Our next stop on our travels down the east coast of Australia was Rainbow Beach. As with a lot of other towns down the coast, there isn't much there aside from a beach, a cafe or two, a shop and a hostel. Our reason for stopping there was that it's the departure point for Fraser Island, which is definitely one of those places you have to see when in eastern Australia. In fact we literally had to see it, as there was no point in hanging around rainbow beach otherwise. Anyway, we were picked up by a weird looking off-road coach in the morning and took the ferry over to the island. Our driver was called Neil, a strange bloke who looked like he'd seen action in Vietnam (it was the haircut and the grizzled features) and didn't want to answer any questions that might cover similar ground to his commentary, because he was from a time when men were and refused to repeat themselves to whomsoever failed to listen.
Moving swiftly on. The island itself is the largest sand island in the world and has no roads. Instead the off-roaders use the beaches and normal road laws apply, which was strange considering that to our right was the ocean and to our left masses of sand dunes. After driving along the beach for a while we cut into the island and bounced our way along one of the tracks to Lake McKenzie. The sand around the lake was the same amazing sand found at Whitehaven beach and the water was crystal clear and freezing cold, but not wanting to waste my time there I stayed submerged until I lost feeling in my body. After an hour or so we feasted on a bbq lunch cooked by Neil, who is apparently quite a chef, but his apron spoiled his man's man image a little. By the time our group had finished eating and the German girls had stopped complaining about everything and anything within their field of vision half the day had passed, so we pressed on further into the island where we were sent off on a walk through the rainforest. Most of the trail followed a stream that was so clear it looked like there wasn't any water in it, and the whole place looked like something out of Jurassic Park. We were told later that Fraser Island was where the BBC filmed a lot of that "Walking With Dinosaurs" programme which was on a few years back, and you could see why just by looking around.
After our walk we went to check in to our hotel and then wandered down to the beach for a bit. There we discovered that we were walking with reckless abandon through a mass of literally hundreds of dead jelly fish that had washed up on the beach, some pretty huge. Aside from them and the dead birds we kept finding by accident, the place was pretty beautiful. We were also lucky enough to catch sight of a couple of wild dingoes, which are apparently rare but it made sense that they'd hang around the beach resort looking for food. The hotel actually had an anti-dingo fence running around its entire perimeter, but you could see straight away what a waste of time it was as there were massive gaps with half hearted cattle grid type things on the ground to let cars through. This was presumably supposed to stop them from getting through. It didn't work, as I saw a couple more in the hotel grounds over the course of the night scurrying off with whatever they'd managed to nick.
The next day we jumped back into our weird coach-thing and drove along the beach to the coloured sands (a cliff face made up of.. uh.. different coloured sand), and then along to a place called Indian Head, which is one of the only places on the island made of rock. We climbed up and took in the amazing views of the island and beaches either side, and by looking out to sea you could actually see the curvature of the Earth. We had another, unexpected piece of entertainment whilst up there as well: some daredevil/idiot had taken it upon himself to try to scale the vertical cliff-face for reasons that I can't begin to imagine, but it was hilarious to watch as he looked down, saw the waves crashing on the rocks a hundred feet below, bottled it and edged back to safety. Anyway, from there we drove down to the shipwreck of the Maheno, which is a bizarre sight. Apparently it was being towed to Japan to be scrapped back in the thirties but broke away in a cyclone and drifted alone onto the island, and was then used for bomb target practise by the RAAF during WW2. They couldn't have been very good at it as from what I could see the ship was still more or less in one piece, which was good for us as it meant we could get some good photos of the parts of the ship that were above the sand. We finished off our Fraser Island trip with lunch at one of the many crystal clear freshwater creeks before driving back to Rainbow Beach.
Next on the agenda is Brisbane, and it'll be good to get to a place where there are more than 14 people. Someone Jacqui knows has booked us a couple of nights in a proper luxury hotel, so it looks like I won't have to spend my birthday in a room consisting of a bed from an 1812 poorhouse and a desk that no one staying in a hostel would ever need. Why is there always a desk?