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Published: September 20th 2006
Rainbow beach, one of the many 'gateways to Fraser' was our stop-over to meet the 8 other people we would be spending the next 3 days with packed neatly into a Toyota 4x4, as we drove around the largest sand island in the world. Our trip was planned as a self-drive exploration meaning no boring guides, plenty of freedom the do just about whatever the hell you want, and best of all we all get the chance to drive hell for leather along huge sandy beaches. Fraser Island stretches for over 123 kilometers along the east coast, and is the only place on the planet that has a rain forest growing out of pure sand. It occupies around 184 000 hectares of land, so with all that sand around its going to get in places you didn't even know you had. Fraser stands along side Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef as a listed world heritage site, and with pride keeps a pure environment that has changed very little since Cook swash buckled his way to the continent in the mid 1700's.
The evening was spent being herded into our groups, watching various safety videos that were more of
a source of entertainment than providing effective and informative information on the best way not to be mauled by a dingo whilst seeking light relief after dark. We got to know everyone over a few drinks in the bar, during which the world proved yet again that it is indeed a small place, as Lucy discovered Lyn and Ali live only a couple of miles from her. Due to free pancakes at 7am, an early night was called for. Pancake filled and raring to go, the first task of the morning was to load our supplies and tents and secure them on the roof. This proved to be a less daunting task than we had expected due to the precision packing of the sole German in the group 'rooftop' Renée. We set off with Ali at the wheel and got a briefing from the ever enthusiastic tour leader Merv. The ferry crossing was a short five minute ride and as the boat slowed at the other side we all got ready for what Merv had described as the most crucial part of the trip, to keep the power on and not to get bogged in the deep, loose sand on
the other side. Alighting swiftly from the ferry there was a sudden sinking feeling from all concerned, as with pedal to the metal our toyota quickly found itself attempting to dig a very big hole. After the other 3 trucks made it onto dry land with ease, the passengers offering plenty of encouragement with a variety of hand signals and laughter, we managed to get moving again thanks to a lot of brute force and mad digging. Our next trauma happened about 2 miles up the road as due to the relentless bumps in the road, the front passenger's window fell out. Never considering that possessing a clapped out Vauxhall Nova would ever bring any good fortune, Dave jumped from the van proud as punch that a few years back this had been a persistent problem, and after getting a very white T-Shirt covered in very black grease, the problem was momentarily overcome.
The first destination was to be at the largest of Fraser's 100 lakes, Lake McKenzie. En-route Ali passed control of the vehicle over to Dave, and in true Southend Seafront style, he proceeded to wheel spin on the spot and for the second time in less
than an hour, the truck was emptied of passengers to commence the now familiar task of 'dig and push'. The inland routes necessary to navigate to get to the lakes and across the island are renowned for being particularly hazardous for unfamiliar drivers, so after two different people getting bogged in relatively easy terrain, we were all confident that it was only a matter of time before the shit once again hit the fan. After only getting stuck once on the 11 kilometer inland trail to the lake, a substantial lunch was made before heading for a swim in the wonderfully cold, crystal clear waters. The silicon sand surrounding the lake is amongst the purest in the world, and rumor has it that it is perfect for polishing expensive jewelry. Having nothing to polish we took the next, less productive option of kicking the sand to make crippling screeching noises, giving everyone in earshot the 'heebie geebies' much like the reaction to nails scraping down a black board.
After an hour of messing around and a good dose of 'Frisbee' we bundled ourselves back into the van and with a change of driver, Eran took us back along the
inland route to our last stop for the afternoon where we found a decent place to camp in order to head to another lake the next day. Just before nightfall and a long way from bed time the camp was fully operational, and thanks to the cooking skills of Elske, we all had a fantastic steak and potato salad dinner washed down with plenty of 'goon' (cheap boxed wine) and beers. The ritual drinking games commenced, and after a few rounds of a newly discovered game that rendered Dave uncomprehendable, the invasion of neighboring camps ensured that the night ended in the early hours. Due to a lapse in memory caused by the over consumption of goon, the rest of the night's activities are sketchy to say the least, but unconfirmed reports place Dave and Lucy in the centre of a play fight on the beach, a display of very suspect experimental dance moves, and a chat about bollocks whilst staring blindly at the star drenched sky. With the activities of the previous night still ringing in everyone's ears, breakfast of vegi omelets was prepared and the camp was dismantled as we began what would turn out to be a
lucy take aim (badly)
near life sapping walk across some very dry desert.
