We have literally just ticked over eight weeks on the road, and, while we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, the rhythm of this new life on the road is starting to feel almost normal. We now feel like we actually know a few things, and aren’t necessarily the new kids on the caravan park block anymore. Packing up, driving, and setting up at the next camp all seems to be much more second nature than they were only a few short weeks ago. However, all this bravado probably needs to be kept in check, and we may well need to revisit some of these statements when we escape the comforts of the eastern coastline in the near future.
From Byron, we made a couple of very short hops to Hastings Point, then onto Broadwater on the Gold Coast. Both of these stops involved some quality time catching up with more family, including an off-season trip to Sea World. The lasting memory of our dabble with the Gold Coast theme parks will be that our 2½ year old subsequently developed an obsession with roller coasters. He continues to excitedly and incessantly describe different roller coaster rides, role plays roller coasters, and is generally doing our heads in over roller coasters. “Up, up, up, up, up, up doowwwwnnnnnnn!” He also now sleeps with a Sea World brochure tucked into the end of his bunk bed.
Next we moved onto Cotton Tree; a sweet little pocket of the Sunshine Coast nestled at the junction of the ocean and the mouth of the Maroochy river. Here we had a fly-in visit from Austockphoto co-founder Claire and her two kids. It was great that Claire was able to get a taste of our life on the road, and the kids got to generally run amok together. This was also a good time for us all to put our heads together ever-so-briefly about Austockphoto. It is an exciting time for this little venture as the hi-calibre contributors steadily trickle in and the next phase of the website is being constructed in the background by our web development team..
In the last few days at Cotton Tree, we had a growing sense of nervous excitement about the next leg of the trip: Fraser Island. This would mark a number of firsts for us – driving on sand, shifting into 4WD mode, and leaving the comfort of our caravan behind for actual, real camping. Thankfully we were meeting up with some seasoned Fraser veterans with Matt’s brother Chris and his family to be our tour guides … and provide the camping gear.
On the drive to Rainbow Beach we were madly reading manuals about 4WD operation. We had also been given a tyre deflator, and some advice that we should “drop ‘em down to ‘bout 20″. But we had no real idea how to do either. In the end, however, everything ended up being smooth sailing. We deflated the tyres, turned the dial to the notch that said ‘sand’, drove out onto the soft, soft sand to meet the barge with a little trepidation, but our Jeep ‘Jasmine’ handled it admirably.
Driving off the barge onto the hard sand of Fraser’s shoreline was an amazing feeling, and perhaps one we weren’t fully expecting. Motoring down the beach in such a remote location, with the ocean only meters away on one side, and the rugged sand hills on the other gives you a strange sense of freedom and adventure. And while navigating the rough, rutted, and at times, brutal inland tracks on the island was more challenging, the whole experience was quite exhilarating.
In our action-packed two days on the island we ticked off a number of the major attractions. We saw some of the whitest sand and swam in some of the clearest water imaginable at Lake Mackenzie, drifted down a crystal clear river flow at Eli Creek, checked in on the fascinating Maheno Shipwreck, and tried our hand at sandboarding down the huge sand dunes at Lake Wabby. Although it was a short stay, we definitely gained a massive appreciation of the natural wonder of Fraser Island. It is amazing that it is the world’s largest sand island, yet it is full of dense vegetation and stunning fresh water lakes and creeks. It is certainly very apt that it is a major part of the Great Sandy National Park, but it is also definitely worthy of it’s World Heritage Listing. All-in-all that this was a great side-trip, and the camping went off without a hitch too.
It was, however, very nice to see our trusty and comfortable caravan again. We had a couple of days to de-sand and regroup in the Gold Rush town of Gympie. The heritage buildings and nice parklands hinted that it would have been a grand old town in its heyday, but these days it feels a bit down on its luck; a town which people visit on their way somewhere else. And so, we marched on further north to waterfront spot at Scarness in Hervey Bay. We have had a nice few days here exploring the beachfront and surrounding fishing villages, and are preparing to launch further into North Queensland. On our next few stops we are looking forward to sampling another World Heritage Area, The Great Barrier Reef. This in itself is a bit daunting as we just read that the reef runs for 2300 km along the Queensland coastline – man, this is a big country and we have a long way to go!