Thursday, August 15, 2013

Brisbane is our destination

The journey from Fraser Island to River Head takes about 30-40 minutes and as we were late leaving the island we arrived on to the main land around 6 p.m.  Unloading the barge is quick and nearly all the vehicles pulled away quickly heading off towards Hervey Bay and beyond.  As we had deflated our tyres for the whole time we were on the island we needed to now inflate them so we were one of the few that spent time in the car park with the air pump.

We had decided that as we have stayed in Hervey Bay a couple of times already, and needed to be in Brisbane by mid-afternoon the next day we would drive a couple of days and stay overnight at Tin Can Bay which is another place we had previously heard of but never visited.  So we continued on through Maryborough, again looking at all the beautiful old Queenslander homes enroute, and from there deviated from the Bruce Highway through to Tin Can Bay.  This was a trip of just 115 kilometres but most of it was travelling through forested area which is always a challenge at night with the potential for kangaroo crossing the road.  Fortunately we travelled incident free and as I had gone on line while Peter was inflating the tyres, we had pre-booked at a motel.  We were a bit surprised to find that to check in at the motel we had to go through the bar at the hotel so we were dubious quite what we were coming too, and as it was 8 p.m. the possible noise ongoing from the bar. 

We were very pleasantly surprised – yes we did check in at the reception area adjacent to the bar but the units were around the corner.  We had a lovely unit which was really clean and nicely laid out, with kitchen facilities etc and we didn’t hear any noise from the bar.  Yes, we could have put up the tent (and we are not getting soft in our old age) but this was our last night on the road for a few weeks and it was late. 

A quick check of the tourist brochures and besides the normal camping, fishing, beach walking the main attraction in the area seemed to be the feeding of the dolphins.  Our motel was near the public boat ramp where the Barnacles Dolphin Centre is.  The recommendation was to be at the centre early, and I mean 6.30 a.m. or thereabouts, to ensure that you see the wild humpback dolphins when they come in for feeding.  We didn’t want to be out and about that early, but as they were known to hang around to around 9 am we thought we could make it by then.  Sure enough there were lots of people queuing to be able to hand feed the two dolphins that had come in but we did see them.  Was it the most amazing thing we have seen – no not really?  The two people feeding the dolphins were in the water and the feeder had to step forward and hold their hand flat for the dolphin to take the fish.  This was very similar to what we had seen at Monkey Mia in Western Australia but this time the feeder had to pay $5 for one fish where in Monkey Mia it was free.  Still at least we can say we have seen it.

After seeing the dolphins we headed back to the motel for breakfast and packing up and we were back on the road again this time heading for the Sunshine Coast where we stopped off for a picnic lunch and wander along the beach.  It was a beautiful day, and being Sunday afternoon, there were lots of people out and about.  We have visited this area a number of times previously so we were not concerned that our stay was short lived.

After wandering the beach for half an hour we were back on the road for the last stage of our journey from Townsville to Brisbane.  We will now house sit for a family in their home at The Gap which is North West of the city and care for their Golden Retriever, Toby.  We arrived around 4 p.m. and met the home owners who welcomed us warmly and we soon settled in to our new home for the next seven weeks.

Back on the beach highway to Eli Creek

After our trip up the eastern side of the island as far as Orchid Beach we had returned to Eurong with an hour to spare before high tide.  It was raining consistently but after a short coffee break we decided that we would go and wander down to the beach to see how high up the beach the tide came.  Although there was still plenty of sand right at the entrance looking back up the beach the waves were breaking near the sand cliffs. 

We stayed on the middle floor of the accommodation block overlooking the pool – doesn’t look too attractive on a wet day but I am sure very pleasant during the much warmer summer days.

