From Fraser island to Sydney

Trip Start Jan 29, 2008
1
8
13
Trip End Apr 30, 2008


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Where I stayed
Mates Place

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Monday, March 3, 2008

As per my last entry, we had a mad dash to get down to Hervey Bay after the Whitsundays. It was 900km and we had 24 hours to register for the 4 *4 experience on Frasier Island. We kept moving that evening after the Whitsundays till after dark and the following day got to Hervey Bay on time. Only to discover that we weren't registered to go to Frasier Island from Hervey Bay, it was Rainbow beach, another two hour drive down the road. We made a mad dash to get there, ringing them on the way to let them know we were running late. As it turned out the Oz experience bus that the rest of our group were on had broken down somewhere and wouldn't be getting in till very late and so we sighed a sigh of relief and got there about an hour and a half late. There were two guys staying at the hostel who were going on our trip and they'd been waiting around most of the afternoon for us - Oli and Ivan were from Switzerland and obviously had been living in a campervan for too long - they were a little bit crazy.
We registered for the trip and were told that the five of us would need to do the shopping for all eleven people in our jeep. How hard can it be, buying food for eleven people, most of whom you don't know? Well it took us probably the best part of two hours, although the guys had a lot to do with that - I think it was the Italian in Oli coming out as they shouted across the supermarket at each other and threw bags of toilet paper, tea bags, boxes of cereal etc from one end of the shop to the other. They picked up very random bits, such as a mop, which is always useful when camping, but I spent most of my time playing mother and uttering the words "put that down" under my breath. We eventually agreed on how much food we'd need and what we'd cook and got back to the hostel to find the rest of our crew had arrived. Jerome, Scott, Lee and Gibbo were four Uni friends out on their round the world trip and Rob and Elisa were travelling round themselves but on the same bus as the guys. Rob was only a whipper snapper, 18 but seemed to be doing alright out on his own, better than I would have at that age anyway.
Myself, Ivan, Oli and the girl from the hostel stayed up playing poker that night, the guys taught us how. I'd never played before and I don't think I'll be playing again soon, I'm not very good at bluffing and was quickly out of the game.
The next day we walked outside the hostel to see our 11 seater jeep ready to be packed up. It was quite complicated really, we had to make sure that all the food, the tents, our clothes etc was all evenly spread on the roof of the jeep and covered over properly by the tarp to make sure that it stayed waterproof. Once we had it all up Oli started the driving, a quick check over at the garage and off to catch the ferry. Once we got onto the beach on the mainland we started to see people getting stuck in the very deep soft sand and I started to wonder whether I'd be able to manage to drive this monster with ten people watching my every move or would I look like a complete girl or even manage to tip it over....
Once we got to the island I think our first reaction when we hit the "road" was that Oli was a bad driver. The reality though was that there are no roads, it was a dirt track with very big track marks gouged into it where the sand was softer and it made for a fairly exhilirating ride - most of us were scared stiff within the first fifteen minutes. The beach road was a good bit better - it's mainly hardened wet sand after the tide has gone out, so you don't sink doing any kind of speed. You do have to watch for streams from inland though, where they've washed themselves a river bed through the sand, they can be quite deep and dangerous. First things first we found some toilets, your bladder is the first thing to be effected on scary rides. We then went to Wabby creek, our first look at one of the spectacular freshwater lakes surrounded by high silica sand - the really fine white sand that cleans your jewlery. We parked up and set across the sanddunes inland - we didn't realise (probably stupidly) that it was like walking in the Sahara in the midday sun - very warm! Anyhow, we survived long enough to find the lake, which was a very welcome swim after the walk. The first night, per our schedule we were camping on the beach. Both because of high tide and daylight, we got to our campground at about five. After struggling to get the jeep up the dunes, teamwork won out and we pushed the thing up the hill. Everyone took their roles quite naturally - the girls started making up sandwiches to keep the team going, Scott took to digging holes with his spade, a couple of people went exploring the neighbourhood (deserted) while the boys and I started putting up tents. I have to say I was pretty rubbish, it's been a long time since I did that, but I did my best to pull my weight and I was a dab hand by the second night. The explorers came back to tell us that we were next door to a dead turtle - he was big too and so we became team turtle and the jeep became April.
We managed to cook spagetti bolognese for eleven people (badly) on a one ring gas stove and then settled down on a tarp to tell ghost stories in the dark - we weren't allowed to light a fire. At one point we went out to the sand dunes to take a look at the stars and I've never seen a clearer night anywhere in the world - the milky way was so bright, it just looked like a massive belt of stars the whole way across the sky. It's got to be the most spectacular skyline I've ever seen in my life.
The next morning we were up and at em early - the heat in the tents was pretty bad and any time you got your limbs out to fresh air they were eaten quickly by the mozzies, so lying in wasn't really an option. We headed up to Indian point, a cliff jutting out over the sea which looks directly down onto the beaches at either side. The water is so clear that any larger sea creatures can be easily seen from there. We'd been shown a picture taken from Indian point before we left. It showed a romantic couple cuddling in waist deep water in the sea and a pretty giant shark swimming alongside them - the point being made: do not swim in the sea. We stayed up there in the hope of seeing sharks but Oli spotted a Ray and that had to do us that day. Down along the beach is the Maheno ship wreck, just sat there stuck in the sand rotting away. It was a pre world war cruise liner which becaming a floating hospital during the war. Afterwards the Japanese bought it from the Aussies and were towing it home when they hit a Cyclone and lost it to Fraser Island - bummer.
We headed inland from here, we were camping at a campsite this time, with proper showers and toilets (yeay!). We went for a quick walk before setting up camp and getting dinner on, but the signposts were misleading. Instead on 2.7km round trip, it was the distance to the lake, with the same back. We all got split into groups and myself, Oli and Scott kept wandering if we'd even started out on the right road. As soon as we got to the lake we found the girls, Ivan and a couple of others, with a few more following up the rear, we immediately turned back to camp - no lovely refreshing swim this time!
We set up camp pretty quickly as it was starting to get dark and went to get dinner on, only to discover that we were out of gas. We had to go and beg the use of our next door neighbours hot plate. We were so lucky not to be out on the beach that night - our only neighbour had been that dead turtle. We got very lucky and camped beside a professional chef instead and got to use all his gear. The boys took charge of the barbeque and came back with a very impressive looking feast. Again, it was a fairly early night, there's not much to do when the sun goes down and you have to keep checking your drink for bugs and swatting for mosquitos outside.
The next day team turtle headed further inland for Lake McKenzie. This time it was my turn to drive. I was slightly nervous still, particularly because the inland roads were a lot harder than the beach to drive, with a lot of skidding and drifting over the sand dunes that you hit. There were also a lot of very steep hills up and down and potholes are near impossible to see. I was loving it so much tho that I was going a bit fast for the guys in the back, who were getting bumped all over the place. It was such good fun though! We got to Lake McKenzie early - bout ten I think and pretty much had the place to ourselves. The beach was white, the lake a beautiful blue. The water was shallow enough for ten feet or so, and you could see the sand on the bottom and then the bottom just disappeared with the lake turning a very deep blue. I'd have loved to have goggles to have a look around under there.
Just as the crowds started to appear we headed away, but now before seeing how cheeky the local dingoes were. They'd walk right up behind a few sunbathers and grab a bag of anything that might contain food. They got crisps if they were lucky or clothes if they weren't... Unfortunately that was the start of the end of our Fraser Island adventure and we headed back towards the ferry. We had to keep moving once back on the mainland and once we'd unpacked and handed back our jeep team turtle gathered in the car park to wave us off on our way. The guys had been great fun the whole way round and kept us laughing, from Rob and his "oh yeah" every time we hit a pothole to Scott with his flashlight, checking our drinks for bugs. It was definitely one of our highlights from Australia.

