The Great Sand Island.
The biggest sandbar on earth is
an island called Fraser. The best way to see its beauties is to
walk on a Great Walk. (see map from Dili Village to Happy Valley),
which I wanted in May 2005. In Brisbane, I went to the Parks and
Wild Life office to ask the rangers about the usual track information.
They gently said it was forbidden (actually highly discouraged)
to walk alone on the giant sandbar. The island's dingoes, these
wild dogs that are a crossbreed between a wolf and a labrador, are
full-blood and are extremely dangerous. They occasionally attack
humans and there was a fatality in April 2001. I tried to explain
I was trained and that I was going to be careful. In vain, after
a 20 minutes talk with the local rangers and a phone call to the
head ranger on the island, I quit the idea of this Great Walk to
go for a less dangerous activity: 5 days on a live-aboard on the
outer great barrier reef with the main attraction being diving amongst
40 mid sized sharks.
In 2006, I decided to come back
to Australia with my adventurous spirit far from the too safe advices
of the rangers. This time I want to walk across the entire length
of the island from South to North. This is an adventurous project
as I will go unsupported (alone, no external help and no food drops)
while passing through the most beautiful gems of the island. This
should be quite easy. The main dangers are the dingoes, snakes and
not to find water in the remote Northern part of the North of Orchid
beach. This area is the most difficult part as it's only visited
on the coast by 4WD driving to the lighthouse.
Fraser, the world's biggest sand
Fraser Island is 123 km long and
40 km at its maximum width. Fauna and flora are diverse and settled
on the sand island. Dense and very impenetrable vegetation is present
almost everywhere on the sand surface. The main attractions of Fraser
are its perched fresh water lakes and colored sands often seen near
sandblows. An unending beach on the East coast is as highway for
4WDs. Even if the width of the beach is 3 (low tide) to 40m, accidents
The fatal attack by two dingoes
happened on an 8 year old boy. After reading a dozen documents on
the dingo's behavior, etc... The brief conclusions are:
The HEMA map 1:130.000 is plenty enough to walk on
the island because the Great Walk track is marked and following
the beach is easy. It can be a bit tricky to find the fastest walking
track on the sandy bottom made by the 4WD.
- There are 300 dingoes on a 1500 km2 island
- The probability that an adult gets attacked by several wild
dogs is very low (you must be very lucky!)
- I am aware of the danger and I can defend
myself with my 2 walking sticks and I keep a tent peg as dagger
in my pocket.
- I follow all the advices: don't feed, don't
get close, stand in front not show my back, don't provoke and
defend aggressively if attacked.
Brief adventure log - Download
I leave the hostel and hitch hike
towards Inskip point. One hour later I am on the barge that drops
all vehicles and I on the top South of Fraser island. Carrying 20
kg, I start walking North on a closed 4WD track towards Dili Village.
I am astonished by the easiness of the walk on compact sand covered
with decomposing vegetation. As usual, walking alone lets me see
many animals like goannas over 80cm long. At Dili Village I follow
the Great Walk and reach Lake Boomanjin as planned just before sunset.
The next morning, I watch the sun rising in the mirror of the lake.
A color scene I enjoy wit my camera.
Without entering too much into
details, the next walking days on the Great Walk are the same: easy
walking trying to cover an average of 30km per day. Each night I
talk to bushwalkers. We exchange experiences and they tell me they
want to know if I will make it. One night, I reach the valley of
the giants in the complete darkness. I interrupt a group of guided
walkers who are just finishing their dessert. They propose me their
Indian curry. I explain that my adventure is unsupported and decline
the offer. I join their table and eat my food while they keep trying
to offer me a dessert. I don’t refuse their smiles and kind
Once the Great Walk is finished,
I only have to follow the sand highway going north. I pass 4WDs,
buses and even planes. Some drivers are quiet curious and slow down
to my side to propose me a lift further. I kindly refuse any lift!
I make a small wave with my finger to each vehicle passing me. Every
Australian sent this back to me. This is a sign Australians answer
with pleasure. This way of greeting is often used in the country
where people are isolated.
During several meetings with aboriginal
Queenslanders, I was told not to bathe in the sacred lakes of Fraser’s
northern tip. A kind of curse but at the Dundubara aboriginal camping,
I ask the owner about these warnings. She tells me actually only
aboriginal people cannot bathe in these lakes and compliment me
to be a different white man as I travel by foot. I promise her I
won't swim in order to stay as close as possible to aboriginal traditions
and beliefs. I am suddenly invited by a young boy on a private aboriginal
path leading me back to the beach.
Indian head is the only rock formation
on the island. It's where one can have a nice lookout over the junction
between 2 colors of the ocean. The view from the top is incredible.
There I take my longest break in order to spot whales, dolphins,
sharks, turtles and rays. I am staring at the ocean when suddenly
a completely unexpected event happens: a manta ray goes into a wave
to take a jump out of the water. The entire body flew over the water
for less than a second but it was just amazing. I understood why
in the past they were called the devils of the seas by the first
witnesses of this wonder.
At Orchid beach, I leave my contact
details to Don, the manager of the little deli shop. I tell him
I wish to finish my walk inland following the track I spotted on
satellite images. He tells me there was a road before used by the
army but it was closed for over 20 or 30 years. It must be overgrown
by now and thus it would be very difficult to find something. I
understood his concern and decided to plan 2 days instead of 1 to
walk the remaining 30 km. I start searching for the forgotten road
around Ocean Lake. An Aussie tourist tells me he’s coming
here for decades and never heard about a road leading inland to
the lighthouse. I go with my compass… and discover that the
start of the track is just behind the toilets lake. These are blocking
I follow the abandoned track and
make a slow progression. As expected, it’s slow going through
swampy vegetation as the track is swept by plants and trees. I got
often lost and the only way to find water (a lake) is to climb the
trees on the top of the hills. I discover that most of the lakes
are completely dry, which forces me to drink slowly. The good side
is that walking on dry and hard crust is easy.
Several places are real jungle
where I have to pass through bush and thick vegetation woven by
vines. Without machete, I end up either walking 50cm above the ground,
either doing Thai boxing using my legs to untangles them from vines
and small trees. My skin rapidly peels off and I bleed everywhere
under my pants. After 3 days of dense jungle and pain, I haven’t
much food and water left. The rage allows me to forget the pain
and continue at a steady pace because I know I’m close to
the beach on the Northern tip of the island.
I finally reach the beach, which
makes me feel free and lightweight. From there it's an easy walk
on the hard sand to the lighthouse and the Sandy Cape. The reward
after such efforts is to finally accept a lift in a 4WD. I am pleased
by the feeling of being the first to photograph these places almost
unexplored. Three days have passed; Don was worried about me and
offers me a fresh beer. In the distance we hear some tourists talking
about a lonely guy they saw walking a few days ago along the island's
Please visit my photo section and
exhibition for more photos.