This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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1999 Travels June 30


I am starting to get a sense of time running out, to do all the things I want to do, here. Where do the days go?

John booked Truck in to the local Landrover dealer, for a service, next Tuesday, and he wants us to get up some more kms before then.

We went to get fuel at the BP Gap servo, which gives a 4cent discount per litre, to 4WD Radio Network members, like us. Made it 81cpl. Also got the gas bottles filled. John found that the brown one leaks, and we need to get a new O ring. We might investigate buying a new bottle. Not a good idea to mess with O rings!

After those chores, drove out to Rainbow Valley. The drive south, along the Stuart Highway, for 77kms, was more interesting than I had remembered it to be. There were usually low hills or dunes in the distance, and low rises in the highway that at their crests, gave a view ahead for a surprisingly long way.

Then, the 22km track into Rainbow Valley was in pretty good condition, though corrugated and rough in places. It, too, was an interesting section of track. We stopped along it, a couple of times, because of birds. Saw a female crested bellbird, and a superb brown falcon which was sitting in a dead tree. There were some lovely stands of young desert oaks (a type of casuarina)  along the track. I love these trees in this environment, and the way any breeze sounds, blowing through their narrow leaves.

At the parking and picnic area, we were tantalized by a little, flitty bird, that we couldn’t quite identify because the damned thing wouldn’t keep still for long enough. Frustrating!

Rainbow Valley was well worth the visit, even in the middle of the day, without the special lighting effects of sunrise and sunset, which is when one usually sees it featured. The camp area would be alright for a night’s stay – we could even get the van in here.

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Rainbow Valley ramparts and clay pan

The contrasting red and white of the ramparts has been caused by water action. It is actually all sandstone rock, but in past times water that had soaked down and dissolved iron in the sandstone, was drawn back to the top in drier geological periods. As the moisture was evaporated the red, residual iron formed a hard red capping rock that is now the top part. The softer white sandstone below erodes more quickly – by rain and wind – thus making interesting formations.

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Had our lunch at the picnic area, taking in the views.

Then we walked up into the valley behind the ramparts – sometimes walking in sand. There were HUGE camel footprints in there. In some of the sheltered parts, there was a really rank smell – we wondered if wild camels sheltered there. Have to admit that I looked about a bit nervously – did not want to meet any of those!

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BIG camel footprints!

06-30-1999 07 Rainbow Valley smelly cave

The cave beneath this rock overhang was particularly smelly

Rainbow Valley would be truly spectacular to see when there was water in the clay pan in front of the ramparts. Also when there was a full moon over the place.

I would like to return here sometime, for the night, and watch the sun set on the ramparts.

There were very few people here. Again – the effect of anything labelled 4WD on tourists. Totally different to the crowds out in the West MacDonnells. There was only one camper there, when we left at 3.30pm.

Back in Alice Springs, we checked out gas bottles at KMart – theirs were not suitable for us. But whilst there, John bought a rolling pin (for his breads) and a new plastic water container. I bought a new filter for the water jug. I went to the chemist and bought a fresh supply of Cartia aspirin for John.

Tea was macaroni cheese with tuna. John had been going to make pasties, but it was too late. A task for tomorrow.

I phoned K to ask him to send mail, Express, tomorrow.

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1998 Travels May 11


Overnight rain meant that we packed up a damp tent that we will have to dry out later.

Some of the latest crop of backpackers were quite rowdy last night, and are very seedy this morning. I was walking up the track towards the toilets, behind a couple of the lads, and heard one ask the other: “Do you remember the name of that chick I screwed last night?”…… interesting insight into backpacker antics! I wondered if this was a peculiarly Fraser thing, or if maybe it was like that when my step-daughter and her friend went off through India and South East Asia. I wasn’t sure I should share this with John!

After pack up, took the quickest way to the east beach at Eurong, where we shared a portion  of the beach with a plane. This is not uncommon, here.

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Sharing the east coast beach “highway”

Then drove north along the beach, stopping at various tourist sights.

At Rainbow Valley, we walked up amongst some of the spectacular coloured sand cliffs that occur in these parts, where clays have stained the sandstone and also hardened the sands somewhat against erosion. The cliff walls really were multi-coloured, from greeny through to ginger, and with varied erosion patterns. Unfortunately, it was a very hard scene to photograph and do justice to, due to the narrowness of the little gorge.


Rainbow Valley

Further along, we came to an area called The Springs, near one of the sand blows, and spent some time wandering amongst dry channels and hollows in the soft semi-rock.

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John exploring the formations at The Springs

Then we came to Eli Creek – a major attraction of the island. This is a fast-flowing, clear water creek, with a board walk along side. The creek discharges some 80 million litres of water a day, into the sea! There are huge ground water reserves under Fraser Island, that feed the occasional spring fed creek. Eli is a stop on the day tour circuit, so it was relatively crowded. We had our lunch there, watching fish and a big eel swim in the creek. Obviously a “to do” thing here is to float/body surf down the creek, from the board walk’s end to the beach. We were not tempted – there were a few too many younger bodies to compete with for space in the water. I managed to take a photo of Eli Creek, but it took quite a lot of patience to capture it without bodies

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The incredibly beautiful Eli Creek

Further north again, we stopped at the wreck of the “Maheno” – a former liner and WW1 hospital ship. In 1935, it was being towed to Japan for scrap when cyclonic conditions blew it onshore here. Then it was used for bombing practice in WW2. It is now an interesting, rusted out, photogenic skeleton partly buried in the sands. We wandered around – and in – it, taking photos. There was another pair of dingoes at the back of the beach, here. A Ranger drove through and stopped near them and they went away. Seems they associate Rangers with being unwelcome!

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The wreck of the Maheno

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Two dingoes on the beach at the Maheno wreck area

Just north of the “Maheno” is the Pinnacles formation – more coloured sand cliffs, this time fronting onto the beach. These appear on many of the Fraser Island postcards – as does the ship wreck. We walked and took photos and admired the structures. I found the erosion features of the Pinnacles more significant than the coloured sand layers. I remembered that, many years ago, when my children were young and spending a holiday with their father, they did a day trip here and brought me home a souvenir bottle of coloured sands from these parts, which I still have. I doubt that they were old enough to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the island, though.

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The coloured sands and erosion features of the Pinnacles

After this, we reached Cathedral Beach, with its private campground, some 29kms along the beach from Eurong. It took a long time to do that distance – there is a lot packed in there to see, along the way. The camp cost us $20 for an unpowered site. I was not impressed! We were the only tent campers there – given the cost and the nearby cheap camps in the dunes behind the east beach, I am not surprised. Still, it is a nice setting, there are lots of birds, and the location suits our plans for tomorrow.

We put up the small dome tent that was part of my farewell present from my staff. First time we have used this. We wanted it for overnight stays like this. Our lilo just fits in the dome tent, with a little crawl space on each side. As the night is supposed to be fine, and not too cold, this open air camp will suffice. Very bare ground all round.

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Our basic camp at Cathedral Beach

After our quick camp set up, John went off down to the beach to fish. I had a very enjoyable shower – the first for three days! I could not be bothered, where we have been, queuing up with the backpackers for the shower there – and putting up with the mess they created in it. But I enjoyed this one – and it was warm!

John did not return until after dark – fish-less.

Tea was tinned tuna, in the absence of fresh fish –  and some salad.

There was no dingo chorus tonight.