Australia Zoo Journal-PART 1--PART 2--PART 3--PART 4-
-PART 5--PART 6--PART 7--PART 8--PART 9--PART 10-Australia Zoo Journal - Part 5
After the long haul across the Pacific, it was time for one last flight from Sydney to Brisbane. I was incredibly weary from little sleep, but the daylight landscape from my window seat flowing beneath and a welcoming cup of coffee drastically improved my mood.
Our flight took us north, straddling the eastern coast of Australia and our decent into Brisbane gave us a glimpse of stunning blue water.
We finally stepped off the plane, collected our bags and stepped outside, greeted by blue skies, fluffy clouds and warm, welcoming sunshine. Taking us to our hotel in Noosa was a shuttle arranged by Australia Zoo travel. As we drove towards Noosa, I found myself wide-eyed at even the most simple of features racing past: the landscape was different, the trees were different, the houses and cars were different, and even the smells were different. It's something I suppose I should have been used to, having traveled across Asia in 2008/2009, but I always retain a fascination for the differences found between countries and the new sights that traveling offers.
On the way to Noosa, we had made a few stops to let out other passengers. One feature that caught my eye was very unique sign. It told us we were on "Steve Irwin Way" and featured the silhouette of the famous Crocodile Hunter feeding one of his famous crocs. I was electrified.
Arriving at our cozy hotel with some very welcoming hosts, we shed our bags and reviewed our itinerary. Although I wanted to jump in a car immediately and get to the zoo as soon as possible, we had planned to first pay a visit to the well-renowned and ecologically rich Fraser Island, a sliver of an island off the eastern coast of Australia just north of Brisbane. It was one of many options offered by Australia Zoo travel and left us enough time to visit the zoo afterwards.
Before sleep, we decided to take a stroll around the area and grab something to eat. We settled on a small river-side grill where I enjoyed lovely steak and sampled the beer Australia had to offer. I found a favourite in James Boag at the waiter's recommendation. However, when I asked for ketchup for the chips, I was shocked when he burst out,
My brother and I looked at each other, not knowing what we had done to offend him. He figured my brother and I for Americans, but all was forgiven when we told him we were from Canada. He smiled and revealed, "We call it tomato sauce here, mate!" Lesson learned.
We woke up the next morning and had breakfast near Hasting's street, noting that Australia seems to love BBQ sauce with everything. I amused myself watching the poor waitresses try and shoo away the local birds who had managed to figure out how to get to the table sugar.
Soon after, we met a tour guide who introduced us to a 4-wheeler which sported two benches in the back next to the windows. This allowed us to enjoy the sights alongside three fellow travelers from Portugal. After getting settled inside, we departed for Fraser, steadily traveling through the streets of Noosa to the coast. I enjoyed experiencing the wonderful round-a-bouts, which we don't have much of in Canada. It allowed for a relatively smooth drive.
As the scenery became more rural we crossed a few rivers and the road we were traveling on ended at a beach. I didn't see an island offshore so I was curious to know what we were going to do. We drove onto the sand and parked. The driver informed us we were going to be headed to Fraser via the coastline, but not before letting air out of the tires for more traction on the sand. This allowed us an opportunity to survey the beautiful Pacific coast, the bright sands and sun shimmering on the water.
Soon enough, we were on our way once again, speeding past the endless ocean with waves crashing to our right and sandy dunes to our left. We slowed to admire what our host called the 'rainbow sands' where different mineral compositions produced a kaleidoscope of multi-colored sand cascading down coastal hillsides.
We eventually came upon a small town where would could have lunch and collect provisions for an overnight stay on Fraser. Naturally, we were interested where we could stock up on beer and were directed to the euphemistically named "bottle shop". It revived a conversation I had with my brother on the Sydney-Brisbane flight that everything in Australia seemed to have cute names. My brother was skeptical, even when I listed off a few examples:
I felt my brother's opinion begin to change with our arrival at the bottle shop and he completely surrendered when our host introduced us to some "squiggly gums" (gum trees with squiggle patterns on their trunk left by bugs). It became a bit of a running joke during the trip and we mused about alternative, euphemistic names for deadly creatures; snakes would be called killie-worms, spiders called leggy-bites, and sharks called pointy-fish.
Needless to say, we picked up a few 'bottles' and were back to our journey with some additional travelers from France. Reaching a point on the coast we saw the island just offshore along with an approaching ferry to get us and the vehicle across. The journey on the ferry was a happy 15 minutes of swaying slowly back and forth with the waves and admiring the stunning blue water.
