Don’t fall off. That’s what I tell myself as I make my first tentative moves across the beach, perched on a Segway. I’m pretty sure that’s what the other two women riding alongside me are saying to themselves too. Our guide, Rachel, is cruising along with the casual aplomb of one who’s done it all many times before.
She hasn’t instilled us with vast confidence with the instruction – as we don our helmets – that we are to leave our cameras behind, in case we fall off and they get damaged! And I’m grateful for three things: that my first “drive” of a Segway is on a relatively soft surface, that there are very few people around to witness any tumbles, and that I’ve got a small, shock-proof, water-proof, hopefully almost-indestructible “adventure-proof” Nikon Coolpix camera strung around my neck.
Because somehow, I’ve got a feeling that a Segway is not exactly always…well, a segue. I’m only guessing that the name of this popular new style of transport come from the word that my dictionary defines as “to make a transition from one thing to another smoothly and without interruption”. Only with easier spelling.
But I digress. I’m really happy that I haven’t had to head along the beach on Fraser Island without a camera. My usual camera, a Nikon D60 digital DSLR, has been put aside for this outing, but I’ve been lucky enough to have been lent a new Coolpix AW120 camera by Nikon to try out for a few days.
I had intended to use the camera, which is waterproof to 18 metres, when I went swimming with the humpback whales in Platypus Bay. But as regular readers will know, that didn’t happen due to the choppy seas and the ultra-playfulness of the whales! But I did manage to take a few above-the-water shots with it.
So when I decided to take the advice about protecting my D60 from potential harm, I was happy in the knowledge that the Coolpix AW120 would do the job – and that it would also withstand any drop up to two metres. Not that I was worried, because it was safely on a strap around my neck so I could keep both hands on the steering.
And we were off! The Segway proved to be not as tricky as I’d feared and soon we three guests were spinning off along the sands of Fraser Island’s Western Beach, staying high on the firm sand and avoiding the armies of hundreds of tiny blue soldier crabs that scurried away at our approach.
From Kingfisher Bay Resort’s Jetty Hut, where the boats come in each day, our destination was McKenzie Jetty, a relic of Fraser Island’s former timber-cutting industry.
With the Great Sandy Strait on our right, we zipped south along the beach for about 2.5km, stopping here and there to examine mangrove seedlings, admire a circling sea eagle above us, and congratulate each other on our prowess with this new mode of transport.
In the shade of the derelict jetty’s massive timber pylons, we rested to learn a bit of its history. Logging began on Fraser Island in 1863; the main timber being taken was Satinay (also called Fraser Island Turpentine), Kauri Pine, Brush Box, Tallowwood, Blackbutt and Cypress. The hardy Satinay was mainly used for building jetties because it is resistant to marine borers – and Satinay logs were sent to Egypt to be used in the construction of the Suez Canal.
In the early days, bullock drays were used to haul the timber to loading points on the beach but later railway tracks were laid through the forest. The jetty was built around 1918 by a Sydney timber merchant called McKenzie who bought the rights to log 4000 hectares of land for 10 years, and later sold to the State Forest Service who operated the steam tramways until 1935.
Logging continued until 1991, and the following year Fraser Island was made a World Heritage Area.
I was most fascinated by the Roman numerals carved into each post of the jetty, but Rachel wasn’t able to explain what they were for.
After a while, it was time to turn back. By this time, I’d snapped all these shots – and many more – with the Coolpix, to the envy of my camera-less companions. I should also mention that it’s got lot of other features to warrant the “cool” tag too: built-in Wi-Fi for instant photo sharing on your smart phone and a built-in GPS tracker and electronic compass to record where your photos were taken, among other things (and it’s even freeze-proof to -10 degrees, if you need that – I didn’t!). And of course, a video function for those moments where you want to capture the action.
One person who wasn’t so happy I had a camera with so many fun functions was one of my hapless companions, who ventured too close to the soft sand at the water’s edge on our return journey – and made a fairly spectacular head-first stack over the handlebars and into the sand and water. No one laughed (it was a close thing)…in my case, too thankful it hadn’t been me!
By the time we got back to the Jetty Bar it was late afternoon, and somehow seemed right to wait around to see the sunset we’d been deprived of by the weather until now. And yes, that Segway stuff is thirsty work!
A Glass Half Full stayed on Fraser Island and drove a Segway as a guest of Kingfisher Bay Resort. Segway Tours cost $79, or you can hire one for $30 for half an hour. Thank you to Nikon for the use of the smart and portable little Nikon Coolpix AW120 (RRP. $449), which took all the images on this page, except the one of me on the whale watching boat. For those who care about such things, it comes in orange, blue, black or camouflage colours.