Dappled sun beams stretch inch by infinite inch into my derelict tent, warming my bare legs and rudely interrupting my vivid dreams. The murky, soothing coolness of night melts away as Morning shouts her brazen greetings, urging us out of bed, rumpled…sandy…and blurry eyed…..It’s 5 a.m. Too late I realize that dawn has just begun her salutations as I make some halfhearted attempts to rustle the boys from their sound slumbers. Grumbles and sluggish moans surround the camp and they roll over, crushing pillows over their heads to hide streaming sun rays, already forgetting that we were going to watch sunrise behind the magnificent sand dunes of Fraser’s 75 mile beach. It was our last day on Australia’s most famous island. One last morning amidst the tumbling sand dunes, miles of silken beaches and twisting trails of rain forest refuge. There was plenty to explore but, for now, I’m content to snuggle back into our plastic, half assembled, and completely disheveled tent to slumber for a few more hours and wait for the others to awaken.
I’m feeling a bit like Rip Van Wrinkle these days. Time is speeding along faster than I can keep up with and the past few weeks are but blurred images in my mind, flashes of brief moments, nonstop laughs and time spend with friends all rolled into one. Fraser is my one last adventure before leaving for China – out with a bang, quite literally I might add. No, no I didn’t wreck the 4-wheel vehicle. I’ll mention only once that I got stuck while behind the wheel and was pushed out of the sand dunes by the gang of muscle bound boys.
Ade, Ben, Sarah, and I traded Bunk’s haven for a much more barren, but amusing three days on Fraser Island. I’m had a wonderful time on the 123 kilometer island along Queensland’s coast. My group is fantastic. Four strapping Irish lads, a sweet German couple, Chris from England, and my always cheerful Bunk friends have formed a rather enthusiastic 4 wheeling clan. The boys are more than happy to scurry up the tin ladder to load up the roof with coolers, bags, tents and other bits and pieces. Ade and I had the pleasurable task of assembling four haphazard tents. We seemed to be missing various odds and ends out of our tent goodies bags, a good explanation for why they kept blowing over in the middle of the night. We finally started tying them awkwardly to the various bushes on our camp site which only made them lean and sway more in the ocean’s breeze. I think a sleeping bag smack-dap in the middle of the beach would have provided just as much shelter.
Fraser is a mecca for backpackers making their way north and south on Australia’s east coast. Hostels located at Hervey Bay and Rainbow beach flaunt their fortunate locations and market cheap packages tailored to international twenty somethings. A few phone calls and simple credit card transactions left us happily driving away from Dingo’s Backpackers with a fully loaded, yellow topped 4 wheel drive jeep. Our meals were planned, mats and sleeping bags provided, and a highlighted map sat on the front seat. There is no itinerary. Instead, we left the ferry with instructions to return 53 hours later for our return ride back to Rainbow beach.
Roads don’t exist and we were free to roam around Fraser’s brilliant attractions on our own time. The “highway” travels along the sandy shores of the island, with crashing surf on one side and the deep sandy dunes on the other. Two deep ruts serve as lanes. If one accidentally swerved out of these ruts, the jeep usually became bogged down in the sand. Our group became quite adept at pushing, pulling, digging, dragging, and urging our yellow topped friend out of the sand – a feat that left you entirely covered in sand from head to toe. We also hopped out on several occasions to help fellow jeep drivers – a nice way of making some beer drinking friends on Fraser.
Lake McKenzie was our first stop. After a bone numbing, teeth rattling detour across the middle of the island, we turned onto an even bumpier, potholed road. I wound up on the boy’s lap next to me more often than I could manage to sit in my own seat. Miles of bruised bums and windblown hair later and we were struck with the jaw dropping beauty of McKenzie’s freshwater lake. Pure blue sparkling water, an oasis in the midst of eternal sand and trees – the perfect time to strip to our togs and enjoy the cool water.
The first night on the beach was eventful. We drove around for an hour trying to find an ideal spot far away from quiet family get-togethers and grandma/grandpa type campers. After assembling four perplexing tents, the Irish boys agreed to cook us a yummy steak dinner. My past camping meals have consisted of peanut butter sandwiches and cookies. This one turned out rather nice considering we attempted to cook in the pitch black and only had a two burner stove for assistance. With dinner behind us, it was time to put our stack of newly purchased alcohol to good use. There was certainly a lot of it to go through!! After washing the dishes in the ocean, I brought out my cards and tuned the Irish lads into the American pastime of drinking games. Growing up in a one horse town does have its advantages after all! I don’t think anyone really remembers how he/she got to bed that night so I considered it a successful introduction to Onarga’s Friday nights on the farm.
Day two took us to Eli River, the glorious Champagne Pools and Indian Head Point located at the north end of the island. We also passed the Maheno Wrek, a fabulous old luxury liner and World War 1 hospital ship. Her rusted remains lie along the coast, allowing perfect picture opportunities for over enthusiastic backpackers. We became stranded at Indian Head Point having incorrectly estimated the trek back and forth to the Pools. This left us with a relaxing three hours snacking and laying in the sun until the tide receded enough for us to drive back along the sea. After burning my back to a perfect shade of lobster red, we hiked up to the tip top of the point to watch the various pods of whales, dolphins, and rays playing in the distance.
Day three was another early morning. Quite surprisingly, everyone was up and going soon after sunrise. The tents became too hot to sleep and there was too much to see and do on the island. Lake Wabby was our last stop before heading back to the ferry – a beautiful lake set right beside a blowing sand dune. Rumors have it that the lake is filling in at a rate of 3 meters per year. At this speed, the lake will be completely gone in approximately ten years time. We took advantage of the prime opportunity to have sand races down the dune and into the lake. I didn’t win but I think there was a plot to trip me near the end.
Back to the barge three hours late!! Thank goodness the company didn’t mind when we came rolling in well past our due time. I think they were just pleased that the truck was in one piece. We really intended to have a big night out that evening. However, I think we all showered and lay on our bunks with good intentions of resting for only an hour or so. Before long we were all dozing and couldn’t be bothered to dress up and go out to a bar. Two nights of drinking on Fraser in the sand and sun can be completely exhausting. We loaded up Ben’s car and drove back to Brisbane early the next morning. Back to the real world…again!