Finding free images for your website or blog

As people who blog or run websites, it’s often difficult to find high quality images which we can use for free.  This is especially true in the case of people like myself who don’t make any money from it.  Well, I found the following article and thought it very worthy of passing on.

Let me know in the comments here on landyvlad.net whether you have other favourite sources, or problems with any of those listed in the article. Cheers.

How to Find free High Quality Stock Images free for commercial use

My NBN non-event

My current internet speed, on a ADSL2+  connection, is typically a blistering 1 Mbps.  Yep just the one Megabit per second.  Jealous much?

The NBN website rollout data for my northern Brisbane suburb has changed a few times over the years, each time being pushed further into the future, which sadly doesn’t surprise me at all.

Recently I got home from work and found this screwed to the side of my house.

NBN Box.jpg

Yes, a box with NBN moulded into the plastic.

My wife had arrived home as the installer was leaving, and he said “It won’t work yet, has to be connected up.” and that was that.

Well to say that I was pleasantly surprised was an understatement. The prospect (though. judging from what I’ve read on various forums. by no means a certainty) of having a high speed internet connection was exciting.  The last time I’d checked the NBN rollout the site had advised me of completion by end 2018.  So it seems mine would be early.

Naturally I checked the NBN site again, and the planned availability is now shown as July-December 2019.  Apparently the people who install the boxes, and the people who connect that up to the NBN itself are entirely different and working on completely different schedules.

giphy.gif

On the upside – the technology planned for my area is HFC (Hybrid Fibre Coaxial), which is potentially at the upper end of NBN speed expectations.  Perhaps not as good as FTTP (fibre to the premises) but substantially better than FTTN (fibre to the node).

So, perhaps I might ultimately have a good connection, capable of actually streaming Amazon Prime…

 

Why not check your address now, and see what NBN technology and timeframe you might get.
https://www.nbnco.com.au/connect-home-or-business/check-your-address.html

Best of luck to you all.

Photobucket can kiss my arse !

I created the LANDYVLAD site because photobucket screwed me (and millions of others) over.

Most of the photos I had put on numerous forums disappeared overnight.  This included technical articles and trip reports on Land Rover forums, build threads on motorcycle forums, and lots more besides.

Previously webshots had done a very similar thing.

Everyone seems to be moving to Imgur now, but it can only be a matter of time before any free service stops being free… So how to get around this?

What I did

I purchased a domain name here: https://www.crazydomains.com.au/
(price varies, but from as little as $12/year)

A lite web hosting plan here:  https://netvirtue.com.au/web-hosting/economy
($3.95 / month for 1GB of space, or $5.95 for 10GB)

Installed wordpress  https://wordpress.org/
(free)

and Piwigo (photo hosting software)  http://piwigo.org/
(free)

Now I have control over everything.  As I have my own domain name I can change hosts at any time and my links to photos will still work !

Vlad’s Fraser Island Odyssey ( 2004 )

Prelude

At about 4:30 on Friday afternoon the clutch of the Defender began slipping badly. I was progressing at a rate under 20kph as a result and given I had planned to get away to Fraser Island from that weekend, I was slightly panicked and stressed. A quick trip (actually a very slow trip, but luckily it’s not far) to M.R. Automotive and they had me on the way again. Proved not to be the clutch but the hydraulics system, just needed bleeding properly. Disaster number 1 averted.

Day 1 – Sunday

Had the ute all packed up and ready to go. Waved goodbye to the folks (staying with us for a while) and turned the key. Nothing. Multimeter check of battery charge. No problems there. Panic seemed the appropriate response, Got onto the .pdf manuals on AULRO looking for the appropriate info on the starter motor (a guess) but to no avail. Meanwhile Mrs Vlad had called the RACQ and then made herself scarce. On their arrival I could see that “Oh no, a bloody Land Rover” look on the mechanics face. Anyway, isolated it to the starter solenoid. A turn of the key with a whack on the solenoid at the same time, got her running. It was decision time, Would I risk it not starting during the trip ? Bloody oath I would – no bastards taking this holiday from me !

Headed up to Gympie where we refuelled (Diesel – 103.9) and onto Rainbow Beach, where I topped up the tank again (Diesel – 115.9). Headed the short distance to Inskip Point where I drove onto the sand without letting the tyres down. Got bogged, sort of. Diff-Lock in, low range, drove out no problems and onto the “Manta Ray” barge. During the short trip across I dropped the tyres to 25psi.

On arrival. we skirted the fallen tress and driftwood which blocked most of the beach, at Hook Point. Other vehicles were driving through the surf to go around but I was more careful and timed the wave patterns so as to go when there was least risk and then we headed North along the eastern beach.

It was wonderful to drive along the sand for a distance with the rolling ocean on the right, dunes and tress on the left and the smell of salt in the air ! The vehicle was floating around a bit with a full load of gear onboard and I was wondering if I could have chosen better tyre pressures ?)

We saw 2 dingoes on the drive north, and on past Eli creek (not too many tourists there that day), a few aircraft on the beach, past the Maheno shipwreck and on to Dundubara campground. We passed several Land Rovers, ALL of whom returned my wave but only a few drivers of other vehicles did so. We set up camp, and checked out the amenities. Showers were a 50c coin for 3 minutes, and we had come prepared with a pocketful. (Note: The cost has now changed – see later in the story). The other two things we noted on the first day there? 1) March flies – these are big and when they bite it hurts like hell, and 2) At night thousands of little bugs swarm the gaslight and suicide into its flame.

Day 2 – Monday

Woke in the morning to a sound like someone walking around next to, and seemingly trying to enter our tent. I sat up and looked into the tent annexe to see a very large goanna. It took off when it saw me. When I got out of the tent I met an Israeli guy taking pictures of the lizard who had climbed a nearby tree.

Having unloaded the ute, I dropped the tyre pressures to 18psi (where they stayed for the rest of the trip, quite happily). About 11.30 we hit the beach and headed north , passing a skinny little dingo, to Indian head. It was just after high tide and the sand was soft, with many little washouts along the way. From Indian head we took an inland bypass track around the head and back onto the beach. Another 2km on, and off the beach again onto the inland track for Waddy Point. Passing the carpark for the Champagne Pools we continued along soft sandy inland tracks with occasional large ruts. We checked out the facilities at Waddy Point campground, for Ferno. (It’s a good one, mate – Ranger station, amenities, drinking water, phone, bbq’s, picnic tables, fenced from dingoes etc etc). Continuing down onto the beach, past the beach camping area (this is the only camping area on Fraser that allows generators) north past Orchid Beach and a further 5 1/2 kms to Ocean Lake exit. From here it’s a short drive into the shores of Ocean Lake.

At Ocean Lake there are toilets and a picnic area. We had a refreshing swim in the lake (fresh water, just the right temperature, the water is clear but is stained a brownish colour because of the ti trees, and there are many small fish to be seen). We had the place to ourselves. After our dip we had a round of sambos, and during this lunch a Troop-Carrier full of backpackers arrived, so it was time to go.

Back the way we had come, we met a Nissan Ute coming toward us (two way track but only a single lane). We tried to back up and onto a side “lay-by” but couldn’t due to the deep ruts which kept pulling our back wheels into them. The Nissan ended up getting onto the lay-by due to the combination of steering ability (going forward rather than backwards!) and a ton of revs. Continuing on our way, we came across a bag of rubbish someone had left on the track , so we did the right thing and took it with us to bin later.

Our next stop was the Champagne Pools. From the car-park it’s only a few hundred metres walk down to the bane of the modern tourist – a “boardwalk” for viewing the pools. (On the walk we had noticed some dung – evidence that there a still a few wild brumbies on the island despite the governments efforts to have them removed). Signs warn against standing on the rocks or swimming in the pools. At this time it was low tide and the pools were relatively full of sand (the sand content changes according to recent weather conditions and wave action). There were quite a few (bikini-clad) tourists down there paddling about so I figured I’d join them. Mrs Vlad (Michelle) didn’t fancy the walk/climb down the rocks so she didn’t come down.

Although shallow, especially at low tide, the pools were still well worth a visit. There were fish of various sizes schooling about the deeper pools, and some nice algal growth and rock formations. Every now and then a wave would break over the top and cascade water down into the pools.

If you camped at Waddy Point you could easily access the pools at high tide as its all inland track between the two. For us, staying at Dundubara, the beaches are impassable (I’m told) 1-2 hours either side of the high tide.

We then headed home to the campground, arriving at about 4.30, the drive south was very good being at low tide. At camp, a couple had arrived in a Defender 110 Tdi soft-top (full canvas roof). It looked great. I’m greedy. I want one ❗

The campsite had a fire-ring which was, luckily, stocked with firewood. Given the opportunity I stoked the fire up and, once I got some good coals, threw in a good supply of foil wrapped spuds. At this point (the sadists among you will enjoy this 🙄 ) I got some smoke in my eyes and was nearly burned by a flare up, so to avoid burning myself I stepped backwards – quickly – straight into an old tree stump. There was intense pain, a good flow of blood, and a bloody great splinter stuck into my calf (and not a Medic in sight). The so called “first aid kit” we had was bloody useless (mental note – buy a decent one) but eventually Mrs Vlad managed to extricate a 1-2cm chunk of wood from my leg, in time for me to put the pork chops onto the BBQ plate. I think she was hungry, or I’d still be carrying it. Anyway, it all made dinner taste that much better – and you can’t beat baked spuds with lashings of butter and salt. (The epicure’s way to an early grave)

 

Day 3 – Tuesday

Woke up late to an oppressively hot day. No sooner had I re-hydrated and opened the tent, than the ominous sound of thunder was heard. Soon this was followed by a few raindrops so I retreated inside the tent. We had a few hours of thunder and sporadic rain, affording the occasion for a bit more sleep. (I reckon you were all starting work at about this time…)

Once the “storm” had finished it was only slightly cooler. The ice in the esky was melting, it was time for a top up, so we drove south along the beach toward “Fraser’s at Cathedral” (Cathedral Beach settlement) where there is a shop. Just off the beach and onto the soft sand access track the road was blocked by a Toyota Troop-Carrier. I got out to see what the problem was – turned out it was waiting for another ‘Troopie’ in front, so that’s where I went. The troopie was full of backpackers (as most Troopies were!) and was bogged, while their efforts to extricate themselves had left that ‘burning clutch’ smell hovering in the air. The state of play: Troopie full of people, tyres at road pressures. “What gear are you in”, asks I. It was First High 🙄 I suggested they get the dead weight (pax) out, reverse 10 metres, and try low range 2nd or 3rd. This failed, mainly because the driver was riding the clutch. I said “Have another go – 3rd low – and give it heaps!” Success ❗ Back to the Troopie behind – he was also bogged now. Gave him the same advice. “Okay”, he says, “When I put the small lever in Low, what do I do with the big lever?” (For F^$% sake…) Don’t these rental places tell these people anything ❓ ❗ How hard would it be to sit them down in front of a 15 minute instructional video before giving them the keys?! Anyway, I soon had them on their way. When I returned to Mrs Vlad and Doris; Michelle was talking to the driver of another Troopie behind us (a local this time). She’d told him what was going on and his immediate response was: “Backpackers! Probably got 50psi in the tyres”. Anyway we got back in the ‘fender and casually cruised up the sandy track, past a ‘herd’ of walking backpackers. At the shop we stocked up on ice and some ice-creams. Fortunately I didn’t need diesel at the time, it was $1.54 per litre!

While enjoying our ice-creams we saw another privately owned Defender (Tdi wagon) roll up and park next to the ute. Naturally we struck up a conversation. These were two “diamond in the rough” blokes who had brought their wives along as well. They were on the island for the fishing, the bullbar had more rods than a tackle shop strapped to it. After the usual exchange of banter about backpacker girls with big tits (another story) we were talking about the effect that large numbers of tourists (specifically the backpacker invasion) was having on the island. One of the blokes noted they had been camping at the same spot for 20 years and had always maintained it well, digging proper pit toilets for their group stays. Now, he said, you couldn’t look in any direction there without seeing toilet paper littering the bush. The sad thing is that we all get lumped in as “tourists” and accused of doing the wrong thing by the “green” brigade. After an enjoyable chat we reluctantly went our separate ways.

We headed south again, down past the Maheno. The light was poor so I thought I’d take photos on the way back. On we went to Eli Creek. The place is crowded these days (and this is a weekday outside of school holidays!) with tour buses, other 4wd’s (even a few Landies), and the odd aeroplane. Bikini clad backpackers abounded but the handbrake was there to keep me in check ❗

Unlike last time I visited, Eli Creek is now surrounded by boardwalks and there’s nowhere in the accessible (I’ll come to that) part of the creek where you can’t see a boardwalk – a real shame that takes away from its natural beauty. We did the ‘compulsory’ walk up the creek until where the boardwalk crosses the creek upstream. Beyond this is overgrown but the creek continues quite a long way however a sign notes “Access Prohibited” due allegedly to previous cyclonic conditions. Oh well, at least the float back down the creek with the fast current is still as fun as ever ❗ Where the creek opens up on the beach, some enterprising ‘locals’ had arrived early. On shore they had a tarp set up over their gear. They themselves were sitting on folding chairs in (yes, in) the creek and shaded by a large similarly half submerged beach umbrella. After a while enjoying the cold, fresh water and watching a few aircraft movements, we ‘saddled up’ and headed back toward camp. As we approached the Maheno I knew I’d be taking no photos this day – it was absolutely swarming with tourists – backpackers the lot of them – and surrounded by Troop Carriers. The backpackers were all around and IN the wreck despite the warning and prohibition signs. Unfortunately it’s behaviour like this that means the bloody government will probably bulldoze the Maheno one day, like they did to the Cherry Venture at Rainbow Beach. If any of them had spoken English I would have told them so too, but I’d have been wasting my breath I’m sure. On reflection, I should have taken a picture to show you the crowd. Anyway, we continued north to ‘The Pinnacles’, a formation of coloured sands where we stopped briefly for a few photos before heading back to camp. On arrival we see 3 troopies of backpackers have also turned up – looks like we’re in for a noisy night!

Halfway through dinner Michelle asked me to get something from the picnic table. I walked off toward it and only when I got close did I realise there was a 6 foot long snake stretched out along the seat 😯 ❗ I beat a hasty retreat, but no sooner did I tell Michelle than she fled to the safety of the tent, closing me outside to my fate ❗ I got the torch to have a good look at him, and took a couple of photos. He slowly moved from the table toward a nearby tree, loitered there for about 30 minutes and slowly moved away into the bush. We resumed eating our dessert and retired to bed. During the night we were visited by some Melamys (kind of like big bush rat type critters, they are cute and make squeaky noises).

Day 4 – Wednesday

About 3am there was a commotion outside our tent, but I wasn’t wondering what it was for long. A voice came out of the darkness “Hello, sorry, Hello” (in a broad Irish accent) “Sorry I didn’t want to wake anyone up, but I’m very very lost and a quite frightened!” (An Irishman in a strange land). We leant him our torch so he could see where he was, and gave him directions to the amenities block, from where I hoped he’d find his way back to his tent. He knew that he was looking for a Troopie, and no doubt he’d find one, but maybe not the right one. He returned the torch, thanked us and went on his stumbling, frightened, alcohol-fuelled way. Who knows, they might find an Irishman wandering around the bush in a few months time.

