Australia, 2009 – Day #16, Fraser Island
Sunday, October 23, 2009 –
After last night’s festivities, sleeping in was definitely the order for the morning. I didn’t even hear Mike & Nathan get up and leave for their excursion. Once I finally got myself out of bed, I found Shaun and Fred, and heard that Travis, Kent & Silke were down at the Kingfisher Bay resort pool that we had access too, so the three of us got our stuff ready and made the CRAZY walk down the hill. We tossed the Frisbee around in the pool and got ourselves refreshed, before a few of us headed to the activity area for our 4WD excursion.
Our tour guide for the 4WD adventure was pretty relaxed and since we only had 15 people on the tour we had a TON of space. Think of a school bus meets van type vehicle as the mode of transportation for the day, with BIG monster truck type wheels. The tour guide made sure to warn us of how bumpy it was going to be and made sure there were enough garbage bags in case anyone was going to be sick, since last night was the ultimate booze-fest. We learned a little bit about Fraser Island, that it is made up of 98% sand and 2% rock, and is about 700 square miles. It is the largest island of Queensland and the largest sand island in the world.
The story of how the island came to be known as Fraser is a little sketchy, but rumour has it that it is named after a shipwreck survivor, Eliza Fraser. The island is also home to more than 100 lakes, including Lake McKenzie which is a perched lake (resting above sea level) with sand that is nearly pure silica. As the tour started, it was quite clear that this wasn’t for the faint of heart or those that didn’t deal well with roller coasters. We were bouncing around the bus-van like rubber balls – it was a good thing we were strapped in with seat belts, or people would have literally been thrown over seats. We got stuck in a few places through the ride, but lucky for us passengers, the driver was able to get the bus-van rocking enough to get some traction and get us moving again. He did threaten us at the start of the tour that if we were stuck at any point, we’d have to get out and push. I thought he was joking at the time, but it became clear as the tour continued that he probably wasn’t.
We visited a partial rain forest and walked through there for a short visit, where I saw an eel swimming through the stream. Some of the trees in the forest were the biggest I had ever seen. The pictures don’t even do their size justice. After the rain forest we made our way to Lake McKenzie, where we parked the tour bus for an hour to hang out on the beach. We made the trek down the sandy path and as the trees gave way to the shore, the view of the pristine water came into focus. This rivaled Whitehaven Beach from a few days ago, in the Whitsunday Islands, truly a sight to see. Because the sand was almost pure silica, it wasn’t hot, which continues to shock me. We heard from the tour guide that the water of Lake McKenzie has a pH level equivalent to hair conditioner, so opening your eyes under water was not recommended – especially since I had my contacts in!
Because the water had such a high pH rating, there were no animals that inhabited the lake, which meant no eels, crocodiles, sharks, etc.! One could swim freely! The most interesting part of the water was how crystal clear it was. I’m 6’ tall and while treading water could easily see my toes, and beneath. I didn’t have my goggles or a snorkel mask with me, or I would have tried to find out how deep the water was. You could walk out quite far before you weren’t able to touch, but even when a few of us swam out quite a distance, it didn’t feel that deep. (edit – I later found out that it is approximately 16’ to the bottom at its deepest point)
While our group was hanging out in the water and on the shore, the tour group that left in the morning for their full-day tour had arrived – the rest of our Contiki group, basically. We all hung out in the water and complained about how hung over we were but how beautiful Lake McKenzie was. I felt for those that had gotten only a few hours of sleep (if anything) and then went right on the roller-coaster-like tour. Their stomachs couldn’t have been happy with them.
After we returned from the tour, we spent some more time by the pool before changing for dinner. A large group of us opted to take the shuttle bus down to the Sand Bar bistro for dinner. The food was okay, but the burger could have been a LOT better for the $15AUD they were charging for it. We spent a few hours down at the Sand Bar, before everyone decided it was best to call it a night and head back up to the lodge. It was going to be an early morning to catch the ferry back to the bus.