Fraser Island is a 120km long island just off the coast of Eastern Australia. It is an island made up entirely of sand and is the largest sand island in the world. We left Pippies guest house around 10am to the barge that would take us to the island. I wasn’t too stressed out about the crossing because I knew it would only take 15 minutes or so. Amit was the first to drive the old Land Rover 4x4 we would be driving in over the next few days. Both Amit and Trace had just finished their 3 year military training in Israel (read: dessert) so we weren’t too concerned about their abilities to drive the car in the sand. It didn’t take long to reach the barge and in less than 15 minutes we had reached the south end of Fraser Island.
You can only drive on the west side beach of Fraser Island (named 75 mile beach because of its length) because the east side, they claim, is too dangerous. The tides are the main area of concern as when the tide is high, in some areas, it’s impossible to drive. When the tide is in, the beach becomes a lot more narrow as the water can reach all the way to the sand dunes. When we arrived the tide was just going down and although the water wasn’t at its highest point, there were a couple of spots where we had to actually drive through the water. This isn’t necessarily dangerous on its own, but if you do stop in the water, the water will washout the sand from under your wheels and your car will be stuck and worst case scenario swept away. Not to mention the salt water is not good for the car as it can cause corrosion and rust. I’m happy to say Amit handled it all smoothly.
We drove on the beach for around 30 minutes when all of a sudden we pulled over seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Travelling from Pippies there were a total of 3 cars. The first car is driven by the guide who shows us around the island, the second car had 8 people in it and we were the third. The place where we stopped turned out to be a place where we can collect clams in the sand, or specifically Pippies, as these clams are names. Apparently the guest house we were staying at was named after these clams. Our guide, Tony, showed us you can tell there is a clam in the sand by the raised sand in the shape of a circle. With your finger you dig around the circle, dig in and pull up the clam. With everyone walking up and down the beach looking for the clams we dug up around 100 clams. We had to be careful while walking on the beach, as it’s actually a highway with a speed limit of 80km/h and when driving you have to follow all the highway traffic laws. So while we were walking around the beach, other cars were swooshing past us. It’s a little bit annoying but the beach isn’t really meant for swimming due to the high currents and rip tides so it’s unlikely you would actually spend a lot of time on the beach.
Our next stop was Lake Mackenzie, and Trace delivered us there safely. . When we arrived we ate the lunch we had made that morning, and during lunch I found a small leech on my foot. I caught it quickly enough so that it didn’t have time to attach itself. Of course I screamed like a little girl and made Andrew deal with it. He did, but he then found he couldn’t get it off of himself. Eventually he did without any further bloodsucking incident.
Lake Mackenzie is a fresh water lake on Fraser but what differentiates is that it has beautiful white silica sand so it makes it look as blue as the ocean and not the murky water we’re used to in Canada. It was quite warm outside in the sunshine so I waded into the water but wasn’t brave enough to dip myself in fully. It wasn’t that warm when you were wet and the cool wind was blowing on your skin. Andrew didn’t have these issues and had no problems jumping in. Some of the guys from the other car, namely Rasmus, Joah and Linus, also didn’t have any problems jumping in or even pushing, launching, throwing, flinging and hurling themselves into the water. They would even dive head first into the water from the shore. There were more than a few (and what looked like painful) belly flops. Rasmus, Joah and Linus were from Sweden and were already drunk on goon, and it turned out would not sober up for the rest of the trip. I honestly thought they were crazy. Since we were the last car and they were in front of us, we would get mooned by them multiple times. I felt sorry for the other people in their car, since the goon was flowing nonstop in their car.
I need to make a side note here about goon. Goon is something I was introduced to on this trip and I have to say it’s not too bad. Goon is basically the cheap boxed or bagged wine. It costs $12 for 4.5L so for that reason alone it’s very popular amongst the backpackers. I say it’s not too bad because to me it tastes like grape juice with some “spirytus” in it (90% proof alcohol). It’s very strong so you get a lot of kick for your buck, but the hangover (as I witnessed that trip) is a killer. You can be knocked off ass for up to a full day afterwards, obviously depending on how much you drank the night before.
So Rasmus, Joah and Linus were all very drunk on goon before we even arrived at our first stop at Lake Mackenzie and even more drunk by the time we arrived at our second stop at Eli Creek. The sun would start setting shortly when we arrived at Eli Creek but apparently, according to Tony our guide, we all had to get in and get wet even though we were freezing. Apparently it was “tradition”. Eli Creek is kind of like a lazy river. It winds down slowly from the forest and if the weather was warmer I would have enjoyed it a lot more. After everyone made their way down the river, we all just hung around on the beach trying to soak in the late afternoon sun and warm up. Some people posed for a photo and Andrew got a good pic with Rasmus flashing the camera. The funny thing was no one noticed except Andrew, even though Tony was also taking a picture.
