There’s sand in my bellybutton. Fraser Island, Australia
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when we decided that the world-famous Whitsundays had nothing on Fraser Island. It could have been on our first day when, after a long sweaty morning of tackling potholed dirt tracks in a 4×4 with no suspension, we finally reached Lake Wabby. At the end of a long trek through a rainforest (Fraser Island is the only place in the world where rainforest grows on sand) and across pristine, untouched sand dunes we found the lake hiding in a hollow between one towering dune and hundreds of thriving trees. Exhausted, parched and covered in a gritty layer of sand and salt, we ripped off our clothes and hurled ourselves down the dune and face-flat into the ice cold water. Streaming through the hot air with delicious anticipation tickling our skin, we knew there was nowhere else on earth quite like Fraser.
Then again, it could well have been the company that made Fraser Island so perfect. In that case, maybe the defining moment of our trip came in the middle of the night when we were sitting around with our 19 new best friends with tears streaming down our faces and into our mugs of goon (cheap Aussie wine-in-a-box). One of the two Italian stallions had just admitted to havin, eh, “relations” (in Clinton-speak) with his cousin while one of the effervescent British girls had let it slip that she had once fallen over in a nightclub and, in her headlong fall to the floor, knocked a disabled person out of their wheelchair. The Frenchmen may have made similar revelations during our game of I Have Never but no-one could make head nor tale out of the heavily accented strings of “I ‘ave nev-air uh-hu-hu-HU” that were pouring out of their mouths.
Then again our last day on Fraser was probably the nicest. Having done the rounds and seen the sights we finally had time to just laze on a beach for a few hours at the spectacular Lake Birrabeen. With its fine white sand and shimmering green water as well as its wonderfully remote location in the centre of a desert island, one of the Austrian girls deemed it prettier than Whitehaven Beach. While I wouldn’t go that far, it was definately the most striking part of Fraser (and there was some stiff competition) and it felt pretty damn good to lie in the sun chatting idly with a big group of friends once again. We had kind of started to forget what it felt like to be a part of any group to be honest and after six months of travelling and six months of having the same “Where have you been? Where are you going?” conversations with new people every day, it was nice to move a little past that on to real conversation topics like “What do you think is worse – pooing in the snow or pooing in the sand?”
The advantage of having a fresh water lake to dive into wasn’t lost on us either. For three days we had done little else than drive up and down the beach highway and look at the sea – a rusty old cruiseliner shipwrecked in the sea; Indian Head where the headland stops abruptly and the shark, sting tay, dolphin, killer jellyfish and whale-infested water begins; the Chamapgne pools where huge waves crash over the coast and fizz like gallons of champagne into the cracks in the rock pools; Eli Creek where some of the runoff water from Fraser makes its way over a riverbed, through a creek and into the sea; burned orange sandy pinnacles perched right along the beach; and of course, campsites tucked behind sand dunes only metres from the sea. But for all the time we spent judging tides, searching out marine life and looking at the sea, we weren’t allowed to get into it.
We got none of the benefits and all of the disadvantages of our seaside location – salty skin, dry frizzy hair, crusty sunglasses and sand just about everywhere. We had sand in our tents, in our shoes, in our underwear, in our dinners, in our jeeps and in our bellybuttons. As the guy from Fraser Roving had warned us we would, we had sand in places we didn’t even know we had. Add to that our lack of access to running water for washing or shaving and what lay sprawled out on the beach at Lake Birrabeen was a pile of smelly, sweaty, hairy bodies surrounded by a potent whiff of stale alcohol. No, having access to fresh water for swimming, washing (and would it be wrong to shave in a freshwater lake?) was not lost on us at all…
Scenic spots aside though, a lot of the fun of being on Fraser Island is just the daily challenges of being on Fraser Island. Things like having to dig your 4×4 out of the sand as the driver revs his/her way deeper and deeper into the floury surface before finally freeing it with that last 18-person push; burying, pegging down and hiding everything (shoes, cameras, watches, babies…) to save the dingos from stealing them even though they’ll probably hardly ever even use them; cooking dinner for seven in a tiny, overflowing pot on a gas ring; parking and leaving your jeep without being sure that it will still be visible above the sand when you return; struggling to keep the coolers, pots and stoves from crushing the passengers in the back of the vehicle on ridiculously bumpy inland roads; meeting a traffic jam on a deserted beach; and driving around in a hot pink jeep with no brakes, no radio and a sticky clutch which may at any given moment, take a notion to roll in the sand.
Yep, The Whitsundays have nothing on Fraser Island.
There are more pictures from Fraser Island available in the gallery