April 26, 2003

Fraser Island with the Betchers

I originally had this trip on the Club trip calendar, but took it off for a couple of reasons. The main one was that it was turning into a bit of a mammoth visit-the-rellies trip and it was becoming harder to accurately say we would be somewhere at a particular date and time and actually do it. The other reasons are that we didn’t really think it all that appropriate to run a club trip in competition with the Jamboree, and with four kids under the age of 8 tagging along it seemed a bit much to inflict on innocent club members. So the trip was removed from the trip calendar and we did it as a private trip with ourselves, the Salemes and Donna’s brother’s family in a hired Landcruiser. I took the opportunity to make our visit into somewhat of a reccie however, so hopefully you will find it being offered again as a club trip in the next 12 months or so.

It’s been a long time between visits for us and the Island has certainly changed a lot in 15 years. It’s noticeably more commercial, and I was quite shocked when we actually hit tar at Eurong township! My recollections of Eurong were that of a general store, a petrol pump, and that’s about it.

We left Sydney and headed up the New England highway, stopping at Aberdeen to visit my nan, then cruising on to Tenterfield for an overnight stop. Next morning saw us driving across the Queensland border, through Warwick, Ipswich and into Brisbane for lunch at South Bank. While having lunch in Brisbane, we got the message about Leah and Tim having their baby, so we had a little celebration for them. After lunch we jumped onto the Bruce Highway and heading for Gympie and Hervey Bay.

Arriving at Hervey Bay in the late afternoon we stocked up on supplies at the local supermarket and headed for the local van park where we’d booked an onsite van for the overnight stay before catching the 9:00am barge from River Heads the next morning. Donna and I caught up with a old teaching buddy who now lives up that way and we had a nice barbie on the beach at Torquay and got a few lessons in the laidback Queensland lifestyle.

Next morning we all drove down to River Heads and lined up for the barge. Anthony and I loaded our little twin blue V6 Vitaras on the barge amongst a sea of great big white Landcruisers – it was quite funny to see. After such a long drive, it’s a good feeling to finally be on the barge, sun shining and water shimmering, as you make your way over to Fraser in the distance.

Once on the island at the Woongoolba Creek loading point, we made our way over to Central Station for a look at the camping options. I’d been really keen to camp at Lake Mackenzie, but a Queensland National Parks ranger we met on the barge had been telling us it was the worse place on the island for dingos, and it had some of the girls a bit worried about the kids. Although Gary was pretty happy with Central Station, I hate camping on sloped ground and Bernadette was pretty keen to be near water, so we pushed on to Mackenzie to see what we could get there. It’s pretty difficult to get a site at Mackenzie as there are only 16 spots, you can’t book them, and they are highly sought after. We couldn’t believe our luck when we managed to get three sites! Nice level sites, at the end of the camping ground and only a short stroll to the lake. We decided to stay.

The next few days were spent tooling around the island, exploring the lakes, the beaches, the inland tracks and the resorts. All the tracks around the island are soft sandy roads and are a lot of fun to drive on. It rained on the Thursday and it was amazing how the rain changed the tracks – they became hard packed and much easier to drive on, although they still had lots of big undulations to give your suspension a decent workout.

On Tuesday we visited the beach via Eurong and drove all the way up to Indian Head and the Champagne Pools. We stopped at all the interesting spots along the way – Eli Creek, The Maheno Wreck, Happy Valley resort. I’d heard that Darwin Cheung and his family were also going to be on the island so I asked about him at the resort - they said he was staying there but had gone out for the day. We happened to bump into them when we dropped back into Eli Creek later in the day.

Eli is just beautiful. It’s a crystal clear spring that rises somewhere in the middle of the island and flows out to the sea, and it’s popularity with the island’s visitors is easy to understand. We spent some more time swimming up and down the creek, or rather, walking up the boardwalk and then floating back down to the beach, carried along with the current flow. Good stuff!

We had a few spots of rain – some quite big spots at times – over the next few days, but it didn’t dampen our interest to see more of the island. Over the next couple of days, we visited Central Station again and did the rainforest walk, and learned some very interesting facts about the islands spiders – facts I’m glad we didn’t know earlier! The Salemes joined us for a drive down around the southern lakes where we saw Boomanjin, Benaroon and a couple of others whose names I can’t remember. Got to have a run along an old airstrip too, but we just couldn’t get airborne.

The dingos were a bit of a non-issue… we saw quite a few of them, but none were a problem. A couple wandered through our campsite at night a few times, but they really are pretty timid and I think so long as you stay out of their way, they really aren’t looking for trouble. I think it’s a shame they get such a bad rap.

We eventually left the island on Friday afternoon, doing the long drive back down to Hook Point, got straight onto the barge and was back on the mainland at Inskip Point all too soon. A quick drive down the beach to Rainbow and we took the opportunity to get a high pressure hose under the car to wash out the salt and sand and then we headed for the Gold Coast, where Movie World was on the agenda for the next day. The Salemes stayed on the island for another day as they were off to visit rellies at Maroochidore the next week.

Spent the next few days getting home via Gold Coast, Nambucca Heads, Casino, Grafton, Macksville, (including a very scenic drive across the main range on about 150kms of gravel) and back home via Armidale, Tamworth, and Aberdeen.

It was a great trip, and we’ll have to do it again soon as a club trip when the weather warms up.

Chris, Donna, Alex And Kate Betcher
March 2003