Frasr island is the largest sand island in the world and a must do on the backpacker trail. Most people opt for the self drive safari whcih basically means you are bunged into a group of 10 people (none of whom id ever met) given a ferry ticket and a four wheel drive and told to get on with it.
Another early morning start- We met in the restaurant at Beaches and watched a safety video which breifed us about what to do if attacked by a dingo- and burying your dish watch so as not to attract wild animals etc. i then met my group who all seemd quite nice (only two germans!- I have been hearing more german spoken in Australia than english lately!)
Luke (who works at beaches) then helped us prepare our tents, utensils etc whilst 2 girls did a supermarket sweep style food shop and the drivers were given a breifing. Unfortunately you have to be 21 to drive so I was not allowed. Just as well i hear you all saying. Our first drive was Mark- who was dying to get going and he drove us very well to the ferry. Bear in mind the drivers have never driven a 4 wheel drive before- so it is all very dangerous.
The ferry ride was lovely but I was not prepared for what awaited me on the over side. Sand off-roading is the most dangerous form- and backpackers have dyed as recently as this year in crashes. Once off the boat I cannot exaggerate enogh how bumpy it was- we were thrown all over the place- driving on trails that were a few feet deep of soft sand. After about half an hour of driving we came to a dead halt. After a minute we all got out to see what the hold up was. There were about 10 four wheel drives in front of us- and the group at the front were stuck in the sand. We soon realised this was not unusual and happened constantly throughout the weekend!
We finally made it to the beach and stopped at eli creek- a fresh water river that is so tropical it is like paradise. After this we saw the maheno shipwreck. Unfortunately it was a wreck from the 1970s and not the orginal captain fraser shipwreck after which the island was named! We made it to our campsite around four. The place was deserted but eventually we were greeted by an aboriginal man who welcomed us. That night an aboriginal sang and danced around the campfire and told us stories about k'gari- their word for the island. We all wore paint on our faces and i think this was the highlight of the trip.
The next day we got going at about 9. We had been told we had to make it to the top of the beach before 10 as by this stage the tide would be completely in. So it was a race against time but we made it with about 20 minutes to spare. At the top of the beach there were about 150 people all out of their vans and standing around. A 4 by 4 of girls had got stuck at the bottom of the lane and the girl couldnt move it. Everyone was standing on the sand dunes watching- the sand was so soft and noone wanted to get stuck but we could not leave our vans on the beach. After about ten minutes of watching her fail to move it a van of english guys decided they were good enough to give it a go. The driver floored it while the rest ran behind cheering! After this everyone else followed suit and our driver mark managed to move the girls van.
At the top of the lane we all parked and walked for about an hour to the champagne pools. Apparently the water from the sea bubbled in the rock pools like champage. However I found this a bit disappointing- the rock pools were just like the ones we have in portstewart/ ballintoy at home. Ireland is truely a beautiful place! Later that afternoon we drove back along the beach to the campsite. I had decided i wanted to watch the sunset and me and a girl from my group tracey were shown by brother troy- an aboriginal the path to take to a veiwing point. Along the way we came face to face with a dingo. I freaked out it was so scary to see one in the wild like this but tracey kept calm and we were alright. It was only afterward that I explained i was scared of dogs as it was! After a disappointing sunset (the sun dosnt set over the sea in eastern australia) i was delighted to see steph and craig from my oz intro group in the campsite. I had missed being in their van by one day. =(
We cooked dinner and sat by the campfire. It was an early night and i awoke around midnight imagining there was a dingo in the tent! The next morning we packed up and headed to lake mackenzie. Possibly the most beautiful place i had ever been to. (self explanatory from the pictures!) In hindsight i wished we had gone there the previous day as we did not have a lot of time. The ferry was at 3 and we had not given ourselves enough time- if we missed the ferry we would start paying by the hour for the van!
Sure enough along the way we got caught up in a jam- a van was stuck. Our group all bailed out and helped free them- by this time we were experts! Well the rest of my group were as you all know i am not the most practical of people! We raced back to the van and made it to the ferry with 15 minutes to spare! We all cheered with releif. But then mark suggested going back to get a picture beside the welcome to fraser island sign. It seemed like a good idea but the sign seemed to be further back than we remembered. As mark turned the van- nearly getting stuck we started to panic would we make it back in time? but we got the picture and drove back- as we got ther the woman signaled to us that the ferry was full!!! but there was another one on the way. We watched the other group disappearing into the horizon.
When the other ferry arrived we realised in dismay that we had a puncture! The captain helped us change it quickly- absolute nightmare- while the ferry waited.
It felt great to be heading back to the mainland. That night we had a great night in the hostel bistro. I had really warmed to hervey bay and would have loved to have stayed there to work. We all went down to the beach and lit a bonfire- not something you can do in the tourist towns! It had been a great trip and i slept well that night.