Tag Archives: 4wd

The Great Australian Bight – camping at the edge of the world

“Life on the edge”, “living on the edge”, “if you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space”, “I tried living on the edge, didn’t like it much”, “I’ve been to the edge and back” etc. etc.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen PhotographyNo shortage of sayings about living on the edge. Well here’s my story about camping on the edge! Working on some old files the other day for my World Panorama Stock portfolio I rediscovered an old favourite destination and story of mine – The Great Australian Bight!

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen PhotographyThe Great Australian Bight is a bight than runs for more than 1,000 kilometers along the southern coast of Australia. If you look at a map it looks like someone took a huge bite (bight, geddit? haha) out of Australia! When you get there it literally is the end of the world; you stand at the top of cliff faces that descend 50-60 meters straight into the ocean and you truly feel like you’re on the edge and at the end of the world! I don’t know many people who have been to the Great Australian Bight and yet it is one of the most stunning and remote locations in Australia!

I realised the other day that I didn’t always have to write about the current photos I shoot, I could also write about older tours and older photos! This opens up a whole new bag of tricks (some might say can of worms) for this blog – so this is my story and “Lonely Planet Style” travel guide to living on the edge…

Getting there & around

To get to The Great Australian Bight you simply travel in your 4WD along the Nullarbor plain for a long time and when you feel like you’ve gone far enough you turn due South (there are no roads so any place will do). You then bump (be prepared for a few dislocated discs in your back!) across the open flat plains for a few hours and all you have to do now is remember to stop when the world ends! Here’s a map showing you the location, you won’t need a more detailed map, you really just need to remember to brake before you go over the edge. You can drive your car straight over the edge, but the chances of reversing back up are slim!

bight map

My trip to the Bight began in January 1999 in Perth with my mate Andrew’s tour company Bolstaor Coastal Safari (sadly the company is now closed) and onboard his 4WD OKA truck. We drove to the mining town of Kalgoorlie (distance: 600 kilometers) like a bat out of hell, stocked up on beer, food and Coke at Woolworths and then took the Trans Access Road (no food or fuel for 862 kilometers!) to the great Nullarbor Plains:

Trans Access Road by Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

We bush camped in the middle of the … bush! The next day we hit the Nullarbor Highway and at some point we took a right turn. After hours of bumping across the amazing landscape accompanied by Kangaroos we suddenly run out of World and have to come to a full stop!

Places to stay

Bring your own! (same goes for beer and food). There are no signs of civilisation here at all which is what makes it so fantastic so remember to bring your swag (bedroll) and some tukka (food)! We camped almost on the edge of the Bight and it was a spectacular camp and spectacularly windy! Here’s the late great Bolstaor Coastal Safaris OKA truck and our camp on the edge of the world:

OKA on the bight by Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

It certainly is one of if not the most amazing place I have ever bush camped. Hold on to your belongings though, the cold Antarctic winds arrive from the Indian Ocean with nothing in the way to slow them down and you’re the first thing they meet on land!

Things to see & do at the Bight

Sunrise! You simply must spend a night here so you can catch the sunrise! It is one of the prime locations in the world for watching the sunrise and see the day come alive and the red rock light up like gold. See my photo at the end of this post. Be prepared to get up really early and be prepared for working without daylight. I slept in all my clothes sans shoes and had my camera bag with me in the swag. So I just had to wake up at 4am (took some kicking from Andrew before that happened), find my shoes, check the shoes for snakes and scorpions and caterpillars, put on shoes, grab camera bag, stumble slowly towards the edge while wiping the sleep from my eyes so I don’t step over the edge – and I was ready for some magic!

Go fishing! At some places you can actually descend down to the beach and there are so many salmon to catch even I caught several (I actually caught a huge 5 kilo whale of a salmon!) The water is so clear you can see large schools of salmons dart across the waves and you just need enough arm strength (I have none, it’s a miracle I caught some fish) to throw the line out to these big waves!

Watch the dolphins! There are a large number of dolphins surfing the waves and putting on a show. At the right time of the year you can also see humpback whales.

