Archives for February 2013

Big Thing Thursday: Ned Kelly

A true outlaw.

If you’re not Australian or a fan of history, you might not be familiar with Ned Kelly. He was a bushranger back in the 1800s and is one of Australia’s most famous folk heros (or killers, depending on your perspective). Kelly officially became an outlaw in 1878 after he shot and killed three police officers. His eventual arrest involved a violent confrontation where Kelly appeared in a suit of homemade armor. So that bucket-thing on his head? Actually a helmet.

I know that Kelly is well-loved by many Australians and I really am fascinated by the history, but that armor… it’s just so comical. You can see the real stuff at the library in Melbourne (it’s pretty cool), or you can visit Big Ned Kelly at a gas station in Queensland.

Big Thing: Ned Kelly
Location: Maryborough, Queensland

(for the historical connection)

If you want to learn more about Ned Kelly, this Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast is required listening. 
xo, jill 

How to experience Fraser Island

Simply my opinion.

I mentioned before that choosing how to explore Fraser Island was a bit overwhelming for me. Everyone has an opinion on how to visit the famous island, and I didn’t want to make the wrong choice. It was a tough decision, but in the end we decided to just cross our fingers and climb aboard the Cool Dingo bus. I’m glad we did. Here’s why:

First, if you’ve never poured over a guidebook or travel forum trying to figure it all out, you should know that there are essentially three ways to experience Fraser Island.*

1. A guided tour – ride along in a 4WD bus with a tour guide
2. Self drive tag along tour – follow along behind a lead car in a long caravan
3. Independent self drive – make your own itinerary and drive yourself around

Despite being more DIY style travelers, Mike and I did the guided tour and had an amazing time. Of course as everyone knows there are drawbacks to a guided tour: it’s expensive, you’re on a set schedule, your companions might be annoying, etc. But there are advantages too!

View of Fraser Island from near the Champagne Pools. 

1. You’ll learn something! 
As I said in my first post about Fraser Island, I learned a lot. I learned so much (and forgot so much) that I struggled writing about the experience. I couldn’t figure out how to fit in all the factual information with a retelling of the events. There are so many cool stories and facts that I left out (Like the guy who came from the American South to log Fraser Island in the 1800s and got really excited to see native people. He was thinking free labor, right? Wrong! The natives didn’t enjoy being forced into slavery so they stabbed him to death with spears instead. Makes you chuckle, doesn’t it?)

During one of our lunch stops we met up with a self drive tag along tour. Some of the people on the tag along tour complained that they were learning nothing about the fascinating Fraser Island and had no idea what they had or hadn’t seen. In fact. most of the guys in the group were already drunk (1pm) and dancing on top of the trucks. That’s cool if you’re only on the island to party, but why not learn at least a tiny bit about the incredibly unique ecosystem while you’re there? And of course if you’re leading yourself around the island you’ll need a really good book and a lot of patience.

Moheno Shipwreck / Seventy-Five Mile Beach

2. You (probably) won’t get stuck! 
Driving on Fraser Island is tricky. Depending on the weather the sand can be very, very soft. This means you really need to know what you’re doing or you’re going to get stuck. Because there is basically one route to each destination on the island, if you get stuck you’ll be holding up others, and possibly getting them stuck as well.

Our bus had to stop several times to help people on self drives out of messes. We even had to tow one truck out of a bad situation. Of course, getting stuck for some people is just part of the adventure. However, you’ll be really irritating the experienced guides and drivers. Not to mention, you’ll be covered head to toe in sand from trying to get your truck to budge. I felt very grateful to have an experienced driver driving us around the island.

Of course, remember that disaster story I shared yesterday? Things happen and you might still get stuck, even with an experienced guide and driver.

Our mode of transport for Day 2.

3. You’ll sleep in comfort!
If you’re on a tag along tour or doing a self drive, chances are you’ll be camping overnight (on uncomfortable mats, we were told). Now, I love camping…but we had been doing it a lot. Having camped night after night, the prospect of sleeping in a real bed was just too appealing. Our tour included a night at a resort in dorm accommodation that we fully enjoyed. Plus, we didn’t need to worry about dingos or disrupting the ecosystem with our urine (seriously, that’s a problem).

