Loading up the 4x4, Steve's hanging out
Next morning, we all got up pretty early to check out and meet up in the TV room for the tour introductions. I chose to use Palace Adventures mainly because they were cheap and I could book online. There are plenty more to choose from, in fact all backpackers have their own 4x4 self drive tour and I’m sure they are all pretty much the same. We sat through an hour long video and the message was clear, don’t leave any rubbish, don’t play with the dingoes and don’t piss around when you’re driving the 4x4, accompanied with shocking photos of bad crashes!
Following the video, we were split into 4 groups of 10 people.
I was a bit worried about this part because I didn’t want to spend the next 3 days with a bunch of weirdoes, but first impressions were good. In our group we had: 7 from the UK, Danny, Stacey, Lucy, Chris, Jo, Steve and Rob; Guido from Swizerland, Jeremy from France and me, forza Italia!!
Waiting to get on the barge
We all jumped into our 4x4 Toyota Landcruiser and went off to buy our shopping for the weekend. This was a pretty tricky task, as it was clear that we all had different diets and budgets. Everything that went into the trolley was analysed 10 times, even the choice of tin tomatoes turned into a bit of a debate, shall we buy the expensive ones with herbs or is it cheaper to buy fresh herbs and cheap tomatoes?! Who cares, just bung ‘em in! Someone made a great suggestion, to buy our own breakfast and treats individually, and split the common lunch and dinner menu of a bbq, spag-bog and loads of sandwiches.
Job done. I was concerned about the time, it was getting late and we had to get going to catch the barge, then everyone decided to have one last dump in the clean, spider-free toilets. Back at the van we had more problems trying to fit all our shopping in the back, perhaps because we had an extra 10 carrier bags with our individual treats? Time was ticking and we were all looking at each other waiting for a good solution, eventually everyone sat down and we pile all the small rucksacks and carrier bags on our laps. We were cutting fine, and my cunning plan to sit comfortably in the front and give directions backfired, the map was terrible and I was feeling the pressure, I really didn’t want to send all of us in the wrong direction, where’s Bruno when you need him? Luckily we got to the barge in time and we were off to the island.
L to R: Guido, Steve, Lucy, Jeremy, Stacey, Chris, Jo and Rob
At the other end, we all watched Steve disembark our 4x4, we knew he had forgotten that only the left tyres had been deflated, so we kept our cameras ready to capture a good Youtube video, but it went well, bugger! We picked up our camping passes and off we went to our first relaxing destination, Lake Mc Kenzie.
Crushed beers, underneath one of the seats
I was glad I didn’t choose to drive this first stretch, the road was pretty awful and looked like a rollercoaster with no tracks. Steve was coping well, paying extra careful attention like a novice driver trying to pass his test. When the road got better and flatter, he relaxed and feeling more confident he pushed the van faster. I can’t remember at which point we hit the huge bump, but I remember seeing half of us floating in mid-air like we were training for space travel on a zero-gravity flight. Oh that was fun! Shortly after we had to stop to assist the casualties of the accident; 5 beers had been crushed underneath one of the seats and were bleeding profusely all over our precious treats, so we had a drink to their loss :-)
Lake Mc Kenzie is beautiful.
After you park your van and walk through a small stretch of woodland, you come out onto a beach of blinding white sand and deep blue water, with an outer ring of crystal clear water. We found a spot next to a group of Irish piss-heads, who apparently had earned the label of ‘the wankers-group’, and we all dived in. Here’s a big word of advice with regards to the lake, the water is fresh and it is not very deep so you may feel like swimming to the other side, but the distance is much greater than it appears to be. I had a pretty scary experience trying to swim across and realising past the half way, that maybe I wasn’t such a good swimmer after all. Luckily for me, Chris was behind me and lent his shoulder for the last stretch, he’s a good man! I have to thank Guido too for coming back to offer support. I got to the other side safe and well, and then I had to walk around the lake whilst the other boys swam back ��" bloody youngsters, always showing off!
