When our family decided to spend a few days taking a break at beautiful Rainbow Beach, I couldn’t resist the temptation to take the short trip via the barge to Fraser Island and explore it for a couple of days on the fat bike.
We were fortunate to be staying in a large house with a sandy track leading from the back door to the beach, a short walk away.
The locals had built a bonfire on the beach to keep them warm while they shared a drink and watched the full moon rise.
With views like this from their back door, it’s no wonder they were smiling.
Twelve hours later, I eagerly pedaled over the dunes onto the beach as the sun was rising…
I was grateful for full-fingered gloves as I rolled out onto the beach. The temperature was barely 3C. To the south the sand cliffs of Rainbow Beach glowed pink. But today’s adventure lay to the north: Fraser Island.
As the sun rose over the horizon, I rode north along the beach to Inskip Point to meet the barge.
The incoming tide still had a couple of hours till it peaked, leaving plenty of sand to ride on.
It took almost an hour to ride to the tip of Inskip Point, past a few contented souls enjoying the solitude of the dawn.
While humans tried their luck with rods below, hungry raptors keenly watched the water from above, ready to strike at unsuspecting fish.
As luck would have it, I arrived at the point while the barge was on the other side of the strait. It would be a while before it returned, so I just sat down on the sand in the early morning sun and waited.
Sitting at the pointy end of Inskip, it was easy to see that it really was… a point. A long thin strip of sand reached out into the water. The land stopped here.
It didn’t take long for the big green barge to come back to my side of the water. I hopped on, together with a couple of other vehicles, and enjoyed the short trip to the other side.
It’s called the “75 Mile Beach” – and I had it to myself, although pedalling in the soft sand was hard work.
It has over 100 freshwater lakes – some of them crystal clear, others stained red by the tannin from surrounding vegetation.
The traditional owners of the island are the Butchulla aboriginal people who call the place “K’Gari”.
In Butchulla dreamtime legends, K’Gari was a goddess who was sent by the god Beiral from heaven to create the rivers, seas, land and mountains in which humans could live. The earth was so beautiful that K’Gari fell in love with it, and did not want to return to heaven. So the messenger Yendingie transformed her into a heavenly island. And that’s how K’Gari, or “Fraser Island” got here.
I was in no rush today, so I decided to take a break in the shade of the dunes, and have a bite to eat.
At Dilli Village I left the beach and headed inland. Dilli is an environmental education camp operated by the University of Southern Queensland. It was about 30 kilometres along the beach from where the barge dropped me off.
After a few minutes I encountered some happy botanists from the University, who were surveying plant species in the area.
“Can I take your photo?” I gushed excitedly. “You’re the first people I’ve seen for miles”.
“How about you get in the picture too?” one of them replied.
So we all posed for photos while I quizzed them about species of Eucalypts – specifically about the red-colored gum trees I’d seen all over the island, and to the south along the Noosa River.
“Oh they’re Scribbly Gums,” one lady replied. “Eucalyptus racemosa”.
I made a mental note. I love learning the names of trees, which is why I really like botanists. I liked these guys too 🙂
As if on cue, shortly after leaving my new friends, a fine looking Scribbly Gum greeted me as I rode past – complete with the artists signature scrawled into the bark by voracious insect larvae.
Nice to meet you too, Mr Racemosa.
Not long after that a friendly signpost pointed up a very steep sandy track, indicating there was a lookout nearby.
Leaving the bike behind for a short time, I scrambled to the top through the soft sand…
Yes, I got a lot of sand in my shoes, but it didn’t really bother me.
The walking tracks were well signed. It was impossible to get lost. I didn’t realize Central Station was so close. Next time I might try to get there.
I reached Lake Boomanjin just before noon – the perfect place for lunch.
At the start of the day, my plan had been to turn around and head home around lunch time. Apart from that I didn’t really have any major objectives, so I was delighted to have reached such an impressive lake.
Unlike some of the other lakes on Fraser, Boomanjin is stained red by the tannin from the surrounding vegetation. The contrast with the bright sand is impressive.
Boomanjin is a perched lake, sitting on compacted sand and decaying vegetable matter. In fact it is the largest lake of its kind in the world.
After lunch I made my way back down the hill towards the beach. Passing the friendly botanists again I cracked a few jokes and rolled by. They looked like they were enjoying themselves.
And then the real fun began.
The tide was now receding. Vast open spaces of flat hard sand lay in front of me. Normally this would be heaven on a fat bike as I rolled effortlessly down the beach.
But it was not to be.
A strong 25 knot headwind had sprung up. It was blasting down the beach at me. I could barely manage 8 km/h.
“Ah never mind,” I thought to myself, “The inland track is only 5 kilometres down the beach”.
What I didn’t realize was that with this headwind it would take me the good part of an hour to ride 5 kilometres.
If the wind had been blowing in the opposite direction I could have made that distance in about 7 minutes.
I soldiered on.
Eventually it got too much. I plonked down on the sand (out of the way of curious 4WD’s), turned my back to the breeze, pulled out a mandarin, and savoured it.
Perhaps it was the emotional comfort of stopping to eat something pleasant, but the toil of the headwind didn’t seem that bad afterwards.
I chattered gleefully to myself when the turnoff to the inland track appeared. At last I could get some respite from the wind…
But one hindrance was replaced by another. The road was horribly corrugated. I could manage a faster pace, but in place of the smooth sand I was faced with 20 kilometres of teeth chattering bumps, on a bike with no suspension except for soft spongy tyres.
My friend, Paul Brian, had warned me about this road, and how unpleasant it was, even in a 4WD. But I had no choice. I improvised and rode on the edge in the sand. Although it was a bit slower, it was much smoother, and I was able to make reasonable progress.
I finally reached Hook Point with the barge on the other side of the water. Mario, Michelle and Pedro had been camping on Fraser in their 4WD. The smiles on their faces told me they’d had a good time.
Wayne and Will had been doing the same sort of thing, but on a motor bike.
Wayne high-fived me and complemented my efforts and riding a bike in the sand against the strong wind.
They looked like they’d had a good time too.
Places like Fraser Island do that to you.
Just like the godess K’Gari fell in love with the place, so did we. There’s something special about it.
A juvenile tern perched on the edge of the sandy barge ramp looking at us humans talk about our adventures.
Before I knew it, the ramp was lowering again, and it was time to roll back onto the sand.
The sun was lowering in the west. Now the bike was making shadows in the opposite direction. It had been a long, wonderful day.
Fishermen were still on standing on the shoreline. It was as if they’d never left.
That was the end of day 1. I rode about 93 kilometres in just over 10 hours, including breaks. During that time I burned about 4,500 kcal.
This was a big day, made more challenging by tough headwinds and tricky tides.
I’ll rate it 8.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
Stay tuned for day 2!
Max elevation: 139 m
Min elevation: 1 m
Total climbing: 1048 m
Total descent: -1053 m
Average speed: 12.46 km/h
Total time: 10:12:10