Where are we now?

Where are we now?
Where are we now? Tahmoor, NSW. Updated 7th December 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 292, 293, & 294. Fraser Island to Brisbane

Catching up with friends....

This morning we were up and packed early. I had to wash the Pajero (to try and get all the sand and salt out of the chassis), clean all the sand out from inside the car, pump up the tyres, load up the car, and all before 10am! That's not to mention checking out at reception, and a quick dip in the pool for Scarlett before the barge departed at 10:30am. It was hectic, but we managed it in the end, and reluctantly boarded the barge in time to head back to the mainland. Fraser Island has certainly been a highlight of our trip, and I think it's touched us all a little more than we expected.

After reaching the mainland, we headed straight back to Hervey Bay where we topped up the diesel, took the car to a 4x4 under body car wash, and hooked up the van. Again this was all done in record time, and we were on the road south within half an hour of driving off the barge. Scarlett was buggered, and so were Bec and I, so we opted for an easy lunch and stopped at McDonald's. It was a less than satisfying feed, and we once again hit the Bruce Hwy.

Tony, Katherine, and Shane
4.5 hours later (and a driver change at Nambour), we pulled into Redcliffe on the northern outskirts of Brisbane. We are stopping at Katherine, Tony, Shane and Michaela's house, who we promised to visit on our way back through into Brisbane. Katherine and Tony were there to lend a hand when we were hit with the Brisbane floods back in January. Tony even ended up taking our ruined dining table home to try and repair and refurbish for us (even though we were prepared to throw it out as a lost cause). Well when we arrived, Tony took us out the back to show the finished product, where Bec and I were totally blown away. Tony and some mates from his work had spent some serious time stripping the whole table back, and rebuilding it from the ground up! And now it looks absolutely fantastic! Thanks guys you have done a fabulous job and Bec and I will be forever grateful.

Michaela, Shane, and Scarlett
We spent the night having a few drinks and a BBQ, before finally saying goodnight at almost midnight. We were shattered! After such an early start and long drive, we slept like logs and didn't wake until about 6:30am. Scarlett was up and wanting to go back outside to play with the kids. Tony ended up cooking up a huge stack of pancakes for breakfast, and we all enjoyed them while the kids played. We eventually had to say goodbye, and poor Michaela cried, and cried, as she didn't want Scarlett to leave. We had to promise we would return 'one day', and stay for at least three sleeps!

It was then south again to a little place southwest of Helensvale, where we stopped at our mates house Damion and Kristy, with their three little ones MacKenzie, Reilly and Harper. It was great to catch up again, and it ended up turning out to be Reilly's 4th birthday party. We had a great time catching up over some birthday cake with everyone! But after the party, we all sipped on a very nice port while reminiscing about our travels.

Kristy, with her mum Sue, and baby Harper

Sue and Bec

Reilly blowing out his candles on his spiderman cake

We woke to another hot morning, so after a great BBQ breakfast cooked by Damion, we all cooled off in their new inground pool, where we spent a good deal of the morning playing with the kids! During this time we also spoke about our recent travels, as well as the amazing work that Damion and Kristy have done to their house since we last saw it. Bec was very inspired, and now has a million ideas for decorating our next house (wherever that may be), when we finally find one down in Sydney in the new year. Eventually we sadly said our goodbyes, and climbed back in the Pajero where we then headed west out towards Boonah.
About another hour and a half's drive found us out at Kalbar, a beautiful little country town in the scenic rim area of South East QLD. Here we found Stuart, Hailey and Luke all waiting for us! Sarah was out shopping, so we took the opportunity to set up the van (as well as the satellite dish), as we'll be spending most of the week camped here while I finish work up the road at Amberly. Scarlett disappeared; playing with Hailey and Luke running around the huge acreage that they have out here! They have a couple of beautiful horses, that Scarlett made a beeline to as soon as she saw them! It's like another world - away from all the hustle and bustle of suburbia.