Next morning was our last day on the island but as we were on the 5 pm barge we had plenty of time to continue exploring.  We decided initially that we would return up the east side of the island as we had missed stopping off at Eli Creek the previous day due to the incoming tide.  So after buffet breakfast in the dining room we packed up the car with all our gear so that we could check out, and headed back on to the beach.  Eli Creek is about half way up the east side so about forty kilometres.   Eli Creek is the largest creek on the eastern side of the island and pours up to four million litres of clear, fresh water into the ocean every hour.  It is a popular stop off for tourists with a boardwalk following the creek inland to an area where there is a jumping off point for swimming and floating down the creek.  The water was crystal clear but rather cold, and raining, so I wasn’t going swimming but Peter was happy to wade in the water.  It had been raining when we first arrived at the creek and we had taken umbrellas along for the walk but it soon eased to a light drizzle.

The plants along the creek were beautiful and lush and the lichen on the bark brightly coloured.  Buffet breakfast or not, we had stopped the car so it was snack time for Peter!

We had been further up the island the previous day so we did a U-turn and headed back down the eastern side this time heading for Dilli Village which is about thirty kilometres along the coastline towards Inskip Point at the southern end of the island where a barge goes to Rainbow Beach which is near Tin Can Bay.  As we travelled back down towards Eurong the tourist planes were arriving and there were plenty of hopeful fishermen.  The fishermen often camp at the beachside camping areas (which have no facilities whatsoever) just following the tracks up the sand dunes to their chosen spot.  If not camping, it was common to see the 4wd parked either on the beach or pulled much further up from the tide level.

Still further down the beach nearer Eurong we were lucky enough to see another dingo on the beach.

We pulled off the beach at the signpost to Dilli Village – we were unsure what was actually in the area but had seen that there was a road into leading to Central Station and the western coast and as we eventually had to get to that side of the island to catch the barge had decided it was a worthwhile place to check out.  Dilli Village itself looked quite deserted and we now know that it is a research and learning centre which is part of the University of the Sunshine Coast.  There are also cabins and a grassed area for camping which appears to be used by various tour companies.  There was no one about as we passed.  We continued on the track past the village heading to Lake Boomanjin and Lake Birrabeen.  Our plans soon had to change as there were track closure signs – we were able to reach Lake Boomanjin but no further.  Our plans to cross the island via these tracks wasn’t going to happen and as there is no other tracks in this part of the island we would have to do the run back up the east coast.

Camping is allowed at Lake Boomanjin but interestingly the camping area was fenced off to protect from the dingoes.  There were plenty of signs to warn visitors.  There were toilets but these were not in the dingo fenced area so I guess night visits would require the trusty stick.  There were no campers there and we had the place completely to ourselves and didn’t see any dingoes.

After wandering down to the lake edge and having a good look around we had to return to the beach via the same track we had driven in.  Apparently the track further had wash outs which wasn’t too surprising as there had been a lot of rain.  We didn’t pass any other vehicles on our trip into or out from the lake so we were pleased that we didn’t have any trouble – obviously these were tracks little used by the general tourist, particularly at that time of the year.

The tide was still well out so there were no issues from that prospective.  However, there are lots of tracks down from the sand dunes where the flowing water cuts out channels on its journey to the ocean.  Most of these were narrow and not too deep but one in particular was quite wide but there was no option but to drive through.
We stopped off on the beach for our last Fraser Island picnic – served as usual out the back of the car.  Peter took the opportunity to paddle in the water and then to wade in the water channel we had just come through – not too deep but deep enough!  There were a number of vehicles making the trek down the beach, obviously heading to Inskip Point to meet a barge.  There were not wasting any time but then again the speed limit is 80 kilometres per hour on the beach so they wouldn’t have been breaking any of the rules.
Where we had stopped was near one of the track entrances to a beach camping area – Govi.  These areas are well sign posted and camping is permitted in the camping zones.  This is not free camping and the same fee is payable as if camping in one of the National Park camping areas (with facilities) on the island.  A permit has to be displayed showing that the fee has been paid and this can be checked by the ranger or police.  The most annoying part must be that a pre-booking must be made on line or by ‘phone and there is nowhere on the island that camping fees can be paid.  The beach camps certainly provide an opportunity for campers to get away and enjoy the tranquillity of the area.