We got up (again) at 6am with plans to get away early – the low tide was at 5 o’clock and this gave us a good few hours for the run down the beach to our planned destination. We headed south about 41 kilometres to Eurong, where we topped up with fuel ($1.54 per litre – diesel) and some souvenirs for the nephews and a bit of Christmas shopping. (Even when camping, a woman can smell out a place to go shopping). Anyway, Michelle got to spend some money so she was kept happy. After a brief detour to the bakehouse for some morning tea (average) we headed onto the inland tracks. Our first destination was Lake Birrabeen, travelling via sandy tracks which were sometimes soft, often quite ‘lumpy and bumpy’ and where 2nd high range and about 20kph was the usual going. We travelled 15kms to this first lake.

Lake Birrabeen is described in the guidebook as “An absolutely stunning blue lake with a dazzling white sandy beach along its western shore. It is not as popular as Lake McKenzie but is one of the island’s most beautiful. There is only a small parking area which means the lake is typically deserted”. This was almost entirely accurate. We arrived, however, there were several of the ubiquitous Troopies in the car park and when we got down to the lake there were a few dozen other people there. Typically deserted, my arse ❗ And it wasn’t even school holidays. The waters were beautiful – from the stunning turquoise near the shore to a deep blue where the bottom dropped away. The water temperature was perfect, not cold to get into and remaining refreshing. As we were relaxing enjoying the serenity, two giant busloads of tourists arrived and suddenly the beach was crowded. Yep, so much for “typically deserted”. It was time to make a move.

Diversion Rant: At this lake, like some of the other places we have visited, we noticed that the public carpark is often away from the lake etc requiring a (usually but not always short) walk, but there are special ‘tour buses only’ roads whereby they access virtually right to the lake shores ❗ I see no reason such tours should get preferential treatment like that. Someone with a cynical mind might say it’s just another example of the authorities trying to get us all on bloody buses and out of our own vehicles. Who the hell wants to be in an air-conditioned coach with non-opening windows, a running commentary in six languages and recordings of the outside noises rather than the sounds themselves ❓ 😕 Not me thanks. I like to enjoy the full sensory experience of a place, the smell of the ocean, the sea breeze, the birds in the trees, and so on.

And back to our regularly scheduled programming: The next lake on our journey was Lake Boomanjin. After a brief (1km each way) foray in the wrong direction (I blame the navigator) we returned back past Lake Birrabeen. Don’t be fooled by the lack of signposting – continue to carpark number 2 and keep following that road for about 11kms of bumpy, sandy but beautiful (I run out of superlatives easily on a holiday like this) track. This, like many of the island’s tracks, is single lane but two way traffic so you’ll often find yourself pulling off the road to let other vehicles pass. In many cases they should be the ones giving way, but it’s hardly worth an argument. I only got annoyed by the ones who we pulled aside for, and they didn’t even acknowledge with a wave. Bastards.

Lake Boomanjin is a brown lake, which is due to tannins leaching into the water from the ti trees. The water itself was temperate, very nice, and the lake quite shallow for a long way out – my calf height for over 20 metres from shore while even 50 metres out it was only my hip height. This would be a good lake for kids for this reason, if they aren’t put off by the colour. There weren’t many people at this lake (it is the blue ones that are popular) so we managed to keep ourselves to ourselves and enjoy the time we spent there. The return trip was the same way we had come in – back past Lake Birrabeen and onwards toward Lake McKenzie.

Driving on and skirting Central Station, we drove through Pile Valley, which is where the big Satinay trees were logged. Many of these trees ended up as piles (thus the name) in the construction of the Suez Canal and the new London docks constructed after WW2. Being a species of turpentine, the Satinay was much sought after due to their remarkable resistance to marine borers over a long period submerged. The Satinay grows to 60 metres at maturity, which is approximately 1,000 years. It boggles the mind ❗ , and to think it can all be undone with a saw so quickly. Pile Valley is a wonderful area of rainforest – Fraser Island being one of the few places in the world where rainforest grows out of sand. Continuing along sandy tracks, we notice that even in a short distance the type of bush surrounding the track can change markedly, whick keeps the trips interesting, there are surprises around almost every corner. The last few kms of track into Lake McKenzie was among the worst we’d travelled – very, very bumpy and rutted, causing the poor Landy to bounce all over the place like mad. Michelle said it gave here a “gut milkshake”

Shadows across the track made it difficult to spot holes and ruts, often until it was too late. Given the amount of traffic that uses this road I had expected it to be well maintained. We arrived at the carpark at about 1:00pm and were well and truly ready for lunch.

There was a sign saying “picnic area” so we took it at its’ word and followed the path on foot, lunch in hand. We did find some picnic tables – nestled among other parked vehicles – but were more hungry than disappointed do we sat down to eat. It soon became apparent whose picnic area this was – though we had encountered them several times before, this site was infested with March flies. Picture a house fly on steroids. Well a March fly is the one that comes and beats that fly up ❗ They are the size of bees. According to the book they have “two large bladelike mouthparts with which they slash the skin, this creates a large and painful puncture site that oozes blood which is then lapped up” 😯 . We can vouch for the fact that they bloody hurt, and despite swatting away they are not easily discouraged, returning again and again like an ‘Amway’ rep. Eventually it all became too much – we rushed lunch and retreated down to the lake.

Lake McKenzie is all it’s claimed to be. Stunning blue colours, deepening with the water. The lake is shallow at the edges (great for kids) with a breathtaking white sand beach. Heaven is a place like this – as long as the backpackers have been sent to hell first 😉 . For reasons of protecting the environment, users of the islands’ lakes are encouraged not to wear sunscreen but instead to cover up and/or limit sun exposure time. Unfortunately there are plenty of Europeans out to get a tan, lathering up with sunscreen before swimming. No amount of reasoning works with these people. (Another example of “tourists” giving all visitors a bad image – and more ammunition for the “green brigade”). The serenity was also not helped by several Yankee lads talking loudly (as they do) while playing footy and Frisbee. The experience, therefore, depends on who else happens to be there at the time. It was crowded but not insanely so, I suspect it would be packed during the school holidays! Having said that, DO NOT MISS IT ❗

After leaving Lake McKenzie we drove to Lake Wabby. From the carpark it’s around 500 metres or so walk to the lookout. From there its another kilometre steep downhill walk to the lake itself. Michelle wasn’t up for it this time, so we settled for the view. And what a view! Lake Wabby is a barrage lake – formed when the advancing Hammerstone sand blow blocked off a freshwater creek. The sand blow advances about 3 metres a year and will eventually swallow the lake. The water is a beautiful deep green colour and the overall effect is quite stunning. The emerald lake surrounded on one side by a high sand blow and on the other by verdant bush.

From Lake Wabby we drove down the track back out onto the eastern beach (pulling off the road a few times to let 3 massive Kingfisher Bay 4wd buses pass. I wasn’t going to win that argument – even in a Defender ❗ ) On the drive north we came across many other drivers coming the opposite way. Two of them particularly were complete turds – passing on the wrong side, not slowing for washouts, and so on. They both had fourbies with big lift kits and thought they were bulletproof, I’m sure. This time I stopped at the wreck of the Maheno to get some pictures. The wreck is still well worth a look – remains of the deck fittings and superstructure are clearly evident. (If anyone wants more details on this ship, let me know).

On returning to the campground I saw that other thing that grabs my immediate attention – another Land Rover. This particular one was a green panel van Defender with a ‘caution: left hand drive” sign. Intriguing. I decided I’d go down and chat as soon as I’d unpacked, but as it turned out there was no need. I soon had a visitor at my camp – the owner of the green Defender – Marcel, a Dutchman. He and his wife had driven their Landy from Holland, through Europe, Iran, Pakistan, India and SE Asia, had the car shipped to Perth from where they had been exploring this great land. First around Albany then up the west coast to Broome, back and up the Canning Stock Route, to the Kimberley, Darwin, Kakadu, across to Cape York, and now to Fraser Island. They will journey on around the coast and eventually back to Perth. What a trip – even just the Oz part, eh ❗ Marcel was interested in my ute as he wants a trayback style at home for one of those “Trayon” style camper units – but LR Holland sell only the HCPU 110 and there is no cab-chassis option. I think the panel van may be in for some surgery when it gets home, judging my the number of photos he took of old Doris ❗ I went down to have a look at his van and took a few pics. He had some nice home fabricated sill tanks – 70 litres per side, which in combination with a long range main tank gave him a range of 3000 kms between fills ❗ ❗ ❗ Marcel also said that he chose the panel van version of the Defender as in Holland it qualifies as a commercial vehicle (rather than the usual luxury vehicle that a Defender station wagon apparently is.
It is thereby an amazing 48% cheaper to buy!! You can’t argue with maths like that, it’s a deal too good to refuse. We parted with good wishes, a handshake, and that shared “comradeship through Landy ownership” warm fuzzy feeling.

Day 5 – Thursday

Headed out at 9:30am with a plan to visit Lake Allom. The Woralie track meets the beach just 11 or 12 kms south of our Dundubara campground. The track into Lake Allom is only about 9 kms – but quite soft sand in sections. A few km before the lake lookout we came across a Pajero full of backpackers stuck firmly on the track. The (main) problem was ground clearance, or rather, the lack of it. The centre of the track, between the ruts, was quite high sand and the Paj had bottomed out so to speak, What they didn’t realise is that not only were they trying to overcome the sand with their wheels, but the entire under-body was also in contact – diffs, fuel tank, sump guard and so on. They were going nowhere, despite revving the living **** out of the auto Paj. (They only gave it revs once stuck – we had been travelling behind them for a while and noted they were going too slow). Anyway, I explained the problem to them and handed them my long handled shovel from the back of the ute, with a friendly “OK, start digging!”. We had them mobile again shortly after. Continuing on the way to the lookout, we were jostling around on the track quite badly when the esky in the back of the ute leapt into the air and tried to make an escape. It landed across the dropside – half in and half out of the tray. I rescued it – cosmetic damage mostly, no leaks. Lucky that. I had beer in there. The lookout (Knifeblade lookout) affords a fantastic view of the huge Knifeblade sand-blow. It would make for a great place to sand toboggan – you’d get some real speed up – assuming you had a helicopter to pick you up at the bottom, either because it’s a long way back to the top, or to casevac you to the nearest hospital. The drive down the track to Lake Allom was very, very bumpy with erosion around tree roots and shadows confusing the ability to read the track ahead. The unladen ute probably amplified the bouncing effect (I could have put sandbags in the back, but wherever would I get the sand…

Mrs Vlad Tip: It is recommended that bustier ladies ensure they have “adequate support”.

Despite the jarring, the trip is well worthwhile. Lake Allom carpark is only a short stroll from the lake shore. (When Michelle and I each last visited the lake we recall direct access to a small beach from which you could swim and watch the turtles and small fish which inhabit the lake. What we found was that the vehicle track skirted the lake for some distance, past a chained off track which is probably the old access road. So, what greeted us at the end of the short walk from the carpark? It could only be described as a timber grandstand ❗ To say this was disappointing would be an understatement. The ‘beach’ in front of the ‘grandstand’ was just a few metres wide and flanked by tall reeds which extended far long the lakeshore. A tour bus had just delivered a load of scantily clad Europeans (the bus had parked across the car-park blocking access to most of it!). At least the turtles were obliging – I counted up to eight of them very close inshore – apparently curious – and great fun to watch. Having gazed at and photographed these lovely creatures for a while, a few people (myself included) got into the lake for a swim. I’d like to say that I was mobbed by the aforementioned scantily clad European girls, but what goes on tour stays on tour . Oh, and it’s not true

The water was refreshing, not cold by any means, it really ‘hit the spot’. As with all lakes on Fraser it’s best not to wear sunscreen (protect the environment and all that) so we swam only for a short while before deciding to move on. I took out with me an empty beer can some yobbo had left at the lake’s edge . Another example of some fool leaving rubbish around, which gives a bad impression of all visitors. At least we did our bit – Ian Kiernan would be proud.

Our original plan had been to make this a short day but because the tide was high (Eli creek would be impassable) we decided to continue along the inland tracks toward Lake Garawongera. We followed the route of the “Northern Forest Drive” (as noted on the HEMA map) for about 34 kms before reaching this destination. But as we all know it’s not just the destination, it’s the journey. The track alternated between soft sand and rough, rutted, tree root strangled crappier bits. At one point we came to an intersection which was unsignposted. Not sure which way we needed to proceed, we asked a “local” who was parked beside the track, eating lunch in his ute. Or at least he would have been a local, had we been in Bavaria at the time. At least he was able to point out exactly where we were on the map (but he cheated – he had a GPS). We continued on past a place marked on the map as “The Declivity” but signposted as “The Delclivity”. I suspect a SNAFU at the sign factory. We’re not even sure what this Declivity was supposed to be, (perhaps the steep valley?) but whatever it was we couldn’t see much of it for the thick bush to the side of the road. (I hope it wasn’t some backpacker strip club – that’d really **** me!). On the right hand side we caught glimpses of the Boomerang Lakes, and thought they would be a good place to stop for lunch, so when we saw a sign posting the Boomerang lakes track we followed it. We followed it for all of 100 metres where it was blocked “Access Prohibited”. Bugger! Chuck a U-turn and back onto the main track, we soon reached an area called the ‘Yidney Scrub’. This is a tall, closed canopy forest, almost a rainforest, bordering the track. In it were palms and other such plants, so it wasn’t what I’d call ‘scrub’ at all and it was magical in its way. I took some pictures but it really was a case of “you had to be there” to experience the sight, the sounds, the smell, the light – all for yourself. It was with some reluctance we went on, truning right onto Happy Valley road and 6km on to Lake Garawongera.

Here we had our picnic lunch, luckily only a few March flies – not a repeat of the picnic debacle we’d had at Lake McKenzie. The guide book states “this lake is off the main tourist trail and there’s a good chance you’ll have it all to yourself if visiting outside of holiday times”. The guide book is a liar. We visited outside of holiday times ( technically I suppose it was a holiday for us, so philosophically the guide book may be right after all) and there were 30-odd people there already when we arrived (and over 50 by the time we left). The lake is supposedly a ‘blue lake’ and indeed the water is very clear, but rather the sandy bottom is covered with brown “squishy stuff” (as called by Mrs Vlad). This was slowly rotting vegetation (you could pick out bits of stick and so on from among the brown squelch). There was no smell or anything, so despite the unusual sensation underfoot it was a great place for a swim.

Speaking of unusual sensations, we saw one ‘backpacker’ girl change into (and later, out of) her bikini with just her towel wrapped around her. It was a small towel, and only barely wrapped around her at the top, leaving a large gap in the side and consequently leaving nothing to the imagination. It got me thinking – what the hell was I doing at that age? Oh yeah, ****ing away my life at Uni when I could have been doing plenty of backpackers… umm, backpacking.

There was an older woman going on about “Ooh, it’s warm. I’ve never swum in a lake before!” Given that she was obviously from the north of England, I suppose it’s not unusual but does show what we take for granted.

Retracing the track for 6kms we turned back onto the Happy Valley road and the short drive to Happy Valley itself, and back onto the beach for home. Despite being about 1 1/2 hours before low tide the Eli Creek crossing was still quite deep. I walked the crossing to check it – the sand wasn’t too soft. I figured out the shallower route but the current was running very strong. Definitely not a place to stop or you’d get swallowed. Diff lock and 3rd low saw me through no problems. We saw another (female) dingo on the beach or our way back to camp.