Bec with Carpet Python; and Shane ready with bag....
 During the afternoon, Stuart asked us to identify a snake skin that he found up in his gutter. Both Bec I identified it as a 'Carpet Python'. No sooner had we put the skin away, Bec was calling us over to the house. As she walked up the front steps to Stuart and Sarah's house, she caught a glimpse of colour out of the corner of her eye. She had found the snake as it was basking in the late afternoon sun! As Stuart and Sarah aren't as fond of our scaly friends as Bec and I are, they asked if we could catch and relocate the snake for him - which we ended up doing to Bec's delight!

Bec was straight in there grabbing the snake by it's tail, while I found a Hessian bag to put it in. With a little bit of persuasion, we finally bagged the python, but not after it had tried to bite Bec a number of times first! Luckily I was able to place the bag between her and the snake each time it struck, preventing Bec from being on the nasty end of what probably would of been a pretty painful bite. Stuart and I ended up taking the snake to a nearby gully where we released it back into a grove of trees and fallen timber.

One thing we are slowly realising is that both Bec and I are not coping so well with reintegrating back into suburbia at the moment! It's not any one particular thing, but a combination of everything; the traffic, the large number of people, the concrete jungle, and even the dirty smelling air! Give us the wide open spaces of outback Australia any day!

Tonight, I am preparing myself for a return back to work tomorrow morning! It's been two weeks short of twelve months since I last left this place, and I can honestly say that I'm not looking forward to it! It's not that I'm unwilling to work again - its the knowing that I might once again get caught up in the rut of living for work and feeling trapped or tied down! At least I have now experienced what is really out there, and now that I know, I'm no longer afraid to 'chuck it all in' and live on the road for a while (or return to the huge employment opportunities that I've seen in Western Australia).

There is definitely more to the old saying "work to live, not live to work". I now just have to find that balance or niche, that will allow Bec, Scarlett and I to escape the life that we are now returning to every now and then....

PS: OUR JOURNEY IS FAR FROM OVER! Please continue watching this space.... Although we might not blog daily, we still have a few more chapters of this exciting 12 months to share with you! I still have to 'survive' work for one week, before doing a removal down to Sydney (where we left on this mammoth journey from), we still have more friends to see between here and Sydney, as we head back to New South Wales. I have to get through Christmas with the In-Laws, find a new house, and Scarlett has to find a school. This will all be part of our integration back into society after spending a life as nomads on the road for the last year. And by the end of it, we will be compiling a list of 'the best things and places we have experienced in Australia', and how much did it really cost!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 291. Fraser Island

Getting to know Fraser....

Today we are getting to know Fraser (Island). We started the day on a guided canoe trip, that left from the jetty down at the beachfront. We followed the coast north, before turning into Dundonga Creek, where we then explored the mangroves. It was so quiet and peaceful here in the mangroves; there were little fish darting around everywhere. Unfortunately due to the high tide, the creek became very narrow and we soon had to turn around and head back. Along the way I did see a Green Sea Turtle come up for air, but it was only up for a moment, and then was gone again.

Dundonga Creek

After our canoe trip, we all jumped into the Pajero and went 'touring' around the Island. Today is the last chance we have to visit some of the iconic sites that Fraser Island has to offer, as we leave this paradise tomorrow. We headed south via the inland track, and stopped off at Lake Birrabeen, and then Lake Boomanjin - which is the world's largest perched lake (at about 200ha). Lake Boomanjin is more than 70m above sea level and is surrounded by dunes that rise to over 120m. This lake was the site of the corroboree scene in the Australian movie Eliza Fraser.

Shane off to  'assist' a broken down 4wd
We then turned towards the Eastern Beach - emerging at Dili Village. By this time the skies had turned dark grey and there was a hint of showers in the air, so we decided to stop off further up the beach at Eurong to check out the resort there. Scarlett had behaved so well along these rough and bumpy tracks, we rewarded her by visiting the shops and she bought an icecream. It had taken us just over 2 hours to cover the 55kms from Kingfisher Bay resort to Eurong, so we all needed to get out and stretch our legs anyway. Wouldn't you know it, but just as we pulled into Eurong, the heavens opened and we were drenched in pouring rain. It was actually quite refreshing, as the heat build up and humidity during the day had become quite uncomfortable.

