Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fraser Island

Fraser Island is the fourth largest island off Australia, it is the largest sand island in the world, amazingly a third of the island is made up of freshwater. The whole of Fraser Island is a World Heritage Site. It is a special place.

We finally got to enjoy the sights of the island from the comfort of a 4WD 6 seater, with our kind driver Rick pointing out features of interest. Kind? I hear you say. Why yes! Not only to us, his precious cargo, but also to others. On the way home he stopped to help a tourist stuck deep in the sand. We dug him out, and gave him a push backwards to freedom.

Driving tip of the day for soft sand ...

- if you get stuck stop immediately or you will dig yourself in.
- reverse out
- get back to hard sand by the waterside.
- have a long run in on hard sand to get sufficient speed up to carry you over the soft spot.

Easy - when you know how!

We started our day driving around the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park, of which Fraser Island is a part. Lovely farming hinterland, cattle; some fruit such as mangoes; pecan nuts looked to be doing well. No kangaroos spotted. We avoided the main track, Cooloola Way, travellling instead on tracks through some managed large pine stands. We skirted the mixed broadleaved woodland. Apparently brumbies, wild Australian horses can sometimes be found here, but we didn't see any. Rick told us Fraser Island had been cleared of brumbies some time back - they were a mix of Arab x Suffolk Punch and other heavy horses used in early timber production and it is said they were released here on the mainland. Perhaps a more likely story however is that they were just shot and left for the Dingoes to eat.

The ferry from Inskip Point, near Rainbow Beach, was waiting to take us to Hook Point on Fraser Island. We saw dolphins effortlessly looping through the water. The tide was pretty high so we went inland to get round Hook Point on Fraser Island then back onto the beach for some difficult driving through soft sand.

We stopped for champagne and orange juice (oh yes, very civilised!) on the beach where a freshwater creek discharges into the sea near Dilly Village. If we thought the flies back at Norah Head were a problem the ones on the beach were 5 times as big and they bit - but no flies on me, thank goodness!

We moved onto Eurong where there are shops and accommodation then took the main track inland across the island to Central Station passing through the various forests - Rick called it low and high skeletal forest. We saw loads of Australian flora amongst many others:

Epiphytes growing on trees.
Scribbly Gums, so called because of the scribble markings left on the trunk by a moth.
River Red Gums - nicknamed Widowmakers because of their habit of dropping large branches. Do not camp under these!
Blackbutts - which have a sooty black bark lower down and I'm pretty sure Rick said they could survive fire.
Satinays - a Turpentine a rot resistant wood, used after WW2 to reconstruct Tilbury Docks.

Logging of these continued up to 1991 when the Island was handed over to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS). World Heritage status was granted in 1993.

We arrived at Central Station, where in earlier times steam engines hauled logs down to the west coast to be taken to Hervey Bay on the mainland. There would have been machinery sheds and stables. Houses, tents, bark huts, vegetable gardens and a school for forestry workers and their families. Now in this clearing there is a car park and a toilet block.

We walked along the boardwalk from Central Station. This was constucted a couple of years ago to protect the Wanggoolba Creek and its gulley which provides a micro-climate for a wide variety of plants to flourish. This sheltered area has high humidity from the constant freshwater flow of the Creek, protection from wind by the steep sides of the gulley, and perhaps most importantly fire doesn't come down into it - some of the King Ferns we saw are reputed to be over 2,000 years old. Oh yes and we also saw a Kookaburra here glaring at us from his tree.
King Fern at Wanggoolba Creek, Fraser Island

Then onto Lake McKenzie a large freshwater lake, one of a number of inland freshwater lakes. It was much bigger than I had imagined, and was fringed with fine white sand. Our guru Rick explained its formation as being like a saucer balanced on water, the saucer being formed by by impermeable soft stone formed over the years out of compressed vegetation and the lake we swam in being held in that saucer. The water in the aquifer below the lakes is hundreds of years old and finds its way to the sea via various creeks and gullies. Thousands of litres are pumped out each day into the sea.
Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island
After a relaxing swim in the lake we had a bbq lunch and then it was time to head back to the ferry. Our drive along the beach this time was on firm sand as the tide had dropped and we sped along. Back on the mainland the tidal conditions enabled us to drive along 40 Mile Beach, which is a designated highway with road speed signs, 80kph. This is where we helped out the bogged down tourist.

As we headed towards Noosa the sky blackened and reports of a severe weather warning were received from other drivers on the radio network they use. The lightning over Noosa was spectacular, the sky turned green and it started to hail - enormous hailstones hammered on the roof, our only cover was trees which were by now lashing around in the wind that had got up. One of the ferries had come off its cables and the other was not working until the storm died down so we sat it out.

The hail turned to rain, thunder filled the air. Of course we did eventually get home, not very late. When we drove past the park by the river we could see several fallen trees. A couple of branches were down on the tree by our drive and hail had
broken a small window. The glazier will get to us - eventually! We are about 2,000th on his list.

Now I can appreciate why Australians are so keen on keeping up with weather conditions. Everywhere we have been people are preoccupied with the weather. I thought this was just an English condition but not a bit of it. Everyone here with access to the Internet keeps a close check on the weather observation stations. It is not just concern about the current drought it is also because life is lived so outdoors here. Weather conditions can be extreme with flash floods and so on. You have to be aware.

What an adventure. A lovely day.


PMM&L said...

Cripes sheila - you've been busy! Looks brilliant.

Rich said...

Oh, you've been to Fraser! It's beautiful up there. Hope you're having fun.

PS. Mahmood is having a wonderful time bowling against the PM's XI, no-ball after wide after no-ball! Brilliant!

Rich said...

Damn it! Spoke to soon, it must have been a clever ruse.

TR Birt b Mahmood 40 (45b 2x4 2x6) SR: 88.88

That'll teach me to tease you...

axx said...

pmm&l - thought I would give you a little light bedtime reading!

It is brilliant we are having a ball

axx said...

rich - thanks for latest score. We've just come in from another fab meal out and I'm not up to speed on match to comment properly ...

No doubt the boys are just warming up. Wides are indeed Mahmood's cunning plan to lull your PMs XI into false sense of security - and you still haven't seen our secret weapon Monty!,