Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Swimming, trekking around Fraser Island

Even sideways rain and gusty winds can't take away from the beauty of Fraser Island.

For the first two days of our three day tour there was an almost constant drizzle of rain and sometimes all out downpour.

A barge hauled us and our Trailblazer Tours bus, from Inskip Point at Rainbow Beach to the island. The barge ride to the Fraser Island's east coast was short but rocky.

Once on semi-dry land, we headed up the coast on 75-mile beach. The stretch of sand is a great welcome to Fraser Island.

On the left, jagged rocks and unruly trees stick out of the rainforest and on the right, the Pacific Ocean looks endless and almost violent with its huge waves crashing on the beach.

Absolute paradise

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and has the world's largest and oldest vegetated sand dunes.

The Aborigines of Fraser Island, the Butchalla people, called the island Kajari meaning paradise.

The European name for the island came after Captain James Fraser, his wife and crew shipwrecked on the island.

After decades of tension and fighting over land between Australians and Aborigines, the island was eventually occupied by a large Australian logging company. The most abundant resource on the island, sand, was also valuable to the Aussies. Sand mining for minerals, including one used by NASA for titanium for space shuttles, was a great money-maker.

In the 1970s, however, controversy over exploitation of the land and the native people led to Australia recognizing the island as a national park. It is also now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The history of the island is interesting but of course, we didn't travel all that way for a textbook education!

Lake Wabby and the curious dingo

Making our way down 75 Mile Beach, our tour guide, Brett pointed out heaps of birdlife. He also terrified us of the water when he mentioned that Fraser's coast is a popular hang out for sharks.

Driving along 75 Mile Beach, Brett stopped to clean off this sea snake's face which was covered with sea gunk. Sea snakes are extremely poisonous--oh that dare devil Brett!

Once at the beach house, we settled in, ate lunch and set out again in the Trailblazer bus.

Unless you want to be shark bait, swimming in Fraser's inland lakes is a visitor's only choice.

Lake Wabby was the first lake we visited. After a 2.5 kilometer walk through the bush, we ended up at the top of an enormous sand blow.

The Hammerstone Sandblow overlooks Lake Wabby but feels like a dry, isolated desert.

I took a dip in the lake but it was a little cold to stay in. Instead we relaxed on the lake beach and watched catfish in the water.

One curious dingo sat above us on the sandblow, looking hungry. The dingoes on Fraser are reportedly the purest breed of dingoes on Australia's east coast but unfortunately, because of tourism, aren't as weary of humans anymore.

Although beautiful, dingos can be very dangerous. This one was scavenging for food on the beach. The are scavengers, not hunters, but will bite humans if provoked.

Once the dingo trekked down the sandblow and growled at us but luckily Brett was there to scare him off.

If you're not muddy, you're not having fun

On the west coast of the island, we waded (literally) through Deep Creek.

The beach was basically all mud and at one point I was standing in mud above my knees!

Trekking through thick mud is a bit of a workout but definitely a lot of fun!

We stopped at many more lakes and walked through rainforests near the center of the island.

Brett explained how the Butchalla people used soft bark for sleeping mats and tree leaves for insulation.

Silent Creek, named for its sandy bottom which muffles the sound of moving water, is a sacred place for the Butchalla women. The creek has been constantly flowing for at least 2,500 years and is the place Butchalla women would go to give birth.

Saving the best for last

The best part of the trip was saved for the last day though.

We climbed to the top of Indian Head, the highest point on Fraser Island at 90 meters tall. From there we could see over the water, to the inland sandblows and along the beaches.

When Captain Cook passed by Fraser Island on his exploration of Australia, the Butchalla people stood on the cliffs of Indian Head waving him away from the coast because of the dangerous rocks.

After our descent from Indian Head, Brett drove us back down the beach to the Maheno shipwreck.

Built in 1903, the Maheno was originally used as a luxury passenger ship and then as a World War Two hospital ship.

Once out of commission, Australia sold the ship for scrap metal to Japan. In tow, a cyclone struck the island and broke the tow ropes, leaving the Maheno to wreck upon Fraser's east coast.

Legend has it that looters cleaned out the ship and one man stole an entire trunk of silver. He buried it somewhere on the island but forgot where--booty hunters grab your metal detectors!

Overall, Fraser was beautiful and definitely a chance to get in touch with my adventurous side!

Sent from my iPod

1 comment:

  1. It's a tremendous win for our program. We're in the midst of a special journey. We're trying to win something. It's going to be an incredible battle, but this was a big hurdle.

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