2 January 2002 to April 2002

5 March 2002 to 7 March 2002

The coast of  Queensland is dotted with islands, and we visited a few, each one quite different and some unique. These islands were part of mainland Australia until the end of the last Ice Age when the sea rose some 100 feet, forming these islands and submerging what was to become the Great Barrier Reef.

After Tin Can Bay we drove to Hervey Bay where we left our motorhome and joined a three-day camping adventure on Fraser Island.
After a rough journey by barge/ferry, we joined Troy and 13 other people aboard a landcruiser. There was no jetty at Fraser Island. Troy drove off the barge’s landing platform onto the beach and then along the beach through thick sand and a few kilometers along found a path and turned inland. There are no roads on the island, only tracks through the sand. We were fortunate that heavy rains had smoothed and packed the sand otherwise it is even more bouncy and the sand gets very thick and loose. Not too far along we saw a jeep from the same company tipped into a ditch – the driver, who was supposed to be the one helping the other vehicles, had taken a sandy curve badly and went over. It was then that both Eitan and I were most thankful that we had not done the tour independently.

We drove eastward, crossing the island driving through expanses of eucalypt and banksia (our “people trees”) until we arrived at Lake Allom. Sand cannot hold water and so the existence of 20 major lakes on the island is very special. Lake Allom is one of the perched dune lakes, formed by vegetation collecting and settling in a sand depression and forming a seal that holds the rainwater. About 20 small Kreft fresh water turtles, as curious about us as we about them, came close to the shore and stuck out their heads to look at us.

The sandy track wound its bumpy way over hills and through valleys carpeted with forests to the eastern side of the island, to the 75-mile beach. It is wide and pale yellow. But the sea was rough and angry with a wide expanse of breakers and foam. Much of the foam was brown and the water in parts looked red – the result of eucalyptus tannin seeping into the many creeks that in turn run into the sea. Even without warnings not to go into the sea because of 4 different kinds of dangerous sharks, deadly jellyfish, bluebottles and stinging grass no one would have entered.

Eli Creek is a freshwater creek that pumps 4 million liters an hour into a fast flowing stream. The water filters through the sand so that the tannins are leached out resulting in wonderfully soft water. We lazily floated down the creek, getting out before it reached the sea. It was great fun and beautiful with lots of Pandanus trees that we’d first seen in Fiji.

We stopped at the Maheno wreck for a photo opportunity, somewhat miffed by the presence of other people, spoiling the picture and giving it the feel of a tourist trap. The Maheno was built in 1904 and it served first as a passenger ship and in WWII as a hospital ship. It was later bought by the Japanese as a source of scrap metal.   Realizing that the propellers were the most valuable part of the ship, they sold the propellers in Australia and while towing the boat to Japan, the ropes snapped loose and the boat drifted to the sands. It was a huge ship, 400 foot long, and almost all of it has been covered by sand.

We ended our day at Cathedral Beach Resort, a permanent tent campsite. Eitan pointed out that it was truly a beach resort: no roads lead to it, only a short very sandy path from the beach.  There was a covered kitchen cum eating area and close by another covered area with the tents inside. The tents each contained 2 camp beds. Preparing for bed in cramped quarters was laborious. Eitan got onto his bed which tipped over, and he fell off with the bed on top of him. Amid hysterical laughter we changed and I did better, being careful not to move too much.  During supper we had our first sighting of a dingo just by the camp area looking at us so sweetly! Dingoes are wild dogs that howl like wolves. Interaction is strictly forbidden. They can be very aggressive and have eaten children. There is a fine not only for feeding them but also for leaving food about that they could reach. We later saw one in the bush.
Besides the noise of the birds and later the cicadas, the quiet was constantly broken by the zip zip as campers opened and closed their tents against the many spiders, rats (introduced) and other curious things. The showers and toilets were about 100 meters away. The first night, afraid of dingoes, people armed with flashlights formed a group before making their way to the toilets. When I went to pee at about 1.30am I woke up Eitan, who then went to the toilet and between our zip zips we managed to wake up almost the entire camp. Almost everybody was much younger than us – I thought they were heavier sleepers!

