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.

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