I was travelling down Australia’s east coast with five friends – Cyril, Leo, Max, Gerald and Nicolas. But all being students for a year in Sydney, we had just two weeks to race back down to the New South Wales capital from Cairns before having to be back at school.
So after some great fun in Cairns and doing some awesome stuff in Airlie Beach, we headed directly for Hervey Bay, planning to go to Fraser Island. We entered the closest travel agency and asked if it was possible to sleep at the hostel on the island for two nights.
There were six places left! We couldn’t believe our luck. But then everything started to go wrong.
The problem was that we were too young to hire a car and the transport from the ferry to the hostel had just four places left. With the island’s only taxi costing a small fortune, we decided to head to a cafe and consider our options.
We spent an hour searching for alternatives, at one point almost deciding to give up and head straight to Byron Bay, when Nicholas had an idea. “Come on boys,” started my friend excitedly. “We’ll walk across Fraser Island. It’s only 20km. Let’s do it like the movie… let’s go Into The Wild.”
I said: “Don’t be crazy. It’s too dangerous.” But while Max and Leo agreed with me, a couple of the others loved the idea. So the decision was made – we split into two groups.
One group, including me, would take the transport, meaning it would be more expensive for us, but also much quicker. However, while our ferry left at 5pm, their’s set off at midday, giving them a five hour headstart. But it was during that one hour ferry trip that it hit home that what they were doing was really, really stupid.
They had no water, no food, no tent and no walking shoes. They had nothing… and they were now somewhere on the biggest sand island on Earth.
I tried to call Gerald, but soon realised there was no reception. There was no way we could contact them!
Nonetheless, we arrived at the island and our jeep was waiting for us. An hour later we were at the hostel, went for a swim and then decided to check if our mates were at the bar. There was no sign of them at reception.
We had a good dinner and went to look for them. Still no sign. They didn’t turn up all night.
The next morning the woman at reception agreed it was time to call the police. We spoke to an officer who said it wouldn’t be easy to find them – we were really stressed!
Unable to do anything at the hostel, and trying to take our minds off the situation, we went for a walk along the beach, saw Eli Creek and the Maheno shipwreck and then enjoyed fishing in the sea.
We then headed back, praying our friends had turned up. They had arrived thank God. Exhausted, hungry and thirsty, but safe. We ran to their room and knocked on the door, the moment was wonderful, all the friends together again!
They told us about how they had wanted to give up many times but that they had eventually found a young lady who took them to where she was camping, by Lake McKenzie, where they had dinner and shared a small tent. The police found them the next day and took them to the hostel at about 1pm – they were so lucky!