Life of a beach bum...... From Cape Hillsborough to Fraser Island

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May 20th 2007
Published: August 7th 2007
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In a bid to step off the east coast backpacker travellator for a few days I hired a car and headed south from Airlie in a little blue speed mobile, down to places where neither Greyhound nor Oz Experience buses go ;0) First stop was Cape Hillsborough and in keeping with my backpacker free plan I upgraded to a cabin.... en-suite bathroom, my own kitchenette, sole control of the TV remote and only me sleeping in the room... pure heaven! There are a couple of short walks to do here - the best took @ 2hours and saw me walking out to Andrews Point. A couple of view points along the way gave great views back along the beach and out to Wedge Island, but the highlight was definitely the butterflies - for most of the walk it felt like I was walking through a butterfly farm, with butterflies of all different sizes and colours seemingly flying up in front of me with each step I took. The butterflies weren't the reason I'd come here though, rather I'd heard that kangaroo's can be found hanging out on the beach early in the morning. The lady at reception told me to be down on the beach for 6.20am... a slightly precise time I thought as I set my alarm, but it turns out that that's because they're let out at about 6.15am and it takes them 5 minutes to get down to the beach.... where they know there'll be a man with some free food! These are Eastern Grey kangaroos and most of them are young orphans that have been rescued - they go off and do their own kangaroo thing by day but return at night. Having taken far too many photo's I headed back to my veranda for breakfast, and as I sat there quietly reviewing my photo's 3 young wallabies appeared and started foraging for food in the bushes just outside my chalet. After breakfast I headed off to Eungella National Park, a few hours drive away, in search of a platypus or two (I wasn't convinced the V shape I'd seen moving across the surface of the river in the Atherton Tablelands really counted as a spotting....), but alas it seemed my wildlife spotting luck had run out :0(

Back in Airlie I had 6 hours to kill before my night bus left for Agnes Water. I really don't get on very well with night buses... I never manage to sleep on them and there's always the dilemma of what to do until it leaves, in this case at 11.50pm. I didn't fancy the idea of a beer (figuring I'd end up either being too drunk to get on or need to stop every 5 mins for the toilet...) so I dragged dinner out for as long as I could and when it seemed I was in danger of being booted out (the staff clearing away around me and the lights going off being a bit of a clue...) I headed down to the bus stop. Fortunately I wasn't the only one getting on the bus here and as we'd all run out of things to do at least I had some company whilst I watched the minutes tick by!!

Agnes Water is a small town and to be honest there's not much to do here other than relax - if I'd had more time I could easily have spent a week here just chilling out on the beach and taking life easy. As it turned out I had to go posh again and shared a motel room with a girl I'd met on the bus down from Airlie - with a festival in nearby 1770 at the weekend my 'turn up and wing it' approach to finding accommodation finally fell apart as both the hostels in town were full. So instead I had to make do with an en-suite motel room that had a veranda and BBQ outside and the beach just 100m away through the bush. Life was tough ;0) Unfortunately I only had two days here - the first we were still pretty tired from the bus so we went for a short walk along the beach and spent a chilled afternoon checking out 'town' and lazing around with our books. The next day I was determined to make up for my 'laziness' so went for a long walk along the beach, got lost in the undergrowth whilst climbing up the cliff at the end and finally made my way to the town of 1770 - the second landing site of James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour in May 1770. The highlight of my stay though was a sunset sea kayaking trip. We were using sit-on-top kayaks and with the waves right for it we got to try kayak surfing. I've been kayaking before but never surf kayaking and it was soooo much fun!! Being the only solo person on the trip I also got the easiest seat in the house - these were two person kayaks and as the only other solo person around was the guide.... ;0) We flipped over once but the water so shallow that you just stood up, climbed back on (in a very ungainly way in my case) and kept on going. After about half an hour of surfing (which might not sound much but it was really hard work!) we pulled up onto the beach with some vino and chips and watched the most amazing sunset.... with the kayaks on the beach in the foreground it would have made the most amazing photo..... except my camera was back in the motel room :0(

Anyway another day and another 6am bus saw me heading down to Rainbow Beach for my trip out to Fraser Island. I'd opted to do a 3 day self drive camping trip and ended up doing it with a group of 5 Irish lads, 3 English girls and a Swiss girl. Although it was great fun to be honest, especially as I was limited on time, if I could do it all again I'd just do a day trip and spend the extra days somewhere else. The scenery was pretty and driving the beach was great fun - most of the group either couldn't or wouldn't drive so it was down to me and one of the Irish guys to do it all. Before we could leave we first had to pack up the 4wd though. The rain started almost as soon as we started piling stuff on the roof, making progress rather slow anyway plus it pretty soon became clear that the girls would be doing all the work on this trip, the boys being noticeable by their absence as soon as anything needed doing... apart from drinking beer of course! Once we got on the island things brightened up a bit and we had lunch in the sun down by the Maheno wreck (once the girls had unpacked the food from the roof of the jeep and prepared it all of course.... I could already tell this was going to get on my nerves!). Built in 1905 as a luxury passenger steam ship the 400-foot Maheno spent 9 years taking passengers across the Tasman before being refitted and enlisted in the Navy as a hospital ship during WW1. After the war she resumed life as a cruise liner and was finally decommissioned in 1935. Her final journey was to take her to Japan to be used for scrap, but foul weather on the way broke the tow rope and the ship was wrecked off the beaches of Fraser Island. The elements have rusted and broken what remains of the ship, leaving behind a ruined hull that is the most beautiful shades of red and orange.

Next morning saw me down on the beach for sunrise and completely oblivious to the Dingo that came behind me as I stood there taking photo's! He looked at me and growled, I stood there and looked back, he growled once more and then backed away on his belly. I didn't think I looked that scary first thing in the morning! Today was my turn at driving and it was sooooo much fun.... there were a few minor hicups like getting a bit to close to the sea, going through the surf and soaking everyone as the spray came in the open windows.... and then again at the end of the day when we were late getting down to the beach beacuse the others had wanted to spend longer at Lake Mackenzie.... with not much room to manoeuvre because it was high tide, a slightly too sharp turn on a slant followed by a skid on two wheels saw the top heavy jeep nearly going over... a combination of luck and somehow steering the right way saw us staying upright though and heading off down the beach in search off a campsite. Well it woke everyone up anyway! We headed up to Indian Head in the morning and spent a chilled hour at the cliff top wildlife spotting - eagles in the trees, huge rays and turtles in the sea below. The afternoon saw us stopping at Eli Creek on the way to Lake Mackenzie, the latter with it's crystal clear waters surrounded by a white sandy beach. The next morning we spent relaxing at Lake Wabby - a green lake surrounded on one side by green forests and the other by steep white sand dunes - before heading back to Rainbow Beach. When we arrived at the ferry we found another jeep already there bogged down in sand and sat there chuckling away at their predicament for a good few minutes... until we tried to move on and found the exact same thing had happened to us.... and no I wasn't driving that time!!!

Next up - Back to Sydney, Helen visits from NZ and one last Aussie road trip!

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