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Here's Two of the eighteen chapters in this book. These are some of my most favourite times in Australia.
Chapter 4 of 18
An Aussie Safari on a Sandbank
My following destination would be Fraser Island, but first, I stopped in a compact town called Hervey Bay in dense woodland with trees along most roads. Hervey Bay has a rural presence with little tourism supporting Fraser Island.
It was a natural sandbank, solidified into a small island over many years. It was a beautiful place to go for a 4x4 off-road safari.
I booked a tour with Sand Island Safaris. I chose them because they specialize in small party tours.
The Colonial Backpackers Resort, where I would stay before heading over, was remote in a semi-forest with great rooms. It made for a unique place with no standard hostel buildings but small wooden cabins added to the secluded woodland feel.
Don't Mention the Cane Toads
This place made for an interesting night as we heard the infamous cane toads singing in the rain.
This has become a slight embarrassment as an overzealous attempt at bug-killing that went wrong. Some bugs attacked crops, and so they brought in cane toads from another country, which decided that killing the bugs was not enough killing. They went rampant throughout significant areas in Australia, damaging their unique ecosystem. This cane toad is not the only unfortunate incident against indigenous life, as domestic cats kill birds and small animals at a colossal rate.
We Are off to Fraser Island
The weather had cleared up in the morning and looked calmer, with a few clouds floating in the sky. As I walked around the hostel and nearby roads, I saw unlucky toads that did not make it through the night. After a little further, I made it to what should have been a coastline. Looking out across the bay, I saw a darkened shape out to sea that would be my next destination.
Later that morning, I made it back to the hostel and met our travel guide. Trevor looked a nice chap and had a polite and talkative nature. He was a short guy with some odd facial hair as if he had shaved without a mirror. We took a ferry with him across to Fraser Island with our 4x4 car with our party of five with Minjun, a Korean guy, Richard from Switzerland, and Lisa and Jack, a couple from Newcastle in England. Besides our party, we also saw many other off-road cars joining us on the island.
A bonus for us in the weather has made it possible to drive anywhere on the island, solidifying the ground to drive wherever we wanted, which Trevor told us of earlier times that had not been likely. As we arrived on land, we saw dingoes on a nearby hill. I was curious to know how they had gotten there and how long they had been cut off from the mainland?
We went along a nature trail. Trevor told us he would take the car and meet us at the other end. We did not know how long this was as it meandered along a river with tall trees covered in twisty vines made for an authentic jungle experience. After too many kilometers to mention, we gladly met up with him again.
We jumped back on board the 4x4 as Trevor told us about the conditions and how this unique island came to be. The scale of this sandbank's size has lakes and rivers inland and forests and massive dunes. I felt a reluctance from the surrounding guides to go swimming, so we were not alone with dangerous animals.
A night out was not on the cards as Trevor told us we needed to get up early. So, it lacked any effect on us. However, the three of us got up late to see the couple, and Trevor complained that we had not woken up yet.
We finally got out after breakfast and headed off to see a shipwreck called the Maheno, which worked during World War 1 as a hospital ship for New Zealand and Australia together. In 1935, after some severely harsh weather, it became beached on Fraser Island. After some people tried to get it moving, again, it was left where it was. It looked like a sorry state, but it is a famous landmark. The ship had all but gone, with a ghostly outline of rusting metal remaining where we were told not to go too close for obvious reasons.
Later that day, we took a walk over some massive dunes. The place felt alien, as I was in another world. That was precisely why the BBC had filmed the area for a dinosaur documentary.
The plant life was sparse with small, scrubby, low-lying bushes. I never thought I would walk across a desert before I came here besides the possibility of being in the outback. We also learned how the sand moves, and constant moving energy never stops moving. It would always progress depending upon the weather.
After we drove to Indian Head, where the sea was so bright, we saw fish swimming and jumping next to an outcrop of more exposed black rock. Being in such a location with the sunshine and clear waters was hard to believe where I was only two days ago in the city.
As I mentioned earlier, Billy Connolly visited this place. As it looked tropical, I decided it should be on my list. He showed me a few more gems, but more on those later.
After the unpopular late awakening, we had a difference this morning. Trevor decided we would be up at 7:30 with an early start. So, we were off to a lake for a swim, which was beautifully clear.
The waters were intriguing because of how large they were. I could not imagine a sandbank so vast that it produced rivers. As we returned to the beach, I saw an exposed black rock, which he told us was not rock but solidified plant life. I saw holes, which left a molded sculpture as the sea had also exposed some cliff faces.
The Infamous Coconut Incident
A funny story had arisen from our party. Minjun, the Korean guy, wanted to drink from a coconut and thought that the rest was rubbish and had finished after completing that challenge. However, he understood nothing was left inside. After telling him this, next became the more infuriating challenge for him to get into a coconut with only a small penknife. He struggled to move it around, trying to find some way in, only to end up back at the same little holes at the top. It is safe to say, and after eventually opening the coconut, his penknife could cut nothing else again.
To top that story, Lisa, the Newcastle girl, was strolling along with the rest of us without a care in the world as it was easy to lose yourself there. She walked in front of an old Italian lady having her photograph taken. This sent the woman shouting out in Italian at poor Lisa as she tried to get out of the way.
It was our last day, and the chilly weather had returned. We only had a brief time bumbling around before we headed back onto the ferry for the mainland. This was an enjoyable drive as the dynamics of this island's existence are something out of the ordinary.
It was a day off and time for laundry and other things before my following location. It feels subdued when people come to a place, which, in theory, should make it more upbeat with their new hope and aspirations, and we end up doing the chores. When we are waiting to leave, it can dampen the situation.
