And so to Fraser Island... Probably the part of the trip that I'd been the most excited about by far. It was the only 'big' Easy Coast attraction I'd never done and having spend the best part of 8 months telling backpackers how awesome it was I couldn't wait to experience it for myself!
We rocked up to our Hervey Bay hostel with the remnants of our hangover and promtly set about buying food and booze for the coming days. Other groups bought bread and pasta...we stocked up on epic barbeque delights and enough sandwich fillers to feed a small army. Later on we were joined by my friend Bridget who'd driven up from Byron Bay. Taking advantage of the fact that Tuesdays means $4.95 pizzas from Dominos we ordered one each; it wasn't until we were halfway home in the car that Hannah piped up: "Erm, guys? Did we actually pay for these?". Whoops!
After we were done 'carb loading' (and cheese and meat loading too obvs...) our alarms got set for 5am and we settled down for a night of excited sleep...
We were up before dawn to meet our guide, the legendary Tony. Before the fun could commence we had to watch some safety videos. Wow guys, the acting on display was just amazing. Everyone was totally taken in and no one fell back to sleep... One thing we were told to take notice of however was the dingo warning - someone has been attacked a few days previously resulting in them being airlifted to hospital. Erk.
As we were a group of 6 we were assigned the car with Tony and we just about managed to squeeze in our food and baggage. Just. Then it was a quick drive to river heads for the ferry crossing over.
Our first view of Fraser confirmed why you definitely can't take your own vehicle over - nothing but sand tracks and rainforest.
I called shotgun so everyone else was piled in the back - but they don't look too sad about it!
Driving along the inland tracks was fun if a little bumpy. Recent rain had actually made the going slightly easier as it's the soft slippy sand that causes the most problems. Obviously with Tony the expert driving us we had no problems, all we had to do was watch the rainforest whizz past and laugh every time someone smacked their head off the roof.
Our first stop was Lake Birrabeen. It's the 3rd largest lake on the island (out of 27) and despite being a bit chilly was still inviting enough for a swim.
It might look dirty but the water is actually discoloured due to tea tree oils and other nutrients washing down into the lake. That meant that the water left our skin and hair feeling silky smooth, a nice change from the dreads you end up with after swimming in the ocean.
After Dave and I swam out as far as we could our tummies were rumbling for lunch; luckily that was next up on our agenda.
Mindful of Dingo warnings were were prepared to defend our food...but the only wildlife that joined us was some butterflies, birds and mozzies.
Thus started our tradition of having the most epic food on our trip. Thanks Becki for being queen of the sarnies.
Obviously keen to work off some of those crisps we embarked on a nature walk along Wangoobla creek. Wangoobla in the local language literally means something along the lines of 'crystal clear'. (Someone remember? This is what happens when you blog over 2 months after the trip). It is literally so clear that we couldn't tell that there was even a stream running; without rocks it didn't make any noise...
The water that runs through the creeks can sometimes take over 100 years to filter down from the lakes. So the water we saw had first landed as rain in 1913...mental.
After being wowed by water we stopped off at the Eurong beach resort for toilet time and postcard purchasing. A few of us wandered down to the beach and were very happy to spot our very first dingo! He was super curious but very underwhelmed by our presence. Remembering that the resort was where the attach three days previously had been we made a hasty retreat back to our car.
Luckily he hung around long enough for us to view from the safety of our cars...
Looks cute, but DO NOT PET. Ignore the puppdog eyes- dingoes are definitely not dogs.
Unfortunately the weather started to turn and we enjoyed rain for our first beach drive up towards Lake Wabby.
However beach driving turned out to be one of our favourite things - it's impossible to get over the novelty.
It wasn't long before we arrived at the Lake Wabby walk. Some of the more sartorially minded of us whipped out our $3 ponchos (no photos needed. I'll leave that one to the imagination) and limbered up.
Trying to walk uphill through soft sand meant that pretty soon most people were pretty achey. Know how hard it is to walk down the beach? Yeah, try doing that going uphill in the pissing rain.