Lake Boomanjin foreshore
We jumped back in the Pajero, and headed up the beach to see Lake Wabby, which is the islands deepest lake at 11m. The lake is slowly being engulfed by the Hammerstone Sandblow that is slowly moving along at approx 1m per year. The weather was still wet, so we only walked as far as the lookout before returning to the safety of the car. It was then back to Kingfisher Bay which completed our round trip of exploration and adventure. We had once again tackled and conquered Fraser Island's sandy highways!

Storm approacing on the beach

We returned then to our villa, where Scarlett and I left Bec for an hour or two going for one last swim in the resorts beautiful pools. Upon our return, we found Bec relaxing with an amazing amount of bubbles in the spa. So I made her an icy vodka, lime and soda to sip and enjoy, which she said was just what she needed!

Bed hair after a sleep in the car

Tonight we tagged onto a guided 'night walk' around the resort, where we saw an amazing amount of wildlife. We saw giant beetles, a brown tree snake, a Fraser Island funnelweb spider, striped rocket frogs, green tree frogs, endangered sedge frogs, a blind snake, and a Tawny Frogmouth. Scarlett was loving every minute of the walk, and was very disappointed when it finally ended. It was a very enjoyable night out, but was over way to soon.


Lake Wabby (and Bec)
 Fraser Island is a magnificent paradox! Composed almost entirely of sand, it could literally have been a desert island. Yet it supports an astonishing variety of vegetation, from wildflower heaths to mangroves, rainforest and mighty hardwoods; a catalogue of natural wonders that include fantastically sculptured cliffs of coloured sands and lakes containing some of the world's purest water. We have been fortunate in that we have had the chance over the last five days to experience much of what this magical island has to offer - yet there is so much more to explore. I guess that means that one day we'll be back, as Fraser Island has certainly left a lasting impression with all of us. This place certainly deserves to placed in our top 10 places to visit, and I couldn't think of a better place to spend the last few days of our travels around Australia - but unfortunately all good things have to come to an end!

You see, today is really the last full day of our holiday exploring together - not only here on Fraser Island, but for our whole journey travelling Australia. That's obviously not including the next couple of weeks where we are staying and visiting friends as we edge closer to Brisbane (where I'll be going back to work for a week) and Sydney (where we started this trip back in January); but its a milestone that holds a significant meaning for Bec, Scarlett and me....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 290. Fraser Island

Recovery Day....

After quite a late night with Andrea and Dave out on the balcony drinking until almost the wee hours of the morning, we were greeted with the rise of the children before 6am. We let them all stay up last night playing and watching movies together until 10pm, and were hoping they might sleep in this morning. But no such luck....

I boiled the jug, got the pancake shake out, and made all the kids breakfast. After dealing with the four of them, I set about cooking bacon and eggs for us adults. It was then a lovely lazy morning out on the balcony, with about 5 x cups of tea, while trying to muster up the energy to do something with the day. We were all so tired after yesterdays 8 hours of exploring; as the inland roads are so rough, and it really takes it out of you not only mentally, but physically too.

Scarlett, Sara and Lucy around their cubby
By 10am the kids were getting over the cartoons, so I slipped away with them all and we hit the pool. They played for hours, mermaids being the main game of choice. Then they moved all the pool furniture together, and made a massive cubby house. Lucky it's low season here, and there weren't many people around for them to annoy. Shane, Dave and Adrea joined us for a swim, and we then took turns watching the kids while each couple took off to check out the resorts shops.
Shane taking it easy by the pool

We decided to go to the 'Sand Bar' restaurant for lunch, as they do the best chicken schnitzels ever! They also have two great pools there for the kids to swim in, giving us some peace to chat the afternoon away. It's a great spot and we could have sat there all day just relaxing over a couple of beers. Unfortunately though, the tide was coming in over on the eastern beach, and the Barkla's needed to make it back up the beach and to their camp ground before it got any higher.

