Celebrity Chef, Alastair McLeod may have rubbed shoulders with the world’s best chefs in the Michelin-listed restaurants he’s worked in… but being an ace in the kitchen doesn’t necessarily mean he can ‘cut’ it on the sand tracks of World Heritage-listed Fraser Island… or does it? This month Al ‘dishes’ up the dirt… erm, we mean sand… about his five fabulous days on Fraser Island and he’s taken us along for the ride.
“Use 4 High,” the guy said. “Take a good run at it,” he encouraged. “Did you drop your tyres to 18 psi?,” he went on.
It’s a whole new world this 4 wheel driving pursuit. Gee, I thought Psi was the chap who sang Gangnam style!
Gen Y remembers where they were on September 11; my Mum’s generation remember where they were when man landed on the moon. Me, I will remember forever where I first got bogged deep in the sand in my brand new 4 wheel drive.
My mum was with us that day and I’m sure she will remember the one small step I took back before kicking the car in frustration.
It was a tricky wee bit of the track between Lake McKenzie and Kingfisher Bay Resort where I came unstuck. Luckily a passing 4WD – well he wasn’t actually passing as he was stuck behind us – came to our aid and offered the aforementioned tips to staying on track so to speak.
Unbelievably, I first set foot on Fraser Island 16½ years after I first landed in Australia. I had seen it across the channel when camping at Inskip Point and from afar on the foreshore in Hervey Bay. My recent trip there in my one-day-old car was a trip I will never forget. We careened over the soft sand at Inskip point to catch the barge over to the southern tip of the island.
When our turn came to get off the barge I felt the same nerves experienced at the top of the ski lift. Desperate not to collapse upon disembarkation I confidently selected 4-High and gunned the engine. Once safely on the hard packed sand we were able to relax, lower the windows and take in the extraordinary beauty of this island. There are no paved roads, just sand tracks, making the entire Island one huge 4WD, off-roading adventure.
The next day we headed up to see the spectacular wreck of the ocean liner The SS Maheno which beached on Fraser almost 80 years ago during a severe cyclone. As we pulled up to the wreckage we heard the hum of a twin engine plane flying low overhead and landing just ahead of us using the beach as an airstrip! What a thrilling and easy way to see the 100 plus lakes on the island.
Our visit to one of the jewels, lake Wabby, was a wee bit more strenuous than taking a flight with Air Fraser Island but well worth the effort. To reach the lake I recommend trekking over the Hammerstone Sandblow, which is essentially a massive sand dune which plunges down to the lake.
Each year the huge sand dune engulfs a little bit more of the lake – as much as 3 metres a year. Swim there with the catfish and turtles in pristine water and walk back to the ocean through a eucalypt forest. You will remember this impossibly beautiful experience forever.
This was my first visit to Fraser and also my first time fishing in the foam. The experience of baiting a huge rod and casting out (what seemed like) a hundred metres with a cold beer in hand, a few curious dingo pups peering from the edge of the scrub, the sun setting, surrounded by family and loved ones… just too perfect.
No, I didn’t catch anything.
I have got to say that with five full days on Fraser, we still only managed to visit a handful of the lakes and covered a fraction of the island’s tracks.
There is just so much to do. I am converted to this style of holiday. I love being at one with nature, getting away from it all, feeling the sand between my toes and …, ahem, retiring for the night at Kingfisher Bay Resort.
But, that’s another story…