Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wild Dingo Children and Lake McKenzie

The main point of camping our way up the coast was so we could explore the environmental wonderland of Fraser Island, which is noted for its rainforest ecosystem somehow growing out of the sand.  It also houses the purest strain of dingoes on the east coast, which is why many of the campgrounds on this island national park are fenced.  I initially figured that since we've camped in bear territory in northern California just fine we could handle this as well without the fences, but since the park service advises that parents be in close proximity of children under the age of fourteen, not merely toddlers, we'd better heed the advice and go with the fences.

The other logistical factor involved with visiting Fraser Island is the driving--only 4x4 vehicles are allowed, so we left our trusty Ferdinand the Minivan at Fraser Magic 4wd Hire and got acquainted with the very industrial Land Rover Defender.  After watching a video explaining all the potential horrors, dismemberments, and deaths that accompany 4-wheeling and beach driving--and signing our lives away--we set off for the ferry.

Is there some universal boy gene that expresses itself when multiple boys are placed into one row of seats in a Land Rover?  Our children transformed into a wild pack of wrestling dingoes.  And I know you're thinking that I should give them a break, because of course bumpy, 4-wheel tracks are going to rile them up.  Jeez, why can't I cut them some slack on their first 4-wheel drive experience.  I'll tell you why--
We were on the effing ferry, and the car was parked.  PARKED.  With the boys a frenzied heap of twisting limbs and noggins inside the vehicle, I stood at the edge of the ferry and gazed out at the waterway, breathed in the salty air, took a sip of my cappuccino, and tried to muster up patience for the next four days of driving.  I also noted the sign indicating that we were currently in a waterway which was home to saltwater crocodiles ('salties') and wondered if I could possibly jump in and swim back to shore in one piece, free for a spa weekend and far, far away from my family.  I quickly calculated that being a prehistoric beast's breakfast would prevent me from spending time at beautiful beaches like this one, so I resigned myself to four days of the inevitable automobile-related frenzy.

At precisely this moment, I realized that our camera--the one that we needed to document and remember our family's experience in this amazing environment when they were not torturing me in the car--was in Ferdinand the Minivan's glove compartment.

In the rental car place's parking lot.

Across a salty croc-filled waterway.


Never have I been so happy to own an iPhone, as it was all I could desperately cling to in hopes of photographing our time.  But of course, I didn't bring the car charger for the iPhone so I had a day and a half of battery, tops.


Driving on the island is a four-wheeling driver's dream, with sandy, rutted inland tracks and 50-odd kilometers of beach driving with streams, washouts, and rock bypasses.
inland tracks

beach driving (and making room for an oncoming plane)
But despite the kids' initial excitement over the experience, we determined that the Tunheims are simply not a four-wheeling family.  We endured the slow, jostled driving as a means to an end and it was worth it to access the unique beauty of the area, but we certainly didn't happen upon a new family hobby.

One of the reasons I had chosen Central Station campground (apart from safety) was that its rainforest made it a destination even for those who weren't camping there.  And the greenery didn't disappoint--our own campsite was edged by this gorgeous massive, mossy fallen log, and its friends were scattered amongst the grounds, with countless others towering above us.  The weather seemingly changed in 12-minute intervals from rain that dripped lightly after being filtered through the leaves above to sunshine barely glimpsed through the canopy.

I went on a much-needed solo hike along a small portion of the 90km of hiking trails along Fraser Island's Great Walk.  As someone whose favorite color is green, I marveled at all the shades and textures; a feast for the eyes.

solo-hike self-portrait
When I get home, I want to print a bunch of Australian leafy greens photos and hang them up in my bedroom so I can have a piece of that beauty in Colorado.  I'll leave that unshowered, sans makeup photo for the blog; it's bad enough that Sam has to wake up and see it each morning!

Back home in the States before we left on this exchange year, I asked the New Zealander that co-owns the awesome Curtis Park Deli what some of the must-sees were in Australia.  Fraser Island's Lake McKenzie was top on his list, so off we went.  As we walked down the path from the carpark, I caught my first glimpse of water:

And then in full view:
The lake is perched, which means it contains only rainwater, and the soft, white, pure silica sand is so incredibly fine that I used it as a scrub on my face.  The water is so pure from being filtered through the sand that it supports very little life--but you can drink it as you swim and it tastes better than anything coming out of a faucet.

The recent high rains meant that much of the white sandy beach was underwater so the lake was less gorgeous than usual, but really, I wasn't about to complain--lowering the description from stupendously gorgeous to incredibly gorgeous means it's still a pretty damn beautiful place to spend time.

We visited the lake twice, since our first late-afternoon visit got a little chilly as the sun fell behind the trees, and I took as many pictures as I could with my waning iPhone battery.

Kenyon is going to remember little to none of this trip since he's so young, so I try and take as many pictures as I can of him to help us talk about it for years to come.  Plus, I just can't get enough of his face.

I love this one that Kenyon took of us.


  1. That is total gorgeousness! Even the picture of you sans makeup! I really like to bottom picture as well. You both look so youthful!

  2. Gorgeous photos!

    I have a video of my mum (quite a statuesque lady) being chased by a pack of dingoes on Fraser. She had gone down to film the sunrise and got more than she bargained for. Lucky I turned up, in ma' kickin' boots, just in time... It makes for funny footage now, in long hindsight. Long, long hindsight. Ok, she's still not quite laughing, but I am!

    1. Accidental Housewife, I think it's high time for that video to make its debut on YouTube. :) We only saw four during our time on the island; I think the park service culled the population a few years back when the dingoes were a bit too brazen for their own good.
      I hope she got a nice sunrise shot before it was time to run.

    2. Oh, there's plenty of glimpses of sunrise as the camera bucks and swings, backed by a soundtrack of lady-squeals and dingo yips... Lol, poor mum!