Study the wildlife! We found a very nice quiet python snake (I have a photo of me holding it that I’m not showing you!) and Andrew’s brother Peter got stung by a small scorpion (nothing happened except his finger turned purple)

When to go

It’s a fairly windy location to say the least! And the wind is usually of the cold variety coming from the Antarctic. So I would reckon it would get a bit cold camping here during the Winter months (June-August) and I would recommend going during Summer (Dec-Feb) as I did.

Conclusion

The earth is flat, believe me, I have seen the edge! If you’re in Australia and get a chance, I wholeheartedly recommend going to the Great Australian Bight and see the edge of the world with your own eyes. It has been 9 years and this is one experience that never fades, I absolutely loved every second at the Bight. Loved how remote and desolate it was, how rough it is, no signs of civilisation at all and plenty of wildlife.

And now…the photo that won’t fade either thanks to digital technologies.

My Great Australian Bight panorama

This is the shot I was dusting off for World Panorama Stock. It is my favourite photo of the Bight. Originally shot on Fujichrome slide and scanned on a Minolta slide scanner using the super VueScan software it is now a lovely 16-bit colour high quality 72 megabyte tiff file.

This is sunrise at the Great Australian Bight in all its glory,
click to see large size on my gallery:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Great Australian Bight – the edge of the world
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Fraser Island

Click to see larger size on my web - (c) Flemming Bo Jensen

Spectacular 75 mile beach on Fraser Island

“I really need a toilet!!!!” says the French woman rather desperately, almost jumping up and down on 75 mile beach.
“Well you’re just gonna have to use the bush toilet” I say. French woman then proceeds to actually ask our guide John: “where is bush toilet?” 😀 John smiles and then points to a bush in the sand dunes – and I have a hard time not laughing out loud as the French Woman runs towards the bush! Well that got me started on taking the piss out of everyone in our boring boring group – more on that later!

Fraser Island is one more UNESCO World Heritage area for this trip  (I’ve lost count now of how many I’ve been to!) and I must say it is pretty speccy indeed(speccy=spectacular, “pretty speccy” a great expression our guide Owen in Kakadu National Park used a lot). It is the largest sand island in the world; over 123 kilometers long. I didn’t think it was that big but I guess the beach named 75 mile beach should have given me a clue! Long stretches of gorgeous beaches and sand dunes are right next to rainforest areas and large freshwater lakes. It truly is phenomenally beautiful, pictures do not do it justice. You have to drive on 75 mile beach and experience the extremely fine pearly white sand and the crystal clear water in Lake McKenzie to really appreciate how gorgeous nature can be.  Fraser Island also has some of the last remaining pure dingoes in Australia. Contrary to popular belief there are not dingoes running around everywhere on Fraser, there are an estimated 100-200 left on the island (we saw 1 running across the road in the rainforest). You are continually warned to stay away should you encounter one, these are wild animals and may attack for food especially if people start feeding them. The rainforest on Fraser Island is actually just as spectacular as the beaches, Fraser Island was certainly first in line when Mother Nature handed out good looks!

There are no paved roads on Fraser so only 4WDs are allowed, it’s all very soft sand off road tracks and that makes for some great fun 4 wheel driving! I also did a fun scenic flight on Fraser that got me some great photos and a great experience – the plane takes off and lands right on 75 mile beach! I started off this post with a shot of the beach and the following is few more from the island; more at my gallery. To get these shots without lots of people in them took some patience and heaps of my how-to-avoid-people skills because places like the Maheno ship wreck were a circus!

Click to see larger size on my web - (c) Flemming Bo Jensen

75 mile beach from the airClick to see larger size on my web - (c) Flemming Bo Jensen Landing on 75 mile beach!

Click to see larger size on my web - (c) Flemming Bo Jensen

Pearly white sand and crystal clear Lake McKenzie

Fraser Island really is a beautiful place as my photos hopefully shows – but also an incredible popular holiday spot and very touristy place! Probably the most touristy place I have been to in Australia I reckon; a fact not helped by the Queensland public school holiday so there were heaps of people everywhere in either organized tours or in rented 4WDs. 75 mile beach is a bit of a highway actually, so many 4WDs gunning it up and down the beach you really gotta watch you’re not run over (the police on the island actually patrol the beach and hand out speed tickets) . Fraser Island is a 45 mins. catamaran ride away from Hervey Bay in south east Queensland (4-5 hours north of Brisbane)  and lots of companies do tours or make big bucks renting 4WDs to tourist. There’s a barge to ferry you and your 4WD to the island and I reckon it would actually be super fun to explore the island on your own in a 4WD with some mates.

