Rainbow Beach: Fraser Island

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

One ham, cheese and crisp sandwich, chocolate milk and blog post later we arrived in Rainbow Beach after a 3 hour drive. Driving to the hostel looked as if we were in the middle of nowhere, almost something out of The Sims - it just didn't look like real life. The bus pulled up just outside Dingos which is the hostel we were staying at for one night before Fraser Island and one night after. It's kind of a base point where the trip goes from and the designated hostel Peter Pan uses when you book the 3 day 2 night trip. We checked in and were overloaded with information before being given a metal plate, bowl and cup which was the spitting image of an I'm a Celebrity jungle survival kit. We packed a small rucksack for our 3 days of camping and got chatting to a Liverpudlian couple - Lauren and Jake - in our dorm who were really nice and doing the same trip as us. Prior to Fraser all we knew was that it was camping, driving jeeps and exploring creeks and lakes. My panic levels over getting bitten by or dying from a spider bite were going into overdrive and I genuinely felt as though I was being thrown into the I'm A Celebrity Jungle.

We went to the briefing at 4pm which lasted 2 hours and learnt that we would be staying on the largest sand island in the world. It may have no wifi and no signal but it does contain the purest creeks and lakes and is also home to the most dangerous Dingos in the world as well as highly venomous snakes and spiders. We were told that the specific camp we would be staying in is an aboriginal camp but with tradition comes two rules. No whistling as it invites bad spirits and results in being kicked off the island and no spitting in the fire as fire is considered sacred. The owner of the camp showed a few health and safety videos as fatal accidents have happened where people have driven the jeeps wrecklessly and Halloween, which was our first night on the island, marked the first anniversary of one girl's death. The motto is slow is safe because sand is very different and much more difficult than driving on normal roads. Luckily the 3 guys from Chile in our group (we were in a group with Jose, Francesco and Juanjo and a French couple - Agathe and Clement) were the only people who had experience driving on beaches and dunes out of all the people going on the trip as that's a common terrain in Chile, so we definitely felt safe. After all the scare stories about people being mauled to death by Dingos and being bitten by deadly rats, snakes and spiders, I was more apprehensive than excited.





We grabbed dinner at the hostel which was 6 dollar burritos and some of the best burritos I've ever eaten. Beef mince in soft tortillas with lettuce, tomatoes and grated cheese. Our group sat around one big table eating our dinner and drinking wine which was really nice as it meant we got to chat and get to know each other before the trip. We got an early night and I was sparko by 10pm, having had the best nights sleep in ages. At 6.30am the following morning we got ready, ate pancakes for breakfast, checked out and left our backpacks in the 3 day storage shed. We were split into two groups with A, B, C (us) and D in one group with our tour guide Mick who stayed with us for the duration of our trip and 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the other group. Six jeeps had 8 people in and each lead jeep in both groups had 11 in so there was 70 of us in total. We were told that during the trip we would stay in the same groups and car formation for safety which I thought was really well organised as it was a completely new and slightly daunting experience. 

We then went to get our food for the next few days where each group was given meat and vegetables for the evening meals, cold meat, wraps and salad for lunch, toast, cereal and eggs for breakfast and apples, oranges, biscuits, fruit cake and muesli bars to snack on as well as a huge container of drinking water. We were told that we got the pride of the fleet and were in the best jeep which was dark green and pretty modern. After loading the jeep with all of our luggage and putting our food and alcohol on the trailer, Jose drove first but we had a bit of a blip when one of the seat belts didn't work (the boys had ONE job to check the seat belts). We had to make a quick pit stop to get it changed, but luckily we got to keep our jeep. The build up in the morning was so exciting and we couldn't wait to get on the road. We were really lucky with our group as everyone was lovely and even understood sarcasm which is a rarity when you come across people from other countries. Sun shining, windows down and music playing our little family set off.









