Days 106-114 – Fraser Island & the Whitsundays

So on Wednesday I had the pleasure of picking up my friend Emily Ferguson from the Sydney International Airport. Believe it or not she came all the way from America to visit me (and Australia)!! How awesome is that!? After getting her phone and finances sorted out we went to Bondi Beach and did the Sculpture By the Sea walk.

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Lipstick art!

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This one was my favourite.

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A two-headed horse

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We’re fryin’ out here!

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Robespierre the Rhino? He seems to be taking a break from running at 3/5c/

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You can only see the undistorted image in the mirror if you are standing on the platform. What a neat artistic idea!

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The Wicked Witch of Christmas Future?

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I liked this sea creature made of recycled plastic a lot. It must’ve taken a ridiculously long time to piece together (all with zip ties)

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On Thursday our adventure to Fraser Island began. By 10 am we were on our way and made it to Hervey Bay about midday. We took the ferry over to Fraser Island and then had the afternoon and evening to kill at the Kingfisher Bay Resort. Mostly we spent it in the pool and hot tub because it was so hot and humid. The following day we started the Cool Dingo tour which is a 3 day/ 2 night tour targeting for young adults. Almost every night on our trip we were asleep before 9 pm because there was not much to do in the evenings and we had to be up early for our tour.

Day 1: We went to Lake McKenzie, Wanggoolba Creek and some walking through the pristine rainforest.
Day 2: The Maheno Shipwreck, Eli Creek, Champagne Pools, The Pinnacles Coloured Sands, Indian Head, and a scenic flight over the Island.
Day 3: Lake Wabby & Lake Birrabeen

Interesting facts about Fraser Island

  • It is a 100% sand island except for two volcanic rock formations at either end which keep the sand from washing away.
  • The sand we walked on is the third layer of sand to blow over the island. It’ll take several hundred years for this layer to completely cover the island.
  • The “rock” we see on the island is really just compressed eucalyptus leaves and sand. It’s called Coffee Rock because it leaves a brown stain in the water that looks like coffee.
  • The original vegetation on the island could only exist because of a fungus that grew across the first layer of sand. This provided enough nutrition for some plant species to grow. The vegetation on the island has increased as the old vegetation dies, decays, and feeds the future generations.
  • Fraser Island is home to one of only three breeding dingo populations in the world. These dingos are the purest bred population since the mainland populations have bred with other types of dogs. The population is at about 200 dingos right now but it fluctuates depending on the food supply and conditions each year.

Our tour bus was a very unique German-made vehicle which seated 40 people. According to Sean, our guide, the German engineers say that Fraser Island is the one place in the world that is hardest on their buses. That didn’t surprise me in the least since there are really any roads on the Island except for a few built right around the resort. Instead Sean drove the bus over one-lane soft sand tracks which zig-zagged all over the island. He told us not to complain if we got stuck or broke down because we did sign up for an adventure! Apparently it’s not too uncommon for buses to get stuck in the soft sand especially during long stretches without rain and Sean said it happened to him about once a month. Before we took off the first day he advised us to keep our heads away from the windows because it was going to get REALLY bumpy, but that was the extent of the safety briefing. No waiver, no liability form, just common sense. I like the way things operate around here.

Sean also told us lots of stories involving British backpackers getting killed or injured (Interestingly there didn’t seem to be many stories involving American, German, or Japanese backpackers. Maybe Sean has something against the British?). He’s lived and worked in the Outback as well as on Fraser Island so he’s no stranger to the dangerous wildlife in Australia. Snakes, spiders, crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, dingos – you name it,  Australia has it. Hearing his stories gave me a lot more respect for these animals and their native habitat. Even though we’re all told that the chance of getting hurt or killed by one of these creatures is very small, it seems that death-by-creature is a common enough occurrence to have plenty of stories. Even on Fraser Island he told of people getting bitten or stung by poisonous things. Most of these people got medical treatment and were fine, but some people do die every year! In fact, while we were on the island we heard that an amateur driver rolled his 4WD on the beach because he was going too fast and hit a big hole. One of the people in the vehicle was killed and the other people were pretty banged up. Safety is not a guarantee for anyone.

 

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On the ferry from Hervey Bay to Fraser Island

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Our view of Fraser Island coming into port

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Lake MacKenzie was my favourite lake on the Island. Crystal clear freshwater, white sand, warm sunshine. Can vacation get any better? (yes, the answer is yes. wait for the sailing)

 

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Eucalyptus Trees, but no koalas here

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This is a sandy-bottomed stream, but you can’t see it because the water is SO CLEAR. We could drink from the stream without an issue and it tasted great. Fraser Island is a World Heritage Reserve so there is very little interference or pollution in the natural environment here.

