Ever since we began our travels, those who have 'done' the east coast of Oz all rave on about Fraser Island. Fraser island is the largest sand island in the world and accesible from either Rainbow bay or Hervey Bay, depending on which tour you book. We went with the 'Cool Dingo' tour and got a nice ol discount from good ol Cliff (the owner of the Surfers paradise hostel). Cool Dingo? Yes, the island is renowned for many things, wild dingos being one of them! The tour we booked included an overnight stay in lodge style accommodation, an all inclusive experience to boot. Other tours had you camping, a nice idea but tales of viscous dingo encounters on such tours made the choice easy! An electric barrier protected lodge it is then!
We took a small ferry over from Hervey and luckily saw dolphins on the way! We were greeted off the ferry by our friendly yet some what mysterious tour guide Martin. We were also greeted by the rain- go figure! Martin reminded me of John Locke- a character from 'Lost', perhaps explaining his mystic. All us tourists were then ushered onto a purpose built 4x4 mini bus, which just so happened to be bright pink! The first stop was a supply run in the small village store. It was here I noticed Martin sniffing a tree outside the shop; he began picking leaves from the tree, offering leaves to his passengers as we boarded without any explanation...
'smells strong doesn't it?' Martin said. I closed my eyes, took a big sniffle and yes!, the small leaf could've well been a box of lemons-but what was it for?
We were instructed to scrunch up the leaf between our palms, creating a more pungent scent and one hell of a insect repellant!
Once buckled up we were ready to experience Fraser! 'who came to Fraser for peaceful, relaxing time?' Our driver asked
'Me!' a few of us cried
We whizzed smoothly around the corner over the Tarmac road, staring straight ahead I saw what I can only described as an extreme dirt bike track-jumps 'n all!
'well your trips over' Martin yelled as he hauled the florescent 4x4 over the huge sand mounds.
The sand roads made for a interesting (bumpy) ride to our first stop off: a rainforest trek. The walk took around an hour and was great fun. We had to stay alert looking out for both rare birds and the potentially dangerous dingos. Perhaps we should have paid more attention to our feet! Kate provided a tasty lunch for a leech which had worked it's way into her shoe!
Speaking of lunch...after the walk we moved on to our lunch stop next to Lake Mackenzie. The lake which had looked so appealing in the photos, wasn't given much justice from the overcast weather; That wouldn't stop us going for a dip! The water was a stunning shade of blue and the fine silicon based sand, a sight not even the clouds could tamper with. The sand, due to it's consistency is a great expoliant, people were scrubbing their hair, hands and even their teeth with the stuff! Hannah, Kate and I were having a great time relaxing in the lake until...the Americans showed up! DUM DUM DUM! Frolicking straight from the spring-break hand book left me feeling like I was trapped inside a Katie Perry video...it was time to leave.
We returned to the village around 5pm after a great first day. Luckily we had a really nice group of people on the trip and we got on really well. After an awesome buffet dinner I was finally introduced to some what of a backpacker institution...Goon!
Goon, I knew it was an strong alcoholic beverage, I knew it wasn't suppose very nice and I knew because It was cheap, backpackers loved it! For all I knew about this magic liquor, I was too embarrassed to ask what it actually was. Luckily with Julian (a german backpacker) I didn't have to ask, he had some he wanted to share and I wasn't gonna say no! Goon is fundamentally a box of cheap white wine; Apparently the word 'Goon' translates as 'Pillow' in aboriginal language; Reason being that once the silver bag inside the box is empty, people have been known to blow it up and use it as sleeping apparatus...
Back to the trip: The next morning we all knew we'd get to ride along the world's longest sand highway. It was quite an experience seeing Martin use road rules on a beach! The beach made for a much smoother ride than the previous day, yet my heart was in my throat for a different reason...my iPod was chosen for the buses entertainment...it was...on shuffle! Shuffle meaning that ANY song I have on my iPod could blare out the speakers at ANY moment... it was a rather scary prospect. Whitney Houston, Elton John featuring Leanne Rimmes and a Have It Your Ways demo from 2008 later, we arrived at Eli Creek...
We were instructed by Martin to walk up to the top of the creek (5min walk) and float back down in the water, allowing the gentle current to carry us back to the beach. Martin described the experience as electrifying and invigorating, he wasn't far wrong. From the creek we travelled further along 'The 75mile highway' (which is actually only 52miles?!) making our way to one of the fraser's better known landmarks, 'The Maheno shipwreck' (see pic). The Island has a long history of ship wrecks, infact it if it wasn't for Eliza Fraser and her husband being washed in from sea, the island would be called something entirely different. The Maheno was an old passenger liner that had severed in two wars and various cruises over her lifetime. The boat was being taken from Sydey to China as a Chinese company had bought the boat and planned to scrap it's parts. For what ever reason ,retrieving the boat from Fraser wasn't worth the hassle. It has now become home to various sea life such as crabs.
It was whilst inspecting the old ship, we encountered our first dingo! Martin informed us that the dingoes could be extra aggressive at this time of year as it was mating season. The dingo we saw appeared to had been on the losing end of a fight for pack supremacy. We then climbed to 'Indian head', a great vantage point for snappers after a full 360 degree perspective of the island and the ocean. We were even lucky enough to see 'blow back' from a whale in the distance. After a swim at Champagne Pools' (sounds more glamourous than it is) the day was almost over, last ferry back to Hervey Bay after another Buffet dinner! BOOM! Fraser Island lived up to it's reputation as a beautiful, fun-filled and unique place. Well worth getting ship wrecked for I reckon!
Oliver James Kenneth Smith