The view at the end was totally worth it though. The lake is surrounded by a huge sandblow; I can imagine that on sunny days you can squint and imagine that you're in the middle of a desert. How so much rainforest can grow out of so much sand boggles the mind.
Lake Wabby itself is actually being filled in by the sand at a rate of about 3m a year. Tony told us that the lake is deeper than it is wide - about 70m - but wikipedia puts it at 12m. I'm torn, but more inclined to believe someone who actually lives on the island in his spare time. It also sounds a lot cooler.
The lake water was absolutely freezing but most of our group jumped in for a dip. One guy actually turned purple, but we persevered and had a lovely splash about. Once again, the water is discoloured by tea tree and plan nutrients but the colour is a deep emerald green here.
You can't tell, but our hair was super shiny afterwards...honest.
Needing to get our camp sorted before sunset we drove there and, mercifully, the rain cleared for the evening.
Our camp was made up of a portable trailer and some big canvas tents. Unfortunately due to the portable nature of the camp we had no toilets...and so the process of going for a wee and avoiding dingoes began.
This was small fry however, we were all feeling very at one with nature at this point. The camp was located directly behind the beach, protected by huge sand dunes. There are definitely worse places to have a relaxing end of the day cup of goon.
Unfortunately drinking goon has it's disadvantages... Those who know me will be aware that I have a RIDICULOUSLY tiny bladder. Like, I have to warn people about it before road trips in case they think I've actually got a dicky tummy level of tiny. Of course despite being armed with some brave companions we quickly shat ourselves when we spotted a dingo right next to where we'd planned to relieve ourselves. A dingo that was pretty keen to meet us...or so it seemed.
We fared better than Becki however, as she only spotted one mid-wee and it was at eye level with her, casually surveying the scene from a sand dune.
Needing something to soak up the alcohol we made probably the best BBQ you would ever have seen in your life. I swear. I've had BBQs in people's houses that weren't as elaborate as the feast we cooked up.
Our evening alternated between beach time and camp time depending on whether or not it showered.
But beach time was definitely the best. We could see the milky way stretching from horizon to horizon thanks to almost non-existent light pollution. Even better was the later discovery of phosphorescence in the water which had us splashing around like maniacs.
Falling to sleep in the tent later was a strange experience. It was pitch black to the point where I couldn't see my hand right in front of my face; the only sound were the occasional drunken squeal and the constant crashing of waves.
We woke up in a very sandy, very wet tent. Thankfully the smell of cooking meat got us out of bed and after a delicious breakfast and decent coffee (by camping standards) we were ready to tackle another day on Fraser!
Our first stop was Lake Allom. Famous for it's little turtles we had a nice half hour or so of feeding and playing with them, despite the very prominent sign telling everyone not to interfere. From how quickly they swam up to us I'm guessing we weren't the first ever group to chuck them a bit of stale bread...
Next we drove right up to the north of the island, past a place called 'Indian Head'. It's the most Easterly point on the island and was named after Captain Cook saw 'Indians' (Aborginals) assembled there as he sailed past. It's also a great place for spotting sharks as the area around the island is a breeding ground for tiger sharks... We were warned about the dangers of swimming, but I do know of at least one person who went for a night time dip and dind't get eaten. Not a risk I'm willing to take though, I quite like my legs.
Unfortunately the rain that day meant that climbing up to the top would have been too dangerous so we had to make do ('make do'!) with taking snaps from out walk to the champagne pools.
These are big rockpools (and the only place it's safe to swim in sea water) that are named thanks to the 'bubbles' created by crashing waves. Just after our arrival the heavens opened but it actually added to our experience - we had double the splashes from the raindrops! It cleared as quickly as it came too leaving us with blue skies.
This was definitely one of my favourite spots on the island, but I've always had a thing for rockpools. Sorry Cornwall but I think these bad boys even beat the ones from my childhood holidays...!
Now nicely salted we continued on our way, with some pretty extreme driving. It was scary enough driving up sand dunes after they'd been rained on with an expert behind the wheel... But thankfully no one got stuck!
