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 !

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