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Shoreside

November 29, 2012

Hervey Bay is a relaxed resort community which turned out to be an ideal place for us to wash ashore. Thanks go out to Jerry for not offloading us in some big city harbor. We found a funky little hostel, called the Mango, that was just what we needed during our transition to land. The back garden even held a sailboat which was undergoing a few small repairs.

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This ferrous-cement ketch had been on the hard for six years, but the project looked to be gaining momentum. All the best, Phillip.

The principal attractions in Hervey Bay are whale-watching and Fraser Island. As the humpbacks had all headed south for the summer, we looked toward Fraser for some fun. Composed entirely of sand, this isolated island off this isolated continent is home to some unique wildlife and landscapes, earning it status as a World Heritage Site. Think Baja California meets Jurassic Park. Most of the island is protected as undeveloped National Park and the 4WD-only requirements further help to preserve this special place. That being said, hundreds of day tripping tourists pour from ferries onto jacked-up safari buses to zoom up and down the beach.

Knowing that we would not be satisfied on a cattle car doing the stock sights, we were intrigued by a flyer posted at the hostel. A young German couple were planning a four day camping trip around the island and had space available in their newly acquired Pathfinder. Wilderness wheelin’ with foreign kids barely old enough to drive sounded much more our style so we accepted their offer despite the sceptical warnings from our host.

Assured that they had a shovel and a few spare jugs of water we piled in with Mona, Eike, & a third German, Max. At the ferry, surrounded by snorkel-equipped Landcruisers, the Pathfinder did look somewhat low and frail. As Mona tentatively proceeded down the rutted track on half inflated tires each of us quietly wondered if Phil’s dire predictions would prove accurate. Though we often drug bottom our doubts were quickly assuaged as confidence grew with each obstacle passed. The only time we had to get out and push was upon meeting another rig that was stuck in our way. For days we merrily bounced along through an ever changing landscape of scrub, rainforest, sand dunes, and entrapped fresh water lakes. Camp each night was made on the dunes overlooking the open Pacific. As the setting sun cast it’s glow over beaches now devoid of tour buses we heartily enjoyed our companions and our cheap box wine.

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We encountered many interesting critters on the island such as Laughing Kookaburra birds, Goanna lizards, and wild Dingo. A highlight for me was sitting up on Indian Head watching all the sea life in the clear waters below. From our vantage point we could see large rays and turtles, and a giant bait ball being harassed by vast numbers of shark. The largest of these were quite impressive and illustrated the warnings we had heard regarding Great Whites along these shores. There was a very real reason all that great looking surf was left so conspicuously unutilized. Scary!

While we didn’t get stuck, Phil wasn’t completely off base. We did push the limits of the vehicle causing some uncertain moments. With the hopes of getting an early start on Day 3 we unwisely attempted to drive along the beach too soon after high tide. The soft sand quickly overworked the little rig leading to the unmistakable sight and sound of a blown radiator hose. Lacking the experience of years of jackassing around in cars Mona & Eike were understandably nervous about their new ride. Who knows what it might cost to get parts delivered way out here? I hitched a ride to the nearest resort, some 10k back down the beach, where the general store stocked things like overpriced beer, ice cream and bait, but little from which to fashion a radiator hose. I explained our situation to the proprietor who, against all odds, knew of a wrecked Nissan rusting away in some nearby shed. He returned shortly with a smile and a “You’re f’n lucky, Mate,” and sent me on my way with the desperately needed part. A short while later we were back in action, wondering at our good fortune. Lucky indeed!

The next breakdown threatened to be a much bigger problem than simply replacing a hose. Through a combined lack of judgement and attention Eike got caught driving a bit far down the beach and sent a wave splashing over the hood. Another familiar sound, this time the sputter of a drowned engine, brought us coasting to a stop. With the tide rising we were again treated to much welcomed Australian hospitality. This time it was a fellow called Knuckles who came to our aid, towing us above high water and figuring how to remove the glow plugs to drain the diesel engine. His son-in-law joked that the fishing had been lousy for days leaving Knuckles eager for any distraction. Again, Fortune smiled on us, providing just enough hassle to make an adventure. I may have even been disappointed if we hadn’t met with some trouble during days of four-wheeling.

Our new friends were a lot of fun and we truly enjoyed each others company as we explored this beautiful playground.

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Thanks Mona, Eike, & Max, for having us along. Happy travels to you all.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Leslie Kermath permalink
    December 30, 2012 2:01 pm

    Wow, I felt like I was there too! Believe it or not, I am emailing you from the top of Elk Highlands in my liftie shack. I have wifi, there’s lots of fantastic snow and I want to see a  kookaburra! Leslie

  2. December 24, 2012 1:37 am

    Yes, it was a great experience and fantastic to have you with us! We are at the Whitsundays on a private boat at the moment- thanks to your advice. Have a nice Christmas the two of you! Eike & Mona

  3. Barbara permalink
    December 21, 2012 9:09 am

    YES! How much more fun and memorable than the tour bus!

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