Lake Mc Kenzie
We stayed at Lake Mc Kenzie until it was possible to drive on the beach.
Chris happily took the keys and off we went, looking for our camping ground. Chris is only 23 (I think) though you would think he’d been driving for decades. He was cruising through the woodland, sliding round the bends and when we reached the beach, he put his foot down. Confidence is good, but experience driving on sand is much needed; at one point we flew over a patch of dry sand and the vehicle started to turn sideways. Chris recovered well, but we all pooed our pants… and you could smell it in the air too! Lesson learnt, we reached the camp sight safely and joined the other groups (‘The Others’ as I called them) for a good piss-up.
Lake Mc Kenzie
We started to unload the van and put the tents up.
The tents weren’t very good, they were old, military type, and we had trouble trying to stretch out a pole which was jammed in. Guido was our chef for the weekend, he previously told us that he worked as a master butcher and knew a lot about cooking. He also mentioned that he spent some time in the forces, so Chris took the opportunity to appoint him ‘General’ of our team, and that’s what we called him throughout the weekend. He cooked a great bbq of sandy sausages and burgers, and the girls made a lovely salad. I added some Italian salad dressing, which was much appreciated by all, or more likely they were simply taking the piss out of me, but it was all fun :-) We had lots of booze then we joined The Others for more drinks, and the party went on all night till there was only a few of us still standing, in our faeces and vomit… only joking!
L to R: me, Steve, Chris, Jo, Stacey, Lucy, Rob, Guido, Jeremy and Danny
Next morning I bang my head waking up in the top compartment of the van, where the tents are normally kept.
I don’t know why I chose to sleep there, perhaps because I was so used to sleeping in the boot of Bella, or maybe the van was closer to me than the tents… by a couple of feet! Anyway, I probably had the best sleep than anyone else, if you consider how cramp those tents were and how most people tend to fart throughout the night after a big piss-up, at least I do.
Stretching a jammed pole
We cleared up our mess and our heads, and then Danny drove us up the beach, to the Moheno wreck. I was glad Danny volunteered to drive because I wasn’t feeling my best, in fact I wasn’t feeling anything but a throbbing headache, old age again, trying to keep up with these young whip snappers! We reached the wreck in good time, it was a splendid day and we got out to take some photos.
I shot a few, but when we took a group photo my camera packed in, producing strange mechanical noises. Gutted! More advice, don’t take your good camera on the island, the sand is very fine and it gets into any aperture. I heard so many people swearing at their cameras, as if that would help. Another piece of advice I was given, is to keep your camera in a re-sealable plastic bag.
Guido, our Chef and General
We drove off and reached Indian Head, where you can see sharks, manta rays and tortoises. We only saw one species, it’s called ‘bugger all’ and it doesn’t look like much really. However the walk up to the drop was pleasant and I particularly enjoyed passing more tourists swearing at their cameras, have it!!
Next stop were the Champagne Pools.
Lovely jubbly, I could lay back and rest my sore head for a few hours, just what I needed. The Pools are great, salt water crushes over a barrier of rocks and turns into a bubbly flow of foam, like a big Jacuzzi. I woke up an hour later feeling great, and looking like a lobster, I don’t normally use sunscreen because I believe that with my Italia complexion I shouldn’t get burnt, ok and I’m to tight to buy it! I quenched my self in one of the two pools and splashed around a bit, but it was blooming cold so I didn’t stay long.
It was my turn to drive when we decided to leave. I jumped in the front and the girls sat next to me, my good chance to impress them ;-) I was slightly nervous because I have never driven a big van over sand before and it had manual gears, whilst I’ve had automatics for the past 6 year (for convenience, not that I can’t drive).
