Nerang - Fraser Island (17/02/2015 - 23/03/2015)
Hmmm so time to stop procrastinating and get a few words on the page as although we don't want the website to become a chore if we don't get moving on it regularly our failing memories will loose the detail! So back in 2014 Martin purchased our Toyota Landcruiser VDJ78 (Priscilla) in Sydney and drove it up to Nerang (Gold Coast) where he ripped out about half of the previous fittings and custom built replacements which would accommodate additional water storage, a toilet and room for our belongings (quite limited!!!). He also fitted water and oil filters, electricity inverter, solar panels, a side awning, sand-ladders on side panel which also double as a workbench, and replaced the second spare tyre with an aluminium storage box on rear bumper. Ready for action!
After a busy six months packing up our lives in Nelson, New Zealand we flew to Nerang in mid-February 2015 and spent about two weeks finishing off the above alterations, gathering together the remaining equipment, and packing it all into every tiny crevice of poor Priscilla. We then headed South into Northern NSW on a test run for about 10 days, everything worked surprisingly well and we also managed to fit a mosquito net and make a few other adjustments but the main concern was space, everything was just too tightly packed, some downsizing of belongings had to happen! Nearly everything was unpacked and reassessed on a necessity basis and only returned to Priscilla if it passed strick criteria (with a few exceptions sneaked in :-))
Wooyung to Byron Bay
During this test trip our first campsite was at Wooyung beach campground, a rumpty, basic but relaxed, friendly and cheap spot on a lovely sparsely populated coastline between Tweed Heads and Byron Bay. We stayed here for three days getting up to watch the sunrise from a desserted beach and enjoyed relaxed days getting used to this new way of living. Next stop Byron Bay which was even more beautiful than expected and great to visit but rather people polluted, hot and generally catering to a population less than half our age!!! We fitted in a great walk around the lighthouse point, swims and picnics despite a lack of sleep related to our neighbouring campers, a group of very young German tourists (The Booze Brothers) who partied full-throttle to nearly sunrise!!
Inland to Nimbin, we had to visit as it is Australia's equivalent of our Golden Bay and its like stepping back into the 70's where dreds, dope and peace prevail!! We only intended a brief visit but felt right at home and even ran into the Booze Bros again!! Found a great campground with huge pool so stayed on for the Friday night drumming jam session a laid-back smokey affair with drummers hanging in there from the 70's and which actually continued well into Saturday!
Here in Nimbin we also met our “new friend” John … one of the highlights … we had stopped for a picnic lunch on a random clearing in the bush just a few minutes out of Nimbin, a car rattles down a side road, stops near us and deposits a wiry, weather-beaten, apparently hard-living character in the dust. He was looking pretty rumpty and tired in his work clothes and ambled over for a chat, introduced himself as John and advised us that our picnic spot was renowned as a place for “shooting up” and to watch out for needles. He cheerfully strode off to the main road to hitch a ride and to our amazement, within 2 minutes a car stopped, he waved to us and off he went! Half an hour later we had just arrived in Nimbin and who should bound up and welcome us to town from his stool outside the pub but John! Later after dinner when we walked up for the drumming John was still there and well on the way to quenching his thirst but no longer recognising us. Later still we encountered him yet again, this time heading down the road with a case of beer under his arm, cheerful as ever and saying the case was to keep the Mrs happy! We're not sure if John made it back to work the next day!
We set off from Nimbin well-prepared with the intention of camping several days in the Border Ranges National Park, drove most of the morning and arrived at the entrance to the park only to be confronted with a sign advising that the majority of the roads in the park were closed! Much back-tracking, a replanning picnic in Kyogle, then a new route commenced to Mt Warning Rainforest Park. Stayed two nights in a great rustic campground tucked in under Mt Warning surrounded by rainforest and birds and a wee creek next to us. Back to Nerang for just a night then off for our mountain treat!!