Upon reaching the main town, I picked up a small radio. So now I am free and happy to listen to local radio stations along the coast. I feel more open with this than with the phone. Again, this was a pre-smartphone era.
Chapter 5 of 18
Sailing Under the Milky Way and a Shark
I jumped back on the bus and went along the coast toward another small place called Airlie Beach. A tiny coastal strip supports the sailing companies and goes into the Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays.
This was a similar partnership as Hervey Bay had with Fraser Island. The Whitsundays are a set of islands inside the Barrier Reef.
I came here as I intended to sail for two days. From my earlier notes, my skills in the deep-blue sea are limited.
This, to a degree, made me a touch nervous about trying something like this as I would sail in deep waters on a small, if not a tiny boat. This activity, though, was essential.
Familiar Faces in Surprising Places
I arrived at the hostel called Club Habitat. On the way there, I saw James and Jonathan from Byron Bay. Also, in the same room is Richard from Switzerland, who was with me in Hervey Bay. He had left a few days earlier than me.
I walked around as I was in the mood to have a stroll after getting off the bus. I had a quick walk as the place has only a short road with many hostels, restaurants, and boat shops.
A Giant Shark? In a House?
In my travels around town, I stumbled upon the weirdest museum ever. I found a shark museum in someone's house with an unbelievably giant shark in embalming fluid. They covered the walls with photos of the shark with others, along with the man who caught the monster. Places like these become pure gold in telling stories to other travelers.
After more walking and checking out some travel packages, I booked my trip with Next Sail. There were only four of us onboard the Clement Webb, so it would be like Fraser Island again, making for a lovely small and personal group.
That evening did not ease my sailing fears as the welcoming party at a local restaurant did not know our boat crew, and none of the other three had turned up. So, there I sat with drinks in hand, casually wandering over to two girls curious to know if they were my team. Sadly, not as they had had their trip, so why should I waste the chance of an excellent opportunity as we chatted, drank, and ate tasty food together? They told me about what they did out there and what an exciting time they had. After a while, I was back to thinking about what on Earth I was facing later.
Time to Set Sail
The following day came, and after making my way to the docks and questioning, would I even have a boat? I finally saw Next Sail. My team of Joanne, Chloe, two British girls, and Justin, a German guy with a great American accent, were there. Jack and Ruby were the guides. Jack was a little guy, so little that I thought he would not be strong enough to sail the boat, but no worries there. What made him look even smaller was that Justin towered us at six feet plus.
We set off sailing along on calm waters, but they could have been waves from the storm of the season for me as I was nervous as the boat was a reasonable size, but again it felt like a dingy. The seas have not been a wonderful place for me, but this was still an experience.
As we sailed along, the water was beautiful and serene blue. I lost all nervous feelings in such a calming experience as the waves rolled back and forth so gently as we sailed even further away from land. Traveling would take a long time as we had been out for many hours in a beautiful place to lose our thoughts on the peaceful seas. I saw nothing else around us besides the odd other boat going past and the occasional sighting of whales.
We stopped and stayed in a small inlet for the night. We all lay together on the top deck of the boat with the most fantastic sky above us, seeing millions of light bulbs all twinkling away in a pitch-black sky.
We could see the Milky Way, which was beyond words for how mesmerizing it was to us. The four of us were together on a small boat at sea, offshore off Australia at night, staring out into space for millions and millions of miles, looking at billions of stars. This memory is something that will stay with me forever.
Later, we started talking and playing cards together. The girls have only been here two weeks but have given me thoughts on plans for later. As we were talking about ourselves, Chloe told us about her past. She had a near-death experience when she was homeless, but her wonderful friend helped her through to better times. She looked better than what her friend described and healthier. I am glad to have met them and share such a happy time. We could have stayed there all night, but we needed to get ready for bed.
The next day we went to Border Island. Joanne and I stayed on the boat as she sadly could not dive, so Chloe and Justin dived in alone. This was commonplace as a giant wrasse fish called Charlie lived there. As those two were diving, Joanne and I thought it would be funny to throw bread at them and watch the fish come closer. It must have been amazing to see the fish so close like that.
We later went to Whitehaven Beach, which had brilliant white beaches and the most vivid cyan sea I have ever seen. Silica comes from a 200-meter volcanic hole, spewing out quartz.
The girls had some silver jewelry they cleaned well and glowed in the golden sun. The view of Whitehaven Beach was a collection of small lagoons in a vast bay. We saw small sharks within only a few feet of us as we were there.
Bucket List: New Entry and Completed!
I have officially sailed a boat. I steered okay, but I felt a few rough currents that pulled the ship here and there. Jack said I sailed well to keep it on course, which was impressive with a strange sense of power over something that has had power over me for so long. We also saw more whales as we went much further away from land. I am glad they didn't show up while I was sailing.
Night-time came, and we returned to another little inlet where we heard the neighboring yachts complete with drunken women dancing and shouting on their boats. It was also another chance to see the great skies for us; we could never be tired of doing so.
The last day came, and we sailed over to see the Three Mermaids on Daydream Island. It was tacky and commercial, so not the highlight of the trip. To make the trip finish on a high, we saw whales up close, which, to be honest, was unnerving to have been so close to such a beast.
Before saying goodbye to everybody, we went to a restaurant in Airlie Beach and had an excellent English breakfast. I will miss them dearly as this is the life of a traveler. We meet, talk, share beautiful times and move on.
Why not continue reading...
Australia and New Zealand Backpacked
A Year-Long Journey Around Australia and New Zealand Meeting Wonderful People and Animals
This memoir covers a journey to Australia and New Zealand, with history being the primary goal. Still, as with most trips, other more exciting things got in the way, including overly agitated animals, beautiful places, and lovely people.
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