Shane and Dave waiting patiently for lunch
It was a sad farewell, as there isn't much chance we will see them again on this trip. We are now heading down into Brisbane to finalize everything there, and they are on their way to Wagga to start a new chapter in their lives. We have loved travelling together, and will miss them all heaps. But I know we will defiantly cross paths again someday.

Shane, Scarlett and I then went for a walk along the beach collecting driftwood for a future craft project I have in mind. There were a million soldier crabs also on the foreshore, and it was so funny as poor Scarlett who is usually the first to catch any crabs was really scared of them saying they looked a little to much like spiders. So we just ran towards them and watched them all disappear straight down into the sand.

Soldier Crabs

When we got back to the villa we discovered that it had been serviced; all the beds were made, and it was like no-one had ever been there. Scarlett and I decided to have a little nap that turned into a two and a half hour sleep. When we awoke it was nearly dinner time, so we cooked and sat out on the balcony and enjoyed each others company. This will be the last few times we will be able to do this on the trip, and I am getting sadder and sadder as the days go on, knowing everything we are doing is somehow now the last one for the trip.

When I think back to the day we started this journey, it seems like yesterday. It has been amazing to think how much we have seen, and how far we have travelled. I don't know how we are going to go resettling back into reality, but with the memories we have made and the million photos hopefully the magic of it all won't fade for a long time to come.....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 289. Fraser Island

A day exploring Fraser Islands interior....

I was up bright and early this morning, as I'd booked in to do a bird watching guided walk around the resort. Unfortunately Scarlett was up even earlier (before 5am); so Bec reluctantly climbed out of bed and dealt with her as I quietly slipped out the door and joined the other half dozen 'twitchers' for some 'quiet time'. We ended up seeing White Cheeked Honeyeaters, Mangrove Honeyeaters, Red Backed Fairy Wrens, Striated Thrush, and a number of other more common birds. The guided walk only lasted for an hour, but it was a relaxing way to start the day.

After catching up with Dave, Andrea, Sara, Lucy and Isabel yesterday, we decided to meet up again this morning at Lake McKenzie for a swim. So after I returned to the Villa and Scarlett finished her morning school work, we left the resort and tackled the soft sand and rough tracks that are the inland highways of Fraser Island. We arrived at Lake McKenzie at around 9:30am, and we were a little worried about turning up late as we had organised to meet up with our friends at 9am. But to our relief they were running late also.

Lake McKenzie

So instead of waiting around in the carpark, we decided to head down to the lake and go for a mid-morning swim. We weren't the first to arrive, there must of already been around a dozen people enjoying the clear refreshing waters that make this lake so famous. There are many different aspects to Fraser Island, but the awe-inspiring beauty of Lake McKenzie makes it probably the most visited natural site on the whole island. It's a 'perched' lake; which means it contains only rainwater, no groundwater, it's not fed by streams and does not flow to the ocean. The sand and organic matter at the base of the lake form an impervious layer, preventing rainwater from draining away. The sand here is pure white silica and is not only beautiful to look at but feels beautifully soft to walk on. The sand acts as a filter, giving the water its clarity and helping to make the water so pure it can support very little life. The blues and greens of the lake are endlessly fascinating and as we were soon to discover, coming here was a smart move. Within an hour, the place had filled up with over 150 tourists all jostling for their own bit of beach space as they too wanted to enjoy all that this place had to offer.