After a 20 minute drive we came to a beautiful beach and made the 10 minute ferry journey over to Fraser Island, seeing dolphins in the sea on the way. We then drove on bumpy terrain which made our metal plates, bowls and cups all bash together and make THE most annoying sound on the planet, stopping at a beach for lunch. All of our food was dished out and each group had tortilla wraps, beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, mayo and mustard which we had to prepare, cut and make ourselves. The food we were given had to last for the entirety of the trip so of course we had to ration but we all had 2 wraps each which were really tasty. We had to use some of the most disgusting and gag-worthy toilets I've ever come across which were situated in a resort which looked like a film set (Rainbow and Fraser don't look like real places). When everybody congregated back by the jeeps we then drove 45 minutes through the rainforest to Lake McKenzie.

Fraser Island is the only place in the world where rainforest grows on top of sand so it was definitely a pretty cool place to be and Lake McKenzie was one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever seen. The sand was white and the sea was turquoise which faded out into a darker turquoise and a midnight blue which was by far one of the most incredible sights. You can't swim in the sea in Fraser Island as it's a great white shark breeding ground but because the lake was pure rainwater, it's the safest place to swim as there's nothing it in that can hurt you. The water although a little cold at first was gorgeous and me and Kate swam over to the other island which only took about 5 minutes. After that we sunbathed for an hour as we only had until 3pm at the lake and I volunteered to drive us back to the beach because I kind of wanted to try it on the first day so I felt comfortable driving during the rest of the trip. The good thing about Fraser is that recent restrictions mean in order to be allowed to drive, you have to be 21 and have held your lisence for at least a year. 









Bearing in mind I've only ever driven a Ford Focus, Ford KA and Suzuki Swift in my four years of driving which are all pretty small cars, driving a jeep was scary. Not to mention being the first girl of the group to drive which was pressure in itself as the Chilian guys had experience driving on sand. I panic about doing new things and completely doubt myself but it was so much fun. I may have forgot to turn on the ignition and take off the hand brake at first, but we can forget about that as the rest of the drive went smoothly. I drove an hour through the rainforest and although some of the terrain was very bumpy, uneven and sandy I'm so glad I did it as it was such a cool experience. Kate then took over when we got to the beach and she drove us to the K'Gari campsite which is on aboriginal land.

There were clusters of three lots of six tents in one section so we thoroughly checked our tent for holes before committing to a middle one (safest option as we were inbetween two tents instead of by the bush). We weren't allowed to take any food or anything perfumed into the tents as it attracts animals so everything was left in the jeep apart from ourselves, our sleeping bags, liners, pyjamas and a torch. We had a quick safety talk about snakes and spiders as they're dangerously venomous and if bitten, life threatening. By then we were all pretty hungry so us four girls made dinner while the boys sat with a beer - what a cliche. We were given ingredients for a chicken stir fry so we chopped up the chicken, peppers, courgettes, carrots, onions and garlic and fried it all with Asian soy sauce before boiling noodles. It was really good and went down a treat with the group.









We kind of thought that everyone would get ready before drinking but it was pretty laid back in the sense that nobody really cared so we all stayed in the same outfits and started drinking around the fire straight away. We definitely overpacked as we took an outfit for each day and each night as well as other things we didn't need. All you really need is an outfit you wear on the day you go, two outfits for the two days you're there, a bikini, sun cream, a toothbrush, a towel and your phone for pictures as anything else just takes up room and doesn't get worn/used. The evening consisted of drinking goon, playing drinking games and walking down to the beach to look at the stars which was beautiful. The sky was perfectly clear and it was a little bit surreal just sitting on the beach on the other side of the world looking at the constellation. All of the groups mixed in the evening which was fun as it was nice to get to know people who weren't in our group during the day.

It got dark quickly and with no concept of time most people were in bed with half 10/11, and by bed I mean sleeping bag on the floor in a tent. No mat, no nothing. It was pretty rock hard and after the most hilarious selfie taking session, we zipped up as much as we could possibly be to protect ourself from anything that crawled or slithered and went to sleep. I woke up a few times and literally couldn't deal with the heat but also couldn't deal with the prospect of exposing any more of my body to nature. My back and shoulders were in turmoil from the uncomfortable floor and everyone was woken up by the most annoying bird on the planet at about 6.30. We got up at 7.15 and the boys made breakfast which they managed to burn. How you burn scrambled eggs I do not know and the fact they served it on bread because there was no toaster was even more ridiculous, yet pretty funny. So, of course us girls had to go and fry the toast ourselves. Luckily we also had big juicy oranges and apples and orange juice which was so yummy. 









