Hervey Bay was just a stopover for the night before going to Fraser Island. We had a meeting the afternoon before we started the tour. The tour we had signed up for was a self-drive tour. Virtually all tour groups on Fraser Island are self-drive for a rather interesting reason. Since Fraser Island is a World Heritage Site the Australian Government wanted to limit the amount of traffic on the Island. One of the major attractions of Fraser is the 4×4 driving it offers. It is the largest Sand Bank Island in the world and that leads to a lot of sandy roads perfect for 4×4 driving. The Government decided that the best way to limit the number of vehicles on the island would be to take away the permits for tour guides and let the backpackers run wild on their own!
Interesting idea, but everyone knows that some backpackers can be a little bit silly at times. Mix groups of backpackers, ego’s, and a lack of experience driving in these conditions and you have a potential recipe for disaster, and it does happen. The Safety briefing was partly to introduce us to our group while also running through the suggested itinerary, talk about 4×4 driving and safety, etc. Another factor to be introduced was Dingos. There is a large population of Dingos in Australia and on Fraser Island. Dingos are Wild Animals and scavengers and they can get aggressive and attack humans if they think they have food, or they are protecting a food source, so we were told to keep our campsites clean, clear away food scraps, beer cans / bottles and anything else that could attract them. Also, if confronted by a Dingo, you should stand your ground, cross your arms to look as big as possible and maintain eye contact with the animal to stare it out and scare it away. Under no circumstances do you turn your back on it or run away, that will just lead it to attack. And if it does attack you should “Protect yourself, aggressively”!
No ***… if a wild dog attacks me, I will kick the living crap out of it to make sure it doesn’t bloody get back up again, which is exactly what our guide told us to do!!
That evening 4 people from our group of 17 went to the shops to buy all the food we would need for the next 3 days. We also arranged to meet up at a local bar for the evening to get to know each other before setting off. I was really tired from diving in Ayr and then bussing down to Hervey Bay the day before, that I just grabbed a bite to eat with Nicole, Owen and Emma then we all went to bed and let the others party. We would have enough time to get to know them over the next few days!!
The next morning we met nice and early and went over the safety issues again and then set off to the Ferry. We had 2 vehicles; 6 in mine and 11 in the other. Our car was a fairly new Toyota Land Cruiser and VERY Comfortable! Nice leather seats, great strong 4×4 car, good stereo. The other vehicle was a larger 4×4 with more ground clearance, probably a bigger engine, but just bench seats in the back for everyone and they also had the majority of the camping kit on the roof, making them a lot more top heavy than us.
We were VERY happy with our Land Cruiser and glad not to be in the other truck!! My comrades were; Nicole (South African), Maud (Dutch), Owen and Emma (Irish) and Donna (English) so a nice international group. Some of the people in the other car were Diarmuid (Irish), Alex (English), Berit (German), the German girls (Anna, Anna and Esther), the English girls (Helen and Steph), the Dutch couple (Raymond and Rayana), Jennifer the French girl and I am the 17th.
I drove us first to the ferry port and was tasked with reversing on to the ferry in front of everyone. No-one else wanted this early responsibility, so I happily took it on. No worries.
I took the first stint driving on Fraser Island and had an absolute blast. Our first stop was Lake McKenzie, one of the most famous spots in Australia and definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I have seen pictures of Lake McKenzie and I know that places never quite live up to their pictures, but oh my word… this place totally does.
Stunning white sand beach, fresh water that is so clean and clear that you can actually drink it as you swim! Seriously! We only had about an hour or two here, which was a real shame as we all could have spent at least a day there on it’s own!
After Lake McKenzie someone else took over on the driving. We had 4 keen drivers in our car so everyone had to have a go… much to my annoyance! I think it was Nicole who drive next and we headed out to Eurong which is on the beach and then drove up the beach for a few Kilometres until we got to the shipwreck on the island. The beach is actually a registered Highway in Australia so all normal road rules apply. Also, when you approach an oncoming vehicle you are supposed to put your indicators on to signal with side you are going to pass them on, so I would signal left and they would also signal left means we would pass with the other car on the right. Quite a lot of people don’t bother, which can be dangerous and I found the worst offenders were the bus drivers who drive on the island daily. You would have thought they would be quite hot on promoting safe driving. I guess I was wrong.
On the way to the shipwreck the other car managed to get themselves a small flat tyre. We had stopped off at a shop, and when we caught them up they were waiting for us, as
they couldn’t find their jack. Diarmuid and Alex stepped up and changed the tyre, a pretty good effort on both parts.
The shipwreck was quite beautiful and pretty damned big. It made a great model for a spot of photography and I just wish I had more time there on my own for a decent photo shoot and there weren’t as many people there. Still, I think I got some decent shots.
After the shipwreck we were already running rather late from our itinerary, which was put together based on the tides. You are not allowed to drive on the beach for 4 hours around the High Tide (2 hours before and 2 hours after) because the sand is so soft and water logged it is very dangerous. Due to this we skipped our last stop, which was the pinnacles and went straight to our camp site.
Camping the first night was hilarious. I get the impression a few people have not been camping for a while. The toilet facilities were a simple drop toilet. This is where you have a normal looking toilet, but it just drops down into a big room. No valves, covers, flush mechanisms or anything, just a toilet and a whole at the bottom. This makes a lot of manure which is very good for the land, and since nothing really touches the toilet, it actually quite hygienic. The only problem is that because there is nothing between the mess below and the up above bit it is very very VERY smelly. To the point where after a minute it starts to burn your nose, if you can still bear to be in there! I thought the showers were fine, others didn’t. At the end of the day, it is a campsite… what do you expect!