The fenced off 'eating area' at Lake McKenzie
By lunchtime we were starting to get worried, as our friends still had not turned up. So at 12:20pm, we walked back up to the carpark to grab our food and drinks, and we had lunch behind the security fences that surround the "designated eating area's". The dingo's around here are so use to people that they have literally resorted to taking food from tourists. This is causing major issues, as the dingos have started to attack people now for their food. So National Parks have installed fenced areas throughout Fraser Island so people can eat their food without the danger of an unwelcome dingo encounter. (Unfortunately we did notice a lot of tourists taking their food down to the shores of the lake to eat - but this is not allowed and Rangers often patrol the area to warn people of the dangers of doing so). Just as we were sitting down to eat our lunch, our friends finally turned up and we soon discovered that they had taken a good 4 hours to reach us due to getting bogged themselves, and getting lost. They ended up following another group of 4x4's (the ones that rescued them from their sand trap), but they took the 'scenic route' to Lake McKenzie instead. Bummer! At least they arrived safely - and after lunch we soon joined them back down at the lake where Scarlett went for another swim with Sara, Lucy and Isabel.

The old logging trail that I walk when finding my dads resting place at Central Station

As this was the first time Dave and Andrea had tackled the interior of Fraser Island, we took them over to Central Station to see the beautiful rainforest there. Originally established as a forestry camp when there was logging on Fraser Island, Central Station houses a display explaining the development of the island, it's various flora and fauna, an information centre, and a picnic area. Bec took them all on a short walk along the boardwalk around Wanggoolba Creek and through the rainforest, while I took the opportunity to disappear and visit my dads resting place once more. I wasn't gone long, but it was great to spend some time alone at the tree with him, as it was exactly what I needed. I eventually returned to find everyone sitting on a fallen tree while dipping their feet into the refreshingly invigorating clear water that is Wanggoolba Creek, so we took the opportunity to take some photos while everyone was relaxed. I know I keep saying the same thing over and over, but this place is truly beautiful....
"Dad's tree" on the banks of Wanggoolba Creek

Piccabeen Palms
I think I need to point out here that on the way to Central Station from Lake McKenzie, Dave and Andrea ran into a 'little trouble' with their Toyota Prado and ended up getting bogged in the soft sand. We couldn't stop straight away, and had to continue on to an area safe to pullover out of the way of any traffic. Bec walked back about 1km to where they were stuck to see if they needed help, only to find them flying up the track towards her at a great rate of knots. She luckily climbed out of the way just in time; but they weren't able to stop to offer her a lift due to the soft sandy conditions. Bec was left to slowly make her way back to where I was parked (with a car full of kids), and finally returned after what seemed like an eternity. Bec soon told us how she was forced to run along the track and 'climb' the steep sandy embankments a number of times during her trip back to us as at least 8 more 4x4's would be roaring up the track that she was left to walk on. I think the exertion almost killed her; but after a lot of cool water, time to rest in the Air-Conditioned Pajero, with some Panadol; she soon settled down as her breathing slowed and her pulse dropped. I could tell she was hurting, just by looking at her, but she's a tough nut to crack and soon returned to her normal self again. Love you honey!

Scarlett, Sara, Isabel and Lucy

We invited Dave and Andrea and the girls back to our Villa for the night, as they had already missed the tide mark to return along the beach back to their camper trailer up at Cathedral Beach. So after our visit to Central Station we decided to return to the resort and relax the afternoon away in the pool, while sipping on a few quiet drinks. As luck would have it, we took a wrong turn when leaving Central Station, and ended up past some old abandoned airstrip at the entrance to Wanggoolba Creek on the western shores of Fraser Island! Doh! So after a quick look at the maps, we turned around and returned to Central Station where we finally found the correct track that led back to Kingfisher Bay Resort. Pheww....

Wanggoolba Creek - Central Station

An hour later, we finally completed the 18kms back to the resort, and immediately dived in the pool to wash away all the sand and grime from today's travelling ordeal. When we arrived at the pool, we were pleasantly surprised to see Peter and Jenny there relaxing. We have met these guys a couple of times now; back at Arlie Beach, and again at the Platypus Bush Camp, and it was great to catch up again here at Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island. So after sharing travelling stories and a couple of beers that didn't even touch the sides, we unanimously decided that no one felt like cooking, so it was pizza for dinner! We got a number of pizzas and garlic breads from the restaurant, and headed back to the villa to enjoy our dinner with a couple more drinks thrown in together!

