Day 17 – 26th Sept: We left the free campsite with the stinking latrine on the outskirts of Bundaberg and headed to Harvey bay. When we arrived, we didn’t really have much of a plan of what to do and there didn’t seem like a lot to do either. I had heard that Harvey Bay was renowned for whale watching and with it being the season for whale migration; Fred, Lisa and I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. Ollie ended up staying on dry land and when we returned was pissed with Zoe and Jade in a bar (shock with them three). The tour though was really good, we saw lots of different pods of humpback whales, and also got great views of Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, where we would be stepping foot in a few days. Not only did we see whales calmly swimming in the sea but also saw many breaching out the water and slapping their fins and tails all over the place. It really was a great spectacle and certainly worth the money. (Did you know each whale can be uniquely identified by the marking underneath its tail)
That night England were also playing the USA in the rugby world cup so after finding a campsite for the night we then headed to a sports bar to watch the match and have a few drinks.
Day 18 – 27th Sept: After our whistle-stop tour of Harvey bay, we made our way to Rainbow beach, which is the gateway to Fraser Island. Once we arrived Ollie and I had a little drive around in the camper van an even saw two dolphins swimming out at sea about 20 m in front of us, with the backdrop being Fraser Island. We had to be in Rainbow beach a day before our Fraser tour to receive an orientation from the tour company and get everything set up and prepared for departure tomorrow. The Tour company we went with was called Pippies, and like most tours consisted of 3 Days and two nights on the Island, Driving around in a convoy of 4×4 vehicles.
Day 19 – 28th Sept: Today marked the start of the Fraser Island tour and we got into Jeep number 2 two in the convoy which would become ours for the next view days! The car was able to fit 8 people although it was quite a squeeze. Initially, the car contained Fred Lisa, Ollie and Me, plus 4 other girls, two of the girls we later swapped out for Jade and Zoe as there were in a separate car to start off with which clearly wasn’t as fun as ours. Ollie was in the driving seat to start with and took us from the mainland over to Fraser Island. Within no more than 5 minutes of being on Fraser Island and behind the lead car (which was driven by the tour guide) car one got stuck in the sand trying to make its way off the beach and down one of the tracks that cut through the Island. It must have taken us a good 30 minutes to an hour to get the car freed from the sand and thankfully a nearby “local” was on hand to help us out with a tow otherwise I feel we would still be there now. Some of us lads were trying to push the car and dig sand out from underneath it while stationary, while everyone else just watched on. I knew before I even started to push that I was going to get covered in sand (to be honest I was covered in sand for the next 3 days) and right on cue one of the wheels freed and sprayed me with a face / full body of sand. Luckily Jade was on hand at just the right moment to capture video evidence of the incident and hopefully one day I’ll get £250 from you’ve been framed (although I’m pretty sure it’s no longer a TV show).
Once the lead car was finally free and I’d brushed as much sand off me as I could the convoy of 4 jeeps made our way to lake Mackenzie, which Ollie had a great time driving the 4×4 to and me in the front as DJ also enjoyed but for everyone cramped up in the back, it wasn’t so enjoyable being bumped all over the place. Lake Mackenzie offered a chance to cool and wash off in the refreshingly blue water.
After the stop, I then got the chance to drive us back to our campsite for the night. Driving the 4×4 down the sandy dirt tracks was so much fun and honestly, in true Jeremy Clackson fashion, the best tactic is to just floor it! Once off the much looser sandy tracks cutting across the Island, we then drove down the beach where the sand is more compact and acts much more like a normal road. It was such an unreal feeling cruising along on the beach with the tunes playing and wind in your hair.
Once at the campsite, we basically all just got pissed on cheap beers and goon. By the time night fell we had made our way down to the beach to stargaze at the once again glistening scene that greeted us above. This was made even more spectacular as a storm rolled in from out at sea and lit up the sky with thunder and lightning. I must point out at this point that our accommodation on Fraser Island was hardly luxury but was instead loads of two-man tents under a massive tarpaulin which thankfully kept the rain out from the storm. As I said it wasn’t the most glamorous, but it was certainly a nice break from the van and the lack of phone reception also allowed for a much-needed break from the outside world.
Day 20 – 29th Sept: Day 2 on Fraser and after some breakfast and a freshen up we were out in the 4×4 jeep convoy again for a day of exploring. The driving duties were rotated around for everyone to have a go (well those who had a license). Some drivers were better than others, with every car but car two (our car) getting stuck at some point during the tour. Although the Danish girl in our car did managed to pretty much crash us into a bush, but we’ll let her off. First stop of the day was Indian Heads viewpoint. Which was a big cliff overlooking the sea. It offered great views back at the beach and out to sea where we saw all manner of marine life, such as whales, dolphins, Turtles, Rays and small fish being hunted by the dolphins.
With Fraser Island being a sand island I had elected not to bring my flip flops for the day (or thongs as they’re called down under) this turned out to be a terrible idea, as unlike the sand on Whitehaven beach, the sand at Fraser does retain heat so I very quickly burned my feet walking back down from Indian Heads, although I ran most of it trying to find shady spots as I went. Next stop of the day was Champagne Falls, which I expected to be a waterfall but was, in fact, a collection of rock pools on the seafront edge, whereby when the sea came cascading over the rocks, it gave the impression of champagne bubble hence the name.
