Fraser Island. Wow! I can safely say that the last three days have been some of the best we've had. We got to Dingo's Backpackers Hostel and were quickly socializing to several others who were off on the same trip as us, before long we were all chatting away and laughing like we'd known each other for years, a group of people we would all be getting to know on rather a more personal level over the next few days. With 7 girls and 3 guys including us we were sitting pretty, we all knew this bunch was gonna be a laugh.
We loaded up the vans the next morning, everyone bubbling with excitement as I'm sure you'll see from the photos! After all the safety stuff and driver chat about how to use the 4WD system etc etc we packed up all our stuff for the 3 days and headed to the ferry port. Should really mention that this is not a traditional ferry port like Dover, it was a deep sandy beach with two ferry's large enough for just 4 vehicles that was literally just rammed into the mainland. A quick 15 minute ferry and we were planted on Fraser Island with 11 friends bonding away in the back of a massive beast of a 4WD truck!The very idea of a "self drive" safari is quality, give 11 excited students in their 20's a truck with two rules, have fun and don't crash, sweeeeet.
The only "roads" so to speak on Fraser are 1, the beach and 2, the heavily rutted and dangerously off-road tracks inland. This kinda meant that tides are pretty important, especially as an hour either side of high tide the "road" disappears in to the ocean. Our first taste of beach driving was pretty fun, whacking along a 60km beach with waves crashing down on the right of you and jungle or sand dunes flashing past on the left, a breathtaking view if I've ever seen one. Breathtaking views however were something we were all about to get a little used to given what Fraser had to offer.
The first day of driving was just a quick pootle down the beach 20 k's to an ice pickup stop for the food and copious amounts of alcohol (30 litres of goon and several packs of beer on the roof brought a smile to all that climbed on the roof!!) Then on to Lake McKenzie. We were told that the road to the lake was pretty "bad" but I don't think many people were prepared for just how much of an off road experience we were all about to get. Incredible. After avoiding rolling the van up and down sandy off-road tracks with van sized divots and deep soft sand for 13k's we arrived at the hallowed Lake McKenzie. It was unfortunate that the weather wasn't quite holding out for us and was, to be frank, bloody freezing with gray overcast skies. Not a problem by any means but as we emerged from the wooded walkway up to the lake it wasn't hard to imagine just how much a difference a bright blue sky with perfect sun creating a shadows across the lake would have made to the first impression of McKenzie. That's not to take anything away from just how beautiful a place it really is, the photos will do more justice than I could, I'll let them talk.
I was passed the keys for the drive back to the beach, something I have to say I was pretty happy about after seeing what we'd just driven down. Yes, it was a different road back than to get there but I figured it would be similar. To my surprise (and everyone else in the truck I would imagine) it was worse! So so so so fun though, I was praying for Adam or any of the other truck members to start reeling off pace notes and I could well have been as the Paris-Dakar!
We arrived at the first camp sight, set up and began to drink goon (for all those not familiar with this term, take the cheapest bottle of bottom shelf Tesco wine, add a little more vinegar, a touch more alcohol and you have goon). Some drunken good times were had, some drunken cooked food was eaten and one happy camper passed out in the middle of the camp and was totally unmovable. She spent the night out with the Dingo's, apparently not her ideal place to sleep as we found out from the torrent of abuse that followed the next morning!
4:15am came and up we got, still pissed as farts with the aim to watch a sunrise 40k's away. Camp was packed, Adam was given the keys and drunk/hungover passengers/driver were piled in. We got to the most northern accessible point on Fraser just as the top of the sun peaked into the perfectly clear skies, a view that gave all of us a smile and the hope that the day to come was gonna be the scorcher we were hoping for the day before. We watched whales jump in the sea in front of us, the sun rise, the sky change through a plethora of colours and finally come to rest a vivid blue. It was time to get on.
Eli Creek was the destination for breakfast, one of the top five attractions on Fraser. Adam raced along the sand in true rally style straight past Eli Creek and about 10k's beyond, it turns out Eli Creek was more of a puddle in the sand and all 11 of us in the van had failed to spot the slightly increased amount of water on the windshield as we ploughed through the creek at 80k's an hour! After doing the same a couple of times more a helpful ranger proved most unhelpful with the wise words "you can't miss it", thanks, we just have, twice. A few more k's closer and we stopped to ask another passer by again the answer was most helpful, "just down there mate, you can't miss it"!
After breakfast and a walk along the creek it was pretty clear the guide lied about how great it was. It wasn't much more than a slightly engorged washout but nonetheless, we had covered another Fraser landmark!
On we trotted, Lake Wabby. This little gem had been something we'd heard about before, talked about before and all 11 of us were looking forward to. A fair old walk took us across what could have easily been the Sahara desert. Endless rolling sand dunes, heat waves radiating off the peaks and a dying gay drama queen (Matthew Owen, may he rest in peace) made the few kilometres to the lake a whole lot of fun! The lake itself makes an impressive introduction to all its visitors as all are presented with the most perfect, crystal blue lake that seemingly appears from nowhere out of the dunes. Some frolicking in the sand, some soaking up of the sun and some dramatized drowning from Mr Oscar Nominee Owen finished off the afternoon at Wabby. The guide hadn't lied about this one, truly one of the most spectacular places on Fraser.
We camped down just along from the lake in a perfectly scouted out campsite (cheers Ads!), sheltered from the sea breeze and in amongst the Dingo's it was definitely time for a first class evening with our new friends/Fraser family. Amazing how close people can get in 48 hours when they're shoved in an off-road vehicle and dumped on the biggest sand island in the world!
The next morning was definitely more relaxed than 24 hours ago, no 4am start, no sunrise and no need to rush. We managed to completely ravish our food supplies and finish everything we had which amounted to bacon, eggs, omelets, tea and eggy bread; a true breakfast of champions. As the drive to Lake McKenzie was just so much fun the first time around we decided to give it another go before having to head back to the mainland, only difference this time was Adam had the pleasure of taking us all the way, you should have seen the smile on this excited boys face!!
He nailed it, shaved a good 10 mins off our previous personal best and still had all our s*** on the roof when we arrived, a total success in my book!! Another cold hour was spent at Lake McKenzie, again another true wonder of Fraser and all of us were in agreement that if the sun was out and it was a few degrees warmer it would have been simply awe inspiring. As it happens though we did our "McKenzie Photos" outside of the water, packed up and got the hell out of there with just enough time to get to our ferry. But who would drive down the notoriously bumpy, seriously off road track back to the beach? Yep, I managed to blag it. Much fun was had too; again I missed the pace notes but still got us back to the beach with plenty of time and a ridiculous grin on my face.
We handed over the 4WD reigns to a mad woman devoid of fear who hooned it along the beach with clear disregard of speed limits but safely(ish) delivered us at the ferry with loads of time to spare, completing this mini adventure.
We made friends for life, we saw sights to treasure and can safely say that Fraser Island when explored on a self drive safari is one of the best experiences we've had to date.
We're done playing in the sand, time for some city life. Noosa Heads, The Zoo of Australia, Brisbane and Sydney... we're on our way!