Sunday, June 15, 2014

Aussie 6: Fraser Island & Gold Coast

In continuation from: Sydney Zoo, Bondi Beach and the New Year Fireworks

After the New Year celebrations, we flew to Sunshine Coast for the last leg of our trip. Sunshine coast is a reason north of Brisbane with a laid back lifestyle centred around pristine beaches, a number of freshwater lakes and as the name suggests, immense sunshine!! Noosa beach, just 12 kms from the airport is one of the least crowded beautiful beach that you will find. 

Us at the Noosa beach
We had booked a car from the airport itself which we picked immediately and drove towards Noosa Beach. After a short swim in the sea and a filling lunch at one of the many Indian restaurant in Noosa, we drove further to Hervey Bay. If you visit Sunshine Coast with slightly more time at hand, you can also visit a few more beaches and the tropical forests full of Koalas. 

Hervey Bay is a beach-side town famous for its whale watching tours. This is one of the best places in Australia to see whales. Sadly, this wasn't the whale season and we didn't expect to see any whales during our trip. We were visiting Hervey Bay for a day tour of Fraser Island.

Thats Mary river merging into the Pacific at River Heads
Fraser Island is a heritage listed island and is the largest sand island in the world. It is made up of sand being deposited on a volcanic bedrock for over 750,000 years. This process has deposited sand comparable in quantity to the largest inland deserts of earth. It is believed that Badtjala tribe of Aborigines settled here 5000 years ago and lived until 1904 when they were pushed out by the European settlers. This island was particularly popular with the loggers because of the presence of Satinay trees which provide excellent timber. Even a railway track was laid through the forest to facilitate logging. Logging was finally banned in 1991 due to the ecological harm it was causing to the island. This island is now a popular tourist destination because of the numerous fresh water lakes and beautiful creeks all over the island. 

Wanggoolba Creek Can you even notice the water at the bottom? 
We reached Hervey Bay quite late in the evening. Thankfully, our host at Emeraldene Inn stayed there only and provided us the keys to our room and directions to the nearby restaurants and supermarkets. Next morning, Gary Pearce of Fraser Experience Hummer tours was waiting for us even before we readied ourselves to take us to the island in his HUMMER H3. This is the only tour that takes you to the island in a Hummer. The small group size he takes gives you a beautiful personalized experience and Gary himself will ensure to keep you entertained and happy all through the day. 

Thats a carpet snake basking in the sun
A skink slithers away
The tour started with a scenic drive to the ferry station from where we boarded the ferry for a 1.5 hour ride to Fraser Island. At the island, we were driven to the central station which was built by the loggers and was like the town centre of the island with a school and other constructions in the area. From central station, we went on a short boarded walk into the tropical forests around Wanggoolba Creek. All creeks on the island have crystal clear waters as a result of the water being filtered by layers of sands.
The Central Station
Us with gary at the breakfast table!!
These forests are inhabited by venomous Funnel-web spiders which are one of the most dangerous spiders. Thankfully for us, these spiders prefer to venture around in the night. Other than spiders, the island has skinks, flying foxes and some species of snakes. However, dingoes are probably the most dangerous of all the fauna on the island. These dingoes used to keep away from humans earlier, but after feeding continuously on the extra food of the visitors, these have got used to it. Hence, they sometimes try to snatch food from humans aggressively. 

Lake Mckenzie
Lunch time on the 75 mile beach
Next, we moved to the Lake Mckenzie which is a perched lake with pure white silica sands around it. This lake had some religious significance for the Aborigines and is still considered sacred by many locals. As its a fresh water lake with pure water and only about 5 meters deep, we preferred swimming here instead of swimming in the ocean. In terms of beauty, I would rank this lake a close second to the lakes in Ladakh, India. 
Us, Hummer and the ocean!!
Colored Sands
The 75 mile beach on the east coast of the island was our next destination. The drive to this beach from Lake Mckenzie was a long and tough one due to the continuous stretch of loose sands. There aren't any roads built on the island anyways. Just like with everything on this island, it took me some time to absorb the sheer awesomeness of this beach. As the name suggests, it is about 75 miles long and acts as an informal highway for the vehicles. It also acts as a part time runway for airplanes with vehicles advised to give way to the planes!!  
Cars racing on the beach
Maheno Shipwreck. It ran ashore onto the beach and could never be put back into the waters
A few miles north lie the Maheno shipwreck and the magnificent Eli Creek. As it was a hot day, we again went into the cool waters of the creek. Maybe because of the weather, Eli Creek was my favourite point on the island. I could spend hours sitting there in the waters. Post this, we moved on our way back to take the ferry to Hervey Bay. 
That innocent looking thing is a Dingo
Cooling down in the Eli Creek
Next morning, we checked out from Emeraldene Inn to move base to Gold Coast. It was a long drive of almost 400 kms. Thankfully the roads were good and the car we had rented was very comfortable to ride in. The only issue was the weather with the harshest sun ever. We avoided taking any stops unless we could find shaded parking spot. By 2 pm, we were checking into Meriton service apartments, Broadbeach. These apartments are located right in front of Jupiter Casino. This location was just perfect with a couple of Indian restaurants within walking distance and probably the best nightclub in Gold Coast, Platinum Nightclub almost next door.
Us enjoying the drive

For the evening, we went to Surfers Paradise, the entertainment and tourism centre of Gold Coast. This area has 
a wide surf beach and high rise apartments with Q1 being the world's fifth tallest residential building. In order to avoid the installation of parking meters, Gold Coast initially started having Meter maids who will top up expired parking meters. Dressed in gold bikinis and Akubra hat, these meter maids have become a novelty now due to the inevitable evolution of parking meters. We enjoyed the evening walking around the beach and the shopping precinct. Tried entering a nightclub later, but they refused us entry because we were wearing slippers. We then went to the Jupiter Casino instead.
Reverse Bungy at Surfers 
Next morning, we avoided going out of the apartment until late evening due to the insanely harsh sun and really warm temperatures. In the evening, we again went to Surfers Paradise where we bought some souvenirs as this was to be our last day in Australia. Then, we went to the nightclub which refused us entry the night before. Interestingly, they refused us entry again because one of us was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt. Now it had become an ego issue. We then bought a t-shirt from the nearby shops and went in. There we met a group who told us about the Platinum nightclub right next to our apartment. After a few drinks, we moved to Platinum which remains the best nightclub I have visited yet. Yes, it was that awesome!!

Goodbye Australia!!
Finally, on the morning of 5th January, we drove the 100 kms to Brisbane airport to board our flight back home to New Delhi.