The following morning we drove north along the beach and through creeks to Indian Heads. It is volcanic, and sandy Fraser Island formed during 80,000 years around this core. We walked up to the Heads but unfortunately the bad weather continued, and we saw only sand in the broiling sea. In calm seas one can see sharks, manta rays turtles and even dugongs from here.

We then crossed the island to the west coast, which faces the Australian continent. Wathumba inlet was beautiful – green sea, mangroves and white sand. Troy pointed out that mangroves usually form a grey mat around, but here, unusually, the sand was glittering white.

We were supposed to catch fish for our barbecued dinner. We didn’t even get a bite and were expecting Vegemite sandwiches, a fisherman’s fallback, for dinner so steak dinner was a surprise.

Then we made our way back and just north of Indian Head stopped at Champagne Pools. This is the only point on the east coast where one can safely swim. A barrier of rocks forms a large pool and when the tide is right the waves crash over and feed the pool, leaving the dangerous marine creatures behind. The foam was like bubbles.

It rained hard the whole night, which meant that when Eitan and I went to the toilet, together, thankfully nobody heard our zip zip. The following morning we drove south along the beach. The beach is not only the beach; it is also the highway (We heard that during holidays policemen hide behind dunes and trap drivers speeding more than 80 kph along the sands!); and it is also a runway for the light plane that takes people for a short aerial jaunt.  Troy stopped to arrange with the pilot to later fetch those of us who wanted a flight.
To reach Lake Wabby we had an hour’s walk through eucalypt and banksia forest and then had to cross a sand dune. Lake Wabby is a barrage lake, formed when sand cuts off the exit of a creek.  Although much of the 124 km-long island is thick with vegetation there are a number of sandblows on the beach and inland. Built up by strong southeasterly winds, these sandblows occur when there is a break in the vegetation cover. The sand relentlessly advances about 2 meters a year, covering everything in its path.  Lake Wabby, with its rainforest on one side and the startling expanse of the sand dune encroaching upon bushes and trees and gradually filling the lake itself, is a good example.
After swimming with large black catfish in the less than sweet smelling water, we made our way back to the landcruiser. Australia is so large that Ozzies have a different time reference to us. Troy had told us that we had a short walk through bush to the waiting landcruiser. Forty minutes later I wasn’t the only one to think I had taken a wrong turning and ten minutes later we reached the vehicle.

We made our way back to the beach, where the plane landed on the beach and whipped four off for a 20-minute flight over the island. Only from the air could you get a true idea of the breadth of the island – as you looked north and south all was forest covering hills and valleys that were really covered sand dunes.

Our last stop on our way back to the ferry point was at Yidney Scrub rainforest, the only rainforest in the world on sand. Although logging on the island was extensive, right up to 1991, this area was protected early on. As we walked by the huge 200 year old kauri pine (which we had met in New Zealand), satinay, a hardwood valued for its worm resistant properties and used extensively on the banks of the Suez canal and in England quays, we suddenly realized that the uniqueness of the island was that all that we saw, although perhaps not amazing in itself, was amazing because it all existed on sand. Sand itself doesn’t contain nutrients and yet sustains such diverse and lush forms of life from the nutrients in the decayed plant matter. The older forests are dying because the nutrients that have been built up are leached by rain and are too deep for the trees to reach them.

We eventually arrived at Moon Point to await the ferry. The weather finally turned sunny and the sea was very calm. While we waited for the ferry we watched little fish flying out of the water as larger fish tried to eat them. The barge arrived and dropped its landing platform. We watched in amusement as a jeep with a trailer got stuck in the sand as he drove off the barge. The more he tried the deeper he got into the sand. The barge didn’t waste time, just backed out and landed again on the sand a few meters further up. We boarded the barge and went back to Hervey Point, really quite sorry that this 3-day idyll was over.


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