After we'd eaten we set off to Eli Creek. At a first glance it looked like a smallish pool of water but when we walked up and round over the wooden decking path we could see how beautiful it was. The water there is so natural, pure and clean and it was running smoothly with rainforest overhanging. At the top of the creek were some steps so we climbed into the water which was freezing, but refreshing and floated back down to the bottom which was the most amazing feeling. It was so peaceful yet satisfying, especially with a bit of a sore head from the goon the night before. After cooling off in the creek we took advantage of the beautiful weather and sunbathed for an hour before it was time to drive to the Maheno Shipwreck which was along the same beach. The story behind it is actually really interesting as it was built in the 1930s in Scotland as a luxury cruise ship and was sent over to Australia to run cruises between Australia and New Zealand.

It was then turned into a medical ship when the navy bought it in WW1 which survived the entire war. Once it came back from the war it was then bought by Russians and used as a cruise ship again. By that point internal combustion motors were more efficient so it was sold to a Japanese company wanting to use the outside of boat. They sold the massive propeller to make lots of money but when they were towing it back in winter they were unexpectedly smashed by a crazy cyclone which snapped the rope on the boat. People on board landed on the beach unharmed but the boat would have cost too much money to rebuild, so they left it on the beach and went back to Japan. Between WW1 and WW2 it was used for target practice but Australia was never invaded too seriously, however the remains are now on the beach. The whole thing is 3 levels high and a large proportion of it has sunk beneath the sand which you can't see. Although the wreckage doesn't look enormous it was the size of a P&O cruise ship which shows the magnitude of how much the ship has sunk over time - a pretty unique and interesting thing to look at.








After looking at the wreckage and getting some pictures we stopped for lunch at Cathedral Beach while the tide went in as it was such a high tide. We then drove to the champagne pools which are rock pools. Because the water crashes over so fiercely it bubbles and froths and looks like champagne - hence the name. After a short 5 minute walk over some wooden decked path and some stairs we reached the pools and instantly took a dip to cool off. The water wasn't as cold as it was at the creek but it was still nice and refreshing and there were lots of black and white striped fishes swimming about. We were there for an hour and a half so once again we took the opportunity to top up our tans. While I was having a little nap the girls saw some turtles spooning in the sea which is something we'd not seen before. Next up was a short drive to Indian Head which is a big headland you can spot whales and other water animals from sometimes. After a short walk practically up a cliff in flip flops (the Aussies are fearless - there'd be way too many health and safety restrictions for this to be allowed in England) we reached the peak.

To the left was a beautiful stretch of beach, ahead was the ocean, to the right was another lovely stretch of beach and behind sand dunes backed by rainforest. Every angle had something equally gorgeous to see and our tour guide Mick explained how Fraser Island wasn't always an island. It started out as random rock formations and there are two currents - one that travels up the east coast and one that travels down. The one that goes up flows out on to Hunter Valley which trickles into creeks and out into the sea so slowly, more and more sand formed. When birds started to come over they would bring branches and leaves and when they dropped them that's how the rainforest started to grow which is how Fraser Island formed over millions of years. At the top the cliff was dangerously steep and looking down was horrible. As we were looking out into the ocean we saw turtles and stingrays but unfortunately didn't see any sharks. We couldn't swim in the sea because it's a great white breeding ground so I at least wanted to see one, but no such luck. 









We then drove back to camp, dumped our stuff, grabbed a drink and went down to the beach to watch the sun set. It was really beautiful to watch the sky turn from blue to a dusk pinky colour and after getting some cliche jumping pictures, we headed back to camp to make dinner. The boys were playing football so we cooked for us girls and steak, potatoes and salad was on the menu. After frying our steaks, mashing our potatoes and chopping our salad we sat down for dinner which was gorgeous. Afterwards we got some goon and sat around the camp fire before playing drinking games and playing the Pitch perfect 2 singing game in teams. We were given a word and had to think of song a with that word in (e.g baby - hey baby, hit me baby one more time). 

