Well, we live and learn, again…  When we hired a Toyota Landcruiser last year and drove around Fraser Island, we found it rough, but never got stuck.  So, having done a bit of Googling about using the trusty old Land Rover Freelander TD4, I came to the conclusion that “she’ll be right mate!”.  I was wrong… It wasn’t!


We boarded the barge at River Heads, and the boys declared that this was “the most exciting, newest thing we’d never done before so far” on our adventure.  So far so good.

We landed at Wanggoolba Creek and, having “aired down” our tyres to 16PSI, we set off full of confidence. We were second vehicle off the barge and I did, for a moment, consider pulling over and letting everyone through. Fortunately I didn’t, because about 10 minutes later we were thoroughly bogged down in soft sand. Fortunately two vehicles came to our assistance and with a 12 year old snatch strap that I’d never used before and their two shackles we were soon pulled out. I bribed them with a promise of beer at the other end and they committed to babysitting us to Eurong, another 17 kilometres. Just as well, as we needed another two rescue and recoveries. Problem was not traction, but clearance. The Freelander is just too low and would get stuck on the high ridge of sand between the tracks (aka middlemannetjie for you okes in the R of SA…).

Driving technique: first gear, and keep the speed up, revs around 3,000 RPM. Crank on about 90 degrees of left or right helm (I prefer right) to keep the middlemannetjie off to one side. A boisterous ride. The brakes took a pounding, because the wheels are spinning the whole time and the traction control is trying to control the wheelspin by applying the brakes. As most of the weight is on the front wheels, the rear (drum) brakes got very, very hot. Poor car. When we tried to move off after about 15 minutes at the Eurong Bottle-O/general store, it felt like the handbrake would not release. Fortunately it eased up after a bit of driving. Only other damage was a rubber exhaust hanger that had unhooked itself (at the rear silencer). This was easily re-hooked and she’s good as gold!

We’ve decided to stick to the beach (where we have no problems) and leave Fraser Island via Inskip Point so we don’t have to cross inland again.

Moral of the story? A Freelander is not suitable for Fraser Island! Get a real 4×4…

Urangan Boat Harbour

Urangan Boat Harbour

Northerlies… In theory, a good weather breeze, but as I have been trapped in the marina since Thursday by a relentless 25 knots from that direction, I’m not convinced. The assault on the senses from the incessant howling in the rigging of the berthed fleet and the unpredictable lurching under foot of a boat tied to the wharf is starting to wear me down.

We sailed out of 1770 on a sunny Sunday morning. After hours of deliberation by Gerhard regarding tides and the swing of the boat (and of those around us) and how he was going to raise the two separate anchors. It was clearly quite a challenge for him but from my point of view at the helm it seemed to go quite smoothly. He then just had to navigate us down the river and back out to sea.

We loved 1770 but I’m not sure we will find ourselves there again – not on Sunny Spells at any rate: the sand bars and the depth of the river (or lack thereof) made it a challenging and restless week for Gerhard.

On a very positive note though we loved 1770 and Agnes Waters. It was quiet and quaint, friendly and stunning. We walked the headland where Captain Cook on HMS Endeavour first landed (24 May 1770 – hence the town’s name) on what was to become Queensland. As the boys and I walked along a lovely rocky path cut through tropical bush with occasional wooden bridges crossing creeks ( or the bed of a creek at any rate) I commented on how it must have felt to be Captain Cook and Joseph Banks landing here for the first time ( you know, trying to do the whole ‘education in the field’ bit, and to take their minds off how hot and humid it was). Hugo was suitably impressed …”did Captain Cook build all of these bridges and paths as well Mum?”. Bless him…

The local council have made a super effort with board walks and footpaths along the river’s edge with signs pointing out the different plants, fish and bird life that Cook had noted in his ship’s log. I also noted that having come ashore on 24 May Cook and his crew set sail again at 4am the next day. What a pity; they missed out, failing to enjoy the lovely beach and surrounding area.

I was also fascinated to read that it wasn’t until 1987 that Agnes Waters got its first commercial motel. The then dirt road was graded twice yearly and the motel owner travelled to Bundaberg every week to bring back bread, milk and vast quantities of ice for local residents since electricity did not reach Agnes Waters until 1987!! That’s really not that long ago! Bookings for the motel could only be made via VHF radio at Round Head point and you just hoped someone had relayed the message down to the motel owner. Incredible!

The river had mangroves along it, enormous pelicans swooping in, fish jumping and the ever welcoming warning signs about the dangerous stone fish. We did not explore the stunning sand bars and ‘beaches’ that become so evident at low tide. Whilst picturesque and clearly a source of tourism income, they were not our ‘friend’, more a source of concern and something to be wary of. We therefore did not explore – but they were spectacular in the evening light, with Bustard Head lighthouse in the distance.

We all enjoyed our surf lesson on Agnes Waters beach. Gerhard of course was standing on his first attempt. Oscar did extremely well also managing some wobbly stands. Hugo was up on his knees but claiming to be standing and performing somersaults thanks to his vivid imagination and penchant for story-telling! I came up the rear – not unlike a large walrus and whilst I will continue to try and surf I think I probably require something the size of a banqueting table to actually get myself up on my feet.
We used subsequent days on the beach to ‘hone’ our surfing skills, and to Hugo’s credit, once he was put onto our big board, he got straight up. He was quite a way away from me up the beach but I swear I could still see his big grin and ‘whoop’ of delight!

On our last evening we had one of our ‘family meetings’, as proposed by Oscar. It’s helpful to reflect on the positive things about our trip so far and to also allow the boys to feel some ownership of the adventure and an opportunity to raise any concerns. Hugo introduced the concept of ‘he who holds the pencil gets to speak’ (a very useful idea presumably learnt from his Bilgola class teacher) – which is highly amusing when the chairman (Gerhard) talks during Hugo’s pencil time and results in Hugo waving the pencil and pulling amusing faces to indicate that Dad has just broken the rules. (He has a lot to learn!).

There were typical discussions regarding highlights: snorkeling, surf lessons, big fish, playing with Dad in the surf and the beaches. In terms of requests for the next few weeks they included: cycling, more exercise, more visiting places away from the coast, more chocolate croissants and visiting the Italian restaurant at Hervey Bay and most importantly.. Please, no more catching fish – we’re sick of eating fish!

So, after a stunning day’s sailing from 1770 to Bundaberg (which was unexpected: we thought we would be bashing into a bit of a southerly) we tied up just before dark. A long but positive day. We plan to cast off and set sail for Hervey Bay at 4 in the morning. Happy days …

1770 to Bundaberg

1770 to Bundaberg

1770 to Bundaberg

What a day of contrasts and surprises! Getting two anchors out turned out to be quite a mission.  I had the chain between the two anchors stretched tight, so getting the two unshackled at high tide proved difficult.  I lost the shackle, but no fingers – always a good move!

Once we were outside, it looked like we were going to have to motor straight into a south-easterly all day, then it went east, and then east-north-east.  A day of close-hauled sailing in 10 to 15 knots awaited, making sixes and sevens on a flat sea…  The gods were smiling on us.

We sneaked into Bundaberg Port Marina just after 6PM and tied up on the end of one of the arms. Bliss!

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