Day 6 – Friday

Official “Laze around doing bugger all Day” proclaimed “resounding success” ❗ ❗ ❗

Day 7 – Saturday

We opted for a return trip to Lake Birrabeen. On the track in, there was a road crew re-spiking down the rubber road mats that keep sand in place on the steep hill and make traffic possible. Looked like bloody hot, hard work too. We had heard that Lake McKenzie is packed on a weekend and figured Birrabeen would be the same. To our surprise there were only a few others around – including one woman who apparently thought she WAS alone and took the opportunity for a topless dip.

Fortunately we hadn’t planned to eat lunch there, because of 14 picnic tables in the area, 12 were (according to posted signs) set aside for the exclusive use of tour bus groups between the ours of 11 and 1. So basically, you could have a picnic there as long as it wasn’t at lunchtime ❗ Another example of stiffing the self-reliant traveller like us.

Next, out of curiosity rather than any desire for 5-star service, we decided to pay a visit to “Kingfisher Bay” resort on the west coast of the island (and opposite Hervey Bay on the mainland). The last stretch of track into the resort was in an absolutely terrible condition – perhaps they were trying to deter us ? Their big 4wd buses would have no problems with it, I’m sure. We went to the “Day visitor pavilion” which is located near the main jetty. We at lunch at the bistro/café thingy and it was nice without being overly great. There are two swimming pools (one shallow, one deeper) but both are fairly small, a few video games and not much else – unless you count the group of chain-smoking Japanese fellas at the next table. We got the distinct impression that Kingfisher Bay isn’t all that interested in day visitors. We wandered over to the main resort ‘central complex’ for a look – much, much nicer ❗ High ceiling pavilion style area, nice décor, lounges named after ships of local historic significance, and a large pool outside. The huge pool (in the shape of Lake McKenzie, no less ❗ ) served as the focal point for cocktail sipping folk reclined in deck chairs and taking in the sun. What a bunch of softies! And they were paying a LOT more than we were. Look out for the “Maheno Lounge” for a model of the ship and an interesting page of the Daily Telegraph from the day the ship went ashore in 1935. We went and had a look at the ‘shopping centre’ but it was the usual collection of over-priced souvenirs and pay phones that steal your money and don’t work. I picked up a stubby cooler for the collection. Of more interest was the 4wd rental shop “Aussie Trax” which rents out, among other things, Land Rovers. (A Defender wagon will set you back $160/half day, $240/day or $200 per day if hired by the week). They had a Td5 110 wagon and a Tdi 130 crew cab in the car-park at the time. (Let me know if you want contact details for the rental place).

We came back across the island and back onto the beach at Eurong and headed north for home. The tide was on the ebb, but as we got to Yidney Rocks the surf was lapping them making the beach impassable at that point. Luckily there is a bypass track and we resolved to take it. At the same place there was a 130 crew cab (a rental), packed with foreigners of some extraction, who (knowing that rental cars can do anything) drove straight over the top of the rocks and charged on. We took the bypass track and continued at a more leisurely pace, catching up with the 130 again at Eli Creek. I walked the crossing and it was quite deep and fast flowing, and the surf was still washing a fair way up the beach so that part of the creek would be as much salt as fresh water at the time. It was definitely a case of wait a while, but a Troopie charged right in from the opposite direction without even checking the depth, and (barely) back out the other side, amid much cheers and yahooing. This, it seemed, gave the 130 crew a sense of bravado and they reversed about 100 metres up the beach. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure what would happen next. They floored it and charged through the creek with a massive thump of the suspension and a surge of spray that went well above the roofline of the Landie, and drenching one poor woman walking nearby in the process. They made it through but, had they bogged, the current would have scoured the sand out from around the wheels and they’d have been there forever. We crossed some time later when the tide was lower. On returning to the campground we saw that the 130 was there along with several other troopies of backpackers, more than any other night so far. They proceeded to create general annoyance to other campers and broke almost every rule in the book 😡 . Despite clear warnings not to, they raided the surrounding bush for firewood and found plenty of eucalypt branches, with which they built a few huge fires that naturally emitted copious volumes of white smoke for some time. The fire-rings are designed for small cooking fires and not the huge conflagrations they created. Definitely an example of the blokes trying to impress the girls with the “beat chest and make fire” routine [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/laugh.gif[/img] . Although on previous nights the backpackers had respected the 9:00 noise curfew, this night they were drinking, shouting and singing until well into the morning despite requests for quiet from other campers .

Day 8 – Sunday

Decided to take it fairly easy, so after a pancake breakfast we returned to Eli Creek for another swim. I never grow tired of the fast flowing cool refreshing waters of Eli and could spend days there, but we faced an incoming tide so we spent only an hour or so swimming and drifting in the cool waters. This time we ventured past the boardwalk bridge further upstream and it felt much more like the wilderness experience we all want. There was one point where the channel narrowed, speeding up the current even faster and making it near impossible to pass. Great fun. A tip for visitors to Eli Creek: Those with kids might like to bring one of those little inflatable air mattresses so they can float down the current on it – makes it easier for the littlies. Returned to camp for an easy afternoon.

That night it started to rain, so during a brief break in the rain we put up the tarp, so that we’d have somewhere to cook dinner. Worked a treat too and the tuna curry was excellent. After dinner, however, the rain came down with a vengeance – a real torrential downpour. The tarp couldn’t take the weight of the water suddenly dumped on it and it collapsed, knocking over the gas lantern which burned (or rather melted) a bloody big hole in the tarp (and they’re not cheap!) Amid the continuing torrent we moved what we could back into the tent, dried what little we could (almost everything was drenched) and hit the sack. Tip: To remove melted polyethylene tarp from a gas lantern, allow to cool and peel off.

Day 9 – Monday

Awoke to continuing, but light, rain. Decided to venture out anyway so made a return trip up to Ocean Lake (definitely the best of the ‘brown’ lakes I reckon). The rain stopped and the swim was great. We met Scott and Tash who had borrowed a friends 40 series cruiser swb, complete with leaking auxiliary petrol tank. They are looking to buy a fourby of their own and were pleasantly surprised when I told them how much they could pick up a Defender for. And Scott is angling for a ute! Maybe we have a few more Land Rover fanatics in the making ❓ ❗ [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif[/img]

On our return to camp, there was a ranger in the amenities block changing the showers from 50c coins to $1 coins (doubling the cost of a shower – now it takes $1 to buy 3mins of hot water). Waddy Point is next on the agenda and will certainly be done by the time you get there Ferno, Henry. Tip: Make sure you have plenty of the right coins or you’ll be having cold showers.

Back at the tent I noticed that the bucket in which I had my containers of spare oils and brake fluid had liquid at the bottom. First I assumed it was water from the rain, but it proved to be a pungent cocktail of gear oil and brake fluid. Closer inspection showed the containers had been holed in similar places – on ‘corners’ of the plastic moulded containers and we think the Melamys (those bush rat type thingies) gnawed through them ❗ Bastards ❗ They’ll only make that mistake once I’m sure.

I will also mention that in the last few days we’ve seen another 3 Discoveries and a Rangie [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif[/img] . It warms the cockles of your heart – even reaches right down there into the sub-cockle region…

Day 10 – Tuesday

Intermittent rain overnight, with persistent winds. Today we planned to go to Central Station and to look for Lake Jennings. The wind on the beach was intense and the sea was very choppy, the beach had been made very lumpy which kept speeds down. There was a lot of salt foam on the beach and the sand whipped across it in the wind. About 3/4 of the way to Eurong we came up behind a SWB Cruiser we recognised – it was Scott and Tash, and we met up with them again when we stopped in Eurong. The wind had got the best of them so they had decided to give away the beach camping and move to the campground at Central Station. Tash had said that Lake Jennings was near Central Station, and Neil (the shop/servo guy) said there was a sign there pointing it out. He also said that when there’s a LOT of rain, Lake Jennings and Lake Birrabeen join up. So off we went in pursuit of the lake – but try as we might, we could find no sign pointing to the lake, nor of course the lake itself. If anyone else manages to find it, let me know how ❗ I suspect it may be on the road to Lake Birrabeen but we’ve been there twice and didn’t see it then either 😕 . Having given that up as a bad joke, we went on to Central Station.

Central Station was once (as the name implies) the centre of the old timber-getting (forestry) industry. Besides the usual tourist information boards there was an old bathtub from the Maheno, and a Caterpillar Diesel 35 Tractor (one of only 2 in Australia). Diesel power ❗

We took the short (20 minute) relaxed walk down along Wanggoolba Creek. This is a very shallow creek with a white sandy bottom, and nearly invisible crystal clear water – set amid the cool green forest. The clear waters make it easy to spot the occasional eel and eel-tailed catfish swimming along. These days (due, no doubt, to visitor numbers) tourists are confined to a boardwalk skirting the creek. I can recall, with pleasure, the last time I visited when it was possible (even encouraged) to walk (wade?) in the creek for some distance, the tranquillity interrupted by the occasional scream from my sister as an eel brushed past. Anyway, despite the boardwalk it remains an absolutely ‘must visit’ place on Fraser Island. Damn, I wish I were back there right now ❗ At one stage on the boardwalk there are 3 totem-pole style sculpture thingies, which had something printed across the top in Braille. I have no idea what it said, but it’s a great idea, and a reminder that this is a place that can be experienced with all the sense and not merely sight.

Our return trip along the beach was similarly slow. We saw a troopie with a flat tyre (how do you manage that on a beach?) but they were above the high tide mark, and there were plenty of people there so we drove on. We stopped ar Eli Creek, intent on another swim, but the chop on the top of the creek from the wind seemed as strong as the creek outflow itself. Salt foam extended upstream for a while – a most uninviting situation. The busload of tourists there at the time must have been quite unimpressed by the allegedly wonderful Eli Creek. Returning to camp, 2 new vehicles had appeared – a red two door Rangie and an ‘Aussie Trax’ rental series 3 bearing a disturbing resemblance to Phoenix’s “Grover” ❗ Tip of the day: BYO chocolate. A small block of Cadbury ‘Snack’ costs $5.00 at Eurong ❗

Day 11 – Wednesday

Not looking forward to today – packing up day . The previous night was fine and I envisaged just shaking the tent out to remove the sand and dust and packing everything away, BUT it rained in the morning and turned it all to mud. I hate packing in the rain ❗ Finally we were ready to go so we did a last check of the camp (I hate leaving things behind, too) and off we went. Again, the weather was so ordinary it ruled out a last (for this trip at least) swim in Eli Creek.

Conditions were difficult on the trip south along the beach. The inclement weather of the last few days had left massive ‘hummocks’ (is that real word? I hope so.) across the beach with large drop-offs on the lee slope. This restricted travel to either high on the beach in the soft sand (but avoiding the gutters and steep drop offs at the top of creeks) or right down low on the beach almost in the surf. All the while we had to watch out for psychopathic tour bus drivers that didn’t keep left, didn’t give right of way as they were supposed to, didn’t have any problems driving through the surf and showering our car with salt water as they passed, and apparently didn’t care if they were likely to kill anyone ❗ Bastards ❗ Added to this were the moving shadows of the clouds, the sand blowing diagonally across the beach in front of us, and occasional patterns in the sand from black sand mingled with the white. All these combined to make it very difficult to read the terrain and limited speed to a maximum of about 60kph on the beach.

By the time we got to Dilli Village the beach conditions had improved considerably with good wide stretches of flat sand. However, rather than travel that way we decided to check out the “High tide Access Road”. Although not needed at that time of day (it was nearly low tide!) we wanted to check it out for future trips – and of course for the benefit of fellow AULRO’ians. (The things I do for you people… 🙄 ) The entrance to the track is just south of the main Dilli village cutting. The road itself parallels the beach through straggly bush. Although there is some sand, the surface is mostly rocky and (though we were lucky) would be the most likely place we’d seen on the island to risk a tyre puncture. As you move south there are broken traces of the original bitumen road that this once was, and several cuttings back onto the eastern beach. Having tired of this terrible “road” we decided we’d head back onto the beach – but not without helping another troopie full of backpackers who’d already become “geographically confused” within half an hour of arriving on the island ❗ [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/laugh.gif[/img]

When we got back on the beach at the next cutting, we soon noticed a horrible smell – like something had crawled into the car somewhere, died, and begun to rot [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/sad.gif[/img] . No, to be fair, the smell was actually worse than that ❗ It got no better as we drove on, so I got out to check the vehicle – wondering if something had been flung up from the beach. No, nothing, but the smell continued. Eventually we figured that the smell must have been coming east on the breeze from the Jabiru Swamp. I tell you, it’s a smell you’ll only forget with difficulty.

On arrival at Hook point, the tide as slightly too high to get around the point so we waited a while, then went around carefully timing our run between the wash from incoming waves. (Tip: At anything other than low tide I’d recommend using the portion of the High Tide Access Road between Hook Point and the first available cutting back onto the beach). We proceeded to the “waiting area” for the Manta Ray barge, where we found (another) Troopie full of backpackers – particularly half witted ones this time – parked at and fishing at the landing point for the barge ❗ 🙄 They were forced to move when the barge arrived (they weren’t even waiting for it 😕 ❗ ) and we all rolled aboard for the short return trip across to Inskip Point.

A brief stop at Inskip to reinflate the tyres (those Bushranger compressors are good ones) and we drove back into Rainbow Beach – first diverting to the “underbody wash” to get some of the sand and salt off, until I had a chance to clean her down properly and thoroughly. (You sickos are now picturing me giving Doris her sponge bath aren’t you ❓ ❗ 😯 ) In Rainbow Beach we had lunch at the “Groovy Grape” café which I’d highly recommend as having well priced meals and large portions. I used the last of my film taking a pic of the propellor of the “Cherry Venture” – the prop has been restored and installed in a park outside the surf club. Then it was time to say goodbye and head south back to Brissie. So ended out ”Fraser Island Odyssey”.

 

Vlad’s Recommendations and Tips for travellers to Fraser Island:

Buy the HEMA Fraser Island Map.

Buy “Fraser Island – The Essential Visitors Guide” by Brad McCarthy (a small ring bound book – available at bookshops and some 4wd stores)

Take a good range of insect repellents. If the kids get too badly effected by March flies they might get put off camping for life, so look after them. By the way – tropical strength aerogard isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Wear sun protection. And since you can’t (shouldn’t) use sunscreen in the lakes, those sunsafe shirts they have these days would be ideal for the kids.

Bring an air mattress for the kids to float down Eli Creek.

Ensure you have secure storage for foodstuffs (and brake fluid!)

Take plenty of $1.00 coins for the showers at the National Parks campgrounds.

Get yourself a plastic “egg-keeper”. They do stop eggs from getting crushed, even when bouncing around in an esky in the back of a ute for 10 days!

Bring the Recovery Gear (especially a long handled shovel) – just in case!

Stay Hydrated! ‘Powerade’ is good stuff. Beer doesn’t work. (Trust me I’ve done heaps of research…)

Do make the most of sunny days, in the rare event the weather goes bad later on.

Consider taking a snorkel and mask. Will help you see the fish in some lakes and the champagne pools.

Consider buying one of those disposable waterproof cameras – there are good opportunities for some underwater shots in the lakes, creeks and pools.

Oh, and two other things:

Bikini-clad backpackers and ‘The Handbrake’ are incompatible.

You will be extremely surprised when, after returning from Fraser Island, you first see a Toyota Troop Carrier that’s NOT full of backpackers !

Now, don’t be with envy – just start planning your own Fraser Island trip ❗ Do it now.

Fraser Odyssey II: The Return of the Vlad ( 2005 )

For those who have not visited Fraser Island, I suggest you read the first instalment of this saga first.

