If all things were perfect, the plan was to arrive in town, have a fun night and meet our group the following afternoon at 3pm for instructions before leaving for Fraser Island the very next morning. It rained the entire night; heavy sheets of rain, soaking everything in it’s way, including Fraser Island. We made some friends from Spain, Raul and Maria, when they gave us their leftover food as they had a bus to catch that night. Wishing them farewell and safe travels, we soon learned just how bad these storms have been when they returned 90 minutes later professing the roads were flooded and no one was leaving. Hervey Bay’s population must’ve doubled in just a few days with stranded travellers abound. We cooked them dinner consisting of sausages on bread with some ketchup and they bought some wine and beer. Hours passed and stories of travel and adventure were shared and an invitation was given for us to stay with them once we arrive in Spain in their home in Murcia. Of course, we accepted. Also, we agreed to all band together to form a reckless team of tomato-slinging banditos for the Tomatina festival in August. In typical fashion, the wine slowly led me to bed.
The sun is out! The sun is out! Folks around the backpacker were buzzing; travellers all excited to get out of this town, either to Fraser Island or on the next bus north or south. Hervey Bay, for all it’s worth, should have a slogan reading “for the newlywed and nearly dead.” Erin and I packed a bag and went to the beach. It isn’t much to talk about but before long our Spanish friends joined us making it all the better. By afternoon, we had learned that our Fraser trip was on which was great news and we made some lunch and had leftover wine and beer from the prior eveneing. Hey, at least it was after noon.
Buzzed by 3, we shuffled into the hostel bar where the meeting was held and were quickly organized into our groups. These were the people we would be sharing the next 3 days with on the island. Everyone got along really well right from the getgo. Erin and I, of course, were the only Americans. In face, Erin and I may quite possibly be the only Americans in all of Australia. Awesome. In our group of 9, there were four English, two Swedes, a Taiwanese girl, and us. Seven girls and two very lucky boys. (Nothing spells fun like seven women as backseat drivers.) Being that I wanted to drive as much as possible, I placed my credit card down, and we all filled out some forms for liability purposes. We placed our orders for meat and booze and before long we were off to the grocery store to stock up on supplies. Roughly an hour later, we all returned to the hostel, excited about our early morning departure the next day. Erin and I cooked some pasta and realizing we would have too much, invited two English girls to join. I drank some goon with dinner, and after hours of chatting it up, realized it was time for bed. The Spaniards made another attempt to head north by bus but were yet again told the trip was cancelled due to flooding. Looks like this was going to be a soggy 3 day jaunt to the largest sand island in the world.
I’m not a morning person by any means, but when there is something to do, something I can honestly look forward to, I tend to wake up before the alarm. The goon prevented that from happening this time, but I still made it on time to our 6:45am meeting. We packed the trucks with the help of our two instructors, brothers George and George. Tents, check, camping equipment, check, food, check, booze, check. You get the idea. By 9:30 we were on our way to the harbour to catch the ferry. Oh, by the way, of course it was raining.
Before leaving the ferry, we locked in the hubs for 4×4 and lowered the air pressure to 27psi. This would allow us to have better traction on the sand. Driving was a blast and I wish I could’ve done it for even longer. Bogging and bouncing all over the place with huge puddles splashing on your windshield. By the time you found the wipers and cleared the view, you had to make a sharp right to avoid trees and embankments. Tons of fun.
We made our way to Lake Birrabeen and the rain let up for the hour and half while there. The water was warm and crystal clear, with white sand beaches only adding to the beauty. As a group we decided to go and set up camp instead of venturing on to other locations on the island. This turned out to be the best idea as the rain was letting up. Finding a campsite was relatively easy as George and George told us exactly where to go. The wind was whipping around and howling so setting up the tents took awhile but before long we were set up, the girls started cooking, I cracked a celebratory beer and started digging a moat around the tent sites (thanks Pete and Simon) in case of heavy rain. We all climbed into the truck to have our meal and after a few drinks, we realized how great our Team really was. Seeing other groups come into the site and attempt to set up tents was hilarious. Poles and stakes in all the wrong places and half of them were already drunk. Our group was group D, so we aptly and cheerfully named ourselves “group D which stands for ‘dat’s right.'” We played an English drinking taught to us by Natalie, a game called “Ooo-ah and Oinka,” and though I won’t be explaining it here, I will be carrying with me for my next family outing. Oinka!