A major highlight so far was our two fabulous nights at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat (thank you A&A)! We left the heat and humity of the coast and wound for an hour through lush tropical bush dotted with lifestyle blocks then the next hour climbing first through farmland then gums then rainforest, zigzaging up up up with views increasingly more amazing and breathtaking as we climbed!! Finally arriving at our rainforest paradise, O'Reilly's in Lamington National Park. This place was like something out of the 1920's, lovely old colonial-style buildings set among the trees and a room with a magic view over the mountains to the North and West from an elevation of over 1,000m! And to top all that off …. it was cool!!!! But this was not to be a holiday - up 0545 for the 0645 daily “Bird Walk” was fun with a witty guide and intro to the local birdlife, incredibly over 160 species live in the park with many living around the Retreat and others arrive daily for feeding. Our guide had helped David Attenborough when he visited recently to film the Bower birds and entertained us with stories of the devious tricks they used to create the film footage. We did several other walks each day and also a tree-top walk twice :-) – up at about 15-20m with an optional ladder climb right up into the very tops among amazing trees including the incredible Strangler Figs, hundreds of years old. Sadly we had to come down from the mountain but did manage to take a momento …. we filled both Priscilla's water tanks with fresh mountain spring water :-) and made our way back to Nerang to prepare for our departure North.
Sad goodbyes to family in Nerang and on the road we are – this is now the real thing, the beginning of the adventure we have been planning for the past 6+ months. I request a whistle-stop tour of Brisbane city centre and we stumble upon the annual St Paddy's day parade, lots of crazy fun sights, performances, people, heat …. with enough time left to drive up the Sunshine Coast – trying to avoid motorways where possible. Bli Bli pops up on our campground-locater and we make camp by a river estaury just in time to cook before dark, the lovely friendly managers Bev & Trev are enthusastic travellers and give us lots of hints and advice for our journey. Next day we make it to Rainbow beach, the departure town for Fraser where we need to purchase permits and get info pack etc, Priscilla is stuffed with supplies for a week and we camp in town and enjoy what might be our last proper shower for a while!
Up and ready early and drive to Inskip point to catch the barge over the narrow channel, let tyres down and line up at the non-existent “terminal”. Heaps of variations of 4WDs and trucks, some with trailers line up randomly on the sand spit. Our turn … we get to the very front of the barge next to the crazy-looking high-clearance bus …. pay the man his exorbitant fee and 10 mins later we drive off happily onto the sand of Fraser island. About an hour of cruising up the golden beaches before detouring inland to explore some of the tracks/lakes/forests. Single-lane tracks with no hope of passing an on-coming vehicle except to reverse back to the occasional roughly widened pull-over area. Tracks axel deep in dry loose sand with ruts, potholes, dips, roots, washouts and occasional rumpty bridges – great fun!! It's also majic cruising up kilometres of golden beaches but we are a bit shocked by how many other tourists are doing the same as us, not only the trucks, but huge bus-loads of day-trippers and groups travelling in convoy – apparently Fraser has more crashes than anywhere else in Aus and its easy to see why!
We are on the island for a week, camping each night on the edge of the beach and spending the days exploring the inland 4WD tracks, rainforests, walks and lakes which were deliciously cool for a swim or paddle. There are “sand-blows” like huge dunes making their way inland which constantly change the landscape and lakes form naturally and gradually become home to turtles, frogs and snakes etc, areas of amazing rainforest and on the western coast there are remains of an old timber mill from the 1930's.
The shipwreck of the NZ steamship “Maheno” lies on the beach about halfway up the island and we visited several times as she was a beauty and photographed well :-), she held the trans-tasman record in her day and was once a luxury liner but was converted to a hospital ship during WWI then abandoned and sold for scrap to Japan. Whilst being towed to Japan she broke loose during a storm and remained stuck on the beach despite several attempts to refloat her, the Aussie army used her for bombing practice during WWII so she's a bit munted but still beautiful in a weird kind of way. Martin was in his element – Fraser island is totally photogenic!!!
We received many official warnings before and during our stay about the Dingos so were on the alert and always carried a stick etc but didn't see sign of them for two days. On the third night one cruised past our camp but showed no interest then the next day on our trip inland we came across a group of them who kindly posed for some good pics. I think there are only about 160 left on the island and they are the original purebred Dingos so are protected, handsome scary-looking beasts!
But a worse beast on Fraser were these nasty biting green-eyed flies who mounted an attack each night when we made camp! For some reason they particularly liked my blood and I ended up looking like I had chicken pox by the time we were back on the mainland. We were treated to a storm on our last night so slept little and were still awake at 0430 when it was time to drive down for the early barge, feeling a little sad that this adventure was over but also pretty exhausted and ready to leave.