Bright and early the next morning, we met our tag along tour driver Simon. We all jumped into the vehicles and headed off toward the ferry that would take us across to Fraser Island. I was the first driver in our truck and got to experience driving on the wrong side of the road from the wrong side of the car. It was awesome and not as hard as I thought it’d be. The only difficulty I had was negotiating the roundabouts. It took me a while to judge the distance on the left-hand side of the vehicle.
When we got to the island, which is the largest sand island in the world, the driving got easier because the beach was wide open. There were no lanes to stay within and no traffic to avoid. The sand was quite solid so there was no trouble picking up speed on it.
Once we got off the beach, we headed inland and drove upon very soft sand. This was more challenging because sometimes the tires dug in deep and lost their grip. There was a real chance of getting stuck in the sand if you didn’t stay in the grooves already dug out by previous vehicles. Our vehicle seemed to pull to the left automatically, which didn’t help increase your control on the soft sand.
We stopped at a picnic site for lunch, where we had wraps with ham, lettuce, tomato and cheese. Then we continued on to Lake Mackenzie. The weather wasn’t cooperating with us and was cloudy, which made the lake seem dark and ominous. Usually a bright blue, the color of the lake was greyish green. The sand was stark and white in contrast and very fine like a powder. The lake was open to swimming but not many people went into the water because it was chilly. But as we stayed longer, the sun crept out for a few minutes and showed us a glimpse of what the lake could look like on a good day.
Then we visited Wanggoolba Rainforest (yes, it’s a rainforest on a sand island) for a trail walk to learn about the island and its dingo inhabitants. The dingoes are the most purebred of their kind in the wild and there are laws protecting them. However, people have fed them in the past and the dingoes have started associating food with humans. So instead of being afraid, they approach us in search of food. We were told not to travel alone and, if possible, to travel in large groups and make a lot of noise so they dingoes would know we were coming. Unfortunately, rangers told us that while we were on the island, a dingo attacked a woman as she sat on the beach alone. She didn’t suffer serious injuries, but I’m sure she’ll be more likely to heed the warnings the next time.
After the hike, we headed for our campsite and had to set up our tents. This was a challenge in itself since I hadn’t been camping since I was a kid and definitely didn’t use tents with poles. Luckily, Claire goes camping with her family and had some idea of what to do. Between the three of us, we pitched the tent and lay out our sleeping bags.
While some in our group got together to make dinner (some kind of noodles with vegetables and hoisin sauce – really disgusting), the rest of us got to socialize. The group was pretty diverse with people from many countries. Everyone had travel stories to share that inspired wanderlust in others – volunteering in Nepal at an orphanage for HIV-positive children; drunken tubing down a river in Thailand; relaxing in the sun in tropical Fiji; and many, many more.
After dinner we had several visitors of the four-legged variety. The dingoes came into our campsite to check us out and look for scraps of food. They roamed among our tents while we sat under the kitchen tent only 20 feet away. They weren’t scared of us or the noise we were making. All they wanted was free food. This is why they told us to leave anything resembling food, even toothpaste, locked up in the trucks. Even though I was watching the dingoes firsthand, I still couldn’t believe they were so brazen.
Later that night, after a bush toilet visit, Louise, Claire and I got into the tent and zipped it up tight. We didn’t want any dingoes joining us no matter how cold it was outside. Besides we were already snug as three bugs in a rug and couldn’t afford to give up any more space. During the night, we heard the dingoes roaming around among the tents. We could hear their soft footsteps and the snuffling of their noses. But they didn’t claw at the tents or nibble on the poles, and soon, despite the hard, uneven earth beneath us, we fell asleep.
|Slide Album: Fraser Island – Day 1|