Everything in the forest is silent, even the rain. It falls without a sound onto the soaring trees and the lush ferns. Fat, noiseless drops explode like missiles onto tiny fungi pushing their way through the leaf litter. The rain silently dapples the surface of a crystal-clear stream in an ever-shifting pattern, as it splashes our faces and our legs.
It's the last thing you want on the first day of a long-distance hike, but I find that I don't mind the downpour as much as I thought I would. That may be because there are so many distractions around me. Above all else, I am enchanted by this silent forest. Think of Fraser Island and you think of sand dunes and long flat beaches. However, much of the island is covered by trees: rainforest, eucalyptus woodland and mangrove forests.
The old logging trails make perfect paths for hikers. The sand is firm but soft beneath our feet, and the trees stretching high above us offer at least some protection from the showers. There are kauri pines, hoop pines and cypress pines, but none are as mighty as the massive satinay trees, one of Fraser Island's natural wonders. We gaze in awe at one specimen with a four-metre wide trunk, which has been standing for more than a thousand years.
Quite frankly, it is lucky to have survived the loggers. Satinay wood has a natural resistance to marine borers, a property which created global demand for the trees. Satinay logs harvested on Fraser Island were used in the building of the Suez Canal, the rebuilding of the London Docks after World War II, and the construction of the Sydney Opera House.
The track we are following is part of the Fraser Island Great Walk, a 90-kilometre trail that can be completed by anyone with a week to spare and the spirit and strength to carry their own camping gear with them. Not quite that fond of walking? Then try one of the packages offered by Kingfisher Bay Resort. Covering between two and four days, this option lets you experience some of the walk's most scenic stretches, while still returning to a comfortable bed every night.
Today, on our first day, we aim to cover 22 kilometres. Thanks to the flat terrain, we make good time. Apart from the rain, the only challenge is avoiding the occasional hole in the path dug by the local bandicoots. Even the weather eventually relents. By the time our walk ends at Lake Mackenzie, the sky has cleared, and we are able to enjoy a refreshing dip in its famous aquamarine waters.
The next day's walk, starting from Seventy-Five Mile Beach, takes in another of Fraser Island's natural wonders. Lake Wabby has an unusual backstory. It was created when a moving sand dune, known as the Hammerstone Sandblow, blocked the path of a creek, causing the water to pool and form what is known as a barrage lake. The same phenomenon that formed the lake is destined to eventually destroy it. The Hammerstone Sandblow is still on the move, travelling about a metre each year. Eventually the sand will engulf the water, and Lake Wabby will be no more.
Although we cover at least 17 kilometres a day, the pace is far from strenuous, and the itinerary is structured to allow us some downtime. During our short stay, we squeeze in not just a canoe trip through the mangroves, but also a reviving massage at the Island Day Spa. After a day's hiking, however, it is the dinners that we really look forward to. The resort offers a number of dining options, from the pizzas and burgers on offer at the Dingo Bar to the high-end bush tucker served up at Seabelle Restaurant. Akudjura salt and pepperberry calamari crocodile salad, or sand crab linguine with finger lime: now that's a delicious way to refuel.
Kingfisher Bay Resort offers Great Walk packages in two, three and four-night versions. Rates start from $585 per person, including accommodation, ferry transfers, buffet breakfasts and lunch hampers. See kingfisherbay.com
Ute Junker travelled as a guest of Kingfisher Bay Resort and Tourism and Events Queensland.