After Eli Creek we headed to camp, where we picked out tents. When it was time to start making dinner Trace and Amit took over and made a delicious rice and chicken for us in a sweet and sour sauce, so the rest of us were on dishwashing duty. Part of spending time on Fraser Island is getting to see the various animals that live on the island. One of those animals is the Dingo and as we found out they like to hang around camp hoping for any food scraps to fall their way. Dingoes are kind of like a mix between a wolf and a dog. They look like a dog but behave like wolves. They are not domesticated at all and are known to attack people. Joggers especially have been known to have their calves bit into by the dingo’s while (or whilst, as they say here in Australia) small children have been known to be killed by them. So it was a little disconcerting having them circle our camp and watch us while we were washing dishes. The fact it was mating season and therefore the dingoes were more aggressive made me even more nervous. Tony, our guide, told us to make sure we were always walking in pairs when going to the toilet. No one was really paranoid but everyone kept an eye on the dingo’s as they kept their eyes on us.
We all had a beer during dinner and it seemed that was all anyone from our group would have. Everyone except Andrew. Of the 30 beers we had, Andrew drank 9 that night by himself. That is when I knew the 30 beers would not be enough for this trip. But how much Andrew drank that night does not compare to how much Rasmus and friends drank that night. In addition to our camp, next to us was another camp from another hostel, Nomads. We were told we were welcome to go over there but if we got asked to leave by one of the guides, we would need to leave. While the people from our car were busy playing cards, Rasmus and (most of) the people from his car were throwing themselves off the tables. I sat by the fire amused by the contrast as well as awaiting when one of them would get seriously hurt. Linus sat beside me completely passed out. He had drank so much goon in the car throughout the day that he just passed out and we could not wake him up. Later someone found him in their tent and had to throw him out. Not sure where he ended up sleeping. The fire started going out and I decided to head off to bed, but Rasmus and his friends decided to go to the other camp, and Andrew accompanied them. Within an hour Tony was bringing them all back because of complaints from the guide of the other camp. Apparently one of them took a metal pipe and was swinging it around, while Rasmus threw himself into the fire and some other guy (apparently not Rasmus, Joah or Linus) tried to grab a girl and nearly broke her wrist.
If the first night was interesting, the morning after was even more interesting as we all had to get up at 7am. Having gone to bed at 2am completely inebriated some of the people who rolled out of the tents were almost unrecognizable. It was amusing to watch because you could tell they were all worn out and I thought perhaps partied out. We made breakfast and headed off to the northern part of the island to see the champagne pools. This was a beach and part of it was surrounded by rocks, kind of like a lagoon, so it was calm enough to swim, but the waves breaking over the rocks and then rolling into the lagoon caused the water to foam and made it look bubbly like champagne. The sun was shining and we were protected from the wind by the surrounding hills so it was warm enough to swim.
We spent a couple of hours there and then headed off to our next stop, which wasn’t too far away. We hiked to the top of a hill and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the island and the ocean. Jonah, one of the Swedes, did not even attempt to make it to the top. We left him behind by the car to puke his guts out. I think that was at least the 3rd time that day. After we had lunch we went to see the Tea Tree Lake. Tony said we probably wouldn’t swim in it because most people chicken out when they get there. Sure enough, the lake looked menacing. The water was completely black, coloured by the tea tree oil. There was no hope of seeing the bottom. There were some stairs that led right into the lake and a whole bunch of turtles swam up to us. There were at least 5 or 6 small turtles. As soon as I saw the colour of the lake I didn’t want to go in anymore. Up until that point I was confident I would be going in. “Are there snakes in there?” I asked. “Of course” Tony replied, “They were also in Lake Mackenzie yesterday and you weren’t afraid of swimming there”. Yeah, but the water was crystal clear there so I knew if there would have been a snake I would have seen it. I knew I wouldn’t see one here until it attacked me. Ok, I knew that was an exaggeration and a snake probably wouldn’t attack me, but you never know. Tony started talking about how good tea tree oil is for your skin and how it helps heal any cuts, scrapes or bruises, and some people started going in, their skin looking orange underwater because of the tea tree oil. I figured, if they can do it, so can I. I went it and it wasn’t so scary but the water was freezing. The top layer had been warm, warmed by the day’s sun, but we had stirred the water up so much with our swimming it was all cold now. We had swam out into the lake and the water was even colder and the water was pitch black around us. Andrew joined us and was also surprised by how cold the water us. The sun would be setting soon and it was low in the sky so it wasn’t providing too much warmth anymore. After a few minutes we all climbed out. There was one older lady (I say older because she was in her 50’s…not to say that’s old but if definitely threw the average age off) from Hamilton Ontario and she decided to go for a swim too. She went in the water but her swimming looked more like drowning and we weren’t sure if we should jump in and save her. We snickered behind her back, which wasn’t nice, but it was really funny to watch her swim.
These are all the turtles that would swim up to us. They were all quite small.
This is Anne, not the funny swimming older lady. I loved how orange the skin looked in the water due to the tea tree oil.