Now I wasn't too excited about the next stop of the day. At my previous job I'd been trained to tell people that the Maheno Shipwreck wasn't that exciting, lest we sounded like we were bigging everything up too much (see Mark - one year on and I still remember lessons from my sensei).
However I thought it was absolutely amazing! It's not often you can see something like this without donning your dive gear.
My camera really doesn't do the colours justice. Beautiful rust reds against a crystal blue sea.
It was also really interesting to peer inside the wreck itself, although it's falling apart at quite a rapid rate. Even compared to pictures I've seen from a year or so ago. It's sad to think that this - and lake Wabby - won't be here for other people to see in later years.
Tour groups are only allowed 15 minutes here each day to limit congestion and we all felt like we could have spent way longer exploring the wreck.
Although we did, obviously, squeeze in an obligatory jumping picture. can you spot the odd one out though??
Sadly it was soon time to clamber back inside out trusty steeds...
...only for a rainbow to appear in the distance. Magic!
To wash off our salty sea water the final stop of our day was Eli Creek - Fraser Island's natural lazy river! About four million liters of water flow down here every hour, meaning that the current is pretty strong. You're only allowed up to a certain point in the rainforest meaning that we spent a good hour floating down and running back around again rather gutted that we hadn't brought along a rubber ring.
All good things must come to an end, so eventually we had to drag our freezing limbs back to the campsite for dinner.
Now. The problem with camping and having no natural light or a watch is that it's impossible to measure the passage of time. Both nights we found ourselves pretty tipsy and assuming it must be nearly midnight only for someone to find out it was, in fact, 7pm.
So our second night passed in much the same way as the first, alternating between the beach and the campsite depending on the weather. The dingoes, however, seemed to be a little bit more confident. On more than one occasion we found one in the campsite digging through a rubbish bag or stalking around the tents. I went to retrieve something from the car, shut the door and there was one standing right there. By far the gnarliest moment was when we were chilling on the sand dunes. Most of us to begin with had been pretty vigilant (read: paranoid) about occasionally switching on torches to check behind and around us, but as the goon wore on our worries wore off. It wasn't until I saw a strangely shaped bit of sand behind Hannah and shone a torch, seriously thinking everyone would laugh at my thinking sand might be a danger, illuminating a rather curious looking dingo about a metre from our circle. Erk.
But no one got eaten and, deciding that we wanted to see a sunrise, we went to bed at a rather reasonable 1am (ish...).
Okay, so getting up this early wasn't easy. At all. But we were glad we did because the sunrise was incredible, and actually made nicer by the clouds. We were even joined by dingoes, although was technically pestering the fisherman on the beach...
All that nature watching made us hungry so Dave cooked us up a lovely feast...burgers!!!
And we packed up the camp... :-(
Most of the time was spend de-sanding the tent... I'm sure that even now there's sand from Fraser in my belongings.
Our first - and last - stop of the day was Lake Mackenzie. To get there, however, I was going to have to do some driving...
Ok, so at first I couldn't get the car in to gear but it didn't take long before I was happily whizzing along and tackling steep climbs and deep soft sand. It was actually a LOT of fun, although I can imagine that driving on dunes would be pretty scary.
Lake Mackenzie is the picture postcard location on Fraser. It's surrounded by dunes of bright white silica sand and has bright blue water. Usually it looks like this; thanks to the recent heavy water it looked pretty much the same as Lake Birrabeen.
Don't get me wrong - it's still lovely. However I think everyone was a little disappointed that we weren't able to see the lake at it's best.
It seemed like no time at all before we had to drive to our last lunch spot at Kingfisher bay to get our return ferry to the mainland. There's pain behind these smiles guys. Pain.
The best car, obvs.
We had the most amazing time on Fraser. I think it's probably the best spot on the east coast simply because of it's uniqueness. At some point I'd love to hire a 4WD with a group of friends and spend a good few days over here. You could easily spend a whole day at the champagne pools or any one of the lakes. Even the bad weather didn't matter - we got a rainbow over the maheno, extra splashes in rock pools and still got to see a clear sky at night time. Fraser Island: we love you!
Next stop: Agnes Water/1770