Sailing the Whitsunday Islands and 4×4’ing Fraser Island (Day 257)

This post is going to be heavy on multimedia (pics and video).

We begin this episode with a 3-day sailing trip to the beautiful Whitsunday Islands!  This trip was awesome, a product of ~ 20 fun passengers, a top-notch crew, good food, diving, snorkeling, and a beautiful sailboat complete with a hot tub.  How can one go wrong?  We made a stop at the idyllic Whitehaven Beach, one of the finest I have seen.  (And, to be honest, I’ve seen a few stretches of sand in my day.)

Whitehaven and I.  This is how I like a beach:  No shops, no boardwalk, no cars, no huts, no signs of civilization anywhere . Just sand and water (and a few people :)

On this trip I had the good fortune to dive with somebody with a camera where I was able to snafu some pics/video.  Let me show you a few things: 

Demonstrating my “regulator optional” technique

Night diving.  Hopefully you can get an idea of how eery it is below the water in pitch blackness.  The only things you can see are the ones you shine your flashlight on.  Is there a shark looming just behind you?  The truth is, you don’t know…

Btw, that little surprise at the end is courtesy of yours truly :)

Shark!  Oh, shit!

It is amazing how much bonding you can do with your fellow passengers during 3 days at sea together.  We agreed to get together to party the night of our return.  Two girls who already had a flight booked for that afternoon cancelled it, just to join in the fun!  We danced for hours and lit that town up.  Great stuff.

In other news, I was able to watch my first hockey game of the year the other day:  Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  In Australia, it came on at 10am.  I found a bar that put the game on.  It was fun to see the Canadians creep out of the woodwork.  We ordered beers and talked about how much we missed hockey :)  We were joined by some British guys who had never watched hockey before.  They thought the game was fast and vicious.  Yes it is, my friends, yes it is.

The Game 7 crew

I was still recovering from the Whitsundays sailing and partying when I travelled to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world (chalk up another world ‘est’ for me).  The standard way to tour this island is to rent a 4×4 and drive its beaches and inland tracks.  4-wheel drive is required because all the driving is off-road.  If you’re lucky, the tide just went out, making the sand firm and smoother than the 401.  If not, the sand is soft, causing many drivers to get stuck.  So, 7 people I didn’t know and I rented a bright pink Land Cruiser named “Eli” and spent 3 days camping and hanging out on the island.  As you can imagine, good times were had.  I did a lot of driving.  I got sand in places I didn’t even know I had.

Eli.  The Land Cruiser. The Legend.

Sunrise driving

But, this trip didn’t start smoothly.   Among the many problems I encountered:  in Australia, they drive on the left side of the road; the diver sits on the right side of the car; the gear shifter is on the driver’s left; the signal lever is on the right side of the steering wheel, the wipers on the left (this caused me huge problems — every time I went to signal I would turn on the wipers instead… oh my, the chaos.) 

So there I am:  50 feet into our trip, in a bright pink Land Cruiser, on the wrong side of the road, starring into the barrel of oncoming traffic, wipers flailing, looking for 2nd gear with my right hand, and my passengers screaming warnings from the back seat.

Things are looking bad.

Fortunately, I got it straightened out.  On the island, where there are no lanes, little traffic, and no pavement, I did fine.  Reminded me of 4×4 driving with my parents and grandparents when I was a kid.

This adventure brings me to another “How To” video on The Unique Art of World travel.  This time I show you how to put your Land Cruiser into 4-wheel drive.

You never know when you will need to do this to prepare your 4×4 for some hairy off-road driving.  On Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, 2-wheel drive just won’t do :)

Part A

Part B

An aside:  It’s winter here in Australia.  People hide under big coats and hats as they tell me it’s cold.  I still wear shorts and a t-shirt during the day.  People look at me funny, but it’s cool, I feel comfortable for the first time in forever.  The heat during my 8-month tour through Asia was slowly killing me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Asia — but I don’t miss the insufferable heat.

The benefit of travelling Aus in the winter is that there are fewer travellers.  Those still here are heading north, following the warmer climes.  This Canadian guy, who has not seen winter in 1.5 years, is following the cold and going south.  I love it.

I hope you can tell from this blog how much fun I’m having.  I feel like I am just rolling down the Aussie coast from one good time to another.  This sign says how I feel about Australia so far:

That’s it for now.  Tune in for next week’s episode when I take on Australia’s biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, catch an Aussie Rules Football game, and do battle with the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Arts (oh, the carnage!).  Same bat-time, same bat-channel…

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One Response to Sailing the Whitsunday Islands and 4×4’ing Fraser Island (Day 257)

  1. ida says:

    I love your "how to" movies! Now I know exactly what to do when I\’m stuck with my pink 4×4 Monster truck in the sand dunes!!

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