13 October 2010

My Fraser Experience

K'gari - Paradise is what the Butchulla People call Fraser Island, the biggest sand island in the world and one of the World Heritage listed places in Queensland.
It has been a while since I wrote my last blog and well, it's been a while since I visited Australia. Now I am back and the first place I went to on my day off was Fraser Island! Recently I was asked by a German newspaper which is my favourite place in Queensland and I had a really hard time deciding, but of all the places I experienced, I choose Fraser as one of my Top 2 (Lawn Hill National Park is the other).

So I was back but with more time on my hands. I took the two day trip with Fraser Experience Tours, the company recognises the Butchulla People as the traditional owners of Kgari (Fraser Island) and that by itself shows you with how much respect they treat the island and its habitat. There was no rushing, even though we got to see and experience so much,but that's what it's all about to experience Fraser and not just having been there. They don't do bus loads of people either, it's always a nice little group. AND best of all, they organise everything for you in those two days: water, breakfast, tea, lunch and dinner plus the accomodation (no tents!) and not to forget the transfer with the ferry.

After everyone was picked up from their hotel and hostels in Hervey Bay, we headed off to Rainbow Beach to catch the Manta Ray Car Ferry. It was a short and impressive ride over the ocean. The waves were hitting Fraser Island pretty hard, but our experienced driver and tour guide Neill stayed cool and manuvered the bus safely onto the sandy beach. First stop was Dilli Village our camp, we were housed in cabins, which can be so much better then tents especially when it gets windy. After some invigorating tea and biscuits we headed off to drive along the 75 Mile Beach. It's a highway, let me tell you: there are road signs, traffic rules and speed control. It makes you feel quite adventurous! Eli Creek was our swim for the day. When we stopped there, we found a seaturtle washed onto the banks of the sweet water creek. Neill took charge and showed us how to save a turtle. She was very exhausted but as soon as we brought her closer to the ocean she started paddling and gasping for the salty water. That totally made my day, yet there was more to come! We rode down Eli Creek, the current just takes you back to the beach.

Afterwards we hiked up the large rocky headland of Indian Head. The name was given by Captain Cook, when he saw "Indians", which in those times they called all natives, assembling on the rock. It is an historical and spiritual site of significance to the Aborigines. It is also a great vantage point for taking tons of pictures of 75 Mile Beach and the great sand dunes extending north, viewing sharks, turtles, dolphins and rays. If you are lucky you might even see a whale, but for sure you will see something! I really loved the fact that we could take our time.

Next we visited the coloured sands and marveled at the different shades of red, yellow and gold the sand showed glistening in the sunlight. Last stop was the Maheno Shipwreck. It used to be a luxury liner before and after that she served her time in the military. Now she sits at the beach deteriorating and changing her appearance constantly. I don't have to tell you that the shipwreck is very popular for photographers. At the end of the day we had an Aussie BBQ, played some games and just chatted away. The Dilli Village also had a 'natural swimming hole' for everybody who wanted to go for another swim.

I woke up the next morning refreshed. It had rained and everything smelled beautifully, the sun came out and a Dingo puppy had made it underneath the fence to check out our campsite. Of course, they are just adorable, but "No, you can not pet the puppy" it is a wild animal! We packed up and drove through the bush. Lake McKenzie was our first destination. Fraser Island has over 40 lakes, including half the world’s perched lakes, each unique with clear waters due to a filtering effect of the sand resulting in white beaches. Perched lakes develop when a saucer-shaped "hard pan" of organic debris, sand and peat forms in a depression between dunes. Water collects, slowly filtering to the watertable below. One of the most stunning perched lakes is Lake McKenzie. For two hours we could frolic on Main Beach, find a little spot of one's own or walk along the shore till you find secluded Second Beach. To boost our energy Neill had set up a beautiful lunch with wraps and a variety of ingredients. In the picnic area there was also a goana. We tried to take pictures of him without stressing or cornering him too much. But he was very happy baking in the sun.

Our last adventure of the trip would take us to Central Station, once the logging station on Fraser Island and through Pile Valley rainforest. Towering satinay and brush box trees, ancient ferns, palms and vines are supported by sand dunes and form this very dense rainforest. We took a walk along the crystal clear Wanggoolba Creek through this ancient rainforest that due to its 300 million old species of fern was the backdrop to BBC's "When Dinosaurs Walked the Earth". Before we headed back to Rainbow Beach taking the inland road we had a last tea & biscuits. It was a great group of people and the experience we all had of Fraser Island was a true one!