We’ve just returned from a little driving expedition to Fraser Island: not a relaxing time as it turned out for poor Gerhard who had to get the Freelander across soft sand (actually it was the lack of clearance under the vehicle that was our problem). Subsequently we were confined to driving the eastern side of the island. This was no great burden – we saw the beautiful Cathedral Rocks, Indian Head, the Maheno wreck which has deteriorated significantly since we visited 18 months ago (photos below) and we swam in the Champagne Rock Pools – with fish sharing the pools with us as the ocean waves crashed in.

We saw one solitary dingo trotting along beach, and there was of course the mandatory jumping off sand dunes…

Whilst Gerhard and I might have been frustrated with the way things turned out I remarked that I felt sure the boys were delighted and their view of the trip would differ to ours. This proved to be the case. Their highlights were as follows:

  • a swimming pool to play in at the resort;
  • swimming in Champagne Rock Pools;
  • lots of unhealthy cereals for breakfast that you could help yourself to (Hugo); and
  • beds to sleep in and a bath.

So it was best to be content and enjoy the fact that the boys found the whole thing very enjoyable, especially hours of clambering all over their father in the pool.

Rather than risk the 17 kilometres of driving (or in our case not driving) through deep tracks and soft sand back to the ferry crossing at Wanggoolba Creek we decided to drive south and leave the island on the barge crossing from Inskip Point to Rainbow Beach. This was an easy enough drive between high and low tide although the last bit was a little challenging as we nipped around the southern tip of the island on shifting sand. With a sigh of relief we boarded the barge, with the knowledge that we just had the final 100m across the beach and then we were home and dry (or on sealed roads at any rate). It was going well with Gerhard flooring the car…and then the 4WD ahead of us slowed down. Result. We got stuck. There was quite a lot of swearing at this point. The boys sensibly engrossed themselves in whatever screen they could lay their hands on and I went off across the beach to talk one of the unsuspecting fishermen to come and give us a tow with their 4WD. As the 3 bearded fellows partook of their afternoon cans of beer and observed me trotting across the sand I challenged them not to turn and walk away from me, but to contribute to my marital harmony. Thankfully the humour worked, and after a few tense moments and failed attempts to pull the Freelander clear of the sand we were out…..and my bearded friend didn’t spill a drop of beer or even put his can down!

We got home late afternoon a bit weary and a bit frazzled. In time to unpack, pop some more supplies on board and head back out to Fraser Island the next day, but this time on board Sunny Spells.

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…

It has all felt a bit hard work recently. Groundhog Day and wearisome, warm and overbearing in a boat. The marina water is over 30 degrees C so the temperature in the boat is affected by that as well as the surrounding air temperature. That combined with the fact that we feel as though we are living in some concrete trailer park. If I have cabin fever then small wonder G feels it too – he didn’t get to bolt to Sydney to see his friends the week before last. The wind keeps blowing from the north and so there’s nowhere to hide if we should take the boat into the Bay.

Gerhard has also had some of ‘my’ work to do, whilst I’ve dragged the boys through their school work (all whilst we sweat). We bought an air-conditioner, but it’s not as effective as I would like. We did try going for a bit of a look around on Thursday – to the much publicised markets and sights of Maryborough.

Maryborough was an important nineteenth century town. The creator of Mary Poppins heralds from Maryborough and some poor woman dresses up as Mary Poppins everyday and gives guided tours and assists with daily firing of a cannon – it was over 30 degrees at 10 in the morning: I hope she is paid well for her work.

The streets were once the home of silk merchants, merchant banks and opium dens. Settled in 1847 it was once one was one of Australia’s largest and busiest ports.
Whilst it was lovely and there were a lot of lovely people that we met, we weren’t that impressed with the historical town.

From Maryborough ( over-warm and a little deflated) we headed to the sights of Burrum Heads only to find a very pretty river mouth and sandy beach and ……not a lot else other than a caravan park. I then checked the highlights that were listed in my tourist brochure: the skateboard park, the community hall and the library! Ah, not exactly brimming over with culture. Coming from the Cotswolds with your village local built over 600 years ago and a church mentioned in the Doomsday book does mean you set your sights a little high!

On Saturday we found ourselves at the water park again, and this time the boys got to have a go on ‘flip side’ some wacky surfboard ride thing. They were delighted.

At the water park I continue to feel as though I stick out like a sore thumb ….I really must ask Santa for a shed load of tattoos for Christmas! Huge ones down the thigh seem to be the go around here. I also seem to be half the size of most of the female population – but I’m fast rectifying that. I must stop eating and drinking and get up to do some exercise before it gets hot and humid: unfortunately it will require me to be out before 5.30am so it’s not looking good!

We then moved on to visit a shark exhibition. We’ve driven past a few times and have been fascinated. We thought it might be air conditioned so off we went.

We paid the hefty $40 for a rather bizarre shark experience – where this chap has spent his life-time hunting and killing Great White sharks. His whole exhibition is dedicated to his passionate belief and his cause that the shark should not be protected. It was a very strange combination of macabre, biased, highly subjective, gruesome and hysterically funny exhibition.

Vic Hislop’s Shark show is a dedication to the fact that some sharks kill a lot of other animals and so in his opinion should be killed in order to help protect other creatures and the many humans that encounter shark attacks every year. There are walls adorned with gruesome photos and lists of actual or presumed victims of shark attacks, and there are some pretty amateur videos of Vic catching sharks and displaying the contents of the sharks’ stomachs.

Our objective throughout this visit was to spot the spelling or grammatical mistake/s. The exhibition did not let us down: how can you spell the word ‘cartilage’ two different ways in the same sentence??! Oh, and on that note, has no one told the person who built the very nice “Norfolk Appartments” in Maryborough – and has the whole bloody sign beautifully made and everything – that you only have one ‘p’ in apartments? May the dear lord help us… Oscar and Hugo can spell apartments correctly – I’ve checked!
Anyway, as G and I sat discussing our frustrations with the last couple of weeks over our obligatory sundowners, I did say that despite our reservations the boys seem as happy-as-Larry:

  • they love trotting around the marina – and knowing people and where everything is;
  • Wet-side water park is their home from home;
  • they both said how amazing the day going to Maryborough and Burrum Heads was – there were so many exciting things to see and do; and
  • yesterday’s highlight was the horrendous shark display ( which incidentally I failed to mention contained 3 frozen sharks and a lot of air freshener which G pointed out was clearly to cover up the reeking ‘rotting fish odour’).

So, you never can tell. What ‘fluffs our duvet’ clearly is not necessarily what makes the boys happy.

We are now on Fraser Island …. And that’s a whole different story which I’ll leave for another day. But we will have a family meeting this evening to give the boys a chance to remind us that what we think is a not very exciting and in fact quite tedious day is not necessarily the case when you are aged 8 and 9!

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.

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