With hats and plenty of water and sun cream we walked the 2 kilometer trail across huge rolling sand dunes that in the burning midday sun seemed likely to end our lives. The reward at the end was well worth sweating out most of the alcohol from the previous night, and comments of 'this better be bloody worth it' were silenced when the dunes fell away from our feet to reveal what at first looked like a mirage, the perfectly calm, eerily dark green waters of Lake Wabby. Bags and clothing were flung to the ground and we galloped relatively unmagestically to the water and threw ourselves into the murky abyss. The cold water felt like heaven, and the backdrop of the flourishing rainforest helped everyone forget their hangovers and enjoy our hour of serenity before beginning the walk back to the jeep for lunch. Soggy meat and salad wraps were on the menu and went down a treat with a couple of gallons of water before we headed to Eli Creek. The creek has been sculpted out of the sand by fresh flowing water from one of the many
springs on the island, and after a quick paddle we were once again back in the jeep and began an hour rampage courtesy of 'rooftop' Renée to Indian Head at the top of the island. We passed the Maheno shipwreck that was sold to the Japanese in 1935 for scrap metal, and in a bout of irony was grounded as it was being towed towards Asia only a few days later. We reached indian head with only an hour to spare before sundown, and headed to the peak for sunset views across the outstretched beach beneath us. A look over the ominously positioned cliff face was rewarded with views of around 50 reef sharks and dolphins feeding on the shoals of fish, and taking a further look to the horizon it was possible to see Humpback Whales blowing air from the surface of the water. The need to find a camp before dark quickly became a priority, and with new driver Joseph at the wheel we headed back south to find a place near the Maheno so we could watch the sunrise over the beached vessel in the morning. We found a place to camp just as the sun disappeared,
but not before we were taken through some deceptively deep water with some deceptively fast driving that resulted in near whiplash. That night was a quiet affair with the need to finish the booze at the top of the priority list, along with Dave whipping up some tasty Thai Chicken stir-fry, then mercilessly murdering some well-known pop songs on his newly purchased guitar from Malaysia. Dave, Lucy, Lyn and Ali were the last to bed at an impressive 4.30 and were dreading the 5.30 wake-up call for sunrise pictures at the Maheno. 5.30 came and went and everyone was awoken at 6.30 with rain beating down on their already sodden tents. Our new and very cheap tent quickly gave away the secret to its 40 dollar price tag by leaking worse than Watergate, drenching our sleeping bags and anything that dared touch the side. A quick scramble was on as the rain lessened and the camp was packed up with more efficiency than a Boy Scout, with not a Woggle in sight. The last task to tie on the plastic covering for all the supplies on the roof fell to Dave, Ali and Eran, and much to the amusement of
all those safely out of the rain in the jeep, the heavens opened and dumped enough water to ensure all 3 returned to the confines of the vehicle with the grace of drowned rats.
Before being picked up at the southern most tip of the island, our last day was spent back at our first destination, Lake McKenzie. It was Serge's turn to take the wheel, and after a stop off at the only village on the island, we discovered after arriving back at the jeep that the headlights had been left on, and the resulting flat battery was to serverely hinder our progress. Luckily for us stranded tourists a passing Aussie took pity upon our situaton and helped us bump-start our vehicle much to the relief of all. With no added problems we arrived at the lake in time to enjoy breakfast and a game of football on the bleached white sands. The last leg of the journey was driven by Lucy, Lyn and Elske, the only people yet to drive, and to everyone's delight nothing broke, we didn't get bogged and we easily made our 3.30 rendezvous with the ferry back to the mainland. That night was
spent reflecting on the highs and lows of the 3 days, and after reading some horror stories in the guest book about insane drivers and blazing rows, we all felt relieved that we had an excellent group that got on really well and managed to remain friends and have a few drinks before heading for an early night.
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