You wouldn’t want to pee on the Pinnacles of Coloured Sands, would you?

4. You’re free to enjoy yourself!
Since Mike and I were basically doing a self drive tour of the east coast, it felt really nice to let someone else do the driving, navigating, and guiding. Two whole days where we didn’t have to read from a guidebook, fiddle with the GPS, stop for gas, or wonder if we took the correct turn. It was a welcome break.

So there you go. Four reasons why taking a guided tour was the right choice for me (and Mike).

Have you been to Fraser Island? Which option did you chose and why?

xo, jill

PS This is not a sponsored post for Cool Dingo, in case you were wondering. I just really enjoyed our tour and would recommend this style of exploring Fraser.

*I’m sure there’s more but these three options are what you’re most likely to encounter while doing research.

Cool Dingo Fraser Island Tour Day 2

My favorite day.

Day Two of our Fraser Island tour started off with a very filling breakfast and a bumpy ride across the island. The bus was nearly silent as everyone concentrated on not getting motion sickness. Despite the rough start, this day was my favorite of the two day tour.

After bouncing arcoss the width of the island we emerged from the forest onto Seventy-Five Mile Beach. My stomach welcomed the long and flat stretch of sand that functions as a highway. Driving so close to the surf was also quite the thrill.

The first stop of the day was at the Moheno shipwreck. The ship was washed ashore in 1935 while on its way to Japan and has been resting on the sand ever since. Due to the condition of the wreck, visitors are not permitted to touch or climb on it. The chunk of metal just screams tetanus.

Our next destination was the Champagne Pools, a definite highlight of the day. Water erosion created several pools in the rocks that fill with water as the waves roll in. The foaminess of the water makes it sparkle…hence the name “Champagne.” The day was hot and everyone was eager for a refreshing swim. Due to strong currents and sharks, the pools are one of the only places you can swim in ocean water on the island.

I was a bit reluctant to leave the pools but of course there were more amazing places in store, like Indian Head. Indian Head required a bit of a hike but it was well worth the effort. From the headland you have an amazing view of the island and wildlife. We were able to spot sharks, rays, and turtles swimming in the waters below. Shark attacks are always in the back of your mind while on the beach in Australia… but actually seeing a shark’s shadow is a bit unnerving. Thank goodness we were high above the water!

See the sea turtle?

Our last stop of the day was at Eli Creek. Eli Creek is another popular swimming spot but unlike the Champagne Pools, you’re swimming in freshwater. Well, more like floating. All you have to do is walk upstream a few hundred meters along a platform, and then float yourself back down. Mike floated while I walked downstream beside him (the water was really cold!). It almost felt like a ride at Atlantis or Wild Wadi.

Unfortunately, our time at Eli Creek was stretched out much longer than expected due to an emergency elsewhere on the island. Another bus broke an axle and when the driver attempted to fix it the jack broke as well. The bus came down on the driver’s hands and smashed all ten of his fingers. Naturally, as soon as the call came over the radio, our driver rushed off to help. The scary thing about being on Fraser Island is that medical attention is a good distance away. I think someone said a helicopter was coming to pick up the driver and take him to the hospital. We ended up loading as many people from that bus onto ours as possible so that they wouldn’t be stranded on the island. Everyone was a really good sport but I’m sure it was a traumatic experience.

At this point we also spotted a dingo! Everyone had their eyes wide open looking for one both days. Fraser Island dingos are the last remaining pure dingos in Australia (dogs are not permitted on the island to keep it that way). It was definitely exciting to see one, but I’m glad it was from the safety of the bus. Plenty of precautions are taken on the island to keep people safe, but visitors have been bitten before. Ouch!

Later in the evening we returned to the resort for another swim and some dinner. We hopped back on the ferry and returned to the mainland fully satisfied!

So, would I recommend a tour? Yep! But I’ll let you know why next time.

See Day 1 of the tour here.

xo, jill

From the Hip Friday

Self portrait.

Today’s photo from the hip comes from Tony at 20 Years Hence. It’s a first for From the Hip Friday… a self portrait! I love it! Tony snapped this shot while walking down the historic streets of Malacca, Malaysia. To see other submissions from 20 Year Hence click here, here, and here.