From there we headed to Australia zoo and got camped down closeby so we could get in early morning the next day. Unsurprisingly there were lots of crocs but my favorourites I think were the kangaroos. They've got they're own paddocks and seem quite happy to hop around and to be petted by the visitors. I couldn't get over how soft they were. They have areas that they can escape to as and when they need to away from the visitors. We watched a show in the crocoseum or whatever they call it, involving elephants, birds of all descriptions, snakes and of course crocs. It was a bit strange, as outside the arena every available surface was used as a kind of shrine to Steve Irwin. The gift shop was also full of kids exercise videos and karaoke cd's and stuff by Bindy, his daughter. It seemed very American and I didn't like it much. The zoo wasn't as big as we expected it, but I still enjoyed it and was very happy to get so close to the roo's and to see my first wombat since watching A Country Practice as a kid.
There isn't really an awful lot more to tell down the coast to Sydney, except we did it really fast. Two weeks is not nearly enough time to get from Cairns to Sydney, it just goes to show how little we knew about the size of the country. Between the driving hours each day, the lack of time out and the cramped sleeping conditions in the back of the van it probably wasn't our best sisterly bonding time either. It really was exhausting! We did stop briefly at Byron Bay (def like the look of that town and want to go back) and Port MacKenzie which had the most amazingly clear sea.
Sydney is a pretty typical cosmopolitan city really, that is except for the huge park, Sydney Opera House and the Bridge. After spending the first day asleep on reaching our hostel, we walked across from Kings Cross to the Opera House. It was not quite what we'd expected I don't think. The girls kept asking if it was a replica, with the real one further out somewhere on it's own. I thought it was pretty cool though. The best view of the bridge that I got was from The Rocks. That's a quaint little quarter out by the bridge where they have little one off shops selling strange stuff and coffee shops selling gorgeous stuff. We walked up to the observatory at the top end of town and back through. It was a long day with lots of walking. The next couple of days the girls were up with the sun and wanting out asap to the beaches whereas I was opting for lie-ins and wandering round Sydney city. I was particularly enamoured with the Botanic Gardens, which were huge, I kept finding new bits every time I went through it. There were hundreds of flying foxes sleeping there during the day and plenty of cockateels, both of which could be extremely noisy when they wanted to be. Meantime the girls did a 5k hike from Bondi to another beach in 30 degrees - crazy! Finally on our very last day we heard from the guys from Fraser Island - Jerome, Scott, Lee and Gibbo made it down to Sydney and we met up with them that night for a fish and chip supper at Darling Harbour and then took a wander down past the Harbour bridge to the Opera House. It was their first night in Sydney and their first time seeing all of this. They even passed on a cheese and wine night in the hostel to see us awwwwww. Lois also managed to meet up with her friend, Ciara's brother Eoin, who lives over there. And that was our last night in Australia. It ended on a high I guess
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