Lap of Australia - Summary: Fraser Island Part 1

Sunday 28th April: Fraser Here We Come!

We stayed at a caravan park in Rainbow Beach overnight in order to fill the water tank, recharge the batteries, and get all of our groceries. In the morning we washed and dried our clothes in the caravan park Laundromat ($4 to wash, $3 to dry), filled up the water tank, and packed up to head toward Inskip Point where we caught the barge across to Fraser Island.

Overall the caravan park was ok, but nothing special, and the rubbish bins stank horribly due to the large number of people that had been staying there over the Anzac day long weekend and leaving their rubbish as they left the park.

We got to Inskip Point easily enough, and we aired down before boarding the barge. It was $150 return trip (extra cost for having a trailer), but it was only a 10 minute ride across the water, compared with an hour if we caught the barge from Hervey Bay. The ferry master sold us our ticket, gave us heaps of great info about Fraser Island, and was a really friendly and genuine guy to talk to. He wanted to jump in the back of our 4WD and come on our trip with us!

This is us waiting at Inskip Point for the Ferry, which can be seen in the distance - not far to go!

The ferry master told us that over the preceeding few days they had taken a record number of 4WD’s off the Island due to the Anzac Day long weekend. They had taken 240 vehicles off the day before, and had taken 300 off on this day, and it wasn’t even lunch time yet! Here we are, the only 4WD going to Fraser Island!

Looking back toward Inskip Point as a few people were parked on the point doing a bit of fishing.

Once off the barge we took the High Tide road (due to the fact that it was high tide and Hook Point wasn’t passable), which was 18km from the barge to the point at which we got back onto the beach. The last 7km was horrible, with massive corrugations and large rocks on the road. Various sections before that had been graded, and overall the road was pretty good for a gravel road, but the last section was painful and it was a pleasure to get onto the smooth soft sand on the beach.

If you think Fraser Island is a small place to visit, you would be mistaken!! 100km north to Waddy Point, and that is still nowhere near the top!

If you also think “Fraser Island is a nice soft sand island, no corrugations to worry about” you would also be mistaken! This section of the road was ok, but just further down we got shaken to pieces! Nevermind the road though - check out that vista! All on little ole Fraser!

We found a campsite in Cornwells Camping Zone and setup camp. We decided that we would base ourselves there for a few days and do day trips over the following days to Lake McKenzie and Eli Creek etc. After that we aimed to head right up to Sandy Cape and stay there for a few days.

I went fishing around 3pm in a hole as the tide was just coming back in. I started off with a Squidgy lure and had nothing, then I went to a different kind of lure (metal shiny one), then Elly found some pippies in the sand, so we baited those up and almost straight away I got some bites. Not longer after I hooked a fish, and when I got it back to shore it was a whiting. I was no more than 3m from getting to the dry sand while I was looking at it to decide if it was legal size in which time the fish jumped off the hook and surfed the next small wave back out to sea! After I looked in the fish book I found that the legal length was 23cm for Whiting, and it was definitely at least that long! Bummer!

A family drove past as I was fishing and stopped to say that they were camped where we were the night before, and that the couple with them was fishing in the same hole as us and caught 2 huge Bream and a big Giant Trevally. They said it was around 6pm that they were fishing there.

I went down to the beach at 6pm and tried again, but it was very rough and I didn’t really have any good bites. Elly drove the Landcruiser down and we pointed the headlights out to sea so that it was safer for me to stand there fishing. Elly cooked lamb cutlets and rice for dinner and we went to bed at 9pm.

Monday 29th April 2013: Darts

We woke up at 6am (awesome, our plan to start waking up earlier is coming to life!) and I walked down to the ocean (no more than 50m) to throw a line in. Almost immediately I had bites, and before long I had a nice sized Dart and Whiting in the bucket.

We had a bit of an easy day at camp, then I filleted the fish, and we had grilled fish with potato chips on the side.