Soon we were back down at Eurong Beach where we would need to cross the island from east to west – this is the track we had originally come on.  We were getting low on diesel so fortunately there is fuel available on the island so it was time to invest in the economy of the island!  It appeared like most retail outlets in this part of the island, the fuel pumps were part of the Eurong Resort.  There are a lot of young casual employees at Eurong and this young guy said he couldn’t think of a better place to work and save money – accommodation and food provided as part of his package, no shops to spend anything at and all the beach recreation anyone could want.  He had been there ten weeks and just loved it.  It was great to hear a young person so enthusiastic for their work and his involved working in the general store, and bringing out the key to unlock the pumps and serving the diesel and petrol. 

By now it was after 3 p.m. and we had to meet the barge at Wanggoolba Creek half an hour before our 5 p.m. sailing.  There was still one place we wanted to explore and that was Central Station.  We followed the inland track and about half way across the island (about eight kilometres) pulled into Central Station.  This area was originally an old logging village as logging began on the island in 1963.  There are still displays of the various logging machinery and equipment.  Nowadays the area is the main National Park camping area with large, fenced formal camping area set in the rainforest.

There are lots of walks of various lengths leading off in all directions.  As time wasn’t on our side (nor did we have the inclination) to do any of the longer walks we chose to follow the board walk which follows the crystal clear creek down through the rainforest and then back up through the camping area to the car park.  From these photos you may think that the creek bed was just a sandy bottom with no water, but there was definitely a stream flowing.  It was cool and dark along the board walk with the tall trees towering above us and dense ferns on the ground.  The lichen on the fallen trees was very colourful. 

It was time to continue our travel along the rainforest track to Wanggoolba Creek and we still had nine kilometres to go.  There were other vehicles on the track so it was clear there were going to be more than four vehicles on the return trip.  At the barge landing (there isn’t a jetty but the barge drops a ramp down on to the sand for access) we lined up with a number of vehicles and watched the barge arriving.  In addition to the vehicles and their passengers there were a lot of foot passengers from the tourist buses.

We had been told that there would be dingoes on Fraser Island and we hadn’t seen many.  We saw lots of signage warning us, dingo grills and fences and the occasional dingo on the beach.  We were not to be disappointed as hovering around the car park was a lonely dingo looking for something to eat.  With lots of tourists on board the barge there were cameras clicking everywhere!

Our barge was late leaving the island, it was waiting for a booked vehicle that didn’t arrive, and as we sailed the early evening sky was beautiful.  We had enjoyed a great three days on the island and certainly recommend it to anyone who is happy with accommodation that is not top class but nature that is.  It was wonderful and we are so pleased we visited.  We had visited the main areas of interest on the island so for us three days was perfect – if you want to go fishing or just to relax more time would be needed.  Fraser Island is certainly a unique part of Australia.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Continuing on the beach highway, Fraser Island

After a much longer stop at the Maheno wreck than we had initially planned we got back in the car and continued along the beach.  We followed another 4wd for a while but he was further down the beach than we were as he was obviously happy driving through the water – we preferred where possible to drive on the harder sand without the pools of water.  It wasn't always possible and in areas there were channels with running water from the sand dunes leading down which we had to cross.

There were three places I wanted to check out but we would definitely do those on our return.  Next stop was Indian Head.  Here again had to leave the beach because of the sea around the rocks and drive up the sand dunes.  Here parking was at a premium as the area was quite small and from here there is a walk to Champagne Pools. 

On the way down the board walk we eyed a rock wallaby – the first we had seen.  The view from the board walk looking back towards Indian Head was beautiful and we doubted it was ever possible to drive around the point but we were uncertain.  Soon after we had parked two or three of the 4wd tour buses had arrived so there was a constant trek of people heading down the board walk towards the Champagne Pools.  Because there is the possibility of crocodiles in the water around Fraser Island (I have no idea of how often but there are sign posts warning of the possibility) Champagne Pools are said to be the only “safe” place on Fraser Island to be able to swim in the sea.  The pools are natural bubbling rock pools – we didn’t go swimming but others did.

