a lot of people (okay, americans) when asked what they think australia is like topographically, will usually envision dry, red clay beds found in the outback which is true of the western plateau. eastern australia is covered by quite a bit of lush vegetation in the hinderlands stretching into temperate rainforests with high humidity along the coast.
the result is perfect pastureland for grazing and the sheep, cows and horses go on for miles and miles! while these animals are obviously being raised for food, there are kind souls out there who purchase from vast herds to save a few of them from slaughter. two of these lucky ones are sweethearts beanie and bella:
the one who really took my heart was florence, a young lamb that was being raised on the broombee organic winery of mudgee! if there is one thing i love, it’s the wine produced in the ideal climes of australia and new zealand and the chance to visit a permaculture winery was a real treat. some of the stand out favorites were the moscato, very smooth and surprisingly dry; the 2005 shiraz, not a medal winner but a precursor to the 2006 and 2009 which did medal in 2011; and the 2005 shiraz/cabernet blend that medaled in 2007.
they also have wonderful olive oils, pickles and preserves as a result of the permaculture system that gives growth to the winery. we purchased a case of multiple wines, 6 bottles of olive oil and a bottle of their to die for pickled asparagus spears which provided the backdrop for the rest of our road trip! the icing on top of all of this was my feeding of florence, the lamb whom i mentioned earlier:
fast forward to our stay on fraser island (you didn’t think i was going to force all of my road trip pics on you?!) at 75 miles in length by 15 miles wide making it the largest sand island in the world, fraser island also stands out as having a world heritage listing.
ecologically there is a lot going on with rainforests, eucalyptus groves, mangrove forests, sand dunes and plenty of fresh water through out. in fact, all of the 144 lakes on the island are rainwater that has filtered through layers of sand and petrified leaf mulch to produce some of the freshest, sweetest water in the world. lake mckenzie below, is a spectacular example of some of the oasis that sprout up in this veritable paradise bearing cool, clear water with a visible bottom out at least 50 feet and beaches of the softest, powdery sand.
optical illusions like the above right hand corner are everywhere. what looks to be ordinary sand is actually the bottom of a fresh water stream, the result of hundreds of years of filtration and who’s sweetness i can personally attest to! as we drove along the largest, legalized sand highway in the world, every few dozen yards or so, creeks like the above lower right could be seen emptying into the ocean.
the 75 mile sand highway is only accessible via low tide and creeks like these can seem quite shallow. in reality, many of them are very deep and have resulted in deadly accidents by unassuming tourists speeding up for the thrill of driving through water. hence the legalization of the highway complete with speeding laws, a highway patrol and the entire island can only be traversed by four wheel drive.
let me be the first to say that i have never been one for flying but after an island flight like this, never again will i pass up on the opportunity! our propeller plane only held 8, sounded like a lawnmower and our pilot was so young he could barely grow whiskers, yet it was the most breathtaking experience allowing for a whole new perspective of fraser island. the lower left is our take off from the beach and the lower right is an aerial of the shipwreck maheno.
built in scotland in 1905, the s.s. maheno was outfitted as a luxury cruise liner along the size of the titanic or the queen mary. she was commandeered during the first world war as a hospital ship and later went back to luxury status. in 1935, the maheno was deemed no longer seaworthy and was sold for scrap. while being towed from melbourne, the craft was caught up in a cyclone and beached. because of the deep sands of the island, it wasn’t cost effective to remove it so it was abandoned to rot and slowly swallowed up by the sand. the rear of the ship is almost completely engulfed and the entire vessel is expected to disappear within the next ten years.
the one thing that most people, even native australians, asked me about were dingo sightings. i did, in fact, capture the image of the dingo above as we were driving along the beach highway. that dingo is maybe one of 150 to 200 left on the island. this particular group of dingoes is most interesting because they are the direct descendents of the original dogs brought over by the japanese over 3,500 years ago. because of their isolated situation, these dogs represent the purest strain and are identical in appearance. unfortunately, the number of dingoes is dropping and hence photos like these are rare. in order to preserve the strain, other dogs are forbidden to the island.
low tide on the island produces enormous sand flats like these. to give an indication of the vastness, i took this photo halfway between the mangroves on the shoreline and the ocean in the distance. the pools of standing water are not residual of the ocean but small creeks running out from the forest. the strange texture on the ground are actually small sand balls left behind by soldier crabs.
a word about our stay at the kingfisher bay resort. being a world heritage listing, fraser island has a cap on resorts and development of any kind. aside from a few lucky homeowners and one tiny beach “village”, the kingfisher is one of only two resorts. part of the beauty of this eco-resort is it’s design to integrate with the natural environment and that alone, puts it heads above it’s rival.
birds have free flight throughout the lobby and the accommodations consist of individual rooms connected by a timber open walkway. each room has asian style sliding panels that open onto private, native timber decks. you can also opt for villas, houses or wilderness lodges that really put you into the thick of things! best of all, is sleeping to the sounds of cicadas and frogs and waking up to the music of birdsong.
much of the food is locally grown and seasoned with “bush” ingredients and there is a bush tucker tour to give you the low down on all the flavors. also note, the native birds are right there alongside you at breakfast ready to snatch your food should you be lax in your look out. these birds are bloody smart and appear exactly at the restaurants opening and disappear at closing time on the nose!
additional cafes and a general store takes care of light snacking, forgotten items or dropping a card into the post. plenty of educational walks, beauty tours and other outdoor activities are available although spending the day in lounge mode with bar service by the pool is encouraged too!
images ©janene dunbar, all pictures shot on canon nex 5n with exception of the dingo and trucks