Sunday, March 22, 2015

I Never get Sea Sick

Looking out to sea from the south side of Waddy Point

After a week of sleeping and  waking up to the sounds of surf crashing on the beach, the silence outside my window last night was particularly noticeable, just as the sound of those rolling waves took a night or two to get used to on Fraser Island, now that I am home, the quiet will take a couple of days as well. 

What is it about being near the ocean that is so refreshing and healing? I always come back from these holidays renewed in ways that other escapes pale in comparison. The moment we roll off the barge and onto the beach, something happens. We enter an entire new world, barely 90 minutes from our inland home and everything changes. The sea air and the sound of the surf begin to permeate the physical body almost instantly and it is not long before your mind follows suit. 

It is easy to live in the moment when the distractions of daily life are limited to the nature surrounding you. I once read a TripAdvisor review of one man's trip to Fraser Island and he essentially said he was bored there. He said there really was not much to see or do. I was dumbstruck by his opinions. Clearly he had chosen the wrong type of vacation for himself. It sounded like he had not done his research. Maybe he should have gone to Vegas. I find every  moment fascinating on the world's largest sand island. What may appear as a lifeless expanse of beach as you drive along the sand for 75 miles is anything but. 

Looking south from north of Ngkala rocks

In fact, on this, my fourth trip to Fraser Island, I discovered exactly how much more life there was, that until now, I had been unaware of myself. The last time I was there, I learned how to find pipis beneath the sand. We use them for fishing bait. I had seen others engaging in something called worming, but had never tried it myself. Believe me when I tell you, that you  may think you are walking on nothing more than hardened sand as your bare feet stroll along the beach, but the truth is, there is so much life underfoot, it is incredible. Surely, most of you have noticed little crabs, or seen the little balls of sand created by soldiers crabs, or watched bits of broken shells roll past, but did you know, that lurking just below the surface are thousands of worms? Now, you may be thinking, no big deal, a few little worms. Think again. The worms that are harvested to use as bait are at their smallest about 3 feet long, and as long as 7-8 feet long. I watched in awe and horror as the pros, (and Steve), tempted them to surface their heads with bits of smelly fish, then yanked them from their long and winding holes, sometimes having to fold them up along the way in order to get their entire length out of their cocoon of sand. These monster worms make Canadian earthworms look like beginners. 

In my naivety, I imagined you must need a pretty big hook to affix these fellas, but I learned that you only use bits of them at a time. Gulp! I do love fishing, but there are parts that require me to take a deep breath and wince, as I smack two pipis together to break the shell, then scrape the mollusk away from its home and pierce it with my hook two or three times before casting it out to sea. That took some getting used to, but pinching off bits of worm was pushing me to my limit. It is not a sport for the faint of heart, but the slithery gross parts are worth it when you feel the yank-yank of something unseen under the surf and you pull up and start reeling in. The entire time, wondering what will emerge as your catch gets closer and closer to the shore. It is like buying a lottery ticket and dreaming about what you will do with the money when you win. From the moment you know you have a fish on your hook, you have a period of time where you don't know what you have caught and as I always like to dream big, it is usually something that will be worthy of a prize and I imagine standing proudly as I hold up my awesome catch and photos are taken. However, that has yet to happen in my lifetime. I usually catch small or medium sized fish that are common. On this trip I caught 8 Dart. They are abundant in the waters off the island and are tasty enough but full of tiny bones, so we catch and release. The fun is in the hunt and the catch.

The famous Champagne Pools

When you are not busy fishing, or you want to rinse off the clammy, sticky salty film from your skin, there are many fresh water creeks that flow out to the sea from underground springs. The water is always cool and refreshing and on the move, so you can just plunk yourself down in the creek bed and let the crisp clean water flow over your body. Some are deep enough that if you had a flotation device or inflated rubber tire, you could float along the winding creek beds until you reached the end. These are great spots to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch and clean up before heading back to the shoreline.

Over the course of our week, we saw goannas, rays, dingos,  dolphins, white-bellied sea eagles, ospreys, kites, pied oyster catchers, plovers, sandpipers and many varieties of inland birds as well. I saw my first black snake wind and slither across the road ahead of our vehicle as we crossed the island on an inland road. I saw some crazy-assed spiders and thousands of butterflies and dragonflies. We came across a bizarre little sea creature on the beach, still alive, washed up with the tide. We researched it last night and it was a type of urchin known as a sea potato. There is no end to the discoveries to be made and the vast and varied life to be found on Fraser Island. I cannot help but wonder about the man who said there was nothing much to see or do on the island. Maybe he just had his eyes closed. 

Sea Potato (urchin)

And of course, for many, the main event is beach driving. I had no idea how exhilarating it would be. Imagine driving on the hard-packed sand at 80 kmh, navigating bumps and wash-outs, windows open, sea air on your face and scanning the horizon for dolphins, eagles, whales in season, surrounded by sunshine and blue sky as far as the eye can see and cranking up your favourite music or just listening to the crash of the waves for miles and miles! The word boring does not even enter my mind. It just fills me up to the brim with joy. Pure, unadulterated joy. 

Indian Head in the distance from south of Waddy Point

To immerse yourself fully and wholeheartedly into this jackpot of nature feels like being a little kid again. Spending the whole day outside playing like you did when you were 8 years old, coming home at dusk with pockets full of seashells, sticky and dirty and a little sun burnt, bits of grit and grime under your nails and the worst hat hair you can imagine - that is a typical day on Fraser. If  you are a camper, you continue the adventure into the evening, but for me, I look forward to a nice soak in the tub, a chilled glass of wine, some music on the stereo, dinner and a good bed to collapse in after a full day. Being lulled to sleep with the sound of the surf and waking to the most spectacular sunrises is the icing on the cake.  A bit of luxury and a lot of adventure. 

The perfect combination for this gal.

Can't wait until next time.

Sunrise from Kyeema at Orchid Beach

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