Arriving in Rainbow Beach was pretty uneventful, it was 7pm and pitch black when our bus pulled into Dingo’s backpackers. After checking in I went straight to my room to quickly change before heading out towards the beach to meet Georgina – a friend I hadn’t seen in over 12 years. Like me, Georgina has come to Australia on her gap year and just so happens to be living near Rainbow Beach where she works for Rainbow Beach Horse Rides – something I would have loved to have done if I had more time at Rainbow Beach. I spotted Georgina instantly. I’m not sure whether I recognised her so quickly because I’d seen recent photos on her instagram or because she looks almost exactly the same as she did when we were 7 only much taller. We got along and chatted so easily it was like nothing had changed. So crazy given that we hadn’t seen each other in 12 years. After a long walk on the beach catching up on the past 12 years of our lives we had a quick drink at a local cafe. She’s so friendly and fun to chat to, I loved hearing about her experiences working in Australia so far. She started off working as an Au Pair for a family before getting in touch with Rainbow Beach Horse Rides. Hopefully we’ll catch up again during my time in Aus.
Rainbow Beach is such a small town, just a collection of a few shops and a couple of cafes, hardly worth visiting other than the fact that its a gateway to Fraser Island. Once I’d gone back to the room I met a few other people who’d be departing on the Fraser Island trip tomorrow as well as a couple from Manchester who’d just returned from their tour. Listening to them speak of their experience made us all so excited.
We were offered free pancakes for breakfast! Best motivation to get up early. Its probably quite bad how food orientated I am. There was no Nutella to my dismay so had to make do with lemon and sugar, nonetheless, they still tasted amazing and definitely cured my sugar craving. After a quick safety briefing and what felt like years packing up the 4 wheel-drives and meeting our car groups we finally set off. In total there were 12 4WDs each containing 7/8 passengers who’d take it in turns to drive. Only people over the age of 21 and with a valid driving license could drive however. The 12 vehicles are then separated into 3 groups – Group 1 has vehicles 1,2,3 and 4, Group 2 has vehicles 5,6,7 and 8 and Group 3 has vehicles 9,10,11 and 12. I was in vehicle 6, so Group 2. The vehicles in each group share a campsite and drive the same route behind a lead vehicle. This enables everyone in the group to mingle. I was fortunate enough to be in a vey friendly vehicle. In my group there were 5 Danish people who all knew each other and were very competent at putting together a good road trip playlist, a really sweet Brazilian girl and me.
Its been over 10 years since I was last on Fraser Island and I’d forgotten how the beaches just carry on for miles and miles, it felt a bit like a motorway sometimes. A very beautiful motorway though, with mesmerising views of the ocean. Occasionally we’d stop to peer through the windows at the wild dingoes. The dingoes looked just like domestic dogs but much skinnier, they didn’t seem vicious in the slightest but we didn’t really get close enough to find out. Jonesy (our tour guide) told us a story of how one night at the camp a man had gotten really drunk and fell out of a tree just outside the gated campsite. As he hit the ground he was attacked by a pack of dingoes but he’d fortunately managed to scramble back to the campsite before passing out, screaming and covered in blood. Sadly two of the dingoes suspected to have been involved were almost like pets to the aboriginal tribe on the island and were forced to be put down, as a result there is a club (literally a hut with a disco ball) named after them. We’d also stop every so often if Jonesy noticed something interesting, for example hundreds of dead fish washed up on shore or a massive jellyfish that had been washed up onto the sand.
Our first stop – Lake Mackenzie. The drive down to the Lake was treacherous and extremely bumpy especially when sitting in the back. Chris (one of the Danish guys) did an amazing job of driving us down to the parking area completely unscathed. At this point, my initial frustration at not being able to drive (I’m only 19) subsided and I was swallowed with relief knowing that I wouldn’t have to navigate any similar trails. Lake Mackenzie was truly awe-inspiring. At first glance I was amazed by the clean cut line between the light aqua colour of the shallow parts of the lake and the mysterious inky blue of the deeper middle section. There was no gradual gradient of light blue oozing into dark blue, just a clear line. It was at Lake Mackenzie where I first got the opportunity to mingle with the other people on the tour. I joined Bella (English), Jemima (Irish), Bo (Belgian) and Danny (English), 4 amazing individuals from car 7.