The way I got around the island was a 4WD (reckon I’ve used the word 4WD enough for this post?) full day tour from the resort where I stayed for 2 nights. Now, sometimes the groups you get are just great and sometimes they’re not so hot. This group took the prize though for being the most boring; most non-responsive group of “charter-flight-type-people” I have ever done a tour with. Not speaking to anyone but their partner(all couples); not responding to anything our guide told us (he just went through the script, getting no response or questions from anyone but me). They did end the trip with clapping (what the f#¤?) vigorously when our guide “landed” the 4WD back at the resort – therefore I conclude they’re all charter-flight-holiday people! At one point one of them pointed to my camera and said “do you want a picture of you in front of the tree?” I carry a very large camera with lenses + camera bag etc – do I look like I want pictures of myself in front of things???? No mate I am quite alright thank you. Btw no one touches this camera but me!

So I chatted to the guide a lot and interesting passengers from other tours…and I thought I might as well have myself a bit of fun in this boring boring group! The very funny bush toilet conversation with the French Woman got me started and here’s how I continued the day:

  • I cried out “snake!” every time I spotted a monitor lizard moving during a rainforest walk. Then watched half the group jump and scream.
  • Still on rainforest walk: I kept slapping my neck hard and mumbling “bloody mossies!”. Then watched Germans apply even more mosquito repellant!
  • Told German couple going north to Cairns to watch out for crocodiles on the Esplanade in the morning (actually potentially true!).
  • …and yeah basically made up stories all day long!

Had to inject a bit of life into the day! I am so spoiled anyway, after my very own Flemmings Adventure Tour of Hawk Dreaming no tour will ever compare!

By the way, nationality spotting is also good fun to do on a day like that although German tourists in Australia are just too easy to identify ‘cos they really come prepared! (For you politically correct readers, I am generalizing to make a point ok, it’s called sarcasm!) Speaking to tour guides down here the Germans are by far the most adventurous travelers in Australia (and the reason why the “Warning – Crocodiles!” signs are also written in German). They will drive their rented 4WD straight into a river – and get stuck – just to try some 4 wheel driving. German tourists in Oz: They’ve bought every single piece of clothing and equipment from the outdoor camping and trekking shop! Shoes, boots, pants, shirt – everything is North Face, Mountain Design or similar – like they were climbing Mount Everest. They landed here and immediately bought matching Australian leather bush hats from usually Barmah. They start the day by applying a thick layer of sunscreen and on top of that – they soak themselves in Aerogard mosquito repellant (not needed until dusk) making it hard for the rest of us to breathe! And they seem to carry all their adventure gear on them all the time in heaps of big backpacks and pouches and wallets! Should we ever get stuck we all need the Germans though – they carry enough fruit and water for the whole group! There ya have it – Germans in Oz, too funny!

Randomness

  • Tired of resorts now after the Fraser Island and Dunk Island resorts; happy to be back in Brisbane in normal civilization. A hotel room or a camp in the bush is more me!
  • Mosquito bites arrgh! Maybe the Germans are actually on to something with all that Aerogard. Shooting some cityscapes at dusk last week my left hand holding on to the tripod got absolutely tattooed with about 10 mossie bites in a few minutes. You know the most itchy spots to get bitten? Places where the skin is thin, like your ankles and your fingers. Nothing more dangerous than a wounded mosquito!
  • Johnny Cash was a genius! Driving through the bush ya gotta listen to country music. Other bands in heavy ipod rotation: Powderfinger, Silverchair, Snow Patrol, Death Cab for Cutie, Mew, Blue Foundation – and always Depeche Mode. And some new Australian rock: Something for Kate, Evermore, Kisschasy and Eskimo Joe.

Quote of the day (the ultimate compliment):

“Marge, you’re as beautiful as Princess Leia and as smart as Yoda.”

– Homer Simpson