Saturday, September 29, 2007

island of sun and fun

Travelling to Fraser Island was a mad, bad rollercoaster of an adventure.

The world's largest sand island is accessible only by 4wd, and so it was I found myself piling into the back of a Landcruiser with a group of nine crazy Irish and another English lass, Hannah.

Booking through Beaches, they stuffed up and put me on the wrong day - meaning I had a spare day to cruise around dead-end Hervey Bay when I could have been lazing in 1770. I was not impressed. I kicked up a stink and said it would mean all the things I had booked after (actually nothing) would be stuffed up. They were unsympathetic, unapologetic and unsurprised by the error.

Infact, I found it had happened to my friend Dotti three days earlier and to countless other people.

However, I got up early on the day I was due to go and hung around to see if there were any no-shows. No luck but they ended up kicking off a poor Asian chappy and putting me on instead. Felt rather guilty but was secretly pleased - especially as we had an awesome group.

We drove in convoy with a second cruiser - this one with three Seattle lads, seven Canadian girls and an Aussie lass. Team (North) America and Team Ireland. We were honorary Irish for the weekend which meant one thing - drink. A lot.

After a ferry ride to the island on a miserable Sunday morning, we disembarked and were left to the mercy of the rough sand-tracks. Deep ruts run across Fraser and you're meant to manoeuvre across the island along them. It was not easy.

We were often inching along tracks in convoy and tilting at a frightening angle to one side. Cue everyone in the truck leaning the other way...

Our first stop was Lake Wabby - a green lagoon with rainforest on one side and high hills of sand rolling towards the lake on the other. It was a stunning contrast between the white, desert-like sands and the green of the forest and lake.

We spent a few hours rolling and running down the hills, playing catch and watching the catfish swim around us. As we made to leave, it started to rain so we all ran back into the waters and splashed around until it stopped.

Later, we drove along the eastern beach past a shipwreck, vividly coloured rocks and over washouts and creeks. We had to be at camp at 3.30pm otherwise the tides would be too high.

We just about made it, skirting the incoming tides and ploughing through the soft sand to Cathedral Beach Resort - our base camp. Luxury compared to most 4x4 trips - we had a showerblock, toilets and kitchen at our campground.

Starving hungry, we cooked up a barbecue, put up the two six-man tents and began an evening of drinking. When the lights were turned out at 10pm, we headed down the track to the beach (getting a lift with Team Korea in their pink van) and continued the party and drinking games. Starting early, we were in bed early and unafraid of dingoes, snakes and spiders...

Our second day, we headed to Indian Head - a high outcrop of rock where we could look along the beaches and down into the dangerous waters below to look for whales, sharks and rays. We saw humpbacks in the distance, heading south for summer, dolphins playing in the surf. But no sharks.

Then it was a long walk along the beach and up to Champagne pools. Here, the water crashes over rocks and creates pools of water - the bubbles created by the waves pouring over the stones.

After sunbathing, we headed to Eli creek and sunbathed some more before racing the tide back to base camp by 4pm.

We had a crazy evening - recruiting the newcomers to our teams to play tournaments of the drinking game 'flip cup' with the losers singing songs to the winners. It was a very funny and rowdy evening.

Our last day saw us packing up camp and heading out to some stunning lakes.

We visited Lake Birrabeen - where pure white sand ran into the shallow crystal waters before sloping quickly down into blackness and the lava at the bottom of the lake. The contrast of black, bright blue and white was simply stunning.

After a few games of frisbee, it was then to Lake Mckenzie, the picturesque spot on many postcards. It was far busier with plenty of families and backpackers splashing about in the (once again, crystal-clear) water.

Team North America and we then headed for our ferry. A long wait was cushioned by many games of volleyball/keepy-uppy in which I was generally out by the third or fourth hit... some people are just not cut out for sport...

Shattered, we made our way back to Hervey Bay to return our trusty 4x4s and have a farewell drink or two...

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