I did some programming work on the software that drives our website (it is a content management system that I have developed myself), and then we were in bed by 9.30pm! We have quickly found that when camping, as soon as it gets dark you’re inspired to cook dinner and go inside to read and fall asleep! It certainly makes it easier to wake up early in the morning when you are asleep by 9.30 at night! I didn’t know it at the time, because we had no internet service, but we received an email from Safari, and they are coming on board as partners. We will soon be sporting their awesome front mount intercooler kit in the Landcruiser! I can’t wait to fit it up and report on the before and after results.

Tuesday 30th April 2013: Fresh Water and Crazy Tourists

We were up nice and early again, and again I went fishing down at the ocean. We were fortunate to find a nice sheltered camp site right in front of a good sized hole in the water! It seems to be a popular hang-out spot for the fish, as I pulled in another Whiting. Elly and I walked along the beach and found some pipis. We got around 10 or so and stored them in damp sand inside a bucket so that we had bait for the next few days.

Around mid morning we jumped in the Landcruiser and went for a drive. It’s a huge benefit having the ODYSSEY camper trailer, because we can leave our camp site setup and go for day trips. We were originally going to use a roof top tent, but already we can see the benefits of a camper trailer over a roof top tent.

We drove up to Lake Wabby Lookout. Unfortunately the Lookout was a 3.6km walk from the carpark, and we weren’t prepared for a long walk, so we had some lunch (it’s an advantage to having the Engel fridge in the back of the 4WD as opposed to in the trailer).

Here we are at Lake Wabby Lookout Carpark while Elly makes us some tuna and tomato on corn cakes for lunch. Not long after I took this photo some tourists in a hire 4WD came screaming into the carpark, locking up the brakes slightly as they stopped, then jumped out commenting “wow, rough road yaaa”. Well, yes, it would be rough travelling at warp speed!!!

After some tucker we headed off to our main destination for the day - Lake McKenzie. The roads to get there are part of a major tourist drive, and are easily traversed by the most basic 4WD.

This is another indication of the size of Fraser Island, and of the vast number of attractions for you to see when you go there.

The drive to Lake McKenzie was 1st and 2nd gear high range sand driving. It was interesting going through the various terrain. Some areas were dense rainforest, some felt like dry coastal sand areas, and some were wetlands.

Lake McKenzie is a perched lake. The altitude of the lake is substantially above the sea water line. Normally water at that level will seep down through the sand into the underground water courses, however Lake McKenzie has had plant matter falling into it for millions of years - this plant matter forms a waterproof seal at the bottom of the lake and holds the water in. The level of the lake changes with evaporation and rainfall only - the lake is filled solely by rain water, and is crystal clear.

One notable feature of the lake is that the pH level of the water is slightly acidic due to the plant matter and rain water combination. What this means in reality is that the water has an amazing ability to clean, hydrate, and otherwise make your skin feel incredible! Forget all those expensive cosmetic treatments - jump in the 4WD, head to Fraser Island, and go for a swim in Lake McKenzie!

For you photography buffs, the photo below is a 6 image panorama, stitched together in Adobe Photoshop CS6. The final image is approximately 36,000 pixels wide, and in person is a 180 degree viewpoint from where we were standing. The left hand side of the image is the bank of the lake to our left, and the right hand side is the bank of the lake (with sand and copper log fence) to our right.

If you pick up a Fraser Island postcard, you will see this tree on most post card photographs.

We took the opportunity to grab a “selfie” in front of the Lake. Interestingly enough, this photo has turned out (as of the date of this article) to be one of our most popular photos on Facebook - who would have thought?!

Full length selfie… As you can see, you can walk right down the stairs into the water. And I recommend you do!

On the drive back to camp we passed a lookout to one of the many sand blows on Fraser Island. This is a view out from the lookout. Isn’t nature an amazing beast?!

