7.30am is never a good time to be dragging a suitcase through a crowd of people to a luggage storage to be told you can’t check in for 5 hours having spent the night on a crowded and cramped bus. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what we did as we arrived at our hostel in Rainbow Beach.
Luckily I had developed a love for hammocks at our last stop of Agnes Water, and with 4 set up by the pool it would have been rude to refuse. As a result, while Katie’s first day in Rainbow Beach consisted of checking in, shopping and exploring town, mine was largely horizontal and very relaxed.
We were in Rainbow Beach as our jumping point for our Fraser Island tour over the next two days. Our tour of Fraser Island involved 4 cars, 32 people, 1 guide called Mick and, for us at least, 16 litres of goon.
That might sound excessive, but the car behind us had 44 litres, so really we were being very responsible.
The night before our tour we had to attend a ‘safety briefing’, which turned out to largely be an attempt to scare us shitless. Aside from making 4 Wheel Driving seem very complex, they also warned us that dingos could and might attack us. The camp we would be sleeping in was, luckily, dingo-proof but, unluckily, not snake proof and yes, snakes were an issue too.
With stomachs churning and doubts swirling, we rose at 6am on the day itself in an state which I can only describe as ‘bloody knackered’. In our car of 8 we had Katie and I, Patrick and Lisa from our Whitsundays boat, and Shannon, Madie, Conné and Quinn who were from Canada and completely nuts, in a good way.
With a playlist of about 20 songs (mainly the Vamps’ ‘All Night’ which would become the reluctant soundtrack to our trip), and food and drink loaded and squeezing the 8 of us in to the car, we were off. Lisa drove first, having the easy roads followed by the much harder soft sand and ferry boarding. Our confidence in getting Lisa to drive paid off when she breezed through it all, as other cars got stuck. We headed onto the island to drive along the beach and almost immediately spotted a dugong in the shallows welcoming us to the island.
I’m not sure he knew he was welcoming us, but I was just glad our first wildlife had been non-venomous and non-aggressive, a rarity in Australia.
After some beach driving, we headed inland to our first stop of Lake Bimbadgen. The lake is surrounded by tea trees, which means that some science stuff happens and as a result the lake is red. It gives you the very weird feeling of swimming in blood, which is thankfully one I haven’t experienced before, but also heals things. Hangovers cured, we headed on, Katie taking the wheel this time.
I won’t make any jokes about Katie’s driving, as not only was she very good, but also I am always within punching distance.
Our next stop was the main attraction on Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie. We reached the lake alive and well, and it turned out to be one of the best things we had seen in Australia so far;
With whiter than white sand, crystal clear blue water and blue sky weather to show it off it was just about perfect. I spent the majority of the time just swimming about fairly amazed by the fact I could see so far down (and also reassured by the fact I could spot a shark from a mile off – even in this inland, freshwater, sharkless lake).
After this we returned to our camp for dinner and our eagerly anticipated tents. The promise of ‘mattresses’ turned out to be a vicious lie and we chucked our stuff down on the concrete style floor before heading to cook our tea for the evening.
Our Canadian quadruplet cooked a cracking stir fry to a soundtrack of cheesy hits. I then headed to the beach with some other people who I can’t remember, proceeding to get my top filthy and spill goon on myself, and return to the camp to regret and sleep.
I’d like to say we had a peaceful sleep, but at 6.30am the boys next to us decided the time was ripe to loudly abuse their friend who had spent the night up to some shenanigans. So our second day began.
After a suprisingly good breakfast of Nutella on bread (due to a lack of toaster), we headed off in the cars for the days first stop, Indian Head – a lookout over the island. After some stunning views and even spotting a shark and some stingrays, we trekked back down.
I drove on to our next stop, the Champagne Pools, which sounded expensive but thankfully turned out to be free. They were pools naturally filled by the waves breaking over the rocks that formed them. The ‘champagne’ part was due to the waves breaking over the rocks and then fizzing in the pool. There was no actual champagne in the pools. I tasted and checked.
Anyway, having dislocated my shoulder 4 weeks earlier I decided to try again:
After the Champagne Pools we had a lunch stop and then headed to our afternoon stop – Eli Creek. This was a slow running freshwater river which you could tube down, play frisbee in or mess about on the beach next to. We did all 3, before a customary group photo. Chest out, stomach in. No, stomach in Alex. Stomach in! Oh you are. Sorry.
We headed back to the camp for steak on the barbecue, before stargazing on the beach. We headed to bed somewhat sad to be leaving Fraser Island the next day, but on the other hand looking forward to an actual bed and heat and indoor sleeping.
Naturally we got woken up at 2.30am by a drunk Welsh girl jumping on another girls tent while her sister slapped one of the boys from our tent and her friend from Essex told everyone to ‘go away’ in slightly less cordial terms.
I won’t go into it in too much detail for respect of those involved – I’ll need a full blog for that, but Katie had a very adult moment and calmly asked them to be quiet. An hour later, they acquiesced to this request.
The next morning our tour guide posited the idea that he should be allowed a taser to deal with people that drunk and disorderly. I was inclined to absolutely and wholeheartedly agree.
We spent much of the last day driving back to the ferry to a soundtrack of loud, energetic and dance-fuelled singalong from our Canadian quartet who provided the best entertainment (and hand based dance moves) we’d seen for a while. With that we were off Fraser Island and back to our hostel. I’d like to say we did more and celebrated our return in style, but I merely collapsed into a hammock, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The rest of our stay was incredibly similar, other than goodbyes to all of those from our trip as they moved on.
So Fraser Island in summary; 4 wheel driving, sand, Canadians, Austrian, Scot, cheesy pop, sand, stunning lakes, sand, goon, stars, tents, Jeremy Kyle argument at 2am, legendary tour guide, sand, sand, thank you and goodbye.
Alex Odlin recommends all readers do not drink goon on a beach on a dirty sand island when a bit tipsy and in your favourite t shirt, as it will end up in a bin in Brisbane. He speaks from experience.