“Excuse me, I’m going camping with your company and just wanted to know what colour your jeeps are?” An awkward laugh flew down the line. “We have different colour jeeps madam (he didn’t really say madam, but I like the sound of it).
“Any pink jeeps?” I asked. “Afraid not, madam.” Hmmph. I’d been told by a boy (who kissed me a few times and then someone else) that our jeeps would be pink. It had excited me (well more than he did anyway).
To be honest I wasn’t really looking forward to Fraser Island. Even if it was the largest sand island in the world and a World Heritage site.
A precious part of Australia’s natural and cultural heritage it may have been, but the idea of camping, trekking, not being able to swim in the sea (damn those sharks) failed to fill my luxury-loving heart with joy. And now no pink trucks.
In groups of eight, three trucks packed with supplies drive off a ferry into their own little adventure. Wandering through the forest I felt like one of the boys from Lord of the Flies, but without the killing each other part. The first stunner our group stumbled upon was Lake McKenzie.
Here we bathed in a fresh water lake in surroundings that were delightfully empty of high rise apartments. Green wilderness spread over curvy ridges that held the lake in it’s tender embrace.
During a little sunbathe my friend Katie turned to me and said: “This is my kind of camping.” She wasn’t wrong. It was a phrase that we continued to use throughout our time on the island.
In the afternoon we made our way towards the campsite. Stopping at a creek, we walked and floated our way down to the bottom, dodging the odd dingo. Driving beach-side we also passed shipwreck Maheno for the first time. It stood out like… well, like a shipwreck on the sand would.
Predictably we made it to the campsite just after nightfall, so after wrestling with rods and pegs in the dark, we gave them to the boys and did the cooking instead.
Spaghetti bolognese on the boil, Katie and I were thrilled to discover we had proper loos and showers (again our kind of camping). Supping over, we played a few drinking games and then headed to the beach where we lay and spotted shooting stars.
After a surprisingly comfy night in our tent we rose early and drove to the north of the island. We spotted some whales at Indian Head and then headed along the beach to the Champagne Pools (don’t they sound delectable?).
It was a sweaty business getting there, but the beauty of the beach made it painless and we knew that we could soon wash our stinkiness away in the bubbling pools that awaited. Entering the pools I lay on my back and relaxed (only occasionally pondering whether a tiger shark could jump over the rock to bite my ass off).
That afternoon I had to make a big decision: to drive or not to drive? As you can imagine an island made of sand can be somewhat difficult to drive around. Even the big guys in our group struggled to drive through the bumpy, smushy sand tracks without getting stuck.
As a useless driver (even in a Ford Fiesta, on tarmac) I was tentative to say the least about revving up. But I knew that if I pussied out regrets would plague my soul. So I chose the irresponsible and dangerous option of driving. And I’m glad I did.
Despite stalling on numerous occasions and getting stuck in the sand a few times, I was just grateful that I hadn’t killed anyone (and with a truck load of French people that’s saying something).
Driving back in jolly spirit we cracked into the Strongbow and started gorging on a gourmet BBQ. It appears that French people are good for something after all. That something is cooking. Fill to the brim we started a drinking game called “Death Run”. If a joker came up you had to down your drink.
Unsurprisingly, the first card I pulled out was a joker and I hadn’t even opened my can of beer yet. Not one to lose face I downed it in about 12 seconds, blissfully unaware that I was about to lose face on a much bigger scale.
After taking a tad too long in the toilet some people had come
to the conclusion that I was being sick. I was. When the boys came running in asking, I foolishly told them so. However, what I didn’t expect to see were three faces popping over the cubicle and peering down on me.
Unfortunately, I’d already been sick and was now wiping my botty. Funnily enough my bum wasn’t the last one on show that evening. Of course some boys decided to get naked and run around in shark-infested waters.
Although the most impressive bum of all was made of sand, the drink and stars inspiring the French to sculpture a masterpiece. Bums put to bed it was on to our last day on the island.
We still had a couple of lakes left to explore. My favourite was Lake Wabby (not just because of the name but ‘cos it had sand dunes you could bounce down into the water). It was like moon walking on a hill… I think.
After the stress of more sunbathing and eating it was time to drive back to the ferry. The road proved a bit treacherous and a few obstacles along the way (mainly other big jeeps) meant we arrived with only a few minutes to spare.
Getting out of the truck a strong temptation grabbed me to run and hide in the bush and live on the island forever. “Come on Katie, let’s do it,” I urged.
But sadly Katie managed to convince me, using dingoes, spiders and sharks in various scenarios that it wasn’t such a good idea.
As is often the case with those things you dread, they can be the best experiences of your life. Not even driving by those pink jeeps could upset me during my time on the island.
With my best three days in Australia over I doubted I’d ever experience a camping trip quite like it. It really was our kind
The damage & the details: three-day two-night self-drive safari on Fraser Island with Bay4WD Hire and two night’s accommodation in Beaches Hervey Bay costs $175 (plus $55 for fuel, insurance and park fees); booked with Beaches (www.beaches.com.au)