 

But now on with the show……

Day 1 – Saturday

Arriving at Inskip Point we aired down the tyres (I opted for 22 psi tis time) and headed across the sand to the barge landing area where there were two barges waiting – the Manta Ray and the Fraser Venture. Out the front of each were crew frantically waving you toward their particular vessel, in an attempt to get your business. In any event, we opted for the ‘Manta Ray’ as we had used them last time and were happy with them. (The fee, for both barges I believe, is now $70 return). The crewman on the ‘Manta Ray’ said that theirs was the only independently (and locally) owned and operated barge. He said that they used to have an office at Rainbow Beach in the service station complex (those who have been there will know the one – servo, food shop, mechanics workshop) but the entire complex was purchased by a Japanese concern, who refused to renew their lease. And the Japanese company is the owner of the ‘Fraser Venture” operation, apparently. If true (and I certainly have no reason to doubt it) I am very happy to continue to support the local operators. (The MANTA RAY barge, from Inskip Point, phone 0418 872 599)

On arrival at Hook Point (the southernmost point of Fraser Island, and just a short ferry ride away) we got through the soft sand around the point itself, reverted to high range, no diff lock) and headed north up the beach. We had noticed near the barge landing site that the Hook Point Road (the inland bypass track) entrance was now well defined, road-works having taken place recently to improve the previously awful surface) but the state of the tide meant that we did not need to use it.

During the trip up the beach yet another belief of mine was reinforced – those 4wd tour bus drivers are the worst, most irresponsible bloody drivers on Fraser Island.

As we were heading north we got caught behind a slow Nissan Pathfinder on the Poyungan rocks bypass track. While we eventually passed it and got back on the beach we soon found ourselves behind another slow vehicle. Another Pathfinder ! Same colour and all. (I can only assume that this new vehicle from Nissan comes only in a sandy brown colour with a particularly gutless engine. Thanks, I’ll stick to Land Rovers).
Later one of those same cars was in the campground and driving the wrong way around the one way circuit. (rolls eyes). But at least he realised it, and admitted as much though I’m not sure whether that makes the situation any better!

 

We fortunately managed to get the same campsite as last year. However when I say the same campsite I mean geographically, There was one change, See if you can pick it:

2005:

Last year (2004):

Did you pick it ❓

The fire rings in this (and all) individual campsites at Dundubara camping ground have been removed, and replaced with just 2 ‘communal’ fire rings. You must also bring your own wood, which we had done, though in anticipation of having our own fire.

When I discussed this with one of the rangers she said that this measure was to reduce the irresponsible use of bush wood of some campers (so we all suffer) in that they can more easily keep an eye on people using the fires to ensure they aren’t using bush wood which “destroys habitats”. Also she said that campfires cost $200,000 (to extinguish? Property damage? She didn’t specify) in the last year; and that over the years bushfires had turned much of the sand on this island from its virginal white state to what it is now stained with black and grey, and that they hope with a ban on fires the sand will “go back to white again”. 🙄 The final reason is that people walk into campfires when they are drunk and get serious burns – also happens to kids – usually when people have covered a fire in sand rather than extinguished it with water.

I didn’t want to get into an argument I’d never win (can’t argue with false logic) I could have pointed out:
there have always been fires on Fraser Island, many from natural causes (lightning strikes etc) and a ‘ban’ on fires or campfires won’t change this.
The grey and black in some of the sand, as well as including ash, is largely decaying organic matter and what sustains the plant life on the island. Nothing can grow in sterile sand where there are no nutrient sources.
It’s just as easy to check people have brought their own wood if fire-rings are in individual campsites.
Bush wood (that is, what has fallen to the forest floor) may be a ‘habitat’ but its also a source of fuel for bushfires. That’s the whole point of regular burn offs – to reduce this massive fuel source so that when a bushfire happens it’s not as severe as it otherwise would be. With ‘burn offs’ seemingly a forgotten tactic of the past they wonder why the bushfires seem worse now. 🙄
The point regarding burns is a fair one, but would only apply to fires in such areas as beach campsites where there are no fire rings and where there is a permanent fore ban, in any event. A fire “ring” being a large iron hoop to contain the fire makes the location of the fire very plain. It’s a sad state of affairs when the rest of us must suffer just in case a drunk idiot steps into a fire ring while there are hot colas in it.

In any event, we are getting better with putting the dome tent up, as well as the tarp. Much quicker this year, and no fight this time !

Dinner: Traveller’s Stew.

Day 2 – Sunday

We had a relaxing morning (you remember relaxing, don’t you? It’s what you do when on holiday!) and later drove down past the Maheno shipwreck to Eli Creek for a cool (very very cool) refreshing swim. Well it’s more of a float than s swim, the reasonably strong current taking you down the creek through its cold crystal clear waters. There are various types of freshwater fish and a few eels in there as well. What a great start to the week !

On the way back to the campground we stopped in at Cathedral Beach for some ice, bait and an ice-cream. Fuel prices were: Diesel $1.75, Unleaded $1.73 (but out of stock), and Premium Unleaded $1.75. A useful tip is that all stocks (fuel, ice, food, gas etc) are delivered on a Tuesday usually in the afternoon, so plan around that.

That evening I found a nice gutter and had a go with a side-cast surf-rod I borrowed from the Father in law. Unsuccessfully, I’m sure it wasn’t the rig, or the rod, or the pilchards – it was me. I can’t cast the bugger very well (more used to the egg-beater style of reel) and even when I got the bait out there – no luck. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. And you know what they say about a bad day’s fishing….

Dinner: Jumbalaya

Day 3 – Monday

Paid a visit to Lake McKenzie, famed for its white sans, blue waters and the natural favourite of tourists of all sorts, and therefore generally as crowded as all heck. Given the sparse traffic on the beach we half expected Lake McKenzie to be sparsely populated. Wrong ❗ People everywhere. I was disappointed to see that there were more this year, of those small wooden fenced areas on the ‘beach’ at the lake. I’m not sure if these are meant to keep people in or out, they do neither, but whatever the intent, they spoil the ‘natural’ experience somewhat. There were signs that said no food to be consumed on the lake shore, and these were being studiously ignored including a number of ‘schoolies’ who were skylarking in the lake – beers in hand. I was also very bloody annoyed to see a few cigarette butts in the sand – it’s that sort of behaviour that sends the environmentalists into a (somewhat justified) frenzy and feeds the anti-visitor, anti-4wd lobby, hurting those of us who are responsible in the long run..

We moved on to Lake Boomanjin for lunch, where we saw a dingo. This one was not scrawny like the ones we had seen last year, but appeared fairly well fed. I hope that is a result of natural reasons and hope that tourists aren’t feeding him. Any dingos that get ‘too friendly’ are apt to get shot by the rangers, and that’s a real shame. (In fact, when I returned from Fraser I saw for the first time the TV ad featuring Steve Irwin on this very topic).

When we passed through Eurong we checked fuel prices – Diesel $1.68 and Unleaded $1.70. I’m glad I still had half a tank full left, having filled up at Gympie on the way to Rainbow Beach – gotta love a diesel engine ! I’m very afraid of how much it will cost me to bring the Rangie over here one day – which I am seriously considering doing next time.

Irony of the day While used to seeing Toyota Troopies full of English backpackers, today we saw 2 Defenders full of Japanese tourists !!!

 

Again I spent the afternoon fishing, and again unsuccessfully. (The pilchards I was using for bait turned out the be the biggest fish I had on the hook this trip). However I was undeterred and determined to catch a fish before the week was out. Alas fate would say otherwise. On my last cast of the day I felt and almighty ‘thump’ on the bait and lost the trace, hooks, bait – the lot. It occurred to me that the culprit may have been shark and I thought that running out of bait was probably opportune, We’d just put the rid back on the Ute – not having a rod holder for the bulbar, I had been putting the rod in the back of the Ute, with the tip extending through the tray’s headboard alongside the passenger door, a solution that had been working well until – Mrs Vlad slammed the car door on the rod, breaking off about 9 inches of the tip. One buggered wooden surf rod that her dad had had – and treasured for many MANY years. I’m glad it was her fault and not mine, I can tell you ! No more fishing for Vlad this trip.

Day 4 – Tuesday.

Officially declared Lazy Day

Popped into Cathedral Beach for ice, bread and fuel (Diesel $1.75) cost me about $61 for 34 litres and onto Eli Creek for another swim. We never tire of this place – its truly refreshing for both the body and the spirit.

Got back to the campground early as I planned to have dinner done by dark and it was to be roast pork and veges to be done in the camp oven. We brought some hardwood from the mainland to use in the fire ring so I unloaded a pile of that from the truck and set about setting it alight. I didn’t think about the need for tinder (which you can’t take from the bush either and they don’t supply), so luckily I had brought some firelighters and had some newspaper – the combination of which did the job nicely. Because this ‘communal’ fire ring was 100 metres from our actual campsite it meant that one of us had to be with it constantly, which was a PITA, This wouldn’t be an issue if it was in the camp itself as I could be doing other things while waiting for the wood to burn to coals – so I consoled my self with a few beers. Mmmm, better.

The coals took a bit longer to eventuate than I thought so dinner was later into the oven than planned. By the time we got colas and then cooked the meat (with vegies tossed in later) for 1 ½ hours it was dark. But dinner was very tasty – I gave it a 94/100 – and made all the effort worthwhile. The quality and taste of a camp oven roast makes a complete mockery of the signs that say “Gas BBQ’s eliminate the need tor campfires”. The people who suggest such things have obviously never camped and eaten well, themselves. Having finished my meal I thoroughly extinguished the fire with water – responsible camper that I am !

Oh there are also electric BBQ’s but you won’t get NEAR then for the backpackers.

At night there are heaps of little bugs that buzz around the gas light and get into everything in the vicinity – your clothes, your hair, your food (if you aren’t vigilant. Watch out – those may not be peppercorns on your steak!)

Day 5 – Wednesday

We headed north to Indian Head and stopped on the beach, watching some poor bugger try to get his boat trailer up the soft sand of the beach into the cutting. And the sand was really soft – as soft as I have seen it here! Towing the trailer with his Hilux he tried about 6 times proving nothing except his prowess in backing a trailer (he was very good, perhaps I should take lessons from him). He was part of a group of vehicles together and they eventually managed to get through. (There’s a longer version of that part of the story I could have told – but not like me to write long diatribes…. Then a Jeep Wrangler travelling with then got bogged and as we were merrily driving past I stupidly decided to stop and help. We decided we had to snatch them out but first there was some serious digging to be done. I was amazed at how little ground clearance these Wranglers have, because they look like that quite a lot when I see them around town. Anyway this one was bogged down to the chassis rails so I handed my shovel to the driver who, after giving me a “what? I have to do it ?!” look for a while took it and started at it. Once that job was done it was now time to find somewhere to attach the snatch strap. It never ceases to amaze me that, of all terrains, some people who are driving in sand don’t bother to have proper recovery points! The most likely suspect looked like the round front cross member – wouldn’t cut the strap, convenient location, strong enough etc however it transpires that the brakes lines are secured to the back of this cross member making that definitely not an option. To their consternation I refused to snatch directly off his ****y aluminium bumper bar. Eventually (and since it was his strap not mine) I agreed to an idea of wrapping the strap through the bumper mounting bracket to the chassis, suing a long shackle he had. Having checked all the connections etc I asked him if he knew what was required of him and he assured me he did (my mistake – I should have checked more deeply) we agreed a CB channel and signals and off we went. On the first attempt his car moved nowhere and mine reached the stretched length of the strap and then stopped dead. Turns out he hadn’t bothered to start his car and attempt to drive it out, while I was pulling him. (rolling eyes smiley). Patiently I went through the correct way of doing things, and to cut a long story not quite as long – I managed to extract him, bogging myself in the process. Oops: . Luckily I didn’t require snatching myself, and after some digging of sand away from wheels and diffs I was on my way again.

While all this was happening my sunnies “failed to proceed” with one lens popping out onto the sand and when I looked at the frame it had broken, and all while just sitting in my nose doing nothing in particular. I suspect it was the heat getting to an existing weakness. Anyway, that left me in the bright sun and with no spare set of shades. “Oh, the humanity !”

We dropped in at Orchid Beach shop looking for a pair of sunnies – no joy – but picked up some ice at only $3 a bag (A bargain considering they were charging $5.50 on Moreton Island where they do have an ice works!) and a stubby cooler for the collection.

From here we headed north to Ocean Lake, one of our favourites – a brown lake but with plenty of open water, it is very refreshing and the perfect spot for lunch. (Leftover Roast Pork accompanied by Moroccan chutney, cheese and tomato. Yum!) We shared the lake, initially, with a Nissan Patrol driving family from NSW. Their young son and daughter were having a grand time of it and were especially interested in showing off to a couple of strangers (that’d be us). The little girl was also especially proud of her mermaid towel, as she showed it to us probably 10 or 15 times!

Later another group, all driving GU Patrols, (from a Victorian Club) turned up and we all had a pleasant swim and a chat before we headed south again.

We stopped in at Waddy Point campground and had a wander around. The amenities are in better condition than the ones at Dundubara and include disabled toilets (or rather, toilets for the disabled) and I can absolutely reassure Ferno that the showers take only $1 coins nowadays. The fire-ring situation seemed to be the same as at Dundubara.

We headed south once again to the “Champagne Pools” where we happened to pull in just behind the NSW Patrol family. As it was just after high tide the surf was breaking fairly frequently into the pools causing the water to be very turbulent and not very safe for swimming. There are signs that say “High tide conditions in the pools can cause injury or death” but despite that there were are few fools splashing about out there, They were in the perfect place where if an especially big wave came, its backwash could pull them out of the pools back into the ocean but not before rubbing them vigorously over the sharp rocky edges of the pools. Hmm a bleeding and sore body in the ocean that sharks are known the frequent. No thanks. We stayed in the shallows this time, just enough to cool down. An hour or so later we bade our farewells a second time and back to camp for a lazy afternoon and evening.

 

Dinner: Sundowners Chicken Casserole.

 

Day 6 – Thursday

Decided last night that today we would do the walk into Lake Wabby so we left camp early(ish) at 8 to ensure we were there and back (this side of Eli Creek) before high tide.

From the beach “car park” (the start of the walking track” it’s about 50 minutes easy walk into Lake Wabby. That’s 50 “Easy but tiring” minutes for me, 50 “Easy but exhausting” minutes for Mrs Vlad – but then neither of us is exactly fit. Toward the end of the walk as we approached Lake Wabby we could see it and the imposing dune above it, through the trees. It made for a wonderful sight and the water looked very inviting.

On arriving at the lake (and passing the yellow and white feathers that were the scattered remains of a cockatoo that had probably fallen prey to a dingo) we found a shady spot at one end of the lake to call our own, and splashed into the cool refreshing waters of the lake. There were several (we counted 6) curious catfish that swam around us, occasionally nibbling a toe and darting off. There were also, as you might expect, quite a number of backpackers and tour bus people at the lake – despite the walk. It’s a very popular place to visit making the walk well worthwhile. It’s something we missed last time and are very glad we did this time.

 

As well as the usual bevy of beautiful backpacker babes (how’s that for alliterative prose?!) and American couple arrived, with their little girl riding shotgun in a special backpack. Very cute. Then mum disrobed – down to a G-string bikini. Hmm, what a yummy mummy ❗ Sorry I don’t think I managed to get any pics (or maybe I did manage to half sneak one) – it’s difficult without getting sprung by the subjects or by Mrs Vlad, you know ❗

I took a walk to the top of the dune where I could see a large sea of sand, the Hammerstone sand blow, stretching away. Very impressive. Sadly this dune is gradually encroaching on Lake Wabby and within 20 years the lake will be gone. And is getting smaller with each passing year / month / day. My advice ? See it NOW !

