Island life

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November 8th 2013
Published: November 8th 2013
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Being just 30 minutes off shore seems enough to keep Great Keppel Island off the tourist track. There were just a couple of dozen people on the ferry.

As the boat pulled in to Fisherman's beach we were met by a battered 4x4 - it's there to take our bags not us! We walked with Jo up the beach to find our room, a permanent tent, set on a wooden base and under a wooden roof.

The island is very unspoilt. All around are trees and the sound of bird song. Rainbow lorikeets join us at every meal and Jo explained how to keep our food secure from the possums who watch from the trees in the evenIng and then run around on the tent roof in the night. At breakfast a knee high bush plover wandered around us, overhead parrots were calling.

Walking tracks criss-cross the island - there are no roads. The tracks through the eucalyptus forest usually lead to one of the empty beaches that ring the island. There were more beaches than tourists so we could have a beach each if we like! The waters were clear and there is coral just off shore.

The islands have a long history. For thousands of years only aborigines lived on them but in 1902 western settlers kicked them off. But settlers numbers dwindled until there was just one old lady raising sheep. In more recent times there was a resort - built in the '60s, bankrupt in 2007. In 2002 we did apologise to the aborigines and we gave back some of their island land but none have returned.

There are no shops on Great Keppel as only 14 people live here now. And there is only one place to eat, the Hideaway bar. We backpacked in some food but on our last night decided to eat at the bar - where the only thing on offer that night was spagetti bolognese.

Great Keppel could soon be a very different place. Planning permission has been granted for a new "eco resort", complete with a 5* hotel, 170 villas, a golf course, a casino and a new airstrip. Life may change completely for this natural paradise.

Heading south once more, we pass parched cattle ranches; mango and orange orchards; melon and pineapple patches and, of course, more sugar cane. We also pass the still smoking remains of a bush fire. These are on the news all the time but this is the first one we have come across.

We are now in Hervey Bay, another little town with an endless beach and an amazing 900m long pier. The Flashpackers hostel is fairly typical of the places we have stayed with dorms and double rooms, some en suite. The common areas include a lounge, a TV room and a kitchen. Here we all cook our meals and store our food - perishables in a big cold room, other stuff in labelled bags on the food shelves. Outside is a shaded terrace, some sun loungers and a nice pool. It is very comfortable cheap living.

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