The walk to Champagne Falls was once again a treacherous one with no shoes on. I originally thought I was in luck seeing the wooden boardwalk leading to the beach, but upon reading the sign “danger boardwalk gets hot, wear shoes” I was less optimistic. Once again, I had to practically run along the boardwalk taking moments of respite wherever I could. I’m sure to many passers-by it must have looked like I just couldn’t contain my excitement to reach Champagne Falls, but quite simply my feet were on fire. Thankfully the water was ice cold like a nice glass of champagne, so this helped to soothe my feet a little, although the whole time we were there I was dreading the return journey to the jeep. I was even tempted to swim around the bay and take my chances with the sharks as opposed to going back via the boardwalk. Luckily the sky had clouded over a little bit, so the way back wasn’t so hot. From Champagne Falls we then went to Eli Creek which is a freshwater stream that runs from inland to the sea, we spent time here playing football on the beach, which was also the road. Plus had to avoid a scrap with one of the wild dingo’s that inhabit the island as well. After spending some time at the beach, we headed back to camp, stopping off at SS Maheno shipwreck. Which was washed ashore in 1935 by a cyclone where it has remained ever since.
Once back at the campsite we undertook a trek up the sand dunes, where the tour guide promised a nice sunset, but the effort to reach the top of the dunes didn’t really warrant the reward. Still, it was a nice little workout to build up an appetite for dinner which our jeep would be cooking tonight. It’s safe to say we smashed the pasta bolognese. Whereas the previous night I was left to eat green beans and half a sausage as there wasn’t enough food to go around, plus I lost odds on to give my burger away to Ollie which was devastating. Once again, we headed down to the beach to stargaze, before walking up the pitch-black path with no light, hoping we didn’t come across any dingo’s.
Day 21 – 30th Sept: Fraser Day 3 started bright and early around 7 am. First, we had to clean the camp and have breakfast before we headed to Lake Wobby, which was about a 45-minute hike into the island, luckily the sand wasn’t as hot today, plus I remembered my flip flops. Lake Wobby was a freshwater lake that no one really knows how it got there or why it’s still there. It was a little green, but really peaceful and relaxing for a swim and chill after a busy day yesterday. After Lake Wobby we had lunch on the beach before making the drive back to the ferry point to catch the short ferry ride back to Rainbow beach thus concluding our tour of Fraser Island. Apart from the food situation i.e. there wasn’t enough, the rest of the tour was great and was certainly the second highlight of the whole East Coast Road trip along with the Whitsunday boat tour. Driving around in the 4×4’s on the sand was great fun and the crew in our jeep had loads of fun. It’s a bit of a shame the others in the group weren’t a little more fun but that certainly didn’t detract from the tour which was great and unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
That night in Rainbow beach we went for some food and a beer with some people from the tour before settling back into a night in the camper van. Unfortunately, the heavens opened again, and it absolutely pissed it down. Some of the heaviest and most torrential rain I’ve ever experienced. Lisa at one point left the van to go to the toilet and got stranded at the toilets due to the rain. Fred as ever the knight in shining amour said he would hold the back door open for Lisa as she made the mad dash across the car park back to the van. Fred trying not to let too much water into the van while the back door was open held the door open at just the right height for Lisa to come crashing into the van smacking her head full pelt on the metal door. Somehow, she didn’t knock herself out but did get a nasty gash in the crown of her head which then pissed out blood quicker than the skies were pouring rain. It really was an apocalyptic scene with Lisa’s head dripping blood the van absolutely sodden with rain, the skies flashing with thunder and lightning all the while Fred was sat on the bed say what have I done, while Ollie the first-aid man among us tended to Lisa.
Day 22 – 1st Oct: The next day we awoke to a soaking wet van, a blood-stained towel and I imagine Lisa with a bloody big headache. We left Rainbow Beach in the morning and continued to drive in the rain towards Noosa. We didn’t really do anything all day, other than clean the van, do laundry and Lisa and Fred went to the doctors so Lisa could get her poor head glued back together as the gash was pretty deep.
Day 23 – 2nd Oct: The next day in Noosa the weather was far better so we spent some time relaxing at the beach while Ollie went for a surf before taking some time to walk around Noosa Heads national park which hugged the coastline and offered some nice vantage points out to sea. I feel like Noosa probably had a little more to offer us and we didn’t get to sample it all but as we were now three weeks into the road trip life. The van was ever so slightly starting to get to us all a little. We spent the night in a free campsite on the side of the road, which once again had luxurious toilet facilities.
Day 24 – 3rd Oct: Today we explored the Sunshine coast a little bit and by explored, went to yet another beach. I know this is going to sound crazy but after a while, you can only relax on a beach for so long and it gets a bit boring to be honest and you want to do something else. But unfortunately, on a budget, Australia is pretty expensive when wanting to do lots of things so often the beach was the cheapest and easiest option. After our day not really doing a lot, we ended back at the free campsite we had stayed at the night before, due to its close proximity to Australia Zoo, which we would be visiting tomorrow.
Day 25 – 4th Oct: We left our overnight campsite and made our Way to Australia Zoo, which is just on the outskirts of Brisbane, and made famous for being the Zoo of the late great Steve Irwin. The zoo in all honestly was rather average and I was a little disappointed, but then again when you’ve got Colchester Zoo on your doorstep at home, there’s always going to be a lot to live up to haha! The clear highlight of the day was the main show in the Crockaseaum. Which was a 30-minute live show with loads of different animals with the finale being a massive crocodile entering the arena area and being feed by the keepers. At points, there were birds flying around and all sort and it was a really good show. Made even better by the song that had been put together from clips of Steve Irwin which remained in our heads for the rest of the trip. Overall it was nice to be doing something a little different other than the beach and like I said certain aspects of the zoo were good, but I was expecting a little more. After spending most of our day walking around, we made the short drive to Brisbane where we would end up staying for the next few nights.
Well, that concludes the 3rd instalment of the East Coast Road Trip. I’m getting there slowly, maybe it will be done by Christmas next year. On that note, I just want to wish everyone reading this and all my family and friends back home and around the world a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year. I shall finish the road trip blogs in the new year and then give you a little update about my time in Sydney before hopefully embarking on some new adventures in 2020.