On Fraser Island you are NOT allowed to build any fires. It is a World Heritage site and fires are too dangerous according to the government, even on the beach. And you cannot collect firewood from the forest as everything is protected, even the dead branches and leaves on the ground. This is not as dumb as it sounds, as rotting growth does put nutrients back into the earth and if it all got burnt then it would affect the ecosystem, but I don’t think a few camp fires would be enough to really make a difference at all. We were lucky, we had been booked into a camp site run by aborigines, and since it is THEIR land, they can do anything they want on it and if they say we can have a camp fire and collect wood, then we damned well can. And we did! There were a couple of rules we had been told to respect before we arrived in Fraser Island, and these were reiterated when we got to the camp site. The first was no spitting in the fire. It is believed that the fire is a spirit, or controlled by the spirits (I can’t remember exactly), but to spit in the fire is to spit in the face of the spirits and highly offensive to the aborigines. The second rule was no whistler after dark. This is believed to attract bad spirits and not good. We were happy to respect their beliefs for the courtesy of them letting us use their land.
Where we stayed had 2 rotundas. One was for preparing food and the other was for us to sleep in if we didn’t want to camp. I was the only person in the whole group who decided to sleep in a tent! Bloody wimps. We are here to camp, so I was damned well going to sleep in my tent!
There were a couple of other groups sharing the facilities and we made friends with them as well. I got on well with Team Cananda and Team Switzerland (3 girls, 2 from Toronto and one from Switzerland), a Dutch guy and a few others we chatted to in passing. I also spent time chatting to the German girls, especially Berit.
When I was in bed I could hear the dingoes scavenging around our campsite and it suddenly felt a bit lonely!! Then I fell asleep and didn’t worry about it any more.
The next morning we were up with the light, had some breakfast and hit the road. More 4×4 driving and beach driving and we got to a look out point at Indian Head which is a famous spot for seeing Turtles, Sharks, Whales, etc all swimming past. Oh yeah, there is NO swimming in the sea around Fraser Island at all. There are tiger sharks and stingers in the water. Apparently there can even be Great Whites there. So.. I think we were happy to stick to the inland lakes! We saw a Whale and it’s kid swim past and also a couple of Dolphins. On a good day the water can be black because there is so many animals, we just saw a few before we set off to walk for half an hour up the beach to the Champagne Pools.
When we got there I was a little unsure why it was called the Champagne Pools. It was actually quite gross, there were 2 pools and the water was full of brown coloured Algae and it stank! I had a quick dip, sat on the beach for a bit, then we decided to move on to our last stop of the day at Eli Creek. Here you can walk up the creek and then float back down the crystal clear stream back to the sea. As we were walking up we saw lots of people floating back down and they do look rather silly because the water is pretty shallow. We also saw an eel swimming down stream, which was accompanied with lots of shouts of “SNAKE… SNAKE”. We got to the top and then proceeded to float back down and look just as silly as the people we laughed at on the way up. At least the people laughing at us would be just the same in a couple of minutes!!
After a good old sand fight, more swimming and more messing around we headed back to the camp site. This time everyone camped out! More Goon, drinking games and campfires and a bunch of us went down to the beach for a bit.
When we woke up the next day, we decided to can the itinerary and head back to Lake McKenzie on the way back to the ferry and have half an hour there as it was so beautiful.
We kind of got the tides a little wrong and ended up driving along the beach just after high tide, so the sand was an absolute nightmare to drive on. Nicole and Maud did an excellent job in our Land Cruiser and the drivers in the other 4×4 did a great job as well, although there were a couple of points where I was convinced they were going to roll it over! And we could smell their gear box the whole way around Fraser Island! We definitely had the better drivers 😉
We got back to Lake McKenzie, and unfortunately only had about 20 minutes there before we had to be back at the Barge Landing at 1:15pm for the last boat home. Still, it was a great place to finish off our Fraser Island Experience.
I had such a good time on Fraser Island. We had an amazing group who got on fantastic, and most people really stepped up and helped out with cooking, washing up, etc. A few people did manage to slip off every time something needed doing, but the majority did chip in. My BBQ on the second night was pretty damned good, even if I do say so myself!
I actually think that these three days will go down as one of the best experiences I have had while travelling. The Island is simply gorgeous and the people were fantastic, and that is the recipe for an amazing time. Well worth checking out, even on a tight budget.
After getting back to Hervey Bay we had a bit of a sleep, some dinner and then we headed out for a few drinks. The first few hours were spent swapping photos. I took a copy of everyone’s and then burnt a whole bunch of DVDs for everyone. Personally, I don’t like having hordes of other people’s photos, but everyone wanted to.
I was going to get the same bus as Nicole down to Surfers Paradise the next morning, but that left at 6am and I wanted a lay in. Also, Maud, Alex, Diermuit, Raymond and Rayanna were driving down to Noosa Beach, just North of Brisbane and said I could travel along with them. It was quicker and more comfortable than a greyhound and about a tenth of the price, just paying a quarter share of the gas. Nicole was planning on staying with family in Surfers, so I wouldn’t be hanging out with her, but just trying a bit of surfing on my own, so I figured I may as well do Noosa beach instead. The guys I was travelling with were booked onto a 3 day kayaking trip up the river as soon as we got there and I could have tried to book on, but I didn’t want to spend the money and to be honest, I am over the activities. I just want to chill on the beach, on my own, try a bit of surfing then head on to Sydney to see my friends before flying back home.