Salt-Free Caribbean: A Sharking Tale

Monday, March 12, 2007

We had an uneventful but long drive out of Byron Bay the next morning, stopping only to pick up to 4WD trucks for our upcoming trek to Fraser Island. When we finally arrived at our campsite, it was pouring rain. Luckily, it had just started, so there were still some dry spots under trees. Everyone set up their tents in the kitchen shelter – it looked like some sort of Red Cross shantytown – and then we ran our tents out to a spot we’d picked out. As usual, I was camping with Anthony and he picked us a good locale. We had a bit of a tight timetable as we had to, after arriving and setting up in the rain, get groceries for the next couple days before the store closed and also get dinner from the restaurant across from our campsite. We managed to do both, however, and the rain had stopped by the time we got back to camp and went out to dinner. The rain didn’t seem to be getting anyone down, which is perhaps an indicator that we’ve all gotten a little more mature or at least less whiny. Or so one might think except that everyone was on edge because of an argument about taking the trailer vs. the van we’d had which had culminated in a bit of an argument between Norm and myself. Ah, it was going to be an interesting few days.

Luckily, it didn’t take him too long to get over it and he did apologize, so when we left the next day for Fraser Island, everything was back to normal, albeit a little awkward still. Fraser Island, incidentally, is an island made entirely of sand from many, many years of longshore currents depositing it there. Somehow, the island has become vegetated and contains fresh water lakes. Our first stop when we got off the ferry was one of these lakes, Lake Mackenzie. It was unbelievable. Pristine and crystal clear water that looked like it belonged in the Caribbean or something, shimmering white sand, palm trees, and fresh water. It may well have been the perfect beach. Added to the beauty of this lake wsa that the weather finally was perfect, sunny and hot, but not too hot. We all loved it and fooled around in the water for a long time. Some swam to the other side (I got a bit past halfway with my snorkel set on and had enough), and all of us partook in tossing each other as high or far as we could and trying to flip. Chelsea introduced Lana and Amanda to the rather disgusting act of eating sand and fun was had by all.

Speaking of fun, I should mention driving around the island itself. As it’s all sand, 4x4s are required and we bounced around in the back and had a great time. We got stuck once which was interesting, but apparently the differential hadn’t been locked. Still, we made wooden dams under the tires for traction and I like to think that they played a part. In addition to bumping up and down small trails bordered by trees, we took it out on the open beach and zipped across the surf’s edge at 80kph. We swam on East Beach and did some body surfing on some pretty tough surf – one of the waves jammed me into the ocean floor and I twisted my knee enough that bending it became painful. Brad thought he saw something that looked like a shark in the water, though none of us really believed him because he didn’t run out screaming. Still, it was a lot of fun and I caught some sweet waves that brought me all the way in. We also drove by an old shipwreck that had washed up and was pretty cool to see.

We went back to Lake Mackenzie and swam until after sunset and then took off to find our campsite. It took a bit of looking, but we found a spot and set up. In the ladies’ washroom, there were some massive bigger-than-my-hand spiders in the rafters that we took turns looking at. Apparently they were huntsmen and not poisonous, but I still wouldn’t want them crawling on me. I could only imagine Nicole encountering them. She’d better stay out of Queensland if she ever comes here. Katie and I wound up talking to a couple from Ottawa that were really nice and they informed us that the beach we’d swam on earlier was one of the most shark-infested in all of Australia, which basically means in the whole world. So Brad probably did see a shark, but all of us still have our limbs and/or blood, so we’re okay.

The next morning we woke early and went to Boolabera Lake, which was really nice but not as nice as Lake Mackenzie. We had a good long swim there and the sun was burning – it was definitely mid 30s. After a long time there, we went and grabbed a snack (mostly ice cream) in King Fisher Bay and hung around for a while before catching the ferry back to Hervey Bay. All our stuff was intact and we went out to dinner and met Norm’s son and girlfriend. After dinner and some drinks we wanted… some more drinks. Dustin was the driver and he drove us around until we found another bar and hung out there for a while before going back home. We walked around the beach and the clouds and moon were really cool though the beach was a bit ominous after learning about all the sharks on Fraser. It was not long after that we were waking up to head up to Yeppoon for our final city stop before heading to Great Keppel Island and concluding the Pacific Challenge. Coming soon to a blog near you…

Fraser Island Photos

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