The vehicle which called for us at our accommodation in Rainbow Beach was, as first glance, a rather odd-looking one. The bus looked more like a truck with a bus body, a modern version of the ones they used to have on some Mediterranean islands The driver/guide, an experienced hand called Woody, drove us straight to Inskip Point where a’ barge’ ferried us across to Fraser Island.
Fraser Island is remarkable in that it’s composed of nothing but sand, originally brought down the Hunter, Hawkesbury and Clarence Rivers, in faraway New South Wales, and deposited here thousands of years ago by ocean currents. It is, in fact, the largest sand island in the world.
The island's main highway is the magnificent beach which runs the length of the eastern coast. We were lucky, said Woody; the tide was such that we could drive all the way along the beach, instead of taking a rather bumpy track inland. It’s not only beach, though. Most of the interior is covered in dense forest, with many lakes dotted around.
There are over 100 freshwater lakes on the island, and that’s the second largest concentration of lakes in Australia; Tasmania has the largest. They’re also claimed to be among the clearest and cleanest lakes in the world.
It’s easier to sign up for an organised tour such as this, for only 4-wheel-drive vehicles are allowed on the island, and even then, you need to obtain permits. We only had a conventional two wheel drive, and you aren’t usually allowed to take rentals off-road in Australia anyway.
All the way, we were watching the beach and the ocean. One girl said she thought she saw a whale; nobody else saw it, except Woody, who said he’d seen something out of the corner of his eye, which could have been a whale. But, he was concentrating more on the sand and the incoming waves.
At Eurong, about halfway along the beach, we turned inland to drive over a rough track to the forest to Lake Mackenzie. It isn’t the biggest, but probably the best known lake. It takes its name from the owner of a former logging company nearby, whose men used it as a recreational area. The sand around the lake is almost pure silica, and white … showing my photos afterwards, I had to explain several times that wasn’t snow on the lake shore.
When we’d had a paddle and taken all the pictures we wanted, Woody took us on a walk along a boardwalk through the rain forest. We passed over a creek; difficult to photograph, for the water was so clear, the pictures looked more like a path through the trees. And, not only could we not see it, but …
‘What CAN’T you hear?’ asked Woody.
What we couldn’t hear was the creek; because there were no rocks in the bottom to make noise, the waters went their way absolutely silently.
There isn’t a single rock anywhere in the place. But, in places, there are some impressive cliffs and pinnacles, formed entirely by blowing sand … which may well become rocks in a few million years!
Woody showed us some of these cliffs, to see the different coloured layers in them. Then it was to Eli Creek, the largest creek on the island, where several tour buses … and two aeroplanes; the beach is also the airstrip … gathered. Like others we’ve seen, Eli Creek flows silently over the sand, and it’s a place for swimming … or at least bathing. The beach, sadly, in spite of its magnificence, is no place for such activity. If the sharks and jellyfish don’t get you, the currents will.
It was easy to slip into the clear waters of the creek, and swim, or just let the current carry you, down to a pool on the beach. It seems even the creek is reluctant to enter the sea1
Nearby is the wreck of the Maheno, a luxury liner which was beached here in 1935. She had been declared obsolete, and was being towed to a breakers’ yard in Melbourne, when she broke loose from the tug in a tropical cyclone. And, she’s still there today, although in a rather sorry condition, after having been used as a bombing target by the RAAF, and for explosives and demolition training by the Australian Special Forces.
Woody warned us about the dingoes. Keep your children by you at all times, he advised.
The Fraser Island dingo is the purest there is, and they don’t want the bloodline contaminated. For this reason, domestic dogs aren’t allowed on the island. There aren’t as many as there used to be; in fact, we didn’t see any … until, ten minutes from the boat back to the mainland …