We decided that we would follow the track heading north and make out way to Orchid Beach for lunch.  This would be the furthest north we would go (the access along the beach does continue on to Ocean Lake but no further) and from Orchid Beach there is also a road across to the west side of the island and although there is no beach driving there is beachside camping and walking access to Sandy Cape Lighthouse near the top of the island.  Time did not allow us to venture further, and the thought of walking to the lighthouse didn’t do it either! 

We followed the track down on to the beach – it was great to leave the tour buses behind.  In the distance we could see some people fishing and a couple of vehicles did pass us as they drive either up or down the beach.  From our lunch spot on the beach we had Waddy Point to our left and Orchid Beach on our right.

There is quite a settlement at Orchid Beach with holiday homes, general store etc and is obviously a popular holiday spot.  However after a short stop we started heading back down the track, past the Champagne Pools and Indian Head on to the beach.  You soon realise that it is time to start on the trip back as the buses have left and there weren’t too many other cars around.  Remember the recommendation is two hours either side of low tide and we still had nearly 80 kilometres to drive back down the beach.

We didn’t waste any time as we wanted to stop off at two or three places on our way back down the beach.  The first was Red Canyon which could have had us thinking that we were back in Western Australia.  The diversity of this island is amazing.  Unfortunately the photos did not do these cliffs justice – the various colours were just amazing and these cliffs were beside the beach.

Our next stop was at Dundubara which is one of the National Park camping areas on the island.  Our first intention had been to stay here one night and then move to Central Station camping area on the second night of our stay.  I was keen to just check out the camping area as we passed.  There is a track leading up from the beach.  Both National Park camping areas (and certainly the resort where we are staying) have dingo fences around the boundaries and there is a special cattle grate to cross.  These grates have the usual metal bars but in addition they have electric wires running across the metal bars.  Certainly would keep any animal on the outside!  I didn’t take any photos of the actual camping area (my mistake now) but we were impressed with the large grassy sites and the facilities on offer.  Well worth booking, especially if rain is not forecast.  There were a few campers set up and the cleaner was there busily cleaning the facilities.  We would have been happy to have camped there.

Next stop was Cathedral Beach.  This is a privately run camping ground.  There is a general store which was really well stocked and we asked if we could walk through which the attendant said was fine.  We had met a couple on the barge crossing over and they were staying in one of the safari tents – this is a tent that is set up and has a queen-size bed with linen available for hire, chairs etc.  Pretty impressive really.  In addition there were camping sites and cabins.  The worse feature was that this camping ground, being privately owned, did not have dingo fencing and the lady said that at night it was necessary to walk with a stick to protect from wandering dingo.  I wouldn’t be too happy making the trek to the toilets in the dark if I had to carry a stick for protection.  However, dingo fencing was about to be built so this problem will soon be rectified.

Our last stop for the day was at The Pinnacles – again the diversity of this island is amazing.  These cliffs are just so beautiful and you will have to excuse all the photos but they are worth seeing and I wasn’t sure which ones to leave out.  This area is just so different to everything else on the island and yet is just up the beach from where the Maheno was wrecked and close to the two camp sites.  The colours were great.

With time now racing on it was really necessary to finish the drive down the beach and get off the sand.  It had commenced to rain lightly and the sea water was getting really high up the beach.  There are a number of 4wd vehicles swamped with water every year and we were determined that we were not going to be one of them.

It was great to see the Eurong signage and pull off the beach.  As it was raining quite consistently we returned to our room – we were so pleased that we had taken the option of staying at Eurong rather than tenting.  Fortunately the rain had held off most of the day and we had been able to visit many of the scenic spots along the eastern side of the island.