by Glenn Satchell

Brookvale/Curl Curl Venturers celebrated the upcoming retirement of our Venturer Leader, Stuart Butler, by partaking in his Last Great Hike – the K’gari (Fraser Island) Great Walk. The Great Walk is a 90km trek through the rainforests and freshwater lakes of K’gari that took us 6 days to complete. The terrain is sandy with small ridges and low hills to traverse.

Stuart has organised many expedition trips for the Scouts and Venturers over the last seven years to locations such as The Overland Track Tasmania (twice), South Coast Track Tasmania, Walls of Jerusalem Tasmania, Jatbula Trail NT, six days off track in the Jagungal Wilderness, Great Ocean Walk Victoria and an 11 day mammoth from Kiandra to Kosciusko plus numerous shorter weekend trips. He has decided to hang up the scarf and woggle and pursue other endeavours. Before doing so he wanted to finish with one last expedition hike and as such he put together the K’gari Great Walk for the Venturer Unit. He says:

“Whilst the views are not as spectacular as Tasmania, the terrain not as open and undulating as the Snowies and the presence of the land not as palpable as Jatbula, the rainforest walking on Fraser Island is very calming and the ability to stretch out and relax at the end of each day beside a beautiful lake is simply lovely. The youth were a delight to take and the only regret was my hiking partner in crime was unable to make this final Scouting trip. I have greatly enjoyed the company of all the youth (and other leaders) over the years and hope that they all continue hiking into the future. If not, then I hope the memories of the hikes will be pleasant and something to reminisce over for many years to come and perhaps lead them back to Scouting when they become parents.”

Our trip started at Sydney Airport with a flight to Hervey Bay and taxi ride to 1st Pialba Scout Hall where we stayed the first and last nights. The following morning, we were picked up for a ferry ride and 4WD trip to Happy Valley on the eastern shores of K’gari. The weather was warm with clear blue skies, but the weather forecast suggested there might be some showers over the coming days.

From Happy Valley the well-marked track heads inland, our destination that night being a 7km slog through soft sandy foothills to the campsite at Lake Garawongera. We had a lovely swim in the lake that afternoon and settled down for the first night. Each of the designated campsites has tables, dingo-proof metal boxes to store all food and garbage, and composting toilets. With no open fires allowed we headed to bed early and planned for an early start about 8am.

Day 2 and we were heading 13km to the campsite in the Valley of the Giants. As we walked through the light scrub, we were delighted to be followed by a group of four young dingoes. They stayed with us for about half an hour, looking hopefully for some food scraps. Despite many warning signs they were not threatening and quietly left us alone.

Mid-morning we crossed a small ridge into a rainforest valley. There were many tall trees and lots of little plants vying for the sunshine. We were in the Valley of the Giants. We arrived at the shady camp not long after lunch, set up the tents and left our packs to go looking for a couple of local giants – the Tallest Tallowwood and a Giant Satinay. The first was about half a km from camp and the latter a solid 7km return trip. Both trees were over 1,000 years old, had gnarly trunks over three metres in diameter, and were at least 50 metres tall.

That night we had the first rain, a soft shower that lasted most of the night. The sandy soil absorbed the water, so it was dry in the morning. As the next day was 16km, we decided to make a really early start – leaving camp at 7am to avoid the heat in the middle of the day.

Lunch that day was near Lake Wabby, a delightful smaller lake with a sand blow next to it. The sand blow had originally started at the beach and blown inland over thousands of years. The grasses and trees eventually start growing in around the edges, separating it from the beach. The edge of the dune had a steep slope down to the lake. Another nice swim after a rather warm day. The camp was a further one km up a steep climb.

With 12km to travel on Day 4 we headed off early again, arriving at Lake McKenzie around 11. This is a very big lake, about 3-4km across. With very white sand and a large beach area, it is popular with day trippers and 4WD travellers. There were hundreds of people on the beach and lots of cars and buses. We found a quiet corner of the beach and had a nice swim. With so many visitors, dingoes can be a problem here, so the campsite and picnic areas were fenced to keep them out.

Day 5 was another long day, 14km, heading to Lake Benaroon via Central Station. On the way we passed Basin Lake, a small and sheltered lake where a few swam while we had morning tea. Central Station is a large area with wooden boardwalks down by the creek and a huge hikers’ campsite (there is a separate campsite for 4WDers about 800m up the road). We took the opportunity to use the facilities and top up our water bottles before continuing on. Lake Benaroon was lovely, but the wind was quite chilly, and a bit too cool for a swim, although a couple of the team did brave the conditions. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing cards, strolling along the beach or sitting and reading by the lake. This was our last campsite, and we had it all to ourselves.

The final day we were keen to get going. We had 12km to Dilli Village, a private village run by the University of the Sunshine Coast, where we were due to be picked up in the 4WD at one o’clock. In the end we made it by midday, the pickup was early so we went to the resort at Eurong for a fresh lunch at the bakery, a soft drink and ice cream and some souvenir shopping. We made it comfortably to the ferry in time and then were dropped back to the Scout hall for a shower and fresh clothes.

Thanks to Stuart for organising, 1st Pialba Scouts for letting us stay at their hall, and Jetstar for not losing our luggage.