Next stop was Hervey Bay the gateway to Fraser Island with a Happy Gilmore viewing en route. I arrived at the transit centre and caught the free shuttle to Nomads in Hervey Bay for one night's stay before our Fraser Island trip (included in the cost of the tour). On the drive there I was told that they were running low on drivers (as you have to be over 21) for the Fraser self-drive tour. This meant that my umm-ing and arr-ing on whether to drive the 4WD jeep or not was decided for me and I would put myself forward. I arrived at Nomads was checked in, walked to my room where I met a guy called Tom from Bournemouth before finding out that there were no spare beds in that room. I went back to reception and was given an alternative room. I started to sort out my bags when a girl returned to the room. We introduced ourselves and found out that we would both be going to Fraser the next day. We spent the afternoon together outside of the s*** hostel that was Nomads. At 6.30pm we went to the TV room for a briefing and some 4W driving tips. We were also put in to groups and Leanne and I decided to tell a fib and say we were travelling together so that we were in a group. We were put together with Tom that I had met earlier and his friend from home Ed and Northern Paul. There were only five of us in our group, as opposed to eight in the other two groups, but this ended up working to our advantage as we had more space and probably bonded more closely. I was put down as the 'main driver' meaning I would take the car from Nomads to the barge for the crossing onto Fraser, drive the first leg of the trip and then return the vehicle. After listening to the briefing I felt a little nervous about the driving, but I needn't have worried. After the briefing we decided on the food and alcohol that we would take to the island over a jug of beer in the Nomads bar and then went shopping for it. Then it was time to pack the bag we would take and hit the sack ready for an early start.
At 6.15am we convened at the camping store ready to collect and load our equipment, food, and belongings. When all this was done we had an hour to check out, have a hearty breakfast and be back at the vehicles for a 9.30am departure. After the last few driving tips it was time to hit the road. And as if driving an unfamiliar vehicle perhaps three times the size of the Citroen Saxo I used to have at home wasn't daunting enough, ours was the lead car and so I was faced with the extra responsibility of navigating the way for the others to the barge as well. With wonky steering, spongy brakes and a "cant find it grind it" second gear the car was less than a confident first drive and the reverse on to the barge was certainly fearsome for me, but I soon got used to it and began to enjoy it all. After a 30 minute barge crossing we arrived on Fraser Island and it was time to engage the 4 wheel drive. Again I was leading the way and had to navigate through the boggy mud at the start of the inland track. We were through with no problems and it was on to crawling over tree roots and steering steadily over the sand. Our first point of call was Central Station, but we didn't need a pit stop so carried on making our way to Lake Birrabeen (the sister to Lake Mackenzie - probably the most famous on Fraser). We were very lucky with the weather, so we parked up got changed in to swimwear, lay on the shore and had a dip in the freezing cold freshwater lake. We bumped in to the Harriet's and Paul, whom Leanne had also met at Rainbow Beach. From here we made our way to Dilli Village and then up the beach to camp K'Gari (aboriginal camping ground). We set up our tents and decided against cooking yet as it was still early even though all the other groups had started to. When the sun had gone to bed, we regretted our decision as our fluro light didn't work and our gas stove was slow to heat. Three hours later (or something like that) we were still waiting for our bangers and mash, but were given a sympathy helping of pasta to stave of the hunger. As everyone else started to get drunk on goon we were still eating, washing up and packing away the food so as not to attract dingoes (local inhabitants of the island). We played a few drinking games in our group and then joined the others around the camp fire with our medieval inspired goblets and silvery bags of goon. The main event of the evening was an Irish guy called Max who proceeded to get naked, and then throw his clothes on to the campfire. And it was only when he attempted to throw his shoes on the campfire as well that the crowd thought he had taken it a step too far. Leanne and I stopped drinking earlier than the others ready for driving in the morning. We hit the sack and thanks to the goon were soon passed out unable to feel the cold hard ground beneath us separated only by a sleeping bag.
Early the next morning we got changed, had breakfast and re-packed the car ready for another day of exploring. Unfortunately it was raining and a little colder. I drove us north from the campsite along 'Seventy five mile beach' to Indian Head a lookout point where we spotted bull sharks, tiger sharks, dolphins, sting-rays and manta-rays. From here it was back in the car headed for camp for some lunch and a group nap. Just after 2.30pm we made our way on the inland tracks to Knifeblade lookout to see the sandblow - a desert-like area in the middle of the island. As we still had time to spare we continued along the track to Lake Allom where we saw freshwater turtles. We made a u-turn and headed back to camp, where we promptly put our pasta dinner on to avoid the mistake we had made the previous day. Tom and Ed took responsibility for cooking since Leanne, Paul and I were the drivers. We walked down to the beach to watch the sunset and take some pictures and then started the drinking. Ed's friends from college were at the same campsite as us that evening and so they joined us for a couple of drinking games and then once again we made our way to the campfire. Another night of goon-induced sleep was ahead before waking up in the morning to repeat the breakfast and car packing exercise of the previous day.
Our final day on Fraser Island was sunny and warm again! So for this time of year we were pretty lucky weather wise. Our first stop was Eli Creek, a freshwater rapid-like stream that you can swim along. Ed and Tom jumped in, whilst Leanne, Paul and I opted to take photos as the water was a little too cold. From here we drove south along the sand, avoiding the saltwater and freshwater wash-outs until we reached Dilli Village again and then it was inland to Lake Boomanjin. This lake is surrounded by Tea Trees and so the oils are present in the lake. We were all keen to have a swim in here and make use of the healing properties of the water to soothe our many mosquito bites!! Our itinerary (which was perhaps the only thing I would have changed about the trip) directed us back to Lake Birrabeen which we had already seen on the first day. So instead we made our way to Central Station, where we had lunch and socialised and played cards with one of the other groups from Nomads. A close encounter with a dingo later, whereby it came right up to the open back door of the jeep and came face to face with me, I drove us all back to the barge ready for our return crossing. That night after perhaps the best shower of my life, having been grubby for three days, our group plus a couple of members of the other group met up in the bar for some jugs of beer (I think everyone had seen enough goon for a lifetime) and some games of cards, pool and Jenga.
Fraser Island is so far the best thing I have done in Australia. I enjoyed the driving immensely and had a great time with our group and the other groups from Nomads. I enjoyed camping more than I thought I would aswell, not bad for a 'city sort of girl'.
The following day Leanne and I explored Hervey Bay - although there is certainly not much to say about the place other than it appears to be God's Waiting Room - as we both had one more day before our bus to 1770. We also washed all the sand out of everything we took to Fraser, had a stroll along Torquay beach and I went running for the first time in perhaps 2 months! Although the run nearly resulted in an attack from a small, yappy dog - I am clearly a target for small dogs and dingoes in this part of Australia. In the evening we got chatting to one of the aboriginal guys from Fraser Island which started off as an interesting chat about his heritage before he got wasted and impossible to understand so we made our excuses and retired to the room to pack up and go to bed.