Hiking on Fraser Island – Day 3

Day 3.

We awoke early on day 3 because it was time to get ourselves organised enough to set up camp in daylight.  This meant we needed to break camp in the morning, have breakfast, and set off by 0800. The motivator was an ooportunity to detour 6.5km from our trail to see the largest tree on Fraser Island, a giant satinay tree.  An extra 13km hiking might not sound like a great idea, but it was without our packs.  The detour took us 45 minutes out and 50 minutes back, and without the weight of our backpacks, it felt like we were floating down the trail!  The giant satinay was not as big around as the giant tallow-wood, but it was taller – a majestic specimen.
Giant satinay tree in the Valley of the Giants
From the giant satinay, we retraced our steps back to the Great Walk and donned the packs again.  Then it was off towards Lake Wabby.  Each day, we stopped three times during the hike.  Morning tea was after the first 2 hours, at which we ate some muesli bars or dried fruit.  Lunch was taken at the halfway point of the day’s hike, so usually occurred about 1230 or 1300.  We tried to vary lunch a bit, and on day 3 we had mountain bread rollups filled with salmon and mild sweet chilli.  Fresh fruit and vegetables were non-starters due to the weight and lack of refrigeration, but this was OK for a week.  Afternoon tea was a welcome halt about 2 hours before we expected to arrive at camp, and consisted of boiled sweets.  By this time of the day, we needed the energy boost of a sugar hit, backed up by a trail bar or muesli bar where possible.

Gourmet lunch on the trail
One highlight of the day 3 hike was a short detour to see the Bidjana Sandblow.  This was a desolate windswept sand dune which was advancing gradually into the rainforest, blowing from east to west under the influence of prevailing winds.  It looks destructive, as the sand kills the forest, but it is the mechanism by which the island grows.  A mountain of sand builds up and up as it advances across the island until eventually the forest reclaims the bare ground behind it.  This reduces the effects of the wind and the sand mountain gradually comes to a halt and is finally completely covered with vegetation.  Bidjana Sandblow was only a small example of the phenomenon, but being able to walk up to the leading edge of the dune then climb it, we were able to really appreciate the forces of nature involved.
Bidjana Sandblow advancing into the rainforest
Whle Laura and I were exploring the Bidjana Sandblow, Claire rested with the packs at the turnoff from the Great Walk.  During the rest, she discovered a number of leeches on her legs.  The bites were painless and bled freely due to the leeches’ saliva.  Leech spit contains chemicals that act as an anaesthetic and an anticoagulant.  The anaesthetic means that the host is less likely to dislodge the leech than if the bite was painful or annoying like a sandfly or mosquito.  The anticoagulant means that the host’s blood clotting is interrupted allowing the leech to drain its fill of blood before the puncture wound stops bleeding.  I only had one leech bite during the 5 days, but I didn’t notice it until I was in the shower at the end of day 4.  The leech was fat and round having feasted on my blood for quite some time, perhaps up to 4 hours!  We didn’t get any pictures of them attached to us as the moment we found one, there was a powerful instinct to remove it immediately.  It was only afterwards that we thought it would have been interesting to get a photo.  It seems we have evolved to resist having our blood removed and this took precedence over taking photos.
Claire modelling several leech bites

 Our campsite on day 3 was at the Lake Wabby Walkers’ Camp.  Finally we had managed to reach camp in daylight, and it was a luxury to set up camp and cook dinner without having to hold a torch. Once again we had the campsite to ourselves.  In fact we had yet to see any other walkers on the trail.  Apart from a few vehicles seen at checkpoints where the walking trial met vehicle tracks, we had not seen anyone for 3 days.  So much for the crowded Great Walk on Fraser Island.  Given that I did not have a sleeping mat, and hence was not particularly comfortable, my snoring would have cleared out the campsite anyway.

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