Sunday July 7, 2019
We are into Day 3 of the drive to Fraser Island to meet some whales. Day 1 was Wagga to Wollongong; and Day 2, Wollongong to Coffs Harbour. The pod is Jan, Pearson, Tony and I. Today we expect to get to Phil’s house at Hervey Bay. We’ll spend tomorrow getting ready, doing a bit of shopping and checking gear before heading out on Tuesday 9 July.
Overnighted at Port Macquarie. Our morning beach view.
We left Coffs Harbour and set out on a 700km drive, lunching at Caboolture fish and chip shop before arriving at Phil’s in HerveyBay about 5.30. We travelled in convoy with Mark and played musical chairs each of us spending sections of the drive swapping cars and lots of gossip. A lot of fun. We were very excited to arrive, knowing it was a new place to explore and the site from which we will launch on Tuesday. Dinner at the local Indian!
Day 4 Monday – Preparation day
First up shopping, then trial boat pack, egg boiling and water carrier disinfecting. Once all the chores were done, it was a swim for mark and Jan. Tony and I had coffee and cake at the marina. Dinner was at the Marina at Balean – a suitable name for four prospective whale watchers!
Day 5 Launch day
The timings for the day depended on the tide. We wanted to get the benefit of quieter water at the slack high tide. Our departure was thus set at 11.30. We launched exactly on time and paddle 8kms to pelican island for a rest. It was a tricky landing with standing waves meeting at our landing point. After a couple of crash landings and no injuries we headed across to FI to Moon Point and the 5kms up the west coast to Coongul camp site. We saw two wild dingoes, one cruising along the beach following its nose and another at Coongul, obviously a resident and very used to people. At midnight it howled and two others howled back in reply. Quite a surprise. All up 17kms on our first day out.
Day 6 – Coongul to Awinya
Another 17km day, launching at 9.30 arriving at 3pm. Pristine water, gentle sea, light wind and no whales! But it didn’t matter. We are in a paradise. Our campsite for the night had a fresh water lagoon behind our tents which was teeming with tadpoles and frogs. A sign that the ecosystem is healthy. Birds, lizards, dingoes, fish, tadpoles and frogs. Lots of natural music serenading us in the afternoon sun. Bliss.
Day 7 Awinya -rest day
So overnight I hatched a cold. Sore throat, tight chest. A tough night’s sleep. We were supposed to head further north to Wathumba today but two things were against us – My cold and impending weather. I spent half of the day asleep or simply coughing and spluttering. The men read the tea leaves, oops, I mean the BOM and Willy Weather to discern that our final return day crossing back to the mainland was going to be into 20knot head winds. An impossible challenge for Jan and I. It was decided to go no further north but instead cut our trip short by one day to allow the crossing in more favorable conditions a day earlier. So we frolicked at Awinya for the day. We had a secret fresh water lagoon all to ourselves with zillions of tadpoles, hundreds of juvenile frogs and a couple of full blow adults lerking on the edges of their lagoon at dusk. A quiet trip along the lagoon to find a private place in lieu of a loo afforded the opportunity to spy multiple pairs of frog eyes watching me doing my thing. Not quite private after all. Apart from the rituals of ablutions, the paddlers in the pod went up Awinya Creek for a look see then played in the gentle surf waves at the entrance. Meanwhile I went for a fossiker’s walk and found lots of animal tracks – birds, lizards, dingoes and lots of tyre tracks. The four wheel, off road brigade is up here in force. Believe it or not, we can get run over if sunbaking or napping on the beach.
Day 8 Awinya to Woralie Creek 9kms
We headed south after breakfast and a dingo patiently watched and waited as we packed up. I was the slow poke of the pod but I made it and wasn’t wrecked. Mark and Jan landed before us and scouted for a suitable campsite. The priority was to keep away from the 4wheel drive mob – being school holidays we found ourselves sharing the beach sites with a lot of mechanical paraphernalia.
Our spot was in the trees with a beach front! Mark went fishing and caught a fish – a Longtom! Jan gutted, scaled it and cooked it for dinner. Tony took photos of eagles and ospreys! Wow. The eagle swooped in front of us and picked a fish up out of the sea. Magnificent. And then I spotted a whale just off the beach. It was little but it was a whale. A juvenile humpback.
Day 9 – Woralie Creek to Moon Point.
A leisurely start to the day, then off to moon creek. Again our formation- Jan and mark up front, Tony and I in the rear. But the off shore sand bar was calling to tony so together Mark and Tony went out to land on the bar and claimed it for Tombom tours.. our job was to find moon point camp site. All that was involved was to paddle down the beach until we found the sign. Well … we missed it. Instead we landed on a mangrovie island below Moon Point for an enjoyable evening of mosquitoes, mites and nasty burrs. Nice one, Women. The weather was due to turn over night so we hunkered down in anticipation of strong winds.
Day 10 – ‘mangrove’ Island to Hervey Bay Aquarium.
The strong winds arrived. We listened to the howling of the winds through the casurina trees from 3am onwards (15-20knts SSW). It was beatiful to hear, but worrying to know that these winds would continue throughout the next morning. The plan was to wait out the winds, while at the same time hoping to cross the channel back to the mainland at slack, low tide. Our thinking was that even if the headwind facing us as we prepared to cross the channel back to Hervey Bay didn’t drop, we would nonetheless enjoy the benefit of less churned water as the tide race diminished for an hour or two. Luck was with us. The wind dropped just as it approached slack tide. We were packed and ready. We launched as 12.34pm in to 10-13kts, SSW. The wind fetch was at its worst as we launched. Messy, bumpy, windy, grey and a little foreboding. We agreed to stay close, reiterated our support plan if anyone was seasick or up against their physical limits, and headed off with total commitment. I wasn’t anxious – to my surprise – but more determined to take it on and get it over with. We had prepared as well as possible and had made the best decision in relation to launch time. So off we went. We stayed close; the conditions were bumpy for about three kms. We had 7kms to do before resting at Woody Island. At the middle of the channel, the tide was calm, the wind waves reduced and the fetch was non existant due to the protection afforded by Woody Island. We were through the worst. It was just then a rest on Woody Island before the last 4 kms into Hervey Bay, landing at the Aquarium. The final leg was glassy, calm and felt like a reward for the hard work on the water earlier. We landed, packed up and went back to Phil’s. Time to eat well, have a drink, celebrate and enjoy the luxoury of sleeping in a bed.
Day 11 – clean up.
Lots of washing, hosing, drying, folding and taking it easy.
Day 12 – Whale watching on The Spirit of Hervey Bay.
Mark, Kerri, Jan and I decided to see if we could see more whales. We saw about five from the boat which took us back to our paddling track and we saw our camp sites from the water. What a paradise! And we saw how close the whales get to the beach and just how close they were to where we paddled. According to the guide, very few whales were in the bay as it was early in the season. We were luck to see the ones we saw and that suggested that the one, lone whale we did sea while paddling was indeed, a treat.
We celebrated that night with Kerri, and headed home on Day 13, retracing our steps, staying at Coffs Harbour again, before arriving in the Gong.
Some of the memorable lines of the pod:
There’s a lot of sand!
Not another bloody sunset!
There’re a lot of bones in this fish.
What do you think the water temperate is? And now? And what about now?
What do you think the wind speed is now?
Would anyone like some dried fruit?
I have hot water if anyone wants some.
How’d you sleep last night?