After having spent an hour at the lake we headed back to the beach and our car – wanting to stay well ahead of the high tide. By the time we reached our Defender we were hot and sweaty fro0m the walk, negating the refreshing swim we’d had. However – no problem. We drove north and crossed Eli Creek where we stopped and has lunch and then spent another hour relaxing under a shady tree near the beach and swimming in the very cool, very refreshing waters of Eli Creek. Then we returned to camp and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. (You ask yourself. What were YOU doing after lunch on Thursday?)

Oh I forgot to mention – while churning through the soft sand at the northern side of Eli creek I was working the Defender particularly hard, it seemed down on powers. Whoops: 5th gear low range. I wanted third. A positive gate the Defender gearbox has not got ! Also at Eli Creek we saw a number of tourists wearing jeans etc. Totally not right for a wade up (and float back down) Eli Creek – or most of the other things you might do on Fraser Island. What a bunch of dummies! The younger ones had it right… (and from so many angles… )

Day 7 – Friday

Some light rain overnight had pooled in our tarp so we drained that and a slight readjustment saw the tarp ‘ship-shape’ again. Despite a darkening sky we decided to head South to Happy Valley and then inland to Lake Garawongera. This is a brown lake, but definitely one of the nicer brown lakes on the island. There was some light rain when we pulled up but we persisted and headed down to the lake shore. Amazingly, and something I may never live to see again, we had the lake to ourselves ❗

(Backpackers must melt in the rain or something). While Mrs Vlad abstained, I took a swim and the water was very inviting – warm rather than cold and seemingly perfect for the conditions. Given the lack of others around, and the opportunity, I nude-ed up for a swim. (Ha ha ha ha – there’s a mental image you didn’t want, I’ll bet ❗ ) Fortunately for everyone the camera wasn’t handy to record my bare-arsed frolicking. Seriously it’s a shame I didn’t have the camera with me just to photograph the scene of a Fraser Island lake devoid of tourists.

Our next plan was to travel through the Northern Forests Drive to Lake Allom. This is quite a distance, and we saw a ‘shortcut” of sorts on the map labelled as ‘secondary 4wd track’. Well, that was an invitation as far as I was concerned so that’s the way we went.

Most 2 way tracks on Fraser Island have 2 main features – ruts which can more or less guide you along the track without much in the way of driver steering input, and numerous lay-by’s to allow you to pull off the road to make way for oncoming traffic. Now there was no indication of this track being one way (it’s marked as two way on the map) but there were NO passing places that I could see along the way – all nine kilometres of it.. It would have been interesting if we’d met someone coming the other way but luckily we didn’t. It was also easy to deduce that it must mostly be the big 4wd trucks and buses that use this road as the ruts were wider than the track of a Defender – exactly, I’d guess, that of a UniMog. The result was that one wheel was in one of the ruts while the other was on the far edge of the mound constantly trying to drag itself into the other rut. That made for an interesting 9 kilometres I can tell you. I generally left the left wheel in the rut and allowed the right one to ride on the mound, thereby keeping the diff nice and high so it wasn’t dragging through the sand and slowing our forward progress. The one advantage of the situation was that whenever one of the ruts was full of tree roots, broken timber or otherwise badly chewed up, I just rolled the vehicle across into the other rut and drove happily on. For good measure every now and then was a rut filled with pooled water which I took at speed spraying it all over the place. Great fun! We rejoined rhe main track and continued on the “Northern Forests Drive” eventually arriving at Lake Allom.

Again we could hardly believe it – there were no other vehicles in the car park and when we walked down to the lake it too was deserted. There would be no skinny dipping here though, as Lake Allom is populated by many friendly little turtles (Kreft’s River Turtles) and you wouldn’t want them nibbling away at things ❗ The turtles are numerous and play around the entrance to the lake, but quickly make way for anyone entering the lake for a swim. As soon as you settle down and be still, or get back out, they come back. It’s almost as if they are looking to see tourists as much as the other way around. We weren’t at Lake Allom for long before thunder started echoing through the hills and we decided that being in the water during a thunderstorm is probably best avoided.

Back in the car we headed from the lake back toward the beach on the Woralie Track but had not got 2 kilometres when we saw a Land Cruiser wagon in a lay-by and were flagged down by the 3 blokes in it. They had pulled off the road to let another vehicle past and when they went to reverse out they couldn’t engage any gears. I asked the obvious question – whether the transfer case had popped into neutral – but one of the blokes was a mechanic and he said the problem wasn’t simple and he suspected was fairly terminal. I’ll take his word for it. They all wanted to jump in the back of the ute but there’s no way in hell I was going to allow that. With the bumpy tracks and tree branches sticking out close to the roadside the risk of injury is great (and aside from the drama I’m sure it would be a legal nightmare as well). Instead we offered one of them a lift to Cathedral Beach. It was a real squeeze as despite being a ‘3 seater’ the middle seat is barely big enough for our 6 year old nephew, let alone Mrs Vlad squeezing in there and having to ride ‘side saddle’ so her legs fitted on the LHS of the transmission tunnel. Mrs Vlad said to the bloke that she hoped the ride wasn’t too uncomfortable for him as we bumped around in the Defender but he said “No, this is really good actually” which led me to be even less impressed by Land Cruisers than previously ❗ They must be crook ❗ On arrival at Cathedral Beach this fella thanked us very much for our help – It was really good to be able to help someone and be acknowledged for it.

We topped up on diesel (I didn’t even bother to check the price but suffice to say ‘LOTS’ would he accurate enough!) and went into the shop. Turns out the payphone was broken (for the second time that week because apparently backpackers keep shoving $1 coins (and various others) into the phone which only takes, and is clearly labelled, 20c and 50c coins only). They let the bloke use their own office phone given the situation and he managed to make contact with the rental people and sort something out.

We mentioned to the store lady that we’d had the incredible luck to have not one but two lakes to ourselves that day and thought the backpackers must be afraid of the rain. She said that she’d had two troopie loads of backpackers huddled in the store for over and hour earlier that day – not buying anything just escaping the weather. So perhaps they are afraid of the rain.

We returned to Dundubara for lunch and another session of ‘bugger all’. It’s going to be tough going back to work… only 2 days until we have to leave paradise.

Dinner: Hawker’s Mince.

Day 8 – Sunday

Our last full day here. I spent most of last evening convincing Mrs Vlad that we could so a trip to Sandy Cape despite the warnings that it’s a remote area and advice to travel in convoy. Although we didn’t have another vehicle to travel with, I knew the Defender was running well, and although without a winch, we had other recovery gear like decent shovel, air jack etc that should see us out of mist fixes. Besides, we’d missed going there on our last trip and I was very keen to give it a visit on this occasion.

The notes in the books say that that North Ngkala rocks (more on these later) should only be traversed at exactly low tide. That’s all very well, but then when exactly do you come back ❓ 😕 We decided that we’d head up to be at the rocks about 1 ½ hours before low tide which, assuming they were passable, gave us a 3 hour window for the trip.

We journeyed north from Dundubara, past Indian Head and through Orchid Beach. North past Ocean Lake we were now further north than we had yet been on the island. We came across the Southern Ngkala rocks at about 8:30 (low tide being at 9:55). They were indeed large and impassable at that time of day – and perhaps it was possible to skirt around them at extreme low tide but I wouldn’t want to try. Happily there is a 1 kilometre bypass track, which we took. The book says the sand is “very soft” and it would have been too, though some rain had made it slightly firmer than it might otherwise have been and it was no worse than the soft sand we’d experienced at Indian Head. Low range difflock 3 and 4 saw us safely through. From here it was a relatively easy drive up the beach to the north. We were on the alert for the Northern Ngkala rocks, of which the book warns “access over North Ngkala rocks is extremely tough and should only be attempted by experienced four wheel drivers at low tide”. Well, the only rocks we came across were no more significant than those on the southern part of the island, and were easily skirted round. If these were the dreaded North Ngkala rocks I have to assume that the weather has been such that they are buried under the sand ! (Can anyone enlighten me on this one ?).

The character of this end of the island is certainly different with broad expanses of sand dune and sand blows seen inland and little in the way of significant vegetation (i.e. trees) along the coastal strip. The waters take on a beautiful turquoise colour as opposed to the generally deeper blues further south. Continuing north the sane became softer again and while high range was still no problem, the car was definitely working harder to pull itself through the sand. I’m glad I refuelled the truck yesterday ❗ In good time we came to Sandy Cape itself, the northernmost tip of the island above water (apparently it extends underwater a a sandbar for many kilometres more). We could see waves breaking against that bar for some distance from the shore. The water up here seems lighter again – ‘azure’ is the word I’d use. Here at the northernmost point it looks as if two water currents meet in a confusion of waves – quite an interesting sight, and one fisherman was trying his luck in the those turbulent waters.

From here it’s another 7 kilometres back along the western side of the island to the Sandy Cape Light Station. While we had seen very few vehicles on the way north, we discovered quite a number of 4wd’s of beach campers in this very top part of the island. It looked as if they were all there for the fishing as there’s little else to do up this end of the island – and perhaps that’s the point ❗

We continued on toward the light station and didn’t see another vehicle in that 7 kilometre stretch of soft sandy beach. As we rounded a curve in the beach we could see above us the huge Flinders’ sand blow and in the distance the lighthouse itself. As it turned out this was the only view of the lighthouse we got this trip, as you shall see.

Shortly we arrived at the gate to the light station as well as a sign on the beach prohibiting further vehicular access south (i.e. along the western coast in the direction of a turtle rookery).. We parked the Defender in what little shade we could find high up on the beach just short of the vegetation, and set out for a walk. We had read that the walk to the lighthouse was “a 1.2 km steep uphill walk” of over an hour. Now to say Mrs Vlad and I are not fit is a bit like saying Phar Lap is “not well”.

We decided at least to do the other walks, to take in the graves (more on this soon) and World War 2 bunkers.

We soon came across a sign that said bunkers 400 metres, graves 1.3 kilometres –pointing (naturally) in different directions. I figured we should try the longer graves walk first as then the short walk to the bunkers would seem like a piece of cake. The walk toward the graves was a 4wd track but only open to the Rangers, which is a shame because not only would it be a good drive, but it was a bloody hot day. Wisely I had brought a large bottle of water with us. On this track there were no distance markers so it was difficult to know how far we had come. Seemingly every time we rounded a bend, more road stretched out before us. Just as we began to seriously wonder whether we were even on the right road, we came upon a small side track leading into a tiny graveyard. There, surrounded by a low fence of white posts, stood two gravestones marking the final resting places of Edith M Simpson who died Jan 12, 1877 aged just 8 months. She was the daughter of the first Head Light Keeper, John Simpson, who is buried alongside having died on July 20, 1882 at the age of 51 years. The baby girl is recorded as having died of “teething” (obviously the true cause of death is unknown – perhaps what we know today as cot death ?) while also tragically John Simpson accidentally shot himself with his own gun in a hunting accident 5 years later. They certainly gave cause to reflect on lonely life, and death, the early light keepers often had. And to think it’s possible that you are only here today because the ship on which one of your ancestors was embarked safely made port, having been saved from wrecking by the efforts and dedication of such people.

After a while we decided to move on, but there were a couple of options . Either continue along the main road we had been walking on, or take a track back in the opposite direction, from the other side of the clearing in which the little graveyard stood. We first continued on but shortly the road ended in a U-turn around a tree. There was a steep soft sand vehicle track heading uphill which may have gone toward the lighthouse but as we could not see it, we thought it best not to try that way. So back through the graveyard and onto the smaller track which headed back the way we had come, roughly (at first) paralleling the main road we’d walked in on. I had hopes that this track might join up with the road to the bunkers at some point. The track soon widened into a vehicle track, though obviously unused for some time, and then headed steeply downhill. Every ten or so metres there was a line of sandbags stretching across the road obviously in an attempt to reduce erosion, but it had failed, leaving the road as effectively a series of very large steps. This allowed a rapid and easy descent on foot, this section would be totally impassable to vehicles now. The track levelled again and we began to see markers by the roadside counting back the distance in tenths of a kilometre, so we knew we were headed somewhere. There were numerous ribbons tied along the track indicating the way, though if the colours had ever meant anything (different routes perhaps) that meaning had been lost there were so many different coloured ribbons tied about the place. We also happened across a number of huge bundles of rolled up rusty wire – legacy of some fence long ago removed, it would seem. Then we saw ahead a low logged-off area and realised we had come to something of note – and indeed we had.

There was a sign reading “RAAF No. 25 Radar Station 1942-5”. Within that area surrounded by the log railings could be seen the remains of a few walls (made from some sort of rock?), a roof support and the concrete doorway to the bunker. This is all that could be seen, man and nature having taken her toll in the years since. The guide says “… two sandbag, concrete and timber bunkers are the remnants of the WW2 RAAF Radar Station, built to detect enemy aircraft and ships. From 1942 to 1945 the bunkers housed the generator and ammunition supplies. About thirty air force personnel lived in wooden huts nearby”. While this was the only one we could see, there may be other such bunkers buried deep in the nearby bush.

 

It was only another short walk back to the main gate from here and the time was about that of the low tide. It had been a long, sweaty walk and neither of us relished the prospect of a ‘steep uphill’ 1.2 km walk through sand (and the return trip) just at that moment, and also being unsure of the beach conditions on the way back, we decided to leave the lighthouse walk until another time and head back down the island. Though we had come across no other people on our walk there were 4 other 4wd’s on the beach now, presumably all having taken the walk to the lighthouse. At least we knew if something happened on the way back, we could be reasonably assured of SOME passing traffic. Checking the information board before we left, we noted that the two tracks (the one we’d taken and the lighthouse track) do NOT join, so we had made the right choice in heading back along that bunker track.

Into the Defender and away, On the trip back Mrs Vlad spotted some marine turtles in the water and a took a picture, also some stingrays ( no pics – they tend to disappear as quickly as they appear) and many large flocks of various types of sea birds on the shoreline just above the wash. It was quite marvellous to see.. I stopped a few times on the way south for some pictures, particularly of the Southern Ngkala Rocks (you can see why you need a bypass track there!) and we continued to Ocean Lake for a well deserved swim to wash the sweat from our bodies (and clothes). Though initially we had the lake to ourselves, we were soon descended upon by a pack of Germans although when we returned to the car park we could see no vehicles, so it was a mystery as to where they had come from. On the short (1 km) drive back to the beach we came across a Disco with the bonnet up. Oh no ! Land Rovers don’t break down, do they ?!

The fella who owned it said the oil pressure light (didn’t even know they had one) had come on, and now there was no oil in the engine and did we have any? Well, being his was also a Tdi engine, I had exactly the right oil BUT I said to him that if it was being rapidly pumped out under pressure it would be a waste of time putting any back in until the cause had been addressed. Looking under the car I could see the entire rhs was drenched in oil, lots of oil – all of it, I’d say. – no slow leak here ! It covered the shockie, the radius arm, the diff housing, and just about everything else on that side of the vehicle. Looking in from the top at where the oil was and wasn’t I suspect it was being pumped out the line to the oil filter, Anyway, I said, I didn’t have enough oil to fill the sump, only enough for a top up if required, so I couldn’t really help with that. The Disco owner did have another mate there who I got chatting with. He was telling me how his mate’s Disco was a complete lemon and had had “everything” replaced or fixed in the 100,000km since new etc. Mrs Vlad said “Yeah it’s like that, No matter what brand you get there are always lemons. We had a car like that once”. “Yeah”, says I, “It was a Mitsubishi” then I noticed that he was driving a Pajero. LOL. He immediately launched into “Pajeros are fantastic and unstoppable and always reliable..” mode so I let him go. Anyway they eventually decided Pajero man would give Disco man a lift back to Orchid Beach and they’d arrange mechanical help. Having ascertained they didn’t need any assistance from me, we drove off. As we got to the beach we saw a rare (for this far north) tour bus, solving the mystery of the German horde. Our next destination… Champagne Pools.