As we continued on the drive back to camp we came across a 4WD (105 series hire car) that was stuck in the sand. A couple had arrived in front of us, and they had some flexible sand treads that they had offered to help the stuck driver. They got him going from where he was originally stuck, but he sank about 5m later, right next to our 4WD. I got out and asked what tyre pressures he was running. He said he didn’t know. They were Canadian tourists and had hired the 105 Landcruiser from Kingfisher Resort. I checked the pressures and they were at 32psi. I told the driver that the number one rule of sand driving was to lower the pressures so the tyre bagged out and floated across the sand. I said that if we dropped his pressures to 20psi he would probably be able to drive out without needing any recovery device. We dropped his pressures to 20psi (which took a while doing all 4 tyres - especially because nobody else seemed interested in helping let the air out!!). I told him to put it into 2nd gear low range and just drive it out on the clutch, that it didn’t need any accelerator. He was completely amped up on adrenalin and tried to take off with the handbrake on. After I pointed out the handbrake he had another go. He used way too much accelerator and after moving forward 2 metres he panicked and put the clutch in, before then gassing it up and dropping the clutch once more. The Landcruiser got out, but it was pretty messy, and I was momentarily afraid his wheel spinning would slide the hire 4WD into our nice and straight 80 series!

In the meantime, a 100 series TD had got itself stuck right behind the 105 series. I could see the tyres visibly cutting into the sand and getting bogged. It was obvious even from a distance that the tyres were over inflated. The driver didn’t seem to want any help regarding tyre pressures, but he had 2 MAXTRAX which he put under the back wheels. He supplemented those with the 2 flexible treads from the original helpers on the front tyres. His recovery was also messy. He tried to drive it out of the sand like a top fuel drag car launching off the line. It was interesting to note that the flexible treads under his front tyres got sucked under the tyres and spat out the back, while the MAXTRAX themselves dug into the sand and his rear wheels gripped the top of them and drove him out. However he obviously doesn’t know that you should avoid wheel spin while using your MAXTRAX!

While I’m on recovery devices, we were talking to a tour operator the day beforehand who said that a number of the cheaper operators had purchased the “other” recovery treads to try and save a few dollars, and had found that after a couple of recoveries they weren’t lasting. So even though we’ve been fortunate enough to have MAXTRAX support us on our adventure, it goes to show that there is just no substitute to buying a quality product. Not only are MAXTRAX the original and best, but they’re Aussie made and Aussie owned.

After we helped the two Landcruisers out of the sand we drove back to our beachside campsite and promptly got our fishing gear ready. The “major bite” time was 3.30pm and it was 4.30pm when we got back. We walked down to the waters edge and set up the chair just back from the tide mark. I had rigged the line with a twin hook paternoster rig, and so I baited it with 2 pipis.

I cast out, and within 2 seconds of the line hitting the water there was a bite. I pulled back and there was something hooked. When I got it out of the water I noticed that there were 2 fish hooked! One on each hook! They were some good sized Dart, so we kept them and went straight back out. I caught another Dart, but it was only about 15cm long, so we threw it back. I then caught one more that was also undersize at around 20cm and by that time the sun was setting so I decided to kill and gut the first 2 fish and go back to camp.

While I gutted the 2nd fish, Elly was scaling the 1st. A dingo walked over and headed straight to where we were cleaning the fish. We walked down to the water and washed the fish off while it sniffed around our fishing spot. After a few minutes of it circling us, it realised we weren’t going to give it anything, and so it wandered off.

Needless to say, we had Dart for dinner, and they tasted fantastic!

Wednesday 1st May 2013: Sunrise Baby

We woke up before 6am and Elly suggested we walk down to the water again to watch the sunrise.

Elly took the following 2 photos on her Fuji X100 digital rangefinder.

I took a few photos too on the Nikon D600.

Here you can see a sea snail meandering its way through the sand.

After watching the sun rise over the ocean we walked back up to the campsite and cooked the Whiting that we had previously caught for breakfast. Elly made a lemon, onion, and balsamic vinegar sauce to go with it, and it was spectacular!

