Walking on the beach was easier than I had anticipated. Luckily, when the tide's out, there's plenty of firm sand near the surf where you can walk at a regular, easy pace, something that isn't possible in dune walking (in comparison, dune walking is a complete nightmare). I'd made good time on the beach on the previous day, but as day 4 broke, my feet were still in a bad way.
Despite this, I resolved to head north some 27.5km to Eli Creek, the point I'd decided would be the furthest north I'd reach on the beach. Walking was pure agony, and after 14.5km I was still plodding along, thoroughly enjoying the scenery and the environment, but concerned that I was going to do some permanent damage to my feet by pushing on too far. Every stop made them hurt more, but not stopping did more damage, so what to do? And that's when I heard a voice from a bunch of flatbed trucks parked on the beach shouting, 'Hey mate! Fancy a beer?' God moves in mysterious ways, and that day he came down to earth as a group of fishermen.
Fraser Island is full of fishermen, all going for the big catch by surf casting off the beach. I was pleased to note that their idea of surf casting was much the same as mine had been back in Whatipu, except my introduction had been via vodka and coke, and theirs was via XXXX. That stubby was probably the most enjoyable drink I've ever quaffed, and as they forced another can1 on me, the conversation flowed between me and the ten-or-so full-on Aussie blokes like there was no tomorrow, which was quite a possibility given the way the two beers went straight to my head. Not surprisingly, when they offered me a lift to Eli Creek, I jumped at the bait like a suicidal whiting, and twenty minutes later my walking was over for the day. As I left the fishermen behind, them chugging into another round of stubbies before heading north for ten days' fishing, they called after me, 'When you write an article about us, tell 'em we love Poms, but don't tell 'em about Fraser Island. We want it all to ourselves, eh!' As another convoy of 4WDs ploughed past us, I couldn't help feeling that for Fraser Island, it was perhaps already too late.
Eli Creek, the biggest freshwater creek on the east coast of Fraser, is just amazing. Every hour of every day it pours over four million litres of water into the sea, and the water's been so filtered by sand that it's about as pure as any mineral water you'll find in a bottle. Jumping into the creek and coasting down it to the beach is a pretty fine way to round off a day of beach slogging, and camping just down from the creek proved another delightful experience.
1 Only in Australia could this happen. Castlemaine, brewers of XXXX, the main beer in Queensland, have just come up with the next marketing coup in beer consumerism. Aware that Australians plough through cans of beer like a steroid-fuelled bull in a Wedgwood store, they've come up with the ultimate drink-delivery system, the wide-mouthed can. Research obviously showed that conventional can technology didn't allow beer to be poured down the throat as quickly as desired, so XXXX cans now come with a double-sized hole in the top, so a can can be downed in half the time it used to take. Sceptical, I tried my first wide-mouthed can on Seventy-Five Mile Beach, and it worked; surely the fact that the beer disappeared quicker than ever before had nothing to do with the fact that I'd just walked 14.5km down a burning beach. It's another great Aussie invention, and I'm sure it will soon be everywhere.