Once on Fraser our vehicle was once again beach-bound. We hugged the coast, passing other vehicles and splashed through rivers, born from aquifers under the island which were now emptying into the Pacific. The ocean to our right was less benign than what we saw closer to Noosa. Massive waves surged offshore, potentially hiding sharks and even migrating whales. There would be no swimming at this beach.
We eventually reached an area where some other vehicles had parked; just beyond, a sandy path weaved its way through the hills into the islands interior. We learned that we were going to visit Lake Wabby, a popular tourist destination where large swells of sand are moving inland, slowly swallowing a lake that is getting ever smaller. However, as we packed our gear, we heard exciting murmurs among other tourists. Apparently, a dingo was spotted on the sandy path ahead, but unfortunately I was not quick enough to see it.
A small population of dingoes make their home on Fraser Island and are thought to more genetically pure from those deep in the mainland that have crossbred with domestic dogs. In addition to playing an important role within the ecosystem, they are also a popular draw for tourism. Beach-buses stroll along the coast and allow people to view dingoes from the safety of a vehicle However, dingoes on the island are increasingly acclimatizing to human presence, attracted by the prospect of food given by misguided visitors. We were warned to take care, particularly because mating season was underway.
Disappointed that I didn't get to see a dingo, I was nonetheless excited to visit the islands interior. The sandy path through hilly forest terrain made for a somewhat arduous journey, even for someone in good shape, and colourful spiders waited in large webs for anyone unfortunate enough to carelessly walk into them. These spiders were quite common, seemingly everywhere and part of a legion of wildlife in Australia that can, and probably will kill you
if you stay in the country long enough. My brother commented that dangerous spiders were so common in Australia that you could put your arm harmlessly against a tree before realizing the tree was actually a collective hoard of spiders. I commented back fearfully, "Anything could be spiders!". This led to the logical conclusion: "In Australia, everything is spiders". It became another too-frequently-evoked personal meme on the trip.
Lake Wabby was eventually found with a couple dozen other tourists. It was a beautiful scene: invading sand from the beach was a towering mountain pushing against the lake, creating a steep shoreline both above the lake and into its deeps; fish lazily swam the length of the shore and could be beckoned to groom the still feet of swimmers; birds bathed in shallow pools that pockmarked the bank; and a semi-tropical forest grew thick along the lake's inland edges. We spent a few hours seeing how far we dared swim in the deepest regions and relaxing in the sunlight.
When it was time to leave, I decided to forgo taking the same route we used arrive. Instead, I decided to scale the sandy lakeside mountain and explore and alternative route suggested by a few signs. The mountain of sand was easier to climb than I had initially thought; although it was steep, with sand that crumbled beneath you, the challenges were counteracted with a barefooted ascent, which allowed for greater purchase if you used your toes to dig deep. I ran up the mountain and paused at the top to survey the scene. An elevated, undulating river of sand extended from the lake to the ocean and offered a fantastic view. The vista reminded us of the beautiful scenery in LOST, which was in its twilight episodes while we vacationed; luckily, there were no smoke monsters on this island.
Trudging through the sand, we intercepted our previous trail through the forest and arrived back at our awaiting tour-guide. Once all had returned, we once again continued our journey on the sandy island shore, this time heading towards an old shipping vessel that was half-buried in sand and surf. It had been used by warplanes as target practice and its rusty, barnacle-covered skeleton was now surrendering to the elements. In the end, everything returns to nature.
The sun was beginning to set, which beckoned our host to guide us to our lodging for the night. On our way, we stopped by a river that cut a winding path from the island's interior. We were encouraged to take a drink and fill our canteens with the spring water that, after falling as rain and trapped underground decades earlier, now swelled to the surface in a pristine state. We were also offered the opportunity to take a swim in the river, though the host warned that the water was likely too cold for most. My brother and I, having swam in frigid spring and fall lake-water in Ontario, took no issue with jumping in, much to the surprise of our guide. We waded upriver into the forest and enjoyed floating on our backs with the water, admiring the forest canopy above.
We dried off, returned to the 4-wheeler and soon found ourselves traveling on beach darkened by the sun's retreat behind western hills. We anticipated that we would reach our destination without incident, though we made one more stop. The host had spotted a dingo meandering along the beach. This time, I was able to see it and managed to snap a few blurry photos before it sauntered off, likely in search of an easy meal washed ashore by the waves. I was thankful I had an opportunity to see such an impressive and charismatic example of Australia's iconic wildlife. However, it wouldn't be the last. -PART 1--PART 2--PART 3--PART 4-
-PART 5--PART 6--PART 7--PART 8--PART 9--PART 10-