days 47 - 50

On arrival at Fraser Island we were immediately met by our insane Cool Dingos guide/ranger, Kirsty. She was an absolute nutcase that drove her massive 4WD, 40 seater army truck like a pro, and within minutes of arrival, we were on our coach and on our way. I had no clue, but apparently Fraser Island had been shut due to an out of control bush fire, and we were one of the first batch of tours since the island re-opened. Good job I hadn’t planned this trip for a few days earlier. But as we were one of the first, our 40 seater bus only had 12 people on it. Result!

For the first two days, we were up early and on our way by 7.45am in the army truck. By the third day, there was three of us left (the others had done a 2 day tour), so we were taken around the island in a 4WD Toyota Prado.

Every evening we’d be dropped back at the Kingfisher resort, and the Wilderness Lodges, which had our accommodation for the two nights, and access to the Cool Dingos bar, where we’d have dinner, have a few beers, listen to music and play giant Jenga. The lodges were amazing. I was expecting a total shit-pit, but they were clean and modern – and empty! There were four 4 bed rooms in each lodge, and ours had the three day tour people in it – so there were 16 beds between 3 people! Awesome!

The tour consisted of Kirsty driving like a lunatic over dust and sand roads, through rain forest and at one point, along the beach. She managed to take us to loads of different locations, including ones not in the main itinerary, especially on the third day of the tour.

Rain Forest Walks
We did a few of these. The first walk was a 45 minute trek through the rain forest Basin Lake, then another 45 minute from Basin Lake to Central Station for lunch. After lunch we then walked along a creek for another 30 minutes to get to the coach. The crazy thing about the forest here is the way the environment changes. One minute it just seems to be a scrubby forest with some big trees in it; then next it’ll be full of MASSIVE gum trees, huge Satinay trees with ferns all over the place. It was also pretty hot on Fraser Island, so the walks, however gentle they appeared at first, were pretty hard work. By the third day, the hour long walk to and from Lake Wabby had pretty much got the better of me and was over the rain forest walk – although Lake Wabby more than made up for it (see below)..

Basin Lake and Central Station
Basin Lake was our first experience of a fresh water lake on Fraser. It was pretty small compared to the others, but was crystal clear and surrounded by forest. We didn’t swim in this one, as Kirsty was hurrying us onto the next stop, but was a cool thing to see on the first day. However, the lakes got more stunning throughout the three days, so this was definitely the one to see first. We then wandered down to Central Station for lunch. Fraser Island had a huge logging community on it years before, and the buildings were left behind when the logging stopped. Now it’s a picnic area. Kirsty took the opportunity to make everyone introduce themselves, which was great fun. We had a good crew of people with us – apart from the know-it-all hipster chick from London that was with us. I’d already taken a dislike to her and her smart-arsery when we’d first got on the bus. The funniest thing was, I wasn’t the only one apparently. Ahem.

Lake McKenzie
The most photographed place on Fraser Island, the most beautiful lake, blah blah. I’d been told about this place well before I’d got here, and on arrival, I felt a bit left down. I liked Lake McKenzie. It was ok. White sandy beach, clear blue water. Odd random trees growing out of the lake. It was cool, but not as impressived as I’d expected. Maybe it was because of the huge amount of tourists there – obviously this is the place EVERYONE goes to on Fraser! We found a spot for us to drop our gear and everyone gingerly started going in the water, as it was bloody cold in there. Then Kirsty appeared in her swimming costume, ran into the lake, and then gave everyone shit for not going in. So we all ended up in the lake, and it was fab. I’m glad she was such a lunatic – none of the other Dingos guides we saw got so involved like she did, and in doing so, it made you want to get involved too, rather than sit out like a dumbass. The water was awesome once we got in, and was great to have a swim and cool down. I’d also like to thank Jon Doses at this point, as it was the first time I’d broken out my travel towel. The best thing he made me buy for this trip, thank Jon!

75 Mile Beach
One of the “highways” we took was along the eastern beach. 75 mile beach is exactly what it says on the tin, and I was amazed how busy it was with traffic. You had to be really careful when wandering around on the beach in case you got run over! The sea was really inviting, but unfortunately you couldn’t go in for a swim – it was far too rough and the tides were too strong, plus it was full of sharks and rays that got quite close to the beach. Eek! The beach was also used as a runway – and we had a chance to go up in the little planes to view the island. The plane company is run by a father and son (who I nicknamed Big and Little Enus). The dad was a total bonkers aussie redneck – he kind of reminded me of a Paul Hogan character! He managed to convince the whole tour group to go up in the plane, and off we went in their little 8 seaters. Got great views of the island, took some awesome photos, and saw rays and sharks swimming close to the shore – and a few whales as well. Wicked.

Champagne Pools and Ely Creek
More water for Kirsty to make us go in. Champagne Pools is the only safe place to swim in salt water on Fraser Island (apparently). It a bunch of small salt water pools protected from the sea by a rock barrier. Once again, we were all dragged in for a swim, and any that didn’t got abuse for the rest of the day. If you didn’t get in the water quick enough, you got splashed. YES OK – I’M SWIMMING!!! Was great fun though – just not a fan of salt water, especially when you have to sit on a bus all day afterwards!
Ely Creek was bonkers, but again slightly hampered by loads of other people being there and generally getting in the way. It’s a freshwater creek that runs out onto the beach. Again, its crystal clear water, but its absolutely freezing. But once you get in it doesn’t matter. The creek has a strong current that drags you out to the beach, so you lie down in the water and float out to the beach – trying to avoid the retards that are walking the other direction UP the creek. Didn’t matter though – by the third trip down the creek, Kirsty needed us to leave to take us to the next place. I could have stayed there all day.