Jenny, Peter, Shane and Dave - enjoying a beer in the pool
After finally getting all the kids to sleep, us adults retired out on the front veranda of our villa and enjoyed reliving today's adventures. It was almost midnight by the time we all retired for the evening - and to say we were buggered would be a huge understatement! It was an amazing day, but it was thoroughly enjoyable; especially because we were able to share our adventures with our friends!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 288. Fraser Island

A true sandy paradise....

Maheno Wreck

Dingo on the eastern beach of Fraser Island
We all got up early today excited to go exploring this amazing island again. Today we have promised Scarlett we would travel to the eastern side of the island to try and find the Barkla's (Dave, Andrea and their three beautiful girls Sara, Lucy and Isabel). They have no phone reception over that side and as soon as we move out of the resort we don't either. We had a fair idea where they were so we decided (wanting to see that side of the island anyway) we would head over anyway.

The Pinnacles

Eli Creek
The track accross the island is called a major 4X4 track, but it is pretty rugged. We got stuck behind one of those huge 4X4 tourist coaches that was unable to get through one section so after 3 attempts he backed up till there was a spot to pull aside to let us pass. The tracks are also only one lane, so you need to take notice as you drive along where the good spots are to pull over for a pass; in case you need to back down the track to let some one through.

It took about an hour to get the 18km's accross to the Eastern Beach. You can only travel up and down here two hours either side of the low tide. It is quite a quicker way to travel at 80km's along the sand compared to the 30km's (most time even slower) in the islands interior. No sooner had we hit the beach and we saw our first dingo on the beach. This has been a photo I have been on a mission to get since I arrived, it's so "Fraser Island iconic". I never imagined I would get it on my first drive on the sand. We haven't seen any dingo's at the resort, but we are taking all precautions anyway, as they sometimes show up there.

Eli Creek

About 30min up the beach we came to 'Frasers At Cathedral Beach' where the Barkla's were staying, but unfortuantly we had missed them. Although when we did hit a certain spot on the beach some signal hit my phone and the txt messages came through. We had missed them by only minutes, and they were down the beach a little (we must have passed them) at 'Eli Creek'. So we went back to "Eli', and it was great to see them again. The kids all ran up the creek's boardwalk, and jumped in the crystal cool clear water to float back down. This place was so beautiful, and the creek was lined with ferns and pandanas palms.

From here we were back up the beach a couple of km's to 'SS Maheno Wreck'. The S.S. Maheno was originally built in 1905 in Scotland as a luxury passenger ship for trans-Tasman crossings. During the First World War the ship served as a hospital ship in the English Channel, before returning as a luxury liner. In 1935, the ship was declared outdated and on 25 June 1935, the ship was being towed from Melbourne when it was caught in a strong cyclone. On 9 July 1935 she drifted ashore and was beached on Fraser Island. During the Second World War the Maheno served as target bombing practice for the RAAF and was used as an explosives demolition target by special forces from the Fraser Commando School. The ship has since become severely rusted, with almost three and a half storeys buried under the sand.

Lunch was at 'The Pinnacles'; a natural sandstone attraction which captures most of the different sand colours from the island in these wonderful cliff formations. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, and the sands here have been accululating for over 750,000 years on volcanic bedrock.

'The photo' that captures the essence of Fraser Island - a dingo on the beach

We had to part ways after lunch as the tide was coming in, and if we didn't want to take hours travelling back via the inland tracks our faster beach track was fast dissapearing. When we got back to the villa, we all had a restful afternoon, except poor Shane who had to clean the car out and wash all the salt water and sand off. We had a peaceful dinner out on the deck, after which Shane and Scarlett went down to the resort for a swim. They had the whole pool to themselves, it was great....