We had last visited at high tide when it was too dangerous to swim but now we would be there at an ideal time, when the surge was not too great but wages still broke over the edges of the pools giving the champagne effect. But I get ahead of myself. As we pulled into the car park the first thing that drew my attention was a brand spanking new Discovery 3. Damn I love to see these things used for what they are truly designed – off road work. Good on the owner for bringing it on the beach I say. I took a few pics but the owner was nowhere to be seen. We walked along the boardwalk to toward the pools, where I saw a view back toward Indian Head that would make a great photo, I made a mental note to return with the camera afterward. I forgot. Oops: . Anyway, the conditions were as I described earlier, perfect for a swim. We swam in the effervescent waters of the pools, where the waves break over the edge of the pools, their rocky sides churning them into the frothy bubbles we might associate with spa. These dissipate quickly but soon another wave comes in and the cycle is repeated,. Trapped in the pools during this ‘low tide’ period are myriad fish of various sizes (medium and small, no really huge ones). Some are white and very difficult to see against the sandy bottom, while others are striped or mottles and easier to pick out. Truly this is a beautiful place.

To avoid getting too sunburned we went back to the car and were just backing out of the car park when the owners of the Disco 3 opened their car. He looked (according to Mrs Vlad) in his late thirties whereas she… well, she was a lissom (lithe, if you prefer) brunette, wearing a camo pattern bikini which ironically hid very little. She looked like she might be in her early twenties. Perhaps she was older and had held her beauty well, or perhaps he was a bit older than he looked and having one fantastic mid-life crisis. A gorgeous woman on his arm (and, ahem, elsewhere) and a Disco 3 to drive. Life really sucks for some people! Mrs Vlad wouldn’t let me stop and chat, for some reason….

As we drove south Mrs Vlad gave a curious insight into the way her mind works. “Look at that sea’” she said, “It’s a Staminade green colour”.

Returned to Dundubara for a late lunch of various antipasto treats and a cuppa, and had a relaxing rest of the afternoon in the sad knowledge that tomorrow we would have to pack and leave . Making the best of it while we can. Now excuse me, I believe it’s time for another beer…

Dinner: Tuna Curry and Rice

Day 9 – Sunday

Woke to a sunny blue sky and figured we’d comfortably pack without getting wet (one of life’s real miseries – packing wet camping gear and knowing you’ll have to unpack it and dry it all out at home) but the clouds rolled in and ominously the blue sky disappeared and was replaced with grey. And then a very few small specks of rain fell. It didn’t start raining as such, but it was a warning of things that may have been to come. Given that incentive, we packed up things as quickly as we could (still takes a while) doing the tent first so we could get it safely tucked away in its bag where it wouldn’t get wet). As it turned out we got it all done under the threatening skies but no rain eventuated.

Having packed up all our gear and vacated the camp site, we drove the car down and parked it next to the amenities block where there is a car park. This is usually used by backpackers that are beach camping – they’ll drive in and use all the facilities and then away again. Anyway having put our rubbish in the bins, made a pit stop and so on we returned to the Defender. A backpacker fella had the rear barn doors to a Troopie (parked next to ours) open and was standing behind that, effectively blocking our exit. I said to him that they should be careful as I had to back up (and owing to the amount of stuff on the ute had poor rear visibility) and get past them. Well it mattered not a whit. They continued to wander past the car even as we were backing out, seemingly oblivious to our presence and then (having failed to kill any of them) when I went to go forward this fella and the doors were still blocking the way. I yelled “Can I get past?” through the window and he pointed as if I was to put one wheel in the grass and go past him. “Do you want me to run over your gear?” I replied. He looked down and realised that some of their gear was stacked in the road, and retrieved it but I was still forced to ease my way around him because he steadfastly maintained his position at the open troopie doors, What a loser. Anyway, eventually we moved off.

Given we would be driving past anyway, we elected to stop one last time for a swim at Eli Creek. It’s one of those places you can never get sick of, and we enjoy each and every dip we have there. We munched on a few snacks, had a drink of coffee from a thermos we’d prepared and having sated ourselves on food and refreshed ourselves in the (cold today!) water drove all the way south along the beach to Hook Point., again not needing to use the bypass road. And besides the beach is more fun.

We had read in the guidebooks that the Eastern Beach can sometimes be affected by “fire-weed” though looking at the blue-green waters we had seen no evidence of it. But today, toward the southern end of the island we came across areas where the surf, rather than being blue, was a red/brown colour. Certainly it was most uninviting and I can’t imagine anyone even considering swimming in it. It’s the first time (as far as I can recall) that I’ve seen this particular blight and luckily it’s not widespread,

Again (and because we had a return ticket) we rode the Manta Ray barge across to Inskip Point on the mainland where, once off the beach, we stopped again to clean some sand out of the foot-wells (half of Fraser island was in there!) and air up the tyres. Again my Bushranger Max-Air did the job quickly. Money well spent I think.

 

Later, as we were driving along the Tin Can Bay Road (back from Rainbow beach toward Gympie) I stopped for a Disco with the bonnet up. The lone lady driver said that the ‘watch guard’ alarm had gone off indicating the engine was overheating. Now I’ve never heard of this – is it something Disco’s have or an aftermarket fitting? From what she said I gathered it may have been the latter. Anyway she said she thought that (pointing at the power steering fluid reservoir) was where the water went in. I (in a friendly way) corrected her and pointed out the right one, but naturally warned her against opening it while hot. She decided that as she had a mobile she’d wait for a while and see if it cooled down, and call RACQ if she needed help. On the road again…..

As we approached Brisbane we could see massive lightning hits in the (not too far) distance and then the rain began, slowly at first but then all of a sudden it hammered down, reducing visibility to tens of metres and at the same time the thunder and lightning increased in intensity. This storm went on for quite some time, but dropped off as we took the Redcliffe turnoff from the Bruce Highway. And then fewer than 10 minutes later – another serving of severe storm and all the drains and gutters in the area were overflowing with rain they couldn’t cope with, which flowed across the road and had the Defender just about pushing a bow wave ! I haven’t seen anything like it for years. Luckily most of the stuff on the Ute stayed relatively dry under the tarp and the rain stopped as we arrived home. I opened the shed and quickly unloaded the Ute. Having just accomplished this task the rains began again. Talk about timing ! (Sadly, little of this rain fell in our dam catchments up here and we are still on water restrictions with storage capacities sonly around 30% or less0

And so ended our Fraser Trip for another year.

 

Other insights:

I have come to refer to backpackers as ‘locusts’, because of the way they swarm in, use up all the resources (BBQ’s, toilets, showers, space, whatever) make a lot of annoying noise and then swarm out again leaving mess and devastation in their wake. An appropriate metaphor think. Feel free to use it.

Wildlife spotted: this trip:

Mammals
Dingo

Birds
Brahminy Kite
several other raptors – exact species unknown
Tawny Frogmouth
Eastern Curlew
Pied Oystercatcher
Whimbrel (possibly)
Parrots
Honeyeaters
Whip Bird (heard rather than seen)
Wrens and/or finches

Reptiles
Kreft’s river turtle (freshwater)
Marine turtles (species unknown)

Amphibians
Frogs – several types species unknown
Cane Toads (small ones)

Fish
We saw both freshwater fish (in Eli Creek and in various of the lakes on the island) as well as eels. As mentioned there are catfish in Lake Wabby, The other freshwater fish tended to be quite small ones. As for marine fish, I unfortunately saw no Tailor but there were several species of fish trapped during the low tide in the Champagne Pools. Also Stingrays were spotted up near Sandy Cape.

Invertebrates
Who knows how many bugs and such but there were lots. Most obvious were the march flies, mosquitoes and sand flys (these felt rather than seen) as well as those bugs that I mentioned that swarmed around the camp light at night. Also saw various different spiders around the place – mostly small ones.

Final Advice

Make plans to visit. Do it now. If there’s any need to convince your partner, maybe go through this (or especially last years) trip report with them or even better show them the photos.

Don’t miss it !

Vlad’s Fraser Island Frolic – Easter 2010

(perhaps better titled “I thought I was going to die but was wrong. Here’s Why”)

Thursday

Awoke to somewhat ominous weather, but there was no stopping now. (Well OK there might have been but we weren’t hanging around the house for the Easter Holidays for anyone!)

The trip up to Inskip Point via Gympie and Rainbow Beach was uneventful. At Inskip we lowered the tyre pressures (I chose 25psi this time) and as usual we had the choice of the two barges. There is the Manta Ray (locally owed and operated, and our preference) and the Fraser Island Ferries one. Most people headed across to the Manta Ray anyway. I suppose that people tend to go to the one that looks as if it will depart the soonest. The return trip is $90, irrespective (as far as I know) of which barge company you choose. We’d planned around tide times carefully, so that after the short trip across to Hook Point we were able to drive the whole way on the beach – from around Hook Point (the most important aspect as you will see when you read of our return journey) right up to Waddy Point which is about 2/3 of the way up the east coast of the Island.

The Waddy Point Campground has decent facilities (toilets, hot showers and a dish washing up point). The showers require a $1 coin, which lasts ages – more than long enough for a normal shower. I’m told that if doing your hair you can put in $2 and luxuriate almost forever.

The campground is typical of what we find a lot these days, with sites delineated by “copper logs” which means that you can’t get your vehicle right up next to your tent… makes running the cord for the LED light a pain, I must get an extension cord made up.



Sadly the Waddy Point campground has quite a large number of cane toads here. Very sad to see this pristine wilderness also being ravaged by the little bastards! Also there are mozzies (Waddy is not alone in this) but its nothing some Bushman’s doesn’t fix admirably.

Overall I reckon Waddy Point is a very peaceful place. And the main reason for this is that (by and large) most backpackers aren’t allowed to bring their vehicles this far up, and so tend to camp further south – at Dunduburra and so on.

Good Friday

In the best spirit of holidays, we made a late start after a bacon and egg breakfast. Mmmmmm, bacon !

A goanna decided to pay us a visit, and went straight into the (unused) fire ring, looking for morsels of food. He was only a metre or so from us and couldn’t have cared less – obviously he’s well used to humans and doesn’t see us as a threat.


Eventually we decided on a short trip north to Ocean Lake, via Orchid Beach. Rather than take the inland track to Orchid Beach, we decided to go the beach track. The cutting from Waddy Point down to the beach was fine, but thereafter the old track had been transformed into a series of waist deep holes, filled with water. Whilst these were very picturesque, I thought I best not to drive through them, especially after seeing a Land Cruiser hammer through one which was bonnet deep, certainly catching the driver by surprise! Fortunately there was a new track made to the side of the old one which made for an easy trip here.



Further along the beach we approached the cutting to Orchid Beach township. The cutting was very soft and a Land Cruiser ute made several unsuccessful attempts at the climb, before backing off to further lower his tyre pressures. He said he didn’t need for us to hang around so (after activating the rear diff lock – jeez those ARB compressors are noisy – I idled up the cutting past the numerous onlookers, giving them a V for Victory sign and accompanied by my best “Go Land Rover!”. I don’t think they’d heard me use the locker. Let’s hope so anyway.

We then drove on the very soft sandy inland track through the Orchid Beach resort (well, between the shop/pub and airfield anyway) and back onto the beach. Another 7 kilometres or so saw us at the cutting to Ocean Lake, which was also very soft but I got up it without the locker. As we drove in toward the lake we passed the campground and saw there were a heap of people there who had brought their boats, some of which were quite large! It must be difficult launching a boat into the surf?! (Perhaps some boaties can enlighten me on this).

Ocean Lake was deserted when we arrived so we had this wonderful place to ourselves. The cool refreshing water is laden with tannins, and you can’t see past your waistline when you are standing in the water. The bottom is clean sand. There is a rope swing there also for the kids (and the bigger kids like me!).

Usually Ocean Lake is not busy, and it’s all very civilised with a toilet block there also. Next time we’ll bring lunch and spend a few hours by the lake I reckon.

On our return we stopped in at the Orchid Beach shop. Diesel was $1.86 litre so I passed on that particular shopping opportunity, assuming that it was so expensive because it had to come so far north on the island. Surely it would be cheaper further south later in the trip…. Anyway I was beginning to regret not having topped up at Rainbow Beach as I had always done on past trips.

Among the things we had to get at the shop was eggs. We’d brought plenty with us but they turned out to mostly have broken on the trip. “Well” you say, “you should use one of those yellow egg protecting thingies they sell at camping shops” In fact we did use one, but they seem to be made for “medium” size eggs, whereas all the shops seem to sell these days are large, extra large and Jumbo sizes, from evidently freak genetically modified chickens. Either that or normal size chickens with very sore lady bits. Also picked up a notebook (to write up this trip report) and some ice. I also was looking for a gas lantern as I apparently left mine at home – rather silly after having brought along a new extension pole and everything! They didn’t have any. I guess I’ll cope with the versa light anyway. We went back to camp and had a relaxing afternoon. Aren’t holidays away from home fantastic!? No housework, gardening, mowing etc beckoning. It’s a chance to sit down and read a good book, while having a beer. Life can be good!

During the evening a bloke in the next camp spot to ours decided to crank up his bloody car stereo! What on earth makes people think anyone else wants to hear their (or any) music in a camp ground? Also campers were collecting firewood from the bush – a definite no no. Fortunately neither the music, nor smoke from the green wood, lasted late into the night, and we did get a good sleep.

Saturday

This morning we went for a walk over the tall dune from the campground planning on a stroll along the beach. The track brought us out at the beach camping area. There were some pretty elaborate group camps set up, including one under a HUGE tarp and they had everything including a domestic refrigerator and chest freezer. Since campers in that area are not allowed to have generators (unlike other beach camping areas) I’m not sure how they run all the appliances. Maybe they cheat, Serious fishermen and long term holidaymakers, apparently the same group of families have been coming there for around 20 years. How cool is that!

This “beach camping” area is actually a fair distance from the beach, proper, being separated from the beach by a broad “regeneration area” of marshland.

Walking through is not really an option, and it is a very long way around and we were in lazy mode, so elected not to go further. It looked as if a vehicle is the best way to go if you want to go to that end of the beach.

On the walk back we noted that the puddles all along the vehicle track were absolutely teeming with tadpoles (toads no doubt) as well as numerous baby toads. It’s a real shame to see these bloody things invading everywhere these days – if only there were a way of ridding our environment of this terrible pest! We also saw a few crows the size of large cats. One can only hope the crows account for a few of the toads along the way.

After another relaxing last afternoon, I whipped up a batch of chilli pork chops for dinner, yum. Mrs Vlad swapped a couple of $1 coins so some girls could have a shower (at no profit I hasten to add, talk about a lack of entrepreneurial spirit!) and we played a game (Rummikub is it’s name – quiet good fun) until we turned in for the night..

