The last time we did an overnight trip to Moreton Island I was pretty knackered on arrival. By the end of the following day I was completely had it. To be frank I can’t say I was really enthusiastic about doing it again. Several things flipped my decision. This time we were leaving from the Boat Passage and going direct to The Wrecks at Tangalooma instead of the Big Sandhills. The tide heights and movements were generally favourable and the wind forecast was good. Very good. Verging on too good to be true. And, the boats would be relatively light.
By 0800 three kayaks slipped into calm conditions with a cool SW playing over my right shoulder. The sails could have provided more assistance if the other two had not set off at warp speed. I grizzled my discontent and said I would see them over there.
We paused very briefly on a NW beach of Mud Island which was just as well as Innes had not had breakfast. A fritata moment later and we were back on the hustings making for a large container ship which appeared to be at anchor a fair way south of the channel. Other ships continued to make their way to port. I admit I am a bit of a paranoid android when it comes to large merchant ships. They move deceptively quickly. A mere 15 minutes and they morph from a nonthreatening rectangle to an overwhelming mass rapidly bearing down on a sea flea that only has the capacity to outpace a sea cucumber. I didn’t care what Marks GPS said about the location of the shipping channel. I was staying well south of it.
The SW progressively dropped out and the conditions became silky. A large fire burned on the mainland smudging the horizon with its dirty pall. It was a pretty boring paddle as it was deep water all the way. A couple of pods of dolphins came close but that was about it. By the time we were inside the Wrecks I was all too ready to call it a day. Mark and I pulled up at the southern end of the campsite, Innes came ashore at the northern end. After a recce we decided to haul our boats up a sandy path towards the northern end which was demarcated by a hand rail of coppers logs. We were the only ones there. The sites were unremarkable. There were no tables. Shower cubicles were found off to one side of the access paths to the beach. The toilet block looked very much like the one on St Helena Island. The more aesthetic sites with better access to the water are towards the southern end in proximity of the red lidded industrial bins.
After lunch we pitched tent then went for a walk to have a look at Ben Ewa. I found this quite distressing for two reasons. The first was that there were dead pied and black cormorants at regular intervals along the beach. There would have been around 50 birds scattered across the tidal reach. Innes said he saw something similar on his walk to Tangalooma Resort. The second was the intensity of the vehicular tracks in the sand. The beach was ribbed with tyre imprints and the softer sand gouged in the vicinity of the turn off to Middle Road. Almost all of the birds had been run over.
Little wonder. At Ben Ewa the campsite has been upgraded to cater for 4WD vehicles towing campers and caravans with a toilet dump facility and a new amenities block. The sites were generous in size and easily catered for the caravan that was parked up. A loud clanging of metal pipes could be heard coming from over the back of the hill behind the amenities block. Too nosy to not know what was going on I took a sticky beak. Turned out it was a tour operator pulling down and discarding a commercial campsite and camp kitchen into a somewhat inadequate skip bin. He said he had been given instructions to dismantle it at short notice even though it had been there for 30 years. We had spent a full week camping at Ben Ewa around 25 years ago and had no idea it was even there. Seemed like a heinous waste of good galvanised pipes.
By the time we returned to Tangalooma Wrecks, the solar shower had warmed to just above what had come out of the tap and provided a welcome opportunity to rinse off the sunscreen. The sun burned a brilliant red and quickly slipped into a smoky haze. The rich evening hues did not last for long and after a delicious hotch potch dinner based around a packet of laksa soup we were ready to crash.
Around 6am the following morning we were disturbed by a heavy growling noise. It was the MiCat coming ashore to drop off the first of four loads of vehicles. We were not leaving until around midday so had a leisurely start with pancakes for breakfast. Once we had loaded the boats we went for a walk and checked out the transparent kayak hire. A couple of jet skiers had come ashore and were mulling over their phones. I went and asked them what the conditions had been like. ‘Borderline’ was their answer. They were checking the wind observations and current predictions as this would influence their next decision. It didn’t look that bad – around 10Knots. But these two were clearly rattled. I wondered if it was their first time travelling to Moreton Island. When we said we were paddling back you would have thought that we had said something really stupid. Well clearly that is what they thought. They took a bit of glee in saying that they would tell their wives that there were people out there who were more stupid than themselves. Within 15 minutes there was no sight of them – they had skedaddled.
Innes packed up his gear after walking back from the resort. He heard a strange knocking sound and turned to see a couple of crows hanging around. The knocking started up again but he thought no further of it. He asked us whether we might have packed his milk powder as he had not come across it. No, not seen. When Mark checked the campsite for a final time he spied an orange shape similar to an EPIRB in the scrub. He found a battered looking container with milk powder. The crows had nicked off with Innes’s milk powder container. The knocking sound was them having a crack at it. They were almost successful in bashing a hole in the lid and had managed to inflict a star burst fracture. Cheeky sods. No wonder two adults appeared to be raising three kids. They almost succeeded in having a decent beak fill of protein.
After an early lunch we set off around midday to head south. We kept in the shallows as we were pushing against the last of the outgoing tide. The promised easterly had been converted to an annoying southerly. Said it was too good to be true. Around six Km north of The Big Sandhills we turned, flicked up the sails and made a beeline for the mouth of the Brisbane River. Once out of the shelter of the island the wind was an ESE that gave the sails form and annulled the vector of the flood tide. It was a positively staid paddle to the point of boring. Don’t know what the jet skiers were on about. I was fanging out for some more wind. According to the port communications on Channel 12, at best we were receiving around 11Knots. The flooding tide up the river was appreciated as the shipping movements and a glorious sunset made for welcome distractions towards the end of a six hour paddle that concluded in the dark.
I would not recommend this route to Moreton as it bypasses the seagrass meadows and the turquoise waters over the sand banks which are not only beautiful but where you may come across dugong, turtles and manta rays. I am also disheartened by the current volume of 4WD traffic being disgorged onto the island and cannot help but fret for the impact this is having on the islands unique and fragile ecology.