Driving, Dolphins and Dingos: The Great Walk
I've been long overdue an adventure, and I knew my friend Kay in Bundaberg would be up for one. We first met on a trip to the Southern Ranges in Tasmania that had to be aborted after notorious Tassie winds shattered the four season tent Kay had been sharing...I'll be posting about that adventure later:) Since I was in Queensland anyway, I figured I might as well pop up north. Neither of us had been to the World Heritage Listed Fraser Island, and although we only had a day to plan, we decided to give it a go.
Most people who go to Fraser Island either have or hire a four-wheel drive. The Island has almost no paved roads, and the beach functions as a highway. The roads are particularly hard going at the moment because it hasn't rained in so long. But Kay read about 'The Great Walk' which is a little more our style, traversing 90 kilometres of the 120km island. When Kay called to organise camping permits, she was informed that about half the walk was closed due to "inundation", but we could still walk from Happy Valley, on the East coast, to Lake Mackenzie, one of the Island's major attractions.
The Great Taxi Monopoly
That seemed like a sensible option anyway, considering we only had four days total, and would need to pack, drive 90-minutes from Bundaberg to River Heads, catch the 45-minute ferry to Kingfisher Bay, and then catch an hour-and-a-half taxi ride to the start of our walk. Kay booked the camp sites, and I organised the taxi: $160 one way, but what can you do? Fraser Island Taxi Service is the only operator on the island, and they have only one car. The driver rang mid-morning to confirm that she would pick us up at 1:15, and that we should walk to the end of the jetty as soon as the boat docked to meet her. From the top deck of the barge we could see a pod of dolphins playing. Talk about the perfect start to our long weekend.
The barge was running about 10 minutes late, but we didn't see our driver when we arrived. We watched as all the other passengers drove away before I called to see if we were waiting at the wrong spot.
'Oh,' said the taxi driver, 'Our car broke down and we've had to do repairs. I didn't call because I wasn't sure where you were. I'll try to get there at about 3:30 or 4p.m but I have to take another couple as they have to catch the barge, and they have a young child, so they are my priority. I can drive you to your camp site if it's too late when I get there, she added. That way you won't even have to walk.'
Was it worth explaining that we actually WANTED to walk? That was sort of the point of the trip....
None of the cars we flagged down were heading in the right direction, so we sat inside the Kingfisher Bay Resort to collect our thoughts. The staff agreed to ask around but warned that chances were slim. While we waited for them to attend to a long queue of customers, I patrolled the car park, just in case.
The conversations got a little repetitive. What? You're WALKING? Are you SURE you don't just want to hire a vehicle? You know it's about 20 Kilometres, right?!
Staff at the resort suggested I hang out at the petrol station instead of the car park. On the way over, I passed an older woman, and explained the situation. Sorry, she said, we're not going that way. A few minutes later though, her husband called out. They were indeed heading to our campsite in 'a round about sort of way.' His son had a vehicle all to himself. We could put our backpacks in one car, hop a ride in the other, and get a view of some of the island's bumpy back roads. And no $160 price tag either:)
Anthony is a former IT guy who's working in security while he builds up to his goal of a currency trading business. He has a six-moniter computer system set up in Brissy....I wish!! As a kid he and his family had holidayed in Fraser, back when you could drive just about anywhere, and the wildlife to tourist ratio was about half the rate it is today.
Supposedly dingos are prolific, but this is the only one we saw!
Anthony and co dropped us at our intended campsite at about 4:30p.m. Meanwhile the Taxi driver missed my text message and arrived at the resort at 4p.m. Think we made the right choice! We'd probably have still opted to walk, but it was nice to have a relaxing evening sleeping out under the stars with an almost-full moon.
We had the campground, and the lake, all to ourselves...never mind that it was school holidays. No one walks in these parts! The campgrounds on Fraser Island are posh! Each site comes with a metal dingo-proof box for food storage, and a great wooden table. I did have my first encounter with a Jack Jumper: those ants have some serious fangs! But despite my long held paranoia, I did not go into anaphylactic shock. Phew!
Day one of Fraser Island adventure definitely did not go as planned. And I'm glad!:)
Stay tuned for Part II. And don't worry the pictures get better:)
For more info on The Great Walk click here.