Hangover Creek, Beach Driving, and Champagne Pools
Fraser Island, Queensland
Because of my past experience facilitating groups, it has been entertaining to observe different tour guides and see what kind of group dynamics they can create. Keep in mind, I dealt with troubled youth but guys like Geoff deal with obscenely drunk backpackers with serious language barriers. We were his 88th group and apparently the first 87 groups had eaten up all his patience! I commend his no nonsense approach! After all, he's a tour guide - not a caretaker! Since Geoff likes to wake up with the sun each day, he came around to wake us up around 6:30am. He had already prepared breakfast for the whole group while we slept off last nights party.
After breakfast, we packed up the vehicles for the day and sat around waiting for the slow French people. Eventually Geoff got sick of waiting and took off without them! He says thats the best way to hurry them up! We proceed to Eli Creek (aka Hangover Creek) It's a pristine, freshwater creek that you can float down with very little swimming assistance. We were the first group there, so we got to fully experience the peaceful bliss of this creek. Imagine feeling the morning's grogginess fade away as you float down a shallow, sandy bottomed creek with palm trees and tropical birds passing by overhead. Refreshing AND inspiring! I love when places serve dual purposes…that's time compounding, my friends. It was so good that we had to go down twice! Geoff claims that this is some of the freshest water in the world because of how it is filtered by the sand. Sometimes I had to question Geoff's claims because of his extreme passion for Fraser Island! He was a good salesman though so I will take his claim as fact. Even though we could have chilled there all day, we had much more to see. Fraser Island is so big that it would take well over a month to explore the whole thing.
We packed up and drove 45 minutes on flat beaches and extremely hilly inland tracks, comprised primarily of very loose, very deep sand. As a driver, when you hit these patches, you need to drop the 4x4 into first gear and put the pedal to the floor! And make sure that you're not riding the clutch or you're about to give your passengers a really stinky surprise (I found out the hard way). When beach driving, the main thing to remember is that the water is your enemy! As the tides come in and your road gets more and more narrow, your odds of hitting the surf and hydroplaning out of control increases dramatically. In fact, we eventually witnessed this! The jeep in front of us lost control on the surf and then overcompensated during the fish-tail and nearly rolled a vehicle full of innocent tourists! Operating these jeeps under these conditions is actually very dangerous! I'm actually surprised that they allow all the young inexperienced drivers to give it a go. There is so much liability that this company definitely would not exist is the U.S. -- at least not without an extensive training course and an onsite lawyer!
Anyway, back to the tour. Our next step was Indianhead Lookout. We parked on the beach and hiked up to find a spectacular view of the Fraser coastline as far as the eye could see! Daring backpackers crawled out onto rock outcroppings for a look down at the deadly churning waters below. A hungry swallow utilized the ocean breeze to hover effortlessly as it scouted its prey. We have been blessed with so many amazing coastal views that it is becoming difficult to truly appreciate what we are looking at! We made our way down the lookout trail, excited to see what other gems Geoff had waiting for us down the road! After navigating a couple more technical inland tracks and a couple rivers, we arrived at the Champagne Pools. I strongly recommend checking out the photos and videos of this spot because its very difficult to describe in words. Basically, its a rocky enclave that protects a sugary sand beach. When the massive waves attempt to penetrate this oasis, their efforts are thwarted by the outer barrier of the enclave, creating a fireworks display of white surf that shoots into the air, some as high as 20 feet! After spending as much time as possible at the pools, Geoff tells us that we have to leave right away to beat the tides back to camp. If Geoff times the tides wrong, he would strand the whole group and total out the vehicles, as they would slowly sink down into the sand under their own weight.
After another camp dinner, Geoff facilitated some party games and the group finally started warming up. It surprises me how some of the groups that we have been with on tours seem to be so reserved. Anne and I frequently have to facilitate introductions and conversation. We figure that if you are out trying to experience new things, that meeting new people is one of the main aspects of these experiences. This trip would not be the same up to this point without the added flavor of the friends that we have created. Imagine trying to eat sushi without soy sauce…its just not the same! After the party games, Geoff and I had a chance to connect one on one and he told some very interesting stories that he had collected in his black book from previous tours. By this point in the trip, I had become Geoff's "right hand man" and he definitely knew who to go to if he needed help with something. I'm sure that was a nice change of pace for him! There were more close encounters with dingos on this night as well! They taught us to use the bathrooms in pairs because the dingos are a lot less confident when there is more than one person. Anne and Amanda were bathroom buddies but that didn't stop the dingo from getting a closer look at these two American beauties! They turned around to find a dingo casually observing them - a mere 6 feet away! Think of the dingos as tame raccoons at a Wisconsin state park…they will approach your camp for food but they are very skittish and rarely aggressive, unless you give them an opportunity to take advantage of you. On this night, the party outlasted us as we covered ourselves with the ridiculously thin sleeping bags, anxiously awaiting to see what adventures the sunrise would bring with it.