Hiking on Fraser Island – Day 2

Day 2.  We awoke at 0700 to find our campsite wet with rain.  It must have been a good sleep, because I never noticed the rain on my hiking tent overnight!  Everything except the tent flies kept dry.  The food was locked in a steel box to keep it away from dingoes and goannas, and we had our packs under our tent flies.
Breakfast was hot oatmeal porridge made from sachets of flavoured oatmeal.  There was water at the campsite, but it was untreated so we used our UV water sanitiser to make it safe to drink.  Previously I have used various purification tablets, and they all have one thing in common – they make the water taste revolting!!  The UV treatment only takes 90 seconds per litre and does not affect the taste of the water at all.  No nauseating chlorine or iodine taste, and no chemical smell.  The UV water sanitiser proved to be one of the best bits of hiking equipment we had.  Having it meant I was able to go without filling my 4L water bladder, which saved 4kg of weight in my pack.
After breakfast, we hit the trail to hike to the Valley of the Giants Walkers’ Camp.  Walking along ridges was fine, as was going downhill, but climbing upwards really gave the leg muscles a workout!  We were glad we had left a lot of spare things in the locker at the Roma Street railway station in Brisbane, as every extra kilogram in the packs felt like 10kg after a few hours. 
Flooded walking trail between Lake Garawongera and the Valley of the Giants
An hour or so from Lake Garawongera we came to a swamp, which was flooding the trail.  It seems that the big floods in Queensland had also seen the lakes and swamps of Fraser Island filled up to record levels.  We had to detour around this, or at least we chose to detour rather than wade through the water.  I led the way through thick scrub and got both legs badly scratched for my trouble.  Note to self:  Always wear long hiking pants rather than shorts!  After about half an hour of scrub-bashing, we emerged on the other side of the swamp and back onto the trail.  This section is probably why the Lake Garawongera to Valley of the Giants section was supposed to be closed, as there was no clear detour around the flooding.
As we climbed higher into the interior of the island, the trees became bigger and the rainforest more and more spectacular.  Some of the trail was situated on an old tramway, which had the advantage of being a gentle gradient and hence easy walking.  We were able to relax into the hike and really enjoy the sounds and sights around us.  One highlight was a dingo that followed us for several hours.  We stopped for morning tea at one point and the dingo came within 10 metres of us, obviously looking for food.  Previous visitors have apparently been encouraging the dingos with food so they can get good photos, but this can backfire as it makes the dingoes lose their fear of humans.  Then they can become dangerous.  We got some great photos of this animal without doing anything to attract it, by using the telephoto zoom lens on Laura’s camera.
Dingo following us on the trail

Lunch was at Petrie’s Camp which was a loggers’ camp in the early 1900’s when the area was an important source of timber.  Nearly 100 years after logging it was hard to imagine that this thick lush forest was once cut down, except for one thing – none of the trees were really big.  The tallow-woods and satinays take up to 1000 years to reach their full size, so all the trees in this area were still junior.  Not all of the big trees were logged though.  One magnificent specimen in particular remained standing near the end of the day’s hike – before it was hit by lightning and lost the top section, it was the largest tree on the island, estimated to be over 1000 years old.  It was getting dark by the time we reached this tree, but we managed some pictures and video of it.  A photo of Claire hugging the massive trunk shows the scale.

Claire giving the Giant Tallow-wood a hug

We camped the night at the Valley of the Giants Walkers’ Camp, surrounded by huge trees.  Once again we set up camp in the dark, because we started off in the morning too late.  Dinner was rice, again, but this time flavoured with chicken soup mix.  Rice is a great food for hiking because it is easy to carry and cook, and a small amount is very filling.  On other occasions I have existed for days on plain rice, but this trip was the height of luxury with flavours to make the rice more palatable.  Cooking was done on a gas cooker powered by disposable gas canisters.  Fires were not permitted on Fraser Island, so we had to take gas or liquid fuel for cooking.  We chose the gas canister stove because it was light and compact, and used the same canisters at the $20 gas stoves that you get from the hardware shop.  These canisters are available practically everywhere, and each one is good for several days.

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