To make things worse, whenever we swap drivers everyone goes quiet for the first ten minutes, and scrutinises your skills to ascertain whether you’re up for the job or you might be liable to loose the entire deposit. I’m sure all the other drivers felt the same but kept cool, so I kept cool :-) and I passed the test, maybe because I drive like an old grandma in any case. Driving on sand is lots of fun, the van slides all over the place until the tyres find a track, then it steers it self and you just have to control the speed. Unfortunately if you are under 21 years old, you’re not allowed to drive, but we all know that rules are there to be broken, so when we reached camp I took Lucy and Jeremy, who were dying to have a go, for a spin on the beach. Lucy was great, she drove better than me, which says a lot! Jeremy was also pretty good, as he was driving the ‘wakers-goup’ passed us on the right hand side displaying 4 white bums pressed hard against the window, what an insult… how did they know the French man was driving!
Fraser Island east coast
Second night, and time for another good piss-up.
It always fascinates me how alcohol gets people together, and brings out your worst behaviour. I’m generally a quiet and conscientious kind of guy, yet after a few beers I’ll happily strip down and dive naked in the sea regardless of sharks, or paparazzi for that matter. It was passed midnight and it seemed like a great way to celebrate my birthday, 32! I thought I was getting better with age, like a fine wine, instead I’m more like a smelly cheese (if this makes any sense at all)! I was disappointed that nobody else joined me though, and I’m sure I’ll regret it when I see photos of my white bum posted on Facebook!
Yet again, I woke up in the top half of the van, this is getting silly! However, this time I wasn’t alone… Jo was fast asleep on the seat below, wrapped around in someone’s jumper, a few rucksacks, some carrier bags and our laminated map of the island ��" priceless image.
Guido cooked what was left of the meat for breakfast, whilst the rest of us cleared up. Apparently a few dingoes were seen the night before, I’m sure they didn’t came anywhere near us, not in out state.
Maheno wreck (bad photo I know)
Guido’s turn to drive this time. We headed off to lake Wabby, a green looking lake in the middle of a desert. It takes a good 45 minutes to reach on foot, under the baking sun. Along our way we passed a huge lizard and three Irish guys from the ‘wankers-group’ sat around a cool box, who had stopped for a beer break. Lake Wabby is not near as nice as lake Mc Kenzie but the appeal here is a long sandy drop into the cool water, you have to dive in with style see; some cart-wheeled down, some did summersaults, some rolled in on their side like a big tree log (that must have been painful) but the best performance came from our own Jeremy, he pinched the top of the cool box of another group and tried to surf down the dune, with piss-poor results but good efforts.
We didn’t stay long because we all agreed to spend more time at Lake Mc Kenzie. On our way back, the Irish guys were still there, with a much lighter cool box… and no sign of the lizard.
Inside Maheno wreck
We spent the rest of the day chilling out on Lake Mc Kenzie. I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my birthday, it was hot and the water was beautiful. As a present, I was permitted to drive the 4x4 for the rest of the day, but to be honest I don’t think anyone else wanted to tackle the terribly bumpy drive back. It wasn’t that bad, except the very last section. We had to stop because the car in front of us was stuck in the sand. Some of the boys got out to help, and when the vehicle was freed Danny (co-pilot) and me watch the car speed off jumping up and down, then disappear over a set of bumps like we were watching a cartoon.
At first we didn’t think the driver was very competent, but when I got the van going and we saw the conditions of the road, Danny just said ‘floor it mate, don’t let the revs drop or we’re buggered’ ��" so I did and we went flying over those bumps just like in a cartoon! I think someone said that the front tyre lifted off the ground by a couple of feet!
Inside Maheno wreck
The adventure was shortly over, we got back to the hostel and checked in for one last night. None of us could be bothered with organising food, so we took advantage of the Palace deal, all you can eat pizza for a tenner and swapped contact details.
My experience on Fraser Island was excellent and I always recommend it to anyone I meet travelling up the coast. I relaxed on great beaches, saw beautiful sights and met very nice people, in fact if any of you are reading this, could you be nice enough to send me some photos of the sights so I can put them on the blog too? Cheers!