Thursday, 26 August 2010

Island life

The alarm went off at 4.15am. But it's Saturday, I thought, in my dreamy state. Then I remembered, we were catching my 'work train' in order to be at Roma Street station bright and early to start our Moreton Island adventure.
At 6.45am we were picked up in a 4x4 and driven to Moreton Bay to catch the Micat over to the island. We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather - clear blue, and very still. The ideal conditions for a cruise across the Bay.
As we neared The Wrecks, where the Cat moors, we could see the beautiful expanse of white, sandy dunes coming into focus. Moreton is a sand island and has no roads, meaning the only way to get about is in 4x4s. It is also 95% National Park, so there are only a few tracks to avoid disturbing the wildlife and protected plants.
Waiting to greet us on the sea shore was Wes, our tour guide for the next two days. Being the middle of 'winter' (it's still around 28 degrees!), there were very few people on the tour. On the first day it was just us and two Italians, and on the second us and a Danish couple.
From the beach we drove straight to The Desert (this is its actual name!). I suddenly felt like the prize idiot. Everyone was in shorts, vests or even less and guess what I was wearing? A SCARF!! I joke not. In my defence, when we left at 5.30am, it was actually quite nippy and up until the Saturday it had even been fairly overcast. Anyway, after hiking up a massive sand dune I was sweating big time (did I mention I was also wearing black jeans??). What was I thinking??
At least it wasn't just me who was well wrapped up - the two Italians were sweltering in their black tops too!
The reason we were here was to do sandboarding. As the name suggests, it involves sitting/lying on a board and sliding down dunes. With some of the highest dunes in the world and very pure sand, Moreton is the ideal location for such an activity. Sandboarding is notoriously dangerous (I can mention this now we've returned unscathed!), as many people try standing up on the boards, essentially 'surfing' down the sand dune. Oddly enough, when it came to my turn I decided to stick to just lying on the board.
Being a big fan of tobogganing on the Moors when it snows, I really enjoyed sandboarding. I actually found it very much like bodyboarding (something which I've done a lot of in the past) so found it quite easy shifting my weight and steering. Dan, however, struggled a bit more at the start and, on his first go, ended up with a mouth full of sand! His second go was much more successful though and both of us wanted to stay longer, but there was a tight schedule and we had to dash off. This is one of the disadvantages of going on an organised tour.
Next we headed north, driving up the beach towards Cape Moreton. This is the only rocky part of the island. It is thought that this area of rock is the reason the island was formed (over the years the sand has built up around it). Although the island has many no-vehicle zones, the majority of the beaches are not restricted. I'm not sure if this is good or bad really. It's good in the sense that it makes travelling around the island much quicker than if you had to always use the tracks, but there's something just wrong about zooming along a beautiful, deserted beach in a Land Rover.
We were dropped at North Point, where the Danish couple were waiting for us. They had already camped the night before, and warned us how cold it would get! The Italians looked pretty pleased that they were only on a day trip! We chilled out here for a while, walking along the beach to Champagne Pools and Honeymoon Bay. You can get an idea of the tranquillity of the place just from the exotic names!
Whilst we were relaxing Wes prepared lunch - a feast of bread, meat, salads, donuts and cookies! We all sat round the 4x4 in the sunshine, exchanging travelling stories.
After lunch we all piled back into the vehicle - a bit of a squeeze now, with the two extra bodies - and headed up to the oldest lighthouse in Queensland. As with everything in Australia, it is immaculately kept and is a real focal point on the island. It is from here that most of the whale spotting takes place. However, the whales were not out for us and the most we saw was one lonely dolphin riding the waves. I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies.
As it was starting to get dusky we headed to our camp for the night, near Blue Lagoon. I'm not going to lie, when they said facilities were provided they were being a bit too vague. The 'facilities' were a camp stove under some tarpaulin and a cold shower! I was grateful that we were only going to be there for one night! However, due to the small group, we were able to get a huge tent to ourselves, which meant the chance of a half decent sleep.
Before dinner we headed down to check out the Lagoon with the Danes. It was beautiful watching the sunset over the water, whilst drinking beer and having a laugh.
Then it was back to camp, where Wes had prepared a slap-up meal consisting of sausages, burgers and fresh fish.
With nightfall came the cold we had been warned about. So, to keep warm, we all huddled round the camp fire before retiring to bed just before 8pm.
Sunday started early, as Wes wanted us to witness sunrise on the beach. Even though part of me was looking forward to a lie-in, I'm glad we made the effort to get up. Again, it looked like it was going to be another hot day, with a clear sky providing the perfect backdrop.
There's something really magical about being up so early, it makes you feel like you're the only people on Earth!
As the day got into full swing we went for an early morning walk along Spitfire Creek. Wes had been told there were Aboriginal remains somewhere along the path, but we didn't find anything. We still had fun looking though, and we saw loads of weird and wonderful plants that we'd never seen before.
Because there are very few people doing the tours in winter, Wes had to leave us at the camp for the morning whilst he went and collected a few more people to take them sandboarding. We didn't mind though, as it gave us time to relax at the camp and go for a nice stroll along the beach.
At around lunchtime Wes returned with the day trippers and we had some food, before heading off towards Cape Moreton again.
This time we were given the option of either bodyboarding or climbing up the rocks to get a look at the view. Dan and I chose the latter. After a bit of a hairy scrabble in flip flops (why am I always inappropriately dressed?) we reached the summit.
Dan being Dan decided to go a little bit further - just to scare me I think - as he had spotted something extraordinary. If you look very closely in this picture you will see a bunch of fisherman perched on the edge of the rocks! I think that's what they call 'extreme fishing'!
Our final destination on this whistle-stop tour of the island was at the shipwrecks, for some snorkelling. The ships have been deliberately sunk off the shore to provide a breakwater for small boats.
Despite the fact it was starting to get a bit chilly, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity of getting into the crystal clear water. It was certainly refreshing after a bumpy, hot ride in the 4x4. However, the wind had got up which made it a bit choppy for snorkelling. I gave it a go, and did see a few tiny fish, but I was happier just splashing about in the waves.
By the time we were all bundled onto the ferry homeward bound, Dan and I were absolutely exhausted from all the sun, sea and salt air. A couple of cappuccinos revived us and we had a lovely journey reflecting on a fantastic weekend away from the city. 


Tryna and John Feesey said...

Once again fantastic photos and blog! The island looked like paradise, it must have been great just sharing it with a few couples.

You're definitely packing in as much as possible into your Australian dream. Enjoyed reading Dan's blog on the concerts and the art exhibition - not too sure about the exhibits, they looked a bit scary in the photos.

Now that X Factor has just returned to our screens I keep thinking of you at the Australian auditions, no doubt you will view the show in a different way now.

Hope you enjoy your last few weeks in Oz before returning to the British winter!

Love to you both
Tryna, John, Steph and Danni xxxx