There were four of us. Loitering curbside in the pre-dawn hour of 5 AM, waiting to be picked up for our tour to Fraser Island. As it happened, ours was the first and thus earliest stop for the van which eventually collected a whole bunch of tourists to do several different tours organized by the Discovery Group tour outfit.
I neither remember where we were picked up, possibly somewhere in Mooloolaba, nor where we switched from the van to the actual excursion vehicle, an impressive behemoth with all-terrain tires. My friend Gaby, as a local, had made all the arrangements for herself, her German cousin Sabine, her friend Linda, and me, die Vierte in unserem Bunde – to rescript Friedrich Schiller ever so slightly. The van drove us north, I know that much, through off and on drizzle to a meeting point with the Discovery Group Excursion vehicles somewhere in or around North Noosa. Along the way, we crossed the Maroochy River and saw the impressive volcanic dome of Mount Coolum in the distance.
We also traversed a narrow waterway on a small ferry, where our van was stationed next to a horse trailer.
Soon after we switched to the sturdy excursion van, which took us through some wet bush to the first attraction, the beaches of the Cooloola Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park.
Believe it or not, there are 700 000-year-old dunes in this National Park, yet tourist vehicles like ours drive up and down the beaches and camping is allowed in certain sections. I was flabbergast!
During a rain-free period, we stopped and everyone descended from the bus and did a little beach combing.
Eventually, we arrived at a spit of sand where the ferry to and from Fraser Island docks.
We boarded the ferry and sailed toward our island adventure.
As we disembarked on the island, the rains got ready to settle in for good. This was the view from our truck windows for pretty much the rest of our tour.
The early morning tea promised mysteriously dropped from the itinerary, too rainy, maybe? But toward midday, we were supposed to have some extended outdoorsy activities with a hike through the island bush, followed by a swim in gorgeous jade-colored Lake Boorangoora, after which we would settle in for a sumptuous picnic lunch. Well. Forget bush walking. It rained so hard that it was pretty much impossible to even run the few steps from the bus to the facilities without getting soaked to the skin. We tried anyway and got soaked to the skin. In self-defense, we changed into our swim gear because it was drier than our regular clothing. For a while, we loitered on the covered porch alongside the changing cubicles and hybrid toilets, looking at spider webs while fending off mosquitos.
Eventually, that got to be pretty boring, so we set off for the lake. Its milky-turquoise color was truly remarkable and I was happy I had a chance to see it and even swim in this liquid jade for a little while. No pictures, unfortunately, since the rain never stopped altogether and it was impossible to keep the camera dry. By all means google for images, it’s well worth the effort!
Lunch, on the other hand, was a bit of a sad affair. The coach drivers were in charge of setting out lunch for their passengers. They carried coolers filled with provisions packed in Tupperware containers to the tables. We bullied our driver into serving lunch earlier than he had planned, mostly, because there wasn’t much else to do. We had already badgered him to open his wine chest for us, which turned out to be limited to a few 4-oz servings of Sauvignon Blanc Wine-In-A-Glass novelties. The wine was as bad as it was expensive, but our crew, including a genuine Frenchman, bought the driver out in no time flat. The partially flooded picnic area
was sheltered under hastily stretched tarps which controlled the wetness semi-successfully.
It has to be said, though, that the spirit of our international group, which ranged from Australian to Central Europian to Norwegen to Israeli tourists with one Brazilian and one Ethiopian lady thrown in, remained high throughout!
From the bus, we were privileged to witness a solitary Dingo.
The fate of the Fraser Island Dingos, Canis lupus dingo, Canidae, is a difficult conundrum. On one hand, you’re looking at the last known group of pure bread Dingos in Australia, on the other hand, their low numbers may already manifest serious inbreeding in a critically undersized gene pool. As government evaluations and actions are notoriously slow the world over, we may very well have observed a member of one of the last generations of these unique critters on Fraser Island.
After one more brief stop for a cup of tea in soft drizzle under a canopy of tall trees on the Island,
we ferried back to Inskip beach on the mainland.
On Cooloola Beach, we stopped first for a brief cliff hike, where, to my delight, I actually spotted a large turtle swimming in the foamy surf.
And then we paused one last time to take a closer look at ancient dunes in the Red Canyon.
Despite clear signage,
humanity again demonstrated its overwhelming stupidity and need for self-validation through destruction, even in this unique and serene remote area. How sad that there only exists such a minimal sense of responsibility for our natural treasures.
Better to turn around and look out over the Coral Sea and breath deeply.
Like the Frenchman in the picture, I gathered a small amount of loose Red Canyon sand near the margin with the regular beach sand, to bring back for a friend, who collects sand from across the globe. The only container I had was the Wine-In-A-Glass I kept as a souvenir. My travel Kachina felt right at home in the desert sands.
In conclusion, it was sheer bad luck to take the tour on such a wet day. The Cooloola Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park with its many beaches, waterways, wetlands, and bush, not to forget the unique Fraser Island, are a great experience even in bad weather. I am simply not a natural group traveler, to put it mildly. When the bus stops and the enchanting natural scenery fills with chatty humans taking selfies, I want to chase them all into the conveniently close woods. And when the seating options during lunch offer a choice between sitting in a puddle or under an impromtu minor waterfall, I get grumpy. Let’s face it, I’m a spoiled, ornery old lady. It was, however, a whole lot of fun despite squishy shoes and clammy underwear … Thanks 💐 Gaby, for taking the trouble to get us to Fraser Island.
Booking a tour is the only way to get a glimps of the natural beauty of the park, especially for foreign tourists. But if you don’t mind jumping through any number of hoops and have the right typ of vehicle available, you can plan your own itinerary. This governnment website gives importanted guidelines and links. Good luck!