Monthly Archives: September 2011

Lake Mackenzie and Dingoes on Fraser Island

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
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Colors of the Rainbow at Rainbow Beach

Our next stop – Rainbow Beach – was exciting because this was the launching point for three days and two nights on Fraser Island. It received its name from the sand, which has many colors and looks like a rainbow when the light reflects off of it. While the beach was nice enough and the sunset was gorgeous there, I didn’t witness any magical rainbow qualities in the sand.

Rainbow Beach as a town is extremely small. It is literally one street with a handful of stores and a bunch of accommodation options. Other than that, there’s nothing. Louise, Claire and I stayed at Fraser’s on Rainbow Beach, one of the main backpacker joints in the area. We’d been advised to stay the least amount of time just to get your Fraser Island tour on, then get out of dodge. Again, we hadn’t been lead astray.

Slide Album: Rainbow Beach

Fraser’s on Rainbow Beach was a dump. The first room they tried to give us was rank and dirty. We couldn’t tell which beds were available because it looked like the current occupants’ stuff had exploded all over the room. We headed back to reception to complain, and they gave us another option, which was still rank but at least the beds were clean. It was only for a night or two so we sucked it up and accepted our fate.

We attended a mandatory safety briefing the day before our tag-along driving trip to Fraser Island. On the trip we’d be able to drive on the sand dunes and the beaches of Fraser Island. We wouldn’t have a tour guide, but we’d have a knowledgeable driver in the lead car who would direct us where we needed to go. Unfortunately, the entire town’s power went out before we could actually start the briefing. Apparently someone’s car hit a utility pole and took out all the power. The Fraser Island people did the best they could and had us fill out all the waivers, which informed us of the risks and responsibilities when driving on the sand and warned us of the dangers of the island dingoes. But we still had to come back early the next morning to watch the safety video.

Since we ended early, everyone headed out to buy supplies for the trip. Most people bought boxes of goon, a somewhat questionable wine-like liquor that was really cheap but tasted nasty from what I heard. I hadn’t sampled any of it and didn’t plan to as I’d heard that the ingredients included fish eggs. Who knew what else was actually in there? We picked up some real wine – riesling and chardonnay – and a six-pack of apple cider as well as some chips, chocolate and other snacks to sustain us for the next few days.

Loaded down with all of our necessities, we headed back to the room to pack for the trip. We were only allowed a small bag on the tour and would be leaving our main packs at the hostel. We would be “roughing it” for the next few days and didn’t actually need much clothes. We would be sleeping in sleeping bags three to a tent and there would be no toilets or showers at our campsite. Yes, this meant peeing and pooing in the bush with the dingoes. And I thought the long-drop toilets in the outback were disgusting. Over the next three days, we would become savages . . . or just be camping out . . . whatever you want to call it.

I came to Australia to experience new things, and this would definitely be a new experience for me. Driving on the opposite side of the road from the opposite side of the vehicle – check. Driving a 4WD truck on the open beach – check. Using the infamous bush toilet – check. Bring it on man, bring it on.

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Double Reunion, Double the Fun

After a couple of great days with Yvonne, I returned to Brisbane with plenty of time to catch my bus to Noosa. On this leg of the journey, I reunited with my favorite bus driver, Disco, and my UK friends, Louise and Claire. Oh happy day!

Disco’s bus was semi-empty so I sat up in the passenger’s seat and made myself at home. We chatted as he drove us to the Glass House Mountains. I learned that he was actually trained to work in the construction industry as an electrician (if I remember right). He’d built concert stages and even worked as a model in the UK, but just for one day.

Once we arrived at the Glass House Mountains lookout, he huddled us all around and gave his presentation on Aboriginal history and culture. For me, it was a repeat of what I’d seen while we were on tour. He discussed how Aboriginals used the boomerang as weapons and the story of the didgeridoo. Then we hopped back on the highway and made a stop at Mooloolaba, where Louise and Claire jumped on. Together we headed for Noosa and said goodbye to Disco at the transit station.

In Noosa, the girls and I booked into Noosa Flashpackers. This was one of the best decisions we’d ever made as it is one of the best hostels I’ve come across. A bit more expensive than other options, Noosa Flashpackers is definitely worth every penny. The staff is all friendly and very helpful. The accommodation was spacious and extremely clean. The kitchen was large and they had a varied movie selection. Also included in the price of the accommodation were free breakfast and internet. The place even had its own pool. This was truly flashpacking at its finest, and we ended up staying several more days than we anticipated just to take in the luxuriousness of the place.

I can honestly say that I didn’t really see Noosa or the surrounding area because I spent all my time at the hostel. Louise, Claire and I did head into town for groceries and had lunch at a bar and grill near the main beach, but otherwise we were content to catch up with family online and watch movies. It was also here that I booked my trips to Fraser and the Whitsunday islands.

Slide Album: Brisbane

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