Us three girls and the two Liverpudlians from the Dingos hostel smashed it and we won after winning 5 rounds. We had a lot of practise at uni during dissertation procrastination time which clearly paid off but it was such a fun night. We collapsed into the tent at about half 12 and I slept right through until 6.30am. After a whole 5 litres of goon between us the struggle was real the next morning and everything was so much effort. We set off for our final day just after 8am after jump starting one of the jeeps because the battery had died. We drove to Lake Wabby which was formed in a similar way to Eli Creek - an underground spring flowing out on to the beach. However, the south easterly wind blows the sand from the dunes which means that in 50 or 60 years the lake will no longer be there. That in itself is a pretty cool thing to have seen seeing as it won't be there in years to come, so I'm glad it's something I got to see on my travels.





It was a 45 minute walk up to the lake which consisted of soft sand, harder terrain through the rainforest and then sand dunes. The walk was pretty gruelling when taking into account our hangovers, the heat and the flip flops we were wearing, but it was worth it. Walking through the rainforest for a good 25 minutes brought you out on to massive sand dunes which backed on to more rainforest. We could see clusters of trees in the background and as soon we stepped over the peak of the sand dune to walk down, there was a large gorgeous emerald green lake. Not gorgeous as in Lake McKenzie gorgeous, but gorgeous in its own right. The water had a lot more aquatic life like catfish, but nothing that could hurt you. We swam for a little bit before napping and sunbathing which washed our hangovers away. The worst part was having to do the same journey to get back and I genuinely don't think I've ever done something more physically exhausting on my legs than climbing up the side of a steep sand dune. Don't do it, it hurts. A lot.

When we were back on the beach we drove to the film set like resort we went to on the first day for lunch as we were all starving from a hard morning's work (the walk, not the swimming and sunbathing). I had a chip butty and a Sprite which was heaven before sitting in the sun and then driving further down the beach to the ferry which took over an hour. We took the ferry back over to Rainbow Beach and then drove back to Dingos back to beds instead of tents, toilets instead of portaloos and my first shower in three days which felt like the best thing in the world. After getting another 6 dollar meal which was spaghetti bolognese, we all stayed in the bar for the after party as it was our final night in Rainbow Beach. Me and Abby smashed karaoke which was quite possibly the most hilarious thing I've ever done. We sang Miley Cyrus - Party in the USA in front of about 50 people and we were crying with laughter 60% of the time. An experience to say the least, and a solid performance. We collapsed into bed about midnight and was up bright and early to check out and say goodbye to the best little adventure and one I'll never, ever forget.





Fraser Island was hands down the best three days I've had since being away. The camping might not have been my favourite as I didn't particularly enjoy being so close to things that could kill me, but I did it and survived. I saw and did some of the most amazing things and it's an experience I'll never forget. I had the most amazing 3 days with a great group of people and I wouldn't change any of it. It was so surreal being on the largest sand island in the world, driving through the rainforest, swimming in the most naturally beautiful lakes and creeks and making unforgettable memories. I experienced things I've never done before and may not do again and it's something I'll always be so thankful I was lucky enough to do. Fraser Island is such a special place and one that can't be skipped in Australia. Now comes a complete change in pace as after a jam packed and hectic three days, we've got a 14 hour overnight bus to Airlie Beach. We arrive at 7.30am and jump out of a plane at 10.20am. What a way to wake up - wish me luck. 

2 comments:

  1. Just wanted to say i've been reading all about your adventures from bloody freezing London and it's making me want to go travelling so badly! Your photos are gorgeous! xxx

    The perks of being a hipster- Christmas Yankee Candle Giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw thanks so much for reading! We've also had some rainy days if it makes you feel any better haha. If you can save up and go I'd definitely recommend it - I love England but the other side of the world is beautiful! Thanks lovely, surprised at how clear they're coming out from my iPhone xxx

      Delete