Australia: Fraser Island

Michael and I traveled to Australia as part of our 2007 career break. The following is an excerpt from our travel blog.

[singlepic=129,200,,,right]When planning our travel destinations, Michael said that the places he wanted to go to the most were Australia and New Zealand.  And even though I had traveled through both countries before, I was happy to go back to revisit.  And I wanted to take advantage of my return to see things I hadn’t before.  Fraser Island was one of them.

It is said that Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, stretching 120kms (75 miles) long and made up of 100% sand over thousands of years of drifts.  It’s hard to imagine that it really is all sand, as the island is lush with woodlands and rain forests, as well as fresh water lakes.  And the only way to explore all of these wonders is by four-wheel drive.

There are several options for getting around by 4WD: rent your own vehicle (which allows you more access but can be risky if you don’t know tides or get stuck) – join a group of backpackers in a shared vehicle (but you’ll be cramped in an uncomfortable position and kept up all night by their partying) – or join a large 4WD bus with 40+ people (which, although, can be more comfortable but is less intimate).

We opted to go with the Fraser Experience – a small group tour operator that offers the comforts of a spacious 4WD vehicle but the intimacy of a smaller group.  Our group was made up of 13, plus our driver Jason, and we represented the States, France, Scotland, England and Australia.  Immediately we knew we were in for an adventure as Jason quickly made it known his extensive experience traversing the island.

And he certainly shared a number of stories with us.  One thing is for sure – Aussies know how to spin a yarn and Jason was no exception – turning even the most boring details, such as the history of a shipwreck on the island, into a long, drawn out yet humorously entertaining story.[singlepic=111,150,,,right]

As we crossed over on the ferry from Rainbow Beach, the weather looked daunting, as the clouds from the day before still lingered.  But it wouldn’t matter much, as we were to explore the inner portion of the island that day, which is made up of the aforementioned vegetation.  When the blue skies did appear, the large trees and forest vegetation would obstruct it.  But it was certainly welcome as we took a nice dip in the fresh waters of Lake McKenzie before lunch.  Even though Fraser Island is surrounded by water, the dangerous currents and deadly sharks make it impossible to enter along the shoreline.  But Fraser Island also offers numerous fresh water lakes, like Lake McKenzie, which is a perfect respite with its crystal clear water and pristine white sand.

After spending the afternoon exploring the rain forests by foot, we navigated the slowly shrinking beach front, trying to make it back to camp before the high tide took away our route.  There are several resorts and camp sites on Fraser Island, but we were to stay in Dilli Village, which is made up of a series of small cabins.

[singlepic=125,200,,,left]With the birds waking us up bright and early at 4:30am, the blue skies were a great sign that we had reserved the right day for driving up the coastline.  For miles all we could see were crashing waves on the beach and various fisherman having their go at the sea.  Along the way we stopped at the shipwreck, Maheno, which was once a luxury vessel and also served as a floating hospital during World War I.  After a recession hit Australia, it was sold to a Japanese company but was washed ashore here during a typhoon as it was being towed to Japan.

We also stopped at the Pinnacles, which is a sand formation made up of various layers of colors.  Jason offered us the scientific and Aboriginal versions of their creation.  But I liked the one a former passenger came up with: it was God’s paint palette after he finished painting the Earth.  And although I’m not a believer in creationism, I liked the imagination behind the idea, as it did appear to be like a painters palette, with the various colors appearing under the chipped colors above.[singlepic=132,200,,,right]

But our final destination this day would be Indian Head – a rock formation towards the top of the island, that once scaled, offered glorious views.  From atop we spotted dolphins, rays and manatees in the clear waters below.  After a delicious lunch, we had a last dip in another crystal clear water source – this time a creek.

But before long we were off, as we would be fighting the high tide again as we made our way down to the ferry landing and our departure point.  It was definitely a full two days and well worth a return trip to Australia.

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