Easter Sunday

Mrs Vlad heard some dingos howling during the night (it’s their mating season at the moment apparently). Morning brought some early rain but by the tie we had breaky it seemed OK and as if it might even be a bice sunny say. Ha ha yeah right.

We’d decided to head south, irrespective of the weather, for a swim at Lake Birrabeen. It’s a lake we are fond of because it’s very much like the more famous Lake McKenzie but always less crowded.

Driving down along the beach was a fairly frightening experience today – not so much on account of the miserable weather but rather due to the oncoming vehicle traffic being very dangerous/ Some were so far over they were basically forcing us toward (just about into) the surf. Naturally I wasn’t going to end up in there so I held my line which meant we passed those other vehicles too close for comfort.

All they needed to do was simply obey the road rule – Keep Left – and while they would have had to endure some soft (no, not even that – slightly less hard) sand it would have been easy for them and safer for everyone. Some of these will have had the excuse of being novice or first time four wheel drivers (long weekends brings them out) but other drivers have no such excuse… and I mean the bloody Fraser Island / Kingfisher Bay tour buses!

The tour bus drivers, apparently without exception, disobey every road rule and courtesy in the book. They DON’T keep left but rather drive through the surf, showering any nearby vehicle in salt water. They overtake on the left, rather than the right so they sometimes catch you completely by surprise. They tailgate closely, using their size in an attempt to intimidate other traffic out of the way, and they speed HEAVILY. The speed limit on the beach (in most placesa0 is 80kph, we were often passed by buses which would easily have been exceeding 100kph. They just disappeared into the distance!

On the way south I realised I had to buy more fuel and so pulled in at Cathedral Beach. Now you remember my solid logic that as Cathedral Beach was further south (and closer to the ferry) the fuel would therefore be cheaper here? Well…. it wasn’t. In fact it hurt quite a lot when I saw the pump read $2.00 / litre! Ouch ! Robbed blind I reckon. Hopefully you can benefit from my error !

Somehow we eventually arrived, alive, at Cornwalls Break Road where we headed inland. We fancied a trip to Lake Wabby (a picturesque lake at the base of a large sand dune, and populated by catfish and backpackerus bikinii There are two ways into the lake – walk in from the beach (but we weren’t going to leave our car on the beach on an incoming tide!) or a walk in from the look out above the lake, so we chose the latter option.

The inland tracks were quite bumpy and necessitated a slow pace so as to avoid being bumped from (A-) pillar to post inside the car. Indeed the ute seemed to be more “bouncy” than usual. I wonder whether the shockies need a look at or rebuild ? Anyway we eventually arrived at the Lake Wabby look out car park. This has been done up since last time we were here, with a decent amenities block. It was raining a little but I went and read the sign. The walk to the lake is, apparently, a 3.2km return trip (1 – 1 ½ hours) with very steep steps on the return portion. Given Mrs Vlad has some foot problems of late, allied with the fact it was now raining rather more heavily, we decided to pass on this walk. I think an appropriately scheduled (i.e. post high-tide) walk in from the beach is preferable. We decided to press on the Lake Birrabeen after all, so more bumpy roads ensued. A lot more.

Look away for a minute fellas. Right ladies – a handy hint courtesy of Mrs Vlad: “Wear a Sports Bra”. OK fellas it’s safe to look again.

Along the way we met oncoming traffic a number of times, requiring us to pull up off the road (there a places to do so from time to time) to allow others to pass. Usually this is not a drama. One bloke in one of those Land Rover Defender 110 thingies couldn’t get up onto the soft siding, so I moved across for him instead. More practice old mate. Also had a bus tailgating and had to move over to let him past before he collided with us!

On arrival at Birrabeen parking area it was absolutely teeming with rain, so we decided to have our lunch (such as it was) in the car. The console in the front of a Defender makes a handy side table! Lunch comprised some sweet chilli flavoured mature cheddar, some olive dip, savoury biscuits of various types and soft drink. Tres yummy. (For the uncultured among you that means very tasty! )

After lunch the rain had subsided so we changed into our togs and headed in for a swim. Well I did, Mrs Vlad elected to “pike” and just laid down to relax in the shade. An equally sound plan, I suppose. The lake was as inviting as always, but not the reflective blue colour normally seen, due to the heavy cloud cover. The water was cool and refreshing (not cold) Swimming through the water with your eyes open you can clearly see the white sandy bottom of the lake as the water is crystal clear. The lake is good for kids too, because it stays reasonably shallow for quite a distance before the bottom drops away. As I faced the centre of the lake the sky behind me was blue and cloudless, so we thought that the weather had finally broken clear. Not long afterward, however we could see clearly a curtain of rain advancing toward us from the other side of the lake, We retreated toward the car but the rain front was faster than we were. The teeming rain was back.

We decided to set out for Eurong as the most direct route back to the beach – we’d had enough of inland tracks for a while. En route we came across another Fraser Island tour bus coming the other way. I moved off the road as far as I could, and I reckon I had left ample room for him, however he just sat there not moving, staring at me. I shrugged at him questioningly. He edged his bus forward and said “ I can’t get through there”. Any competent driver could have driven past safely but clearly he wasn’t one. I told him I reckoned there was plenty of room and he replied “OK so when I rip the back off your car you’ll be fine with that, will you?” (in a very rude and brusque manner). “Like hell” I replied. Long story short I had to back up about 100m in sand, around a corner and with my head out the window (the ute has poor rear visibility because of the canopy). If I’d had a trailer on, we’d still be there!

One thing travelling the inland tracks of Fraser Island always impresses on me is just how much the vegetation changes from place to place, and sometimes within a short distance you get several changes. From rainforest to scrappy brush, to thick woods, to open ground covers, bare sand, and so on. You can see a lot in the space of a few hours. Fantastic.

We duly arrived at Eurong and stopped briefly at the shop. Gas lanterns were $55 each but as we were near the end of our trip and that’s about a $20 premium over mainland prices, I elected to “pass” We then drove down onto the beach, turning north for camp. On the way back we stopped in at Eli Creek for a look at one of our perennial favourite places. Eli Creek is know for its regular changes of course where in crosses the beach, but this time was very different to how we’ve seen it before. The creek where it cuts its way across the beach is very shallow – not much more than a ripple really, whereas we’ve sometimes seen it deeper than the floor of a Defender. There’s also a “false outlet” where the creek is in the throws of changing from a southerly exit to a more northerly one. Despite the gloomy weather there were plenty of people about.


A quick walk showed the Eli Creek is much shallower than we’ve ever seen it, and it’s not really possible to float down it at the moment as we’ve done numerous times before. I’m not sure of the reason behind this but hopefully it will return to “normal” in due course.



Some lunatics on a “tag along” type tour in Hummer H3’s decided to drive through the creek where people were wading about – not only annoying but downright dangerous. Presumably they thought they looked cool. They didn’t.

A dingo put in an appearance and was apparently unafraid of people. He (or she perhaps) had a big drink from the creek and wandered about looking for any morsels of food that may have been dropped by tourists, much to the delight of those same tourists.


This video gives you an idea of how close and you can see the backpackers were even closer. (I intended to artistically show how close they were, but the missus just accused me of perving)

YouTube- Dingo_Fraser_Easter2010.wmv
Heading north again we came to the wreck of the Maheno, which looks to have suffered some collapse of the superstructure since our last visit.



The miserable weather conditions were continuing as he headed north. The sand in the cutting at Indian Head was (and often is) very soft and requires some momentum We were travelling up from the beach and came across a group of people casually walking up the middle of the track, no taking account of any traffic or bothering to get out of the way. Knowing that if we stopped we’d possibly stay stopped, we had to cross to the wrong side of the track and snake our way around them – even so they remained oblivious. Fools.

We went on to Orchid Beach to collect some more ice for the esky (I really must get that Engel hooked up). Adding insult to the earlier injury (to my wallet) the diesel at Orchid Beach was still $1.83/litre. Grrrr. The pub / beer garden attached to the shop was crowded full of cheering yobbos (evidently watching sport on the TV). Anyway we left them to their fun and returned to camp – stopping on the way to get photos of the water pools near the beach camp (featured earlier in this write up). Naturally pretty much from the time we got back to our tent, the weather fined up. Typical eh! A hot shower and nice dinner saw the end of another enjoyable day on Fraser Island.

Monday

The weather this morning was much nicer with a blue sky, though still some cloud. Here’s hoping it lasts for the next day or so, as I hate packing in the wet.

We drove down to Champagne Pools (reasonably close to Waddy Point) and parked in the northern car park where we were the only vehicle. Making the short walk into the pools we saw that while they were as beautiful as ever, there was considerably less sand than usual. Making our way into the pools was a painful experience as there was no nice soft covering of all the jagged rocks around the edges of the pools. Having made our way into one of the sandy bottomed pools the experience became much more rewarding and relaxing. The tide was coming in, the surf was high and from time to time a wave would crash into and over the rocks around the pool, filling them with a “champagne-like” froth, from which the pools get their name. There were only a few people there when we arrived but the area quickly filled – it’s a popular spot here – the usual crowd of bikini-clad backpackers included. Life can be painful (well, it is when your wife slaps you around the head for perving at a 20 year old)..

Others were also commenting on the lack of sand too. There were a few family groups there – one little girl in a “snoopy” floatie being guided around by her dad, while another older girl was running (wading / swimming) everywhere with a little waterproof camera taking pictures of just about everything under the water. I’ll bet she got a few good shots too. A young fella maybe 4 years old was clambering all over the rocks toward the surf, madly pursued by a heavily tattooed and smoking older bloke, evidently his grandfather. A true spectrum of life, all united in loving this one place.

Having spent a pleasant hour or so in the pools we headed back to the car. Somehow I managed to badly stub my big toe, tearing away part of the nail and generating a big blood blister. How can I say this delicately…. “Ouch, that smarts!” You will no doubt be very relieved to note there is not an accompanying photo!

Figuring that there would be a fair bit of traffic outbound from the camp ground (last day of Easter weekend) we continued a little past the campground road turn off, took the beach cutting and then went back south along the beach the short distance to Waddy Point. It was more scenic that way anyway.

Had yet another relaxing afternoon, tempered only by the knowledge we have to pack up and leave tomorrow..

Tuesday

A little bit of overnight rain made us nervous that we might not get to pack in the dry, but happily we awoke again to clear(ish) day. We were in the process of packing up, regularly kicking cane toads out of the way, when a Kookaburra swooped down and grabbed a cane toad. He then proceeded to kill it. Hopefully (and presumably) the Kookaburras must have found a way to eat the toads without getting poisoned.

Here’s some video of how to stop a cane toad from moving….
YouTube- Kookaburra_Fraser_Easter2010.wmv
Once we had packed and loaded up everything we bade farewell to Waddy Point campground and set out on the long journey south to Hook Point.

We hadn’t gotten far on the track out when the Land Cruiser in front of us (towing a large camper) became bogged in the soft sand. He was only about 10 metres away from some firmer ground too! His mate in front of him disappeared into the distance (they didn’t have a radio) and didn’t come back either. So they were left to their own devices… or they would have been if not for us and the other seven vehicles waiting behind. The trailer was unhooked, the Cruiser driven onto harder packed sand. A snatch strap was used to tow the camper forward but the A-frame kept ploughing into the earth. This was remedied by 5 blokes standing on the rear bumper of the camper and jumping up and down to take the weight off the front of the trailer while it was pulled clear of the soft stuff. Eventually we got him hooked up again and away again. Unfortunately that had costs us quite a bit of precious time as we were hoping to make it to Hook Point before the tide because too high for us to round it.

On the way out of the cutting at Indian Head there was another brand new 200 series Land Cruiser bogged in the soft sand but as this one was heading inland, was above the high tide mark and there was a crowd already we had no need (or desire) to stop.

We paused at the Maheno on the way south to take a photo (the one featured earlier in this report) but drove on past Eli Creek as it was absolutely packed on this sunnier day.

There were still more than a fair share of drivers on the beach doing the wrong thing, and the beach was a bit more chopped up with soft sand and annoyingly frequent “hummocks” (little hills of softer sand that slow you down and sometimes catch you by surprise. I don’t really know what, if anything, they are called – but hummock will do). The smaller creek crossings were deeper than they had been even the previous day.

Unfortunately as we approached the southern end of the island we realised that the tide had come in too far – we’d not be able to round Hook Point. This forced us into the very unpleasant alternative – the horribly corrugated inland track. We knew what to expect as we’d been forced to use this track on other trips. That knowledge probably only made it worse. I can truthfully attest there are 1,763,982 corrugations in the 15 km of that track because I could feel every one of them! Here, for posterity and your benefit is my road report for the inland track “Corrugated to buggery. Avoid like plague”.

Finally, after having pushed the sun visor up for the 45th time (damn corrugations!) we made our way back onto the sand and across the beach to the Manta Ray barge for the return trip.

We drove slowly back to Rainbow Beach to air up (couldn’t be bothered dragging out the bushranger compressor). A middle aged lady approached me at the servo and said “I’ve never been off-road before do I really need to air down. What to ? How do I tell (I haven’t got a air pressure gauge). Anyway I told her what I could to try to keep her out of trouble but she almost certainly ignored me and set off onto the beach. I know she didn’t go into the shop to buy a pressure gauge. Did anyone hear of any sunken new Nissan Patrols?

The traffic on the bitumen was reasonably awful on way home but apparently nowhere near as bad as Monday (as you’d expect and why we’d taken the extra day).

Picked up the dogs and cat. Had cost heaps more for their “holiday” than it had for ours ! Home and unpack. A long day.

Happy to be home, but sad to have left. On balance, would rather still be up there !

Other “stuff”

Saw heaps of 200 series Cruisers (and other new vehicles) on Fraser this time. Probably a lot of cashed up but novice four wheel drivers which might explain some of the bad driving going on, but not a lot of it.

Fuel @ Orchid Beach $1.83 / litre
Fuel @ Cathedral Beach $2.00/litre
Fuel @ Rainbow Beach. $1.35 / litre
Fuel @ Gympie $.1.26 / litre

The lesson is: fill up at Gympie and top up your tanks at Rainbow BEFORE going across to the island.

2 good publications:

Discover Fraser Island – A Hema Outdoor Guide
by Rob van Driesum. Around $20 at bookshops and camping stores.

This is packed full of great information and maps (as you would expect).
There are lots of illustrative colour photos, notes on the history of Fraser, flora and fauna. Tips (eg don’t swim here, secure food from dingoes there etc). Info on fish. A great resource at a budget price.

Fraser Island – The Essential Visitors Guide
by Brad McCarthy. Around $24.95 at bookshops and camping stores.

This is part of the Motorama group “Dirty Weekends” series of books.
Features info on campgrounds / facilities, also other accomodation (houses etc). It has photos and brief notes on places of interest. It’s main feature would be the “4WD tour directions” – these are set out as directions with trip meter readings (and also GPS co-ordinates for you rich people out there who can’t follow signs). The book also features pre-trip checklists and a fairly comprehensive list of contacts for permits etc.

Cheers everyone.
Vlad.

Vlad’s Range Rover LSE – “Luxo-Barge”

Episode 2: The Luxo-Barge

The old EB Falcon was finally giving us the irits to an excessive degree, given that the drivers window wouldn’t wind down AND the air con was terminally stuffed. So we sold it and looked around for another car.

Now being a Land-Rover addicted nutter, I had intended buying a manual diesel Discovery. But since it was going to be her car that was ruled out because she wanted:
a) an automatic (for traffic)
b) a petrol (for zip) and
c) not a Discovery as the roofline was too high to fit in her work car park.