A few people had told us that the drive to Sandy Cape was difficult, so we planned a day trip without the trailer to check it out. We drove as far as Orchid Beach. The lady in the shop at Orchid Beach said that the bypass track was very soft, and that even locals were getting stuck. We didn’t let that deter us, and we planned to head to Sandy Cape in the next day or two.

Along the drive to Orchid Beach we passed the wreck of the Maheno - one of the most popular and easily recognised ship wrecks on the east coast. We were fortunate to arrive at the wreck when nobody was around, and we grabbed a few photos.

There is talk that the wreck is becoming too unstable to remain on the beach, and that it will be torn down and removed. It’s such a shame that our society is so litigious and that icons such as this (and the Cherry Venture) have to be removed because someone might hurt themselves and sue the local council / government.

You can see the size of the Maheno wreck here. The location is actually an extremely popular fishing spot, and apparently 300m north of the Maheno is a good spot for finding pipis for bait.

The colours on Fraser Island are just spectacular. The entire time we were there (bar a couple of days) we were privileged to have gorgeous blue skies and clear waters. It really is a beautiful piece of Australia.

There are a number of rock formations along the coast line as you drive north, including “Red Canyon”.

And the more popular site of “The Pinnacles”. Tourist buses regularly pull up outside of The Pinnacles.

You can see ever so slightly in the image below the outline of a sea eagle flying over the dunes. Sea eagles are everywhere on Fraser Island, and while I wasn’t focussed on capturing any images of them, if you have a good camera and a telephoto lens, you will get some spectacular shots of the birds as they float over the dunes searching for prey.

The Pinnacles themselves are actually comprised of quite soft sand, and while the signs say not to touch them or remove the sands, unfortunately some people just can’t help themselves.

Here I am caught on Elly’s X100 rangefinder taking some photos of The Pinnacles!

More beach driving under gorgeous blue skies!

We stopped just north of Orchid Beach and did a spot of fishing. I caught a small (but legal) Whiting, and we cleaned it and put it in the fridge (in a sealed bag) to have later.

I didn’t feel like setting up the long surf rod, so I pulled out the small estuary rod, and it was still good enough to catch a fish in the surf.

When we got back to camp I quickly threw a line in, and luckily enough pulled out one more Whiting. I was content at that, and didn’t hang around hoping for more fish - we had 2 Whiting, and that was enough for us for dinner.

Friday 3rd May 2013

We had a lazy day at camp on the Thursday, and packed up camp on the Friday morning with the plan to head toward Sandy Cape.

We got stuck coming off the beach at Champagne Pools, but it was as easy as clearing some sand from the tyres, backing it out, and having another go. The mistake I made was to attempt it the first time in 2nd gear high range (we had made it easily the day before in high range). With the extra weight and drag of the trailer the engine simply bogged down ever so slightly, and once it was out of the torque range we stopped. We didn’t get bogged so much as just ran out of power! At the 2nd attempt in 3rd low range we cruised right on through.

This is me checking the air pressures, just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. Thankfully all the pressures were fine and we easily got it right the 2nd time around!

Unfortunately, not much further along the track we came across an old Suzuki Sierra stopped in the middle of the track. At first we thought they were bogged, but upon getting out to take a closer look we found that they were broken down. To cut a long story short, by the time we got through low tide had passed and we wouldn’t be able to make it to Sandy Cape. We saw the occupants (an elder man and his grand son) later on in the day. The problem turned out to be a fuel issue, and they had fixed it by tieing their jerry can to the roof and gravity feeding the carburettor from that! Gotta love a good bush mechanic fix…

We camped at Duling Camping Zone. The drive off the beach up to the camping area was very steep, and we needed a couple of attempts at it.

Coming soon: video of us getting stuck, then getting through on the 2nd go!

Check out Part 2 of our Fraser Island Adventure for lots more photo and video!

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Posted on May 11, 2013 in Articles & Lap of Australia | Tags: TravelAustraliaLap of Australia