QSKC Australia Day Weekend at Fraser Island
Starring: Team Vanstix
I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping plains
Of ragged mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons
I love her jewel-sea
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
~ extract from ‘My Country’ by Dorothea McKellar
This poem has resonated with me since I first learned it in Year 7 at school. It often comes to mind during trips. Dorothea McKellar was only 22 when she wrote about the drama, hardships and beauty of life in Australia.
While the majority of the local paddling community were content to spend another weekend in Moreton Bay, our QSKC group decided to take advantage of a rare 4 day weekend to travel to the more remote location of Fraser Island.
During winter, Hervey Bay and the waters off Fraser Island are bustling with commercial whale watch boats vying for glimpses of migrating Humpback whales and their calves. In summer, the warm temperatures and public holidays attract 4wd campers who tend to stay inland or on the eastern side of Fraser, leaving the western side peaceful in comparison.
Launching from Urangan we quickly reached Big Woody Island, negotiating the shallow water surrounding the island before eventually rounding the rocky southern tip. After leisurely investigating the southern beach, we made the crossing to Moon Point on Fraser Island with sails up.
Rounding Moon Point, the tantalising view of foliage rimmed by white sand and clear turquoise water spread out before us. As we headed along the beach we began looking for campsites. A friendly yachty moored close by warned us of the sandflies waiting to ambush us on the beach.
Having spent time in bug infested locations around the world; we laughingly assured them a few sandflies wouldn’t diminish our enjoyment of the surroundings..…Famous. Last. Words.
Unfortunately, we had no sooner set up camp and sat down to enjoy happy hour together than the ambush began.
The yachties were right and we watched enviously as they relocated further offshore for the evening. The onslaught of all things biting was relentless. Sandflies; biting black flies; green march flies; monster black flies; mosquitoes.
Fully dressed and smothered in various strength repellents including the usually reliable Sand Fla Van and DEET, one member of the group surrendered and retreated to his tent, the ONLY safe haven. Another member cloaked himself in a large mosquito net, to no avail. Dinner was prepared as quickly as possible and eaten together in 1 tent, where we were finally able to relax.
Rising early in the morning we noticed that there were no signs of the usual evening visits of local dingoes. Perhaps the insects had driven them away? We quickly packed up camp and without stopping for brekfast, were on the water to continue our trip in record time.
The air temperature was warm and so was the water. As we paddled, the swell running onto the beach created waves to play in.Vanilla bracing on shore breakers
Reaching Woralie Creek early, we were pleased to see only 2 others in camp. Surveying the campsite, it was extremely disappointing to see places we had previously pitched tents now littered with toilet paper, illegal fire pits and the blackend remains of fires. Aside from the fact fires are not allowed on Fraser Island, the fact that the fires had been made on the flat areas leaving only sloping sites to pitch tents on, offered an insight into the intelligence of the fire bugs.
It also raised questions about the management of this world heritage listed island. Perhaps along with Dingo warning signs posted around the island, there should be instructions on how to shit in the bush. Dingoes will dig up anything that isn’t deeply buried, so if you are merely covering your waste with a piece of bark or leaves, you may as well not bother. It’s also highly desirable to do it away from the campsite, not just at the base of the tree closest to your tent!
The QSKC in partnership with Leave No Trace Australia promotes minimal impact camping on all club trips; small groups using sound environmental practices. Information on minimal impact camping and kayaking can be found on the QSKC and LNT websites.
The afternoon was spent rolling and playing just off the beach and as darkness enveloped us, a pleasant evening was spent out in the open, the biting insects at this campsite deterred by clothing and repellent.
A dawn text message relaying a family emergency forced a change of plans. After another fast pack up, we were quickly on the water for the return paddle to Urangan. Averaging over 8km per hr, we had moments of welcome excitement crossing sandbanks with tide rushing over them. Small following seas and a tail wind in our sails assisted us with our 35km return trip to Urangan harbour.