As I sit here in our sopping wet camper trailer tent in Brisbane, where it has been raining pretty solidly for the last four days, it is hard to believe that just a week ago we were having fun in the sun on Fraser Island! We managed to get all the sand out of every nook and cranny, and the car and camper trailer are clean again as well!
Fraser Island is indeed an adventurer’s paradise; if you enjoy sand driving, fishing and drinking beer at 10am then Fraser Island is the destination for you. I can’t say I enjoy any of those things, but that didn’t stop me from having an awesome time during our week on the island.
What I didn’t realise is that Fraser is a real locals’ holiday destination, which is something new for us on the trip. Usually everyone we meet is from somewhere as equally far away as we are from home, but here many people were from the Gold Coast and surrounds. As we drove up the “75 mile straight” and past stretches of beach-side camp sites, there were huge set ups of gazebos and tents that housed massive groups of holiday makers. One guy we spoke to said that his family and friends go up yearly and there would be about fifty or sixty of them in total each year. So jealous!
In addition there are also your standard tour buses and tag-along tours and being NSW school holidays as well, we had to plan our trip around the masses. Being in advanced holiday mode I didn’t really think too much about our trip to Fraser, I booked the barge and the campsites and that was my work done. But one thing I didn’t think to consider were the changing tides, and a lot of our day to day planning ended up being contingent on this. The travel gods looked down on us once again as there were horror stories galore about boggings en masse in the weeks previous due to a long stretch without any rain causing very soft sand, but fortunately there was a big dumping of rain just before we arrived and conditions had vastly improved, we only saw one car bogged at a notorious bypass (where the high tide comes in too close to pass safely, a bypass track has been created behind the dune so you can pass). They didn’t stop us from seeing the “Grim Reaper”, otherwise known as the tow truck, going back and forth up the island to collect the latest victim.
We were never at a point where we trapped by the incoming tide, but high tide = horrendous bumping and swerving around in the soft sand whereas low tide = relative stress-free cruising along the shore line on nice hard compacted sand. I say relatively stress free because along the 75 mile straight (which is the most popular stretch), you share this space with other vehicles who seem like they’re going to plow in to you head on before they move to the left at the very last minute, cars overtaking you and light aircraft landing. I was also concerned about a distinct lack of a designated driver in some of these drinking groups as well. Needless to say, you have to your wits about you, and Jason as always did a great job, particularly with the screaming banshee next to him having a mental breakdown.
On our first day we had just finished a delightful breakfast on top of the sand dune, watching some whales playing out at sea when we got a friendly visit from the rangers to get the ‘dingo talk’. Fraser Island has the purest strain of dingo in Australia and I believe there was once a time when human folk fed them quite regularly, which caused some problems with the dingoes getting too aggressive. So now it is super regulated, anyone who is caught with their rubbish out, or their food out everywhere gets fined. They also have several camp sites that are fenced in for those who are worried about them, and at Lake McKenzie you aren’t allowed to take any food or drink with you down to the lake, there is a dingo proof fenced off area you have to go to for lunch. We have come across a few dingoes on our trip, mainly from the safety of the car, although there was that one instance where a dingo woke me up howling about a metre away from our three-man tent, and I figured if I’d come out of that unscathed (physically, not mentally!) then I could dump them in the “you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone” category of animal. But these rangers put the fear into you and lead you to believe that the dingoes are everywhere, hiding behind a bush to attack just when you least expect! Being told about a “big and aggressive” dingo in the area of our camp site did not help matters. So I found a good stick fit for the purpose of defending myself in such a situation and was on edge for the first half of the week, until said dingo failed to materialise and I decided that maybe it wasn’t that bad. In fact, I was starting to get annoyed that I hadn’t seen a dingo when the rangers had said that we definitely would! We got into conversation with one conspiracy theorist traveller who believed that they were being culled by the national parks people, because he hadn’t seen any and they used to everywhere, but I think it’s probably just evidence of good regulation working (for once!) In the end we saw three dingoes, one that sidled past our campsite completely disinterested in us and two pups playing on the beach, but of course it all happened too fast for me to get a photo.
Apart from all that excitement, Fraser itself was just magical. It was so different to anywhere we have been on our trip, and after nine months anything with a point of difference gets a big tick (not a waterfall or gorge in sight!) The ocean was beautiful and because of the aforementioned dingo situation, the busiest camps were the dingo proofed ones (they also had toilets and showers), meaning that all the bush bashing ones on the beach were much quieter! A potential dingo encounter is a risk I’m willing to take if it means I can have the place to myself AND wake up to an ocean view. We stayed up at the Marloo campsite for three nights to explore the Champagne pools, Wathumba creek on the western side and Sandy Cape at the very north and then three nights at Eli Creek camping zone to explore the busier places along that eastern strip. Being able to see whales breaching and tail slapping so close in was amazing as well and Lake McKenzie was just the most beautiful body of water I think I have every swam in. Clear, freshwater, calm, just incredible.
While the Kimberley region will always have my heart, Fraser Island definitely comes in second. For Jason however it has been the highlight, even if he didn’t catch any fish!!