Fraser Island 4x4

Fraser Island Travel Blog

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Sunset on the eastern beach
 

Fraser Island was always going to be one of the highlights of our trip up the east coast, but I hadn't foreseen it being such a rollercoaster and a fight against the elements...and the sand.


This, I suppose, is hardly surprising, seen as it's the world's biggest sand island, at 15km by 120km. The only way to explore it, other than hiking, is by 4x4, so we picked the cheapest, and most popular, for backpackers, hiring a 4x4 self-drive, shared between 10 people.


Our day-long trip from Byron Bay took all day, and sure enough we were to get another character of a bus driver; this time the most the moodiest man in the world. Until now, we had been told you didn't need a printout, just a name and reference number.

Cheeky dingo at McKenzie Lake
The conversation went like this.


  • Got your ticket?

  • No, we were told we didn't need one.

  • You always need a ticket. No ticket, no travel.

  • We booked at an internet cafe; there was no printer.

  • Everyone has a printer (I must remind the Third World to stop frittering any money they have on printers)

  • This one didn't.

    (Kyle finds a slip of paper with our details printed)

  • That's your ticket

  • Oh, is it? I thought that was our ticket from Sydney.

    Putting up rubbish tents

  • No, that's it. Why did you tell me you didn't have one if you did?

  • Because I didn't know it was a ticket. (Because I wanted to make a fool of you?)

  • Put your bags in. (Disgusted look) To Kyle: You can't hang things (a rain cover) off your bag, we've already got 9 people off work with back problems. Now, get out of my sight.


OK, I might have made the last sentence up.


Other than that, the only thing of any slight hilarity was the fact that, despite swearing I would never watch it again after watching it in the cinema, then being forced to watch it twice on consecutive buses in Argentina, the film of choice was announced as The Devil Wears Prada.

Food poisoning, anyone?
If only I could get to sleep on the blasted things, I would have done instead of watching it.


Upon arriving at Palace, our hostel in Hervey Bay, the launchpad to Fraser Island, we were greeted with commotion. I thought a couple of the girls were just having a minor hissy fit about some trivial or something, but it turned out the hostel was rife with bedbugs. I thought nothing of it before we inspected under the duvets and found droppings. After being requested to be moved rooms and another inspection, we could see them crawling around. We sprayed the beds down, but it made for a rather uncomfortable night's sleep. Luckily, neither of us were bitten, and it was just as well because I saw a girl who had, and they looked like an absolute nightmare.

The SAS


After a briefing of what to do and what not to do on the island, we loaded our vans and met our new friends for the next couple of nights. I was particularly nervous about this arrangement as a result of some of the characters we have met so far on our travels, ranging from the peculiar to the damnright unlikable. Fortunately, we couldn't have asked for a better group as everyone was easy to get on with and helped out whenever they could in what were sometimes testing circumstances. What I was probably dreading most actually turned out to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip.


The ones with licenses had to drive the 4x4, but I was keen to shy away from the responsibility on the first day due to how tired I felt. When it was my turn, it was a weird experience sliding around on sand like you were on ice and flying over any sort of obstacle in front of you but didn't pose too much of a problem.

"A baby," apparently
The only incident was when we went flying over a creek that came from nowhere while on the eastern beaches and everyone ended up with a headache, especially the ones at the back. Apart from that, the sands were largely tamed.


On our first day, however, low tide times meant we were limited to only a few days of travel across the eastern beach. So we spent some time at spectacularly clear McKenzie Lake, which was great for a swim, if not spoilt slightly by the many others who were forced to stay there while the tides were high.


Once the tides let us pass, we made some ground up the east coast, to where most of the island's attractions are. It gets dark pretty early on Fraser so we pitched up our tents pretty early on the beach. If we had our time again we would have probably stayed at one of the designated sites, because the sand from the beach got absolutely everywhere.

Champagne Pools
It wasn't helped by the dodgy “military-style” (yeah, right) tents we were given and the fact that after we had cooked up our barbeque, the heavens opened up and we got drenched whether in our tents or not. Not a nice experience, trying to get to sleep in a bag full of sand while the rain dripped on you every few seconds. To add insult to injury, the next morning a ranger fined us 225 dollary-do's for leaving a rubbish bag outside. It felt harsh, but was justified, seen as we had been given the briefing about leaving nothing for dingoes before we arrived.