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When the bus breaks down because it’s been leaking diesel… so much for trying to keep pollution levels low.

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Wabby Lake is hidden against a huge sand dune. The hike to the lake was really hard over the sand, but the lake was worth it. Here you can sit in the lake and have some tiny fish nibble your toes. It’s just like a pedicure (sort of)!

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My first experience paddle boarding was at another lake on Fraser Island. I think it started with a “B”? It is surprisingly hard to stay on the board and even harder to make the board go where you want it to go. We had fun watching a couple guys in our group have a jousting tournament on two boards.

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Our bus driver Sean posed with us for a picture but he didn’t want to be in the driver’s seat since he’d being driving all day. Michael is being roadkill I guess. ..

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The sunsets from the Jetty Hut at Kingfisher Bay were incredible.

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Some sort of jellyfish/sea creature we found on the beach

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As if it couldn’t get any cooler, Fraser Island has its very own shipwreck called the Maheno.

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A Dingo! Looks like a dog, but can be very aggressive like a wolf or coyote. Sean told us that there are over 100 “incidents” between humans and dingos on the island every year. A lot of them seemed to involve British backpackers.

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After the third day of our Fraser Island tour we caught the ferry back to the mainland and took a Greyhound bus to Airlie Beach. The total travel time was 12 hours so we were on the bus all night! This is the second overnight bus that I’ve taken and I don’t like them very much. It’s tolerable, but I never get much sleep so the next day of the trip is not fun. We did make it to Airlie Beach alive, if a little stiff and sore and found our hostel (Nomad’s).

Airlie Beach is a very small touristy town with lots of condos, hotels, and one main street with restaurants and souvenir shops. It’s a nice place, but there’s not too much to do so I think most people just use it as a starting point for sailing excursions to the Whitsundays. We had a whole day and a half in Airlie Beach before our sailing trip started and both Emily and I were exhausted from the bus ride so we holed up in our air conditioned hostel room and napped for the afternoon. I don’t think I realised how much a missed the A/C until I walked into that room.

For dinner we visited a place called Fish D’vine & Rum Bar which was recommended to us by some guys on the Fraser Island tour. The seafood and drinks were excellent. I’d definitely go back there! That night we slept very well excepting the interruption of a drunk roommate being carried in at 10:30 pm. He ended up puking over on his side of the room… lovely.

The next day (Tuesday) we went swimming in the public lagoon in Airlie Beach. It’s a really nice big pool and wading area and it’s long enough for swimming laps! You can take the swimmer out of the pool, but you can never take the pool out of the swimmer. Emily and I couldn’t resist doing laps even though my arms started protesting after only a few minutes. Pathetic…. I think training camp is going to be rough this year. As a competitive swimmer the pool becomes associated with hard work, not relaxation. Even now after being out of the water for months I don’t know what to do in a pool when I’m not there for a workout. But tanning, tanning I understand. I can do that.

Later that afternoon we met our crew and went sailing! This was the highlight of the trip for me. It an indescribable experience to live aboard a sailboat for three days. You would think it might be confining since you don’t have much space or privacy to yourself (and there were 30 people on our boat!), but I actually felt so free. We went a snorkelling a few times and visited one beach, the famous Whitehaven Beach, but the rest the trip was spent on the deck of the boat soaking up the sun and enjoying the breathtaking views. I have always been a water-lover; I love everything about it. I love being in the water, underwater, and on the water. Now I think I’ll have to learn to sail someday.

The snorkelling was the best I have seen so far, even better than Hawaii. There are SO MANY COLOURS and SO MANY FISH!!!! There are cool mollusk things with purple or green lips and menacing black fern things. The bright coral transform the sea into an alien landscape covered with sculptures of every possible colour and shape. Truly I thought I knew some things about nature and about the ocean, but there is so much more down there than I ever imagined. I don’t have any pictures, but a picture would over scratch the surface of the experience. God is an incredible artist. The best that ever was or ever will be.

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On the lookout over Whitehaven Beach. When the tide goes out there are some cool sand bars which become visible, but when we visited the tide was high.

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Whitehaven Beach via the cliffs

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Our fantastic crew: Morgan (Wales), Brayden (Australia), Whitney (North England), Vince (not in the crew, but he was still cool, Surinam -> Netherlands), Nelson (the Skipper)

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Thorsten and some other guy manning the winches to raise the sails




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