Maheno Shipwreck
It’s a shipwreck on the beach. Took wicked photos.

Indian Head
A very high rocky outcrop on the beach alongside Champagne Pools. It’s a pretty brutal climb, especially with the heat, and theres no shade once you get up there. The view is incredible though. We sat there for half an hour, getting burnt, watching dolphins and whales. Utterly awesome.

We managed to see two, and they were incredible. Both were on the beach just minding their own business. The first one was a female Dingo having a good chew on a massive fish head, and didn’t take a blind bit of notice of the bus and the other 4WDs circling it. Got some incredible photos – we were about 5 foot away from it, safely in the bus. I just couldn’t believe it was just doing its thing, and couldn’t care less about us.
The second one was later in the day, and was just having a rest keeping cool in the sand. Again we drove pretty close to it and got a great look at it. However, a Japanese tourist in a 4WD drove between the buses and started taking loads of pictures. Not content with doing from the car, he decided he’d open the door to get out. Mr Dingo looked very happy when he realised lunch had come early and leapt up to have a look. Tourist got back in the car pretty bloody quickly.
The dingos weren’t the only wildlife – we saw a dizzying amount of birds, but it was especially cool to see a few Sea Eagles flying about. They’re absolutely huge creatures! We also had the company of a few reptiles – we were always coming across Goanas lounging around somewhere, and on the first day, we were treated to a nice close up view of a rather large carpet python. Wicked!

Lake Birrabeen
On the final tour day, Kirsty took us off itinerary and took us to places she liked. Lake Birrabeen I guess is comparable to Lake McKenzie, but I much preferred it. It had the same fine white sand and clear fresh water – but no tourists! We were the only ones there, and was ace just wandering around the beach and having a swim without trying to avoid other tourists. This place beat Lake McKenzie hands down, and because we weren’t in a rush, we hung around here for an hour, chilling out and cooling off in the lake. However…

Lake Wabby
…is hands down THE lake of Fraser Island! We’d seen it from the air, and it looks kinda cool, as its bright green. However, getting there was gobsmacking. Its situated at the bottom of a massive sandblow, that was like standing in the desert. There was nothing for miles, just sand dunes surrounding the lake on one side. Lake Wabby itself is amazing though. It really is bright green! Although its full of very inquisitive catfish, which put me off going for a swim unfortunately – Kirsty didn’t brow beat us to go in this time. It was definitely the most bizarre place I’ve seen on this trip and I couldn’t get enough of the place – I’d have stayed there if I could have.

McKenzie Jetty and the Western Beach
I can’t really remember the reason or details about this place, but this was the final place Kirsty dropped us off at. From here, we’d walk back to the main jetty to catch our boat back to River Head on the mainland – via a cheeky final beer at the Sand Bar restaurant. McKenzie Jetty is obviously an original jetty the loggers used, but is now just an old wreck. This along with the strange environment of the west beach made me feel like I was in the TV series Lost. It’s the closest way of describing it. Walking away from this unused ruined jetty, we wandered along a massive empty beach kept separate from the rest of the island by a ragged cliff, full of weird mangrove trees sticking randomly out of the sand. Every so often you see a black mass ahead of you moving in the sand – when you reached the mass, hundreds of tiny soldier crabs would run for cover and disappear into the sand. It was incredible, and it made my head hurt trying to take it in. Along with Lake Wabby, Kirsty had left the best till last – and by the time I’d got to the Sand Bar, my brain was coming out of my eyes (like at the Grand Canyon). I had to have a beer, and sit down quietly to take it all in!

Fraser Island had been INCREDIBLE. I’m so pleased I got to do this, and that it had been recommended by so many people before I took the trip. Along with the Grand Canyon and some of the mad things in Fiji, this was among one of the best things I’d done these past two months – and we’d had a great time doing it, with the help of Kirsty and the great group of people that were on the tour. The only way to really describe Fraser Island is it really is just like being on the island in Lost. If you didn’t know otherwise, you’d swear they’d filmed it here!

Eventually we caught they ferry back to the mainland (with us witnessing some mega sunsets), and back to our various hostels. I was a bit gutted to find my empty 4 bed dorm was now populated by 5 of us. Flashpackers is a really awesome little hostel, run by excellent people – but I really hope they don’t get downhearted and let the place go to the dogs, just cos some of the kids that stay here treat the place like shit. The next morning, I went to grab a shower and found our bathroom had been wrecked the night before – I’m assuming by the “couple” staying in one of the bunks. I’m guessing they hadn’t wanted to get down to it in a full dorm, so had prob been carrying on in the bathroom instead. They’d certainly been in there a while, and had manage to break the bench that was attached to the wall in the shower. Nice.

Anyway, once I arrived back and repacked my pesky rucksack, I popped out for the evening to the local bar and met up with one of my lodge mates from Fraser Island. Had a few beers, some decent steaks, got some advice about places to see in Aus, then he was off back to his hostel, and onto Cairns the next day. Tomorrow, I was off to Byron Bay - and after some more contradictory advice from my lodgemate, i really was beginning to think this backpacker/hostel thing wasn't really for me...

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