Feeling particularly groggy, we had to pack up the tents, with everything full of sand, but it was to be a day of fighting the elements. The sunshine of the previous day had been replaced with rain • frustrating rain: every time we tried to do something or get out of shelter, it started again, and coupled with some pretty blustery winds, too. We couldn't really see all the things we wanted to, and decided to pitch up tents on a camp site after having a wash and a swim down Eli Creek, a fast-moving, clear waterway that was just a bit to shallow to swim down, if not refreshing respite from the sand that stuck to every body part.

The Maheno shipwreck
Presented with the rain that wouldn't cease, we used some ground sheets to make a cover while we cooked up some tasty spag bol before having a pretty early night in preparation for a big day of sightseeing in what we hoped would be a better day. Toilets seemed like a welcome relief from the bushes, until someone had pointed out to me after I had visited the little boys' room that it was infested with spiders. The ranger told us they were only small(!) and weren't venomous, but it didn't stop me getting the creeps every time I went in.


Our last day was indeed a better day, if not showery at times, and we managed to get round to all the things we thought we might not get to see due to a lack of time. First up, the champagne pools, which weren't as nice as they sound. A sectioned off part of the ocean on the beach, with sharp rocks and dangerously close to the shark-infested waters, it wasn't the favourite place we chose to chill.

View from Indian Head - look for sharks
We headed onto Indian Head where you are supposed to be able to see sharks, stingrays and turtles etc down below. The weather had made the water exceptionally choppy so any views of sharks were going to be debatable, but a few turtles could be made out in the shallow waters below.


Starting to get a bit annoyed by the elements, we headed off to Lake Wabby, where after a short walk you arrived at the top of a huge sand dune. The blokes were keen to roll or dive down the summit into the waters below, while the girls were keen to photograph the stupidity. Not quite as nice or clear as Lake McKenzie, it was a nice place to chill out before heading back to the ferry as the rains started off again.


The Fraser experience was one of those things that while you are there you curse your luck with the weather or can't believe how annoying wet sand can be, or get fed up with feeling grubby or tired, but afterwards immediately realise how good an experience it was.

Back at the ranch
Not just because of all the cool things you saw, but also how good it was to experience it all as part of a team, with some really cool people, rather than to just do things independently. And it was indeed one of the highlights so far.

jannahw says:
Congratulations on receiving the Writers Award - it is much deserved! We look forward to the remaining installments on this wonderful journey.
Posted on: Mar 28, 2007
Isoinspira says:
Being part of a team is an experience in itself. What a cool experience and a horrendous spider! I'm quite terrified of spiders, let alone the mammoth "baby" spider!
Posted on: Mar 27, 2007
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Sunset on the eastern beach
Sunset on the eastern beach
Cheeky dingo at McKenzie Lake
Cheeky dingo at McKenzie Lake
Putting up rubbish tents
Putting up rubbish tents
Food poisoning, anyone?
Food poisoning, anyone?
The SAS
The SAS
A baby, apparently
"A baby," apparently
Champagne Pools
Champagne Pools
The Maheno shipwreck
The Maheno shipwreck
View from Indian Head - look for s…
View from Indian Head - look for …
Back at the ranch
Back at the ranch
Danny at the BBQ
Danny at the BBQ
Get out of my sight
Get out of my sight
Dodgy-looking spider
Dodgy-looking spider
Champagne Pools
Champagne Pools
The Pacific looking pretty rough
The Pacific looking pretty rough
Indian Head
Indian Head
Team 1 legends
Team 1 legends
The eastern beach
The eastern beach
Indian Head again
Indian Head again
And again
And again
No climbing!
No climbing!
The crew were found safe and well
The crew were found safe and well
Feed it beer!
"Feed it beer!"
Sand dune at Lake Wabby
Sand dune at Lake Wabby
To Lake Wabby!
To Lake Wabby!
Second thoughts
Second thoughts
A fast descent
A fast descent
Fraser Island
photo by: Ils1976