Stop #3: Hervey Bay/ Fraser Island 7/19 – 7/23

Fraser Island is a world-heritage site located along the southern coast of Queensland. Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay are the two access points to get to the island. I had booked a tour that departs from Hervey Bay to Fraser Island. Hervey Bay itself is known for whale sightings and is a popular place to go on whale tours. Hervey Bay is spread out along several bays with shops and restaurants hugging the esplanade.

I arrived at Hervey Bay early because the original 3 day 2 night tour for Fraser Island got pushed back to 20th since the tour on the 19th did not have enough people going. I was worried about checking into the Palace Adventures hostel linked with the tour because of old reviews saying that people have found bed bugs here. Luckily, everything looked relatively clean when I arrived. I arrived in the late evening so reception was closed. The shuttle bus driver picked me up and gave me my room key without asking for validation of who I am. I walked along the esplanade with my Canadian roommates the next day. The esplanade stretched out to be 14 km long. Other than this festival celebrating the whale mating season at the beach, not much was going on in the area.

Fraser Island

_MG_6630We had a briefing the day before our departure with a short overview of the island and things to bring there. We were dropped off at Coles to buy our groceries for food for the next few days since meals would not be provided on the tour. We had to meet at 6:30 AM the next day to watch a safety video of Fraser Island and the precautions we need to take to avoid dangerous encounters with dingos and driving on sand. Of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world, 8 of them are found in Australia and 7 of those live on Fraser Island. The ferry that brought us over to Fraser Island also carried our vehicles on it.

The sandy hill we climbed to get to Lake Wabby
The sandy hill we climbed to get to Lake Wabby

Navigating around Fraser Island requires a 4WD because the island is built on sand. Sometimes we drive through hard dried sand and sometimes we have to race against the waves on the soft sand to avoid getting dragged into sea. When we arrived, we drove through the hard sand to get to the first lake.  It was a bumpy drive up and down the hilly roads. Sitting sideways on the tour guide’s van, we bobbed up and down with the curvature of the road. It was actually fun to be on a bumpy ride because it kept us awake. The lake had really soft sand that is partially made from silica. Our tour guide Jeff told us that silica is a good exfoliator for our skin and good alternative to shampoo for our hair. Just for fun, I rubbed the sand all over the legs. It did feel softer after I ‘exfoliated’ my skin, but I couldn’t tell if that was just psychological. After having lunch at Central Station, we proceed onto a hike over sand dunes to reach Lake Wabby. As much as I love hiking, I really do not enjoy hiking up hills of sand since the soft sinking surface. I was told there are little fishes in Lake Wabby that would nibble the dead skin off your toes. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any fishes in the lake.

As our tour guide drove by this rundown campsite, I thought to myself, _MG_6446“Please don’t stop the vehicle.” I felt a sense of relief when we drove past the campsite, but my heart sank when the driver made a U-turn and parked at that campsite. I knew beforehand that there would be no showers on site, but no one told me there are no toilets either! It would have been nice if our tour guide gave us a heads up that the previous restroom stop was going to be the last one for the night. As much as my hygiene standards gone down the drain after the Western Australia camping trip, this is a whole new low – bush camping. Everyone was shocked to learn about the toilet situation.

So what happens if we need to pee? I thought we were told to stay away from the bushes because that is where snakes tend to nest, but we are also expected to pee and poop by the bushes. We have a designated shovel aka the ‘shit stick’ for you to dig a hole if you want to poop. By default, everyone knows what you are up to if you are seen with the shit stick. As a girl, I am not even trained to aim to pee, how can I aim where my bowel lands? Solution: Build a hill instead of digging a hole. Also, another concern is when we want to engage in excretion of any sort, we put ourselves at risk of dingo danger. While dingoes may have a friendly appearance, they are aggressive hounds to avoid. When you have to pay your duty at night, be sure to take the dingo stick!

The highlight of the tour was the first night. After dinner, we sat on the sand right by shore and looked up in the sky. The stars lit up the sky and it felt like the world was ours. Undisturbed by other lights, I could clearly see the milky way. People kept pointing out the shooting stars they saw, but I kept missing them. At some point, I was so determined to spot a shooting star that I decided to lay down on the sand and concentrate on the sky. Still, the stars always seem to pass by in the opposite direction of where I was looking. I gave up. I got up and told my friend that I will probably see one when I stop looking. And there, right when I finished my sentence, I saw a shooting star flash passed my eyes!

I woke up extra early the next day in hopes of watching sunrise. Just my luck, a huge rain cloud was blocking the sun. It ended up being rainy on the day where we visited most of the attractions on Fraser. We drove along the 77 Mile Beach to the Champagne Pool. Champagne Pool is a body of water separated from the sea by a formation of rocks. When the waves are big enough, they splash over into the pool. This one fully clothed guy who was walking along the rocks got hit by a big wave and was completely drenches – pure genius. We also visited Indian Head where a few of us spotted a whale! Along the beach we passed by the Maheno shipwreck and Eli creek.

Champagne Pool
Champagne Pool
Maheno Shipwreck
Maheno Shipwreck

We picked a good tent as many of the other folks had rain seeping into their tents. Unfortunately, the third day was as gloomy as the previous day. _MG_6531It was quite a bummer since we visited Lake McKenzie before leaving the island. The sun was hidden behind the clouds when we were at Lake McKenzie. I wish I was able to see the lake on a bright sunny day. The sand on this lake has the highest concentration of silica on the island. Some of the backpackers took this opportunity to wash their hair with the sand and take a bath. They claim that their hair felt softer, but once again I question if that is psychological. The sky finally cleared up when we were waiting at Kingfisher Bay for the ferry to bring us back to Hervey Bay.

This tour turned out to be better than I expected mainly because I had really low expectations after the reviews I read online. The rain definitely detracted from the experience, but I am glad to be able to enjoy the island when it was nice. I really enjoyed the car ride on the sand; it was quite the experience!

While waiting for the Greyhound bus the next day, I decided to walk along the esplanade until I reached Urangan Pier to see the sunset.  Urangan Pier is one of the longest piers in Australia extending over 800 meters into the water. The beautiful sunset sighting from the pier was worth the 2 hour walk. I figure it is better to wear myself out for the overnight bus to Airlie beach that I would soon be boarding.

Urangan Pier
Urangan Pier
Sun rays piercing through the clouds at sunset
Sun rays piercing through the clouds at sunset
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