Thanks, Tony!

xo, jill

From the Hip Friday features photos taken without the use of a viewfinder. If you have a photograph that was taken from the hip you’d like to share here, please contact me!

Yep, Adelaide.

A little update.

1. We’ve been in Adelaide now for almost two weeks. We are renting a room in a friendly share house and really just enjoying the city and its surroundings. The Fringe Festival is in full swing (not that we can afford it) and there’s plenty to keep us entertained. We didn’t plan on spending much time here… but that’s just the way it goes!

2. Still not really in the mood for blogging but I’m working on it. I suspect it has something to do with me still hating my blog design but not having very clear ideas for change. Inspiration come find me.

3. Feeling just a tiny bit homesick.

4. Are we friendly on Instagram or Twitter yet? I’m cox_jill on both.

xo, jill

Cool Dingo Fraser Island Tour Day 1

“I’m doing it dingo style.”

Fraser Island was a place I really wanted to visit, but felt a bit overwhelmed by the whole process of getting there. First, I wasn’t sure if it was in my budget. Australia itself is expensive and the big tourist attractions are even more so… Second, how should I do it? There are so many options! Guided tours, drive along tours, self drive tours, staying at a resort, camping in tents… etc.

I’d read so many conflicting opinions about “the best” way to see Fraser Island that I was beginning to feel a bit paralyzed. In the end, Mike and I talked to the friendly guy at our hostel and basically just did what he recommended: Cool Dingo’s 2 Day – 1 Night Fraser Island tour. It was a bit pricey, but I just took a deep breath and handed over my debit card. Sometimes you just have to go for it!

As Mike and I waited in the grass to be picked up the next morning, I suddenly remembered one of the tour’s selling points. Apparently, young people prefer Cool Dingo tours because the nightlife is better planned and more action packed. I couldn’t help but wonder if we had just paid big money for a party tour + drinking games.

Thankfully, as we boarded the bus and took a look around, there were enough people from an older generation that my concerns dissipated.

The bus dropped us at the ferry terminal and we hopped aboard the 50 minute ferry. An educational recording was playing during the journey but I really couldn’t tell you what was said. I can tell you that there were massive amounts of jellyfish in the water!

When the ferry arrived we were separated into different groups. Turns out the “older crowd” wouldn’t be joining us… Uh oh. Then we saw our next mode of transport… a bright pink 4WD bus featuring a dingo with attitude. Oh dear. What did we get ourselves into?

My “what did we get ourselves into” face.

We all hopped in the bus with our friendly guide and hit the… sand. Something you need to know about Fraser Island: It is entirely made up of sand. The paved roads stop after the resort. There is no soil. Just sand. Which makes for a fairly bumpy and very fun ride.

We bumped our way all the way to Lake McKenzie, one of the island’s highlights and biggest draws. The lake has crystal clear water and white silica sand. I spent a good amount of time giving my arms and legs a good sandy scrub down and emerged from the lake feeling quite soft and smooth.

After Lake McKenzie we made our way over to Basin Lake. Basin Lake is a window lake which means it is basically a hole in the sand over an aquifer. Visitors aren’t allowed to swim in it, but it was a pretty hike and a beautiful sight.

Next we had lunch and did a bit more traipsing about in the bush near Central Station and Wangoolba Creek. Our guide was so knowledgable and informative that there’s no way I could ever repeat what he taught us. I really should have been taking notes.

After all the exploration we were taken to our comfortable accommodation for the night. We paid for a quad share but I suspect that booking last minute was the reason we got the room to ourselves. We cleaned up for dinner and enjoyed a delicious vaguely Mexican buffet style meal. I kept one eye on the disco that would surely be the site of future activities and drinking games… But, not really. Despite the blasting music and flashing lights, most people opted to turn in fairly early. After all, we had to be up and ready for Day 2 of our Fraser Island adventure!

xo, jill

PS Let me just sneak in a few more facts about Fraser Island:
– It is the largest sand island in the world.
– 865 species thrive on the island.
– It is the only place on earth where tall rainforest grows in sand.

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