World's biggest sand island
10.12.2009 32 °C
Our surfing days in 1770 were over and we had to replace our surfboards with a 4x4...we were going to Fraser Island, the biggest sand island in the world. We had already booked a 3 day/2 night self-drive tour and had the accommodation included at a backpackers hostel called Dingo's. The hostel is located in a small village called Rainbow Beach, and when we got there we found out that one of our mates from the Whitsunday Islands trip, Caroline, was also there to go to Fraser Island! So we were glad we already knew one person from the group.
We settled down at the hostel and immediately after had the tour briefing. First a girl from the hostel came up to talk to us, to put us together in our groups; we were 66 people, divided in 6 groups and each would have to drive a 4x4. They also told us we wouldn't be able to shower during the whole time in the island and they played a DVD about Fraser and the instructions we had to follow at all times. Then the Dingo moment came up, but first we should clarify what are dingoes: they're Australia's wild dog, which you should never feed as they can become aggressive, even if they look lovely. The video stated that whenever a dingo becomes aggressive a person should cross his arms and place his hands on his shoulders, slowly walk backwards and tell the dingo "Go away Dingo". That image was so stupid that we couldn't stop cracking up...if a dingo wants to attack you, stepping backwards won't solve the situation! Once the video was over the tour organiser showed up to talk; Merv. He was funny and explained us everything there was to know about the trip...after 2 hours we were off to pack our bags for the next day!
The next morning we were standing by our 4WD around 07:30 am. Our group had 11 members with us: Jen, John and Caroline (England), Jill and Rachel (Ireland), Donna, Dave and Scott (Scotland), and Tanika (Holland). We immediately got on very well and were so lucky that during the whole of our trip we never had a problem...we were all up to collaborate and work. After a few explanations on how to manage the 4 wheel drive, we drove to the beach and got on the ferry that would take us to Fraser Island. The ride was just a couple of minutes and soon we were on the road. Driving on the beach was quite simple, we just had to be careful with the tides and try to stand on hard sand all the time. The problem came when we drove inland, where the sand is very soft and lumpy and getting stuck is dead easy. Merv had recommended us to go to Lake McKenzie on the same day we went to the island, and so the 6 cars followed his instructions. What we didn't expect is that the track to the lake was an absolute nightmare...single lanes, super soft sand...and it was our first day driving this way so we didn't feel really confident. It didn't take long for us to get stuck, which was easily solved (we didn't even have to push the vehicle), but we had a little stress moment. We were on a path that had space for 1 car at a time and was supposed to be one way only, however to our surprise we found a truck that was driving against us. The driver was asking us to drive backwards as he wanted to get passed but there were some huge lumps and there was no way on Earth that he would be able to drive passed us. After some minutes of tentatives, he drove backwards...and we found out that just around 50 metres from where he was there was an intersection! We guess the people working on the island must be fed up of unexperienced drivers, but still he was such a moron! One hour took us to cover 12 km and get to Lake McKenzie...which meant we had little time before having to leave again to avoid the high tide. That didn't matter at all once we saw the lake. It was amazing! The lake actually doesn't hold any live organisms due to its PH levels, but is a stunning place. The freshwater, the sandy bottom...it was perfect to take a dip and relax with our mates. After Whitehaven beach, it's definitely one of the most beautiful sights in the country.
Unfortunately, on our way back to the beach we managed to get lost, somehow. Apparently there was a short and a long path, and accidentally we chose the long one. We were the last 4x4 to arrive at the campsite, so we had to hurry up, set up our tents and cook dinner. A while later we were chilled, playing drinking games and chatting away. It was the first time we had a try of goon, that processed wine sold in packets; it was absolutely disgusting and the tiniest sip guarantees a headache for the next morning. We got to know some of the people in the group and saw some dingoes, but were harmless, there was no need to walk backwards! We went to bed late but were eager to wake up at 5 am to watch the sunrise, which was meant to be spectacular. We didn't make it...we were too tired! By 06:30 we were already up, not because we didn't feel like sleeping any longer, but the light and the heat were already making it hard to stay inside the tent. Swimming is prohibited in Fraser Island due to the presence of sharks and strong rips, but the heat was killing us already by 7 am so we paddled a bit just by the shore. We had breakfast and left the camp site as soon as we could. Caroline wanted to give it a try at driving so we all helped her get out by pushing the vehicle. The night before some guys started a fire and got so drunk that they forgot to put it off properly, they just placed some sand on the top. This led to John getting his foot burned whilst pushing our car as we didn't see the fire. Few minutes later, he was moaning with agony as he was getting his entire sole full of blisters. He placed it inside some iced water but still he was in pain, and we were on our way to Indian Head, the main lookout in the island. When we got there, John and Jen stayed in the car whilst the rest of us went to the lookout. The views were stunning and we got to see some dolphins and a little shark. Once we were back, we decided we couldn't carry on, as John needed medical assistance, and so we decided to drive to the medical centre. When we got there, there was nobody...no one could take a look at his foot. Instead, Jen called up the paramedics and got some tips from them. We were feeling sorry for John and at the same time were furious at whoever didn't take the responsibility to putting off the fire! We decided to have some lunch right there and then drove to the camp site. We had a little trouble in getting settled down as we had found the camp site but according to some of the other cars, it was not legal to camp there. So we stood outside a good hour until we decided to just camp where we wanted in the first place, no matter what the rest said.
That night we had dinner again and the mood for partying was even stronger. The people were drinking without control, and the same guys who started the fire the previous night, started it again. At that point we got pretty mad and started commenting, and a Canadian girl from another group decided to fill a pan with water to put off the fire. As soon as they saw her, these Irish guys were screaming at her. She finally let the pan down, but then out of the blue came another girl and poured the water on the fire!!! A couple minutes after they started the fire again, got too drunk and by the end of the night just they just let the flame die. We asked them to put it off, and at the beginning we had a bit of a fight as they were basically being bastards, but at the end everything was good and the fire was off. In the meantime, everybody got even more wasted..
Our last morning in Fraser seemed like a wasted day. We woke up early but couldn't drive until 11 due to the tides. We were meant to visit Lake Wabby, which is supposed to smell of green tea and has a fantastic dune next to it. However, part of our group was not willing to move thanks to a massive hangover, and those who wanted to visit the lake couldn't find the right way. Out of 6 4x4, only 1 got to go to the lake. The rest of us hung around the beach sunbathing and waiting for the ferry to pick us up. On our way back we had to fill up the tank, go back to the workshop to leave the vehicle, clean everything and then we were free to go back to the hostel and have our desired shower. The feeling of showering after 3 days of sand and salty water on your skin was unbelievable!
Before saying goodbye to our mates from the tour, we celebrated with a dinner and some drinks near the beach, and were finally joined by more people from other groups. Fraser Island was a hard experience in some ways, but awesome in others...would definitely recommend the self-drive, despite the fact that a guided tour might be easier. But then again, where's the fun?