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Picnic trip to Fraser Island.

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The pick up was at the caravan park at 9 o'clock but we didn't get to the island until 11. It all seemed a bit fraught.

There were nearly forty people on the bus, some doing the day trip and some staying overnight in the Eurong resort. The bus was a four wheel drive Mercedes with enormous wheels and huge suspension travel.

photo of rose gums Our first stop was a place called Central Station, the site of the original timber cutters camp. The island had been used for logging for over a hundred years until the whole island was declared a National Park in 1991.

We walked for an hour along the Wanggoolba Creek, up a hill euphemistically called sharp by our tour guide, and on to Pile Valley, an area of giant Satinay trees.

The forest is absolutely beautiful. Though the island is all sand, the forests are well established with trees up to a thousand years old. The rain forest in the centre of the island is largely Brush Box and Satinay, a species unique to the island. Both are tall and straight and magnificent and both are prized for the quality of the timber. Brush Box was used extensively for flooring as it takes a marvellous natural shine and Satinay is one of the worlds best timbers for wharf piling as it is extremely resistant to marine borer. There are also Blackbutt, Hoop Pine and Kauri in significant quantities. The extraction rate of the timber industry reached 500 tonnes (500 tons) a week. Happily the forest is returning to its natural state now.

We drove to a resort on the east coast of the island for our picnic lunch and then headed back inland to Lake McKenzie, a very large fresh water lake in the interior of the island, 80 metres (250 ft) above sea level with no streams feeding into it and no streams feeding out of it.

The hydrology of the island is fascinating. The annual rainfall is over two metres (80 inches) and the sand soil is entirely porous so there is no run off, all the rain soaks straight in. The streams are all fed by seepage from the sand into the valley bottoms and the water is astonishing clear so that, at first sight you don't notice the water and see only the sandy bed apparently dry. The island delivers many megalitres (many million gallons) per hour into the surrounding sea and if you dig into the sand on the beach you get fresh not salt water.

The lake is an ideal swimming hole as the water is incredibly clear and the beach and the bottom are very fine pure white sand.

Dingoes live around the lake and are so used to humans that they walk past the assembled visitors with virtually no fear. Jean was standing on the boardwalk leading to the beach as one walked within two feet of her. The dingo was quite unfazed, the same cannot be said for Jean who, not knowing what to do, instinctively did the most appropriate thing and stood still and watched the dingo go by.

We also saw many Lace Monitors, one at Lake McKenzie walked under the bus as we stopped and climbed a couple of feet up a small Satinay tree nearby so that we could admire it in comfort.

On the way to Lake Mckenzie we had a puncture. The driver hurried to the nearest open space where we could change the wheel. Most of the passengers stood and watched while the elderly driver, aided by one or two of us, did the business. On the way back from the lake with 15 minutes to catch the last ferry, we ran into some very deep sand and, as the spare tire was smaller than the original, we were unable to get through. Its quite exciting driving backwards along a 3 metre (10 ft) wide sand track in a 40 seat bus with other traffic potentially on the road. The driver posted passenger lookouts at the back of the bus to warn him of unforeseen hazards while he drove a kilometre or so to the nearest turnaround on the view in his mirrors. The only way back to the ferry landing was an hour longer than the direct route. We missed the last ferry (actually the driver had told them by radio not to wait for us) but happily everybody helps everybody in these circumstances so the ferry made an extra trip to pick us up when we eventually reached the landing. The ferry crew served up free beers for the helpers and free coffee for the rest as we crossed the sound back to the mainland.

The sunset was particularly beautiful after a day full of interest and adventure

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Created by Robin Chalmers17.03.1999 and last revised 18.06.2002