Then a friend in the LR club told me about a ’95 LSE that was for sale. This model was the duck’s nuts of it’s time.

Essentially its a Classic Range Rover body but running most of the P38 technology) and its had an 8″ stretch to accomodate the rear seat passengers in royal comfort.

It went well, looked good, and was comfy as all get-out so $12.500 changed hands and it was ours.

 

 

 

As any Landy owner knows, there’s always something to tinker with or add so I have added:

– well, nothing, so far
(It has pretty much everything you need, and I’m not allowed to buy the things I just WANT).

Wish list:

– Alloy rims with AT tyres.
– Roof pod for storage of stuff
– UHF radio

Problems so far:
Oh dear where to start….

Let’s just say “Air Suspension” (I did fix it and am very glad I didn’t do a coil conversion!)

“On the bump stops”

 

Existing modifications:

– Steel 7″ Disco rims
– Custom Rear Bar (possibly ARB ?)

– a 3rd row of seats has been fitted, complete with mod plate. A previous owner obviously had numerous kids, while I have none. The nephews like ’em so I’ve left them in for now.

As with my other Landy I am hoping I won’t have any more problems with it…… touch wood.
(of which there is plenty fitted to the doors and dash)

I’ve taken it off road several times, nothing too difficult or around Lantana, and its very good I must say.

Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv8VIoE81lY

 

Out & About….

 

 

Vlad’s Defender 110 – “Doris”

Episode 1: Doris

 

 

defender proud1

I had been wanting a Ute for years and had recently established an equity loan with the bank (what a nightmare!) so I bit the bullet and decided to
get a Ute. I had also wanted a four wheel drive for many years and it had
been my dream to own a Land Rover for as long as I can remember.

I began by researching 4wd’s on the net and was originally looking at
LandCruisers and Patrols in my price range (ie up to $15,000). One day I
came across an internet ad for a Defender Ute, $15,000. Sounded good but it was in Bundaberg. Never mind it’s only 3 1/2 hours or so away – so I jumped on the tilt-train at the last minute and headed to Bundy.

When I test drove the Landy I kept turning on the wipers instead of
indicating (amateur mistake, but I still do it sometimes after driving the
Falcon!) and I LOVED it ! The missus had a drive and I expected her not to like it, but I was wrong. So before she had a chance to change her mind, I agreed to buy it.

An RACQ report, another trip back to Bundy, and a lighter wallet later….
it was MINE ! Oh Happy Day….

Drove it home from Bundy and couldn’t stop smiling !

What is it exactly? A 1993 Land Rover Defender 110 (200 Tdi) – Trayback Ute.

As any Landy owner knows, there’s always something to tinker with or add so I have added:
– CD player (It didn’t even have a radio, nor provision for one, when I
bought it)
– GME UHF
– Fire Extinguisher
– Recovery Gear (Snatch strap, shackles, long handled shovel, bow saw)
– ARB Winch Bar (No, I can’t afford a winch yet but the price difference was only $50)

Wish list:
– Lightforce spotlights
– New 6.5 or 7 inch rims with BFG AT or MT Tyres.
(I have since added 7″ Disco rims, and BFG Muds)
– Canvas top for tray
– (Ideally) A new Td5 110 in a dual cab ute format. (Sway bars suck – who needs ’em ! )

Problems so far:
One day while idling there was a sudden and continuing loud clunking noise
– a bad expensive sounding noise, like big end damage. I was sh**ing
myself…. So I stopped it and had it towed to MR Automotive. The mechanic said “Hmm, sounds like big end damage..expensive). I was still sh**ing myself. Anyway, it turned out that one of the rocker arms had broken (yeah, I know!) But how it made that noise… ?!.

and hopefully I won’t have any more problems with it…… touch wood.

I’ve taken it off road several times in the months that I’ve owned it –
anytime that work and other commitments allow and it’s great. (now that I’ve owned it for years it’s been off road a lot, and I’m still thrilled with it !) I wouldn’t swap it for anything (except perhaps another Landy)

 

Out & About

 

P.S. After I bought it a mate retouched a photo with the number plate “DORIS”  which I stupidly posted on www.aulro.com  This was NOT my Landy’s name. It’s just my idiot mate’s dinosaur joke. He has a Toyota…….. Corolla. Anyhow the aulro blokes wouldn’t let it go, so she’s known as DORIS for all eternity now !  That’s the idiot mate, there in the red shirt in that earlier photo…..

Vlad’s Fraser Island Freshen-Up : 1 – 3 May 2010

Fraser Island Clean Up
1-3 May 2010

This is a tale of the Land Rover Owners Club of Brisbane (and guests) during this years Fraser Island Clean Up.

Our cast of players:
tineapedis (and family) – Disco
TEPPO (and family) – Disco
Paul L. (not on AULRO) – Disco
sadbenn (and son Gavin – in his Defender 110)
John Ellis (and Mrs JE) – Range Rover P38
discotek – Disco
vladtepes (and Mrs Vlad) – Defender 130
Ranga (visitor) – Defender 110
macfamily (visitors) – Defender 110

We had a few last minute withdrawals, which is always a disappointment, not the least for those who weren’t able to come! Ian S and bigmac had reasonable (unreasonable?) excuses as they were busy reinforcing the stereotype, having mechanical trouble with their Landies. We missed you on the weekend fellas, and look forward to your company on another trip soon.

 

 

SATURDAY

A number of members had gone over on Friday to make the most of the weekend (those who weren’t tied down at work, lucky sods!). While waiting for the rest of us to arrive they went on a trip to Moon Point. I’ll let tineapedis take up the story:

“It was a fantastic weekend, discotek, sadbenn & Gav, Paul L, TEPPO and Sarah and Sam and I had arrived on the Friday. Whilst waiting for the rest of the guys to arrive we went exploring to the other side of the island to Moon Point, we picked up the track at Rainbow Gorge to Lake Garawongera and then onto Moon Point. En route we popped in to see an early settlement but, overgrown foliage and fallen trees prevented us from reaching the site.

 

Once on the beach we took some time to relax and take in the view. The ocean was calm, the sun was high and the beach was pristine. We then headed north up the beach, crossing Coongul and Woralie creeks before turning west past the Knifeblade Sandblow and onto the beach just north of the Maheno wreck. The tide was out, the sun was starting to drop and the mist in the distance made for a good back drop for a few photos”.

Meanwhile, John Ellis decided he was going to go up to the island early on Saturday morning, and was consequently able to take care of the registration for us. Thanks John.

Ranga met us at our place and from there we drove to BP Morayfield to meet up with the macfamily.

 

We topped up on fuel at Rainbow Beach (there was no way I’d be repeating last month’s error in paying $2.00 per litre on Fraser). Fortunately the tide was on our side and we were able to get around Hook Point, thus avoiding the torturous inland bypass road. We then had a relaxing and mostly uneventful drive up the beach to the camping area at Poyungan.

On arrival at the camping area we saw that discotek, sadbenn and Gavin, Paul L, and John Ellis and Anne had set up in a grassed area near the cutting. As there wasn’t enough room for our tents there, we moved in a bit further to find that the Inverell Club had set up, so we went to the other end of their camp and set up our own – not that it was a long walk back to the rest of the crew. Tineapedis and TEPPO (and families) had rented a house at Eurong but, we caught up with them at opportune moments.

 

Saturday afternoon called for a relaxing session so folding chairs were carried to the top of the dune, and we sat drinking a few beers, eating snacks, watching the passing parade and generally just thinking “life is good”.

 

SUNDAY

Clean Up.

After breakfast we met up with the Inverell 4WD club to commence the clean up. We had jointly been assigned an area of beach between Eurong and Cornwell’s Break Road to clean up. It was decided the two clubs would split up, and work from the ends, meeting in the middle. A coin toss was held, whereby tails we’d start from the Eurong end, heads and the Inverell club would, on edge and we’d all go to the pub. The coin was tossed several times but, failed to land on its edge. Tails, Tails, start at Eurong. We split up into further small groups, each attacking one part of the area… and it was a good thing we did or we might still be there!

Our little group consisted of John Ellis and Anne, Ranga and me and Mrs Vlad.

 

 

The beach itself wasn’t all that littered but, every now and then there was a break in the dunes where the tide would wash objects up and the wind would blow them in. In such places there were large amounts of rubbish. Most were not large pieces (easier to collect) but rather very small items which required a lot of leaning over and finicky collecting. Without doubt the most common item was the plastic bottle cap. But we also found toothbrushes, thongs, high heel shoes, golf balls, plastic and glass bottles, pieces of rope and net, and all sorts of other generic rubbish. We spent a good 4 hours of hard work cleaning our area and eventually met up with all of the others back at the rubbish bins to get rid of the collected waste.

It seemed like it took forever to unload the bags from the ute (they just kept coming) and much to our surprise our little group had collected around 25 large black rubbish bags full of litter. In total, the club collected at least 55 bags from a reasonably small (even thought it didn’t feel small on the day) stretch of beach – which illustrates just how much littering people are doing on the island and throwing off boats “out there.”

 

 

After the clean up

tineapedis’s offer of a coffee back at the house was appreciated but, passed up in favour of lunch and then a drive. Mrs Vlad and I led the trip (well, we drove at the front anyway). Along for the ride were the macfamily (they had never been to Fraser Island before), Ranga, Gavin, and John Ellis and Anne.

The plan was to visit the attractions of Eli Creek and the Maheno but, the trip didn’t get off to a great start. As we were driving along (on relatively hard sand) Mrs Vlad said she heard the noise of a flat tyre and on stopping, sure enough the front left tyre was very flat (but only at the bottom!). Obviously a tyre change was in order but it didn’t look as if John’s hydraulic jack would have enough clearance so I decided to use the “exhaust jack” I have to raise the vehicle enough to pop in the hydraulic jack to support the vehicle for the tyre change.

All was going relatively well, until the exhaust bag was about 2/3 of the way to the height I wanted then suddenly it failed. This was no slow leak but the actual seams of the bag “let go” dropping the vehicle. The tyre caught my foot (luckily I wasn’t silly enough to be under the vehicle or it would have been a lot worse) and luckily the tyre was still on the rim. I could have accepted if the bag had melted or got pierced because of my own “user error” but, in this case it seems the bag itself was not sound. (Since then, I have written to the manufacturer and they are looking into it. I’ll keep you informed). Anyway in due course we did manage to get the wheel changed and set off once again.

 

 

First stop was Eli Creek which, true to form was both crowded and cold. Despite the cold, Ranga, Gav and I jumped in and “floated” down the creek. It was certainly refreshing, and helped numb my injured foot which was helpful. It’s such a great place Eli Creek, and we could have spent a long time there but, there were other things to be done today.

 

Next we visited the wreck of the Maheno for the obligatory photos, before we returned to camp for a freshen up prior to the evenings activities.

 

 

The “after party”

Toyota is the major sponsor (and possibly the only sponsor?) of the annual Fraser Island clean-up, and as a thank you to the volunteers they host a bit of a party for us. This kicked off around 5pm so we car pooled as much as possible down to the function held near Cornwell’s Break Road. (John and Anne hitched a ride in the 130, which would have been quite different after their smooth Rangie, probably evoking memories (nightmarish ones perhaps?) of the series 3 they once owned.

 

The event includes a “sausage sizzle” – although that hardly describes it fairly. There is a large gazebo in which several 4WD clubs (thanks guys and girls) were slaving away over hot BBQ plates cooking burgers and sausages. There was also coleslaw, potato salad and bread on offer. The only thing they ran out of was plates… but slices of bread do the job adequately! The other main component of the evening is a concert, and again the performer was Tanya Kernigan… who (allegedly) arrived in a brand spanking new Toyota Prado “Kakadu”. (If anyone fancies spending $90,000 on a Prado there is now a way!) Also throughout the evening there were Toyota related quiz questions with prizes awarded… most of which went to members of the Nissan Patrol club! A raffle was also held. While some bloke from our club won an esky last time around, none of us was fortunate enough on this occasion. The concert was shorter than usual on account of some ongoing problems with the power generator, but a good time was had nonetheless. In due course we returned to our vehicles and headed back to camp, before the incoming tide made the trip too difficult. A rum or two on return to camp saw us out.

MONDAY

Monday saw a parting of ways as some people elected to try their hand at fishing, and others headed home early for various reasons (Ranga went all the way to Hervey Bay in pursuit of a roof rack he didn’t end up buying!). Mrs Vlad and I took the macfamily for a drive to a few more places they hadn’t seen and we thought they’d enjoy.

We had originally planned to visit Lake McKenzie (it’s a “must see” for visitors to Fraser Island) however the powers-that-be had closed the blue lakes for the duration of the weekend, perhaps concerned about the effect a massive influx of vehicles might have. In any event, we elected to stay further north, visiting some of the less known attractions.

 

We drove up the beach to Happy Valley, where we turned inland and drove to Lake Garawongera. The water was certainly refreshing (that is, cold) but once in and used to it, the swim was quite pleasant. Also there weren’t many other people at the lake so it was that much more peaceful as well.

 

After our swim it was back to the Landies for a drive up to Lake Allom. This lake is known for the little freshwater turtles which congregate there. The shore is mostly surrounded by reeds and vegetation, with a small break where the access to the lake is. Once upon a time you could just walk down to the edge but now they have constructed a wooden “grandstand” (for want of a better description). Fortunately it is still possible to get very close to the turtles, and the kids were able to see them up close. There is even a gap in the railing and it is possible to go in for a swim, however there were quite a few hungry looking turtles there, and I didn’t fancy being nipped anywhere important. Or anywhere at all, for that matter.

We returned to the vehicles and drove along the same road that tineapedis and his group would have taken on Saturday morning, past the Boomerang lakes and Knifeblade Sandblow. At one point we met a Jeep coming the other way, and he had to back up for a considerable distance before he was able to find somewhere he could pull in to allow us to pass. It’s lucky this road isn’t too busy as there are not too many passing places along it, and it’s a long stretch! Once back on the beach we turned south and returned to our camp at Poyungan, seeing a few healthy male dingos on the way.

 

Meanwhile John had been trying his hand at fishing, with little success, but he and Anne had seen a sea-snake on the beach, somewhat disoriented.

 

Apparently a lady came with a snake-wrangling stick and attempted to put it back in the ocean, but the snake was determined to head up the beach. Anyway by the time we had got there the snake had gone.

After a quick lunchtime snack we broke camp, just beating an ominous looking weather front, and while we didn’t get any heavy rain afterwards it was touch and go for a while!

A Big Thank You

A big thank you goes out to bigmac for organising the trip, distributing the attendance packs, and so on. There’s more work involved there than you might realise. Thanks also to John Ellis for taking care of the club registration on Fraser Island.

Naturally a great big thanks and congratulations to all who attended (including our guests who attended at short notice) for your commendable efforts in the clean up.

Last of all, I’d like to thank Toyota Australia and Four Wheel Drive Queensland for their support and organisation of the annual Fraser Island Clean Up. Not only is it a great weekend away, but also a chance to showcase the real work that four wheel drivers do in a practical sense to preserve and improve the environment that we all enjoy.

Afterword

Next time a “greenie” tries to lecture you on the evils of four wheel drives, ask them when was the last time they actually did something practical to improve the environment? There were (judging by the vehicle numbers being read out at the “after party”) over 300 vehicles on Fraser Island for the clean up so the amount of rubbish collected in total would have been huge.

 

Photos
Photos are courtesy of Ranga, John Ellis. macfamily and tineapedis.