Group Dat’s Right was of course the first to rise the next morning and after breakfast we made our way north to Maheno Wreck. Kind of boring but it’s a piece of history, so we had to see it. It’s a giant liner that wrecked on shore over a hundred years ago. The remains are completely rusted and makes for a quick photo-op. Driving on the beach was fun but stressful at the same time. If for any reason we went in the saltwater, we would lose our bond and have to pay for the damages to the engine. This, amongst 7 other reasons, made it extra stressful, but we managed to get to the most northern point allowed (for us), Indian Head.
Dingo’s live here and they are scavenger’s like bears. They always look skinny and emaciated but that’s just the way they are, kind of like a greyhound, not because they are starving. We spotted one here and took some pics before climbing the mountain. At the top you are supposed to be able to see Tiger Sharks, the reason we couldn’t swim in the ocean, but we didn’t spot any. It was a beautiful view though but the tide was rising and we were running out of time to drive on the beach. George and George told us we couldn’t drive past noon on this day but after talking to a ranger, we learned we could push it to 1:30. Off we went to Lake Wobby, near our camp.
Lake Wobby was amazing. The lake is slowly being “swallowed” by the sand dune that blows down into it. The water was perfect and Erin and I swam across to the other side where we met another Englishman. He told us of his travels to Southeast Asia, which only made us more excited for our upcoming trip there. I can’t tell you how much I long for hour long massages every day for only $3. Anyhow, enough dreaming, and back to ridiculously priced Australia, where a lousy 6-pack of Corona fetches $20! After a few hours here, swimming and sunning, we drove back to the camp where I crafted a sweet grill for us to make shish-kebabs on. There is something about eating what would normally be considered decent food while camping. It just tastes better. We had shish-kebabs consisting of steak, capsicum (red peppers), and mushrooms as well as spaghetti bolognese and fried potatoes. Wash that all down with a few beers and you have a very happy Jason. Mark, a season ticket holder for Manchester United Soccer Club, Erin and I stayed up past midnight sharing stories, drinking and laughing at the other drunken groups who were singing and screaming songs. Mark famously made me aware of how often Americans say “awesome” earlier in the trip and it became a bit of a catch phrase for the rest of the trip (and I still cannot say it without smiling.) I asked him to sing me the song after a goal is scored by Manchester and he replied “which one? We sing a different one depending on who scores.” Sounds like a lot of trouble. Think I’ll stick to “Fly Eagles Fly, on the road to victory…” but I would give just about anything to go to a Manchester game. Someday.
The next morning, we packed up our camp, bid it farewell and were the first to arrive at the infamous Lake Mackenzie. After another run-in with a Lace Monitor, we set up our spot on the beach and before long were right back in the water. I took a swim across the lake and it was a bit further than I thought. About halfway across I noticed someone was swimming behind me. I struggled ashore and after a few minutes, Nadin, a Swiss girl followed. We talked about Switzerland, one of my favorite places, and being pooped from the swim, I had every intention of walking back. I asked her if she’d like to walk with me and she laughed and said she was swimming. Not to be outdone (yep, by a girl) I made the swim back across. It was a bit easier due to the wind, but I was still whooped and retreated to Erin and my towel for a nap. A few more hours passed, some more swimming and playing around, and it was time to head back to the barge for our trip back to lovely Hervey Bay.
An awesome (haha) time on Fraser Island and we somehow managed to will away the bad weather for just long enough. We packed our bags, had a shower and some food and hopped the shuttle to the bus station where we would be catching the overnight bus north to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands.
Insert record-screeching noise here…
The bus arrived and alerted everyone this was their last stop for the evening for the flooding had continued further up north and no one was getting through. I immediately thought of Raul and Maria and wondered how far they made it. Oh well, back to lovely Hervey Bay. The next day (and more rain) was filled with time-passing at it’s finest, including a trip to the local cinema to see possibly the worst film ever, Fool’s Gold. That evening we happily boarded the same bus amidst rumors of yet another cancellation. Sixteen hours later and rain pouring down, only 25km from our destination, we were told no one was allowed through to Airlie Beach. At the next stop we called American Airlines, knowing that the weather wasn’t going to turn, and changed our flight to Perth to the following day. Back on the bus, we cruised for another 8 hours to Cairns where we would be leaving.
Upon arrival into Cairns, we immediately went to the airport to try and fly stand-by on the evening flight but by the time we got there, all gates were closed. Our flight left at 5:30am the following morning so we decided to just rough it in the airport. We had a gourmet meal of salt and vinegar chips and american cheese to wrap up our trip on the East Coast of Australia. From Sydney all the way up to Cairns in about three and half weeks, we had the greatest time and met some amazing people who we can’t wait to see again. Awesome.
Photos are uploaded but we lost the adapter so they are only thumbnails. Better quality soon…