Our next destination was a lookout over a very large sand dune which ran across the whole island. We learned these dunes are created naturally; as the wind from the ocean blows, it blows the sand across. Grain by grain a large sand dune is formed and eventually it cuts across the whole island. This isn’t necessarily good as it buries whole trees. Apparently the small bushes we saw sticking out from the sand were actually the tops of trees which had been buried by the sand.
We headed back to camp and prepared dinner. It was an interesting moment when we sat down for dinner and everyone in our group discovered there were only 5 beers left for the 6 of us. Andrew looked a little sheepish knowing he contributed greatly to the lack of beer. This meant we wouldn’t have anything to drink for the rest of the night. Obviously 30 beers had not been enough for 6 people. This night a second group had joined us from Pippies. This was their first night and our second, and last night. The groups kept to separate sides all throughout and after dinner. The second group was playing a drinking game (Zumi Zumi…anyone ever heard of this?) and at one point one of the guys got up on the table and took his shirt off and was swinging it around. On that side of the room they were all cheering, and Andrew said to me “I bet you Rasmus is not going to let this go…he’s going to take his pants off for us. Let’s go see this”. Our side of the room were also playing a drinking game. This one didn’t have a name but basically everyone had to come up with an animal and have a sign for that animal as well as a sound. You were assigned a sign and a sound and whoever called out your sign/sound you had to get up, do your animal sign/sound and then call out someone else’s sign/sound. If you didn’t do it in that order, you had to drink. This was probably the funniest drinking game I had ever seen and I wasn’t even drinking (because Andrew had drank all our beer the night before). Watching everyone get up and do various sound was hilarious because the animals were sharks, snakes, dogs, cows and even a Tasmanian devil. It didn’t take long for Rasmus to make Andrew’s prediction come true. He got up on the table, screamed “What time is it?” and we all yelled back “It’s party time!!”. He had been walking around yelling this out over the past 2 days. Even when he would just wake up we would ask him, “Rasmus, what time is it?” and he would mutter “It’s party time”. Sometimes he would add “But I’m all partied out”. This time he was yelling at the top of his lungs and so were we. As he was standing on the table yelling, Linus ran up behind him and pulled his pants down. He wasn’t wearing any undies so he was fully on display for everyone to see. At first he was a little surprised but then he just went with it and was swinging it around. That was not the only time his Johnson made an appearance that night. It would be on display many times that evening. The other group were almost stunned into silence. Later on I was talking to one of the guys in our group, Greg, and he said after the shirt swinging incident in the other group, Rasmus came up to Greg and said “We have to party harder”. He stayed true to his word. By the end of the evening our group was going wild and a lot of people were dancing on the tables, while the other group went to sleep. Greg was so drunk we somehow convinced him to drink some spilled goon from the table. He one upped us and snorted it too. It was so disgusting I actually gagged. I was just sorry that I was sober because I would have totally joined in on the party…but not the goon snorting.
Andrew, Melissa, Fabian and I went for a walk to the beach as we were the only sober ones. The night was pitch black and there was no moon so it was very dark. The sky looked amazing with all the stars. But it was also very eerie because we couldn’t really see anything and even when our flashlights were on the dark just swallowed the light right up. I was also worried there were Dingoes watching us just at the edges of the light, where we couldn’t quite see them. That night the dingoes were a lot more aggressive with each other. They were stilling circling the camp but would get into quite aggressive scuffles with each other. I was worried they would take that aggression out on us. Luckily we didn’t run into any dingoes and headed off to bed even though some people were still partying. Tony told us we had to be up at 6am the next day to beat the high tides.
The tides had been very high the past few nights and Tony was worried we wouldn’t be able to make it off the island in time for the next high rise. I don’t know how but Tony actually managed to get everyone out of bed by 6:30am. I was talking to Greg the next morning and he didn’t even remember goon snorting incident. He was disgusted with himself but laughed about it too. There was only one place left to visit. It was about a 45min hike to another, smaller, sand dune and it had a clear freshwater lake at the bottom of it. When we got there we could see huge catfish swimming in it. That morning was fairly quiet as everyone was still recuperating from the night before. We hung out there for a couple of hours, had lunch in town and then headed back to mainland.
When we arrived back at Pippies guest house I was just happy to see a normal bathroom again with a shower. Even though it had only been a couple of days I felt filthy. We made dinner and spent some time chatting with Anne, a girl who had been on the Fraser trip with us. We would end up hanging around with her all the way to the Whitsundays. That night everyone headed over to the bar next door, Fraser’s, for karaoke night. After the bar shut down we headed back to the hostel where some of the people who were working there for accommodation (2 Canadians!) had gone dumpster diving and came back with a load of bread that had been thrown out. The bread was still good and we pigged out on it before going to bed.
The next day Andrew and I went to the beach. The past few days had exhausted us so we just chilled out. That night some new people had arrived at Pippies and were getting to go on their Fraser trip the next day. We all ended up drinking that night. It was a tough morning the next day but we knew we had to get up early as we were heading to 1770.