When we arrived at our campsite for the first time on Thursday evening Bella and I decided to share a tent. Bella is one of those people who is just really great to be around, she’s so friendly and caring and a few years older than me so it felt like having a big sister. She’s been travelling for longer than I have and was great at giving advice. We both decided against showering for the next 3 days as who wants to waste $3 on a shower when you can bathe for free in a lake. Might as well have an authentic camping experience. Fortunately, most people had the same idea so we all smelled as bad as each other. One of the great things about the Fraser Island tour was that although the food was provided, we had to come together as a group to prepare and cook it which was a great way to socialise and exchange cooking tips.
Mid-meal our group leader announced that the local aboriginal kids had come over to visit from the mainland and were eager to put on a performance for us in exchange for any loose change we had. Their dancing was really sweet but I was mostly interested in the commentary that the older aboriginal woman gave. She told us how soldiers slaughtered hundreds of the native aboriginal people (the Butchulla tribe) by marching them up to the highest headland and threw them over the edge. I find it so fascinating that the British are so proud of their empire on which ‘the sun never sets’ when in reality it is the result of a timeline of the most heinous crimes.
The remainder of the night was spent sipping away on our various sources of alcohol, this was also when I first discovered ‘Goon’ – cheap wine in a bag basically. I’ve noticed that after you mention ‘Goon’ people gives you the same ‘secret’ tip – you blow up the bag and use it as a pillow. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Goon, but it was a great night getting to know everyone a little bit better.
We were up bright and early and ready to go. Our first stop today was Champagne Pools. I’ll admit, they were really beautiful however it seemed as if EVERYONE on the island was there. Considering Lake Mackenzie was so calm and tranquil, the Champagne Pools were incredibly busy. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the current was still strong even within the rock pools, so everytime a wave tumbled through, everyone would knock into each other. By this point, having swam in Lake Mackenzie and the Tea tree water of the Everglades in Noosa, I was becoming well accustomed to swimming in fresh water. Fresh water is lovely to swim in because unlike salt water your skin doesn’t feel itchy afterwards and your hair stays silky rather than becoming really dry. Those problems aside, Champagne Pools were incredibly beautiful and it was nice being able to swim in the sea knowing that nothing could eat/sting you.
Our next stop was the aforementionned Indian Headland, the views across the sea were impeccable and right beneath us was a shark going tracing the cliff which was great to see, no sign of any stingrays or manta-rays much to my disappointment. That said, our tour guide, Jonesy, claimed to have been within inches of one while surfing earlier that day. 2 German boys who’s been drinking since 6 am left us with our hearts in our mouths by precariously walking out to the very end point of the cliff where there was a sheer 50m drop on each side. It was terrifying to watch but made for a good photo.
After a quick bite to eat, our usual wraps with cold meat and salad for lunch, we headed to Eli Creek. Eli Creek was without a doubt my favourite place on Fraser Island. I loved how clear the water was and the way that the creek was almost completely enclosed by various native plants and palm tree, it felt very tropical. It got even better when Jonesy opened the trailer to reveal about a dozen inflatable rings for us to float down the creek in. Inflatables in tow, we followed a short boardwalk snaking its way through the trees to our starting point. The water wasn’t deep at all but refreshingly cool and in constant shade. I wish I had taken photos but didn’t want to bring my phone along for the ride as it’d most likely end up in the water. Watching the two german boys (now 20 beers in to the day) try to float down the creek was very entertaining, they managed to drag me down with them. After the fun of the natural Lazy River subsided, we spent the remainder of the afternoon throwing the ball around on the beach while turning up the speakers in the jeeps as loud as possible – hands down my favourite place. I also tried my first (and probably last) taste of ‘buchtucker’. Jonesy had caught a massive fly, squeezed it and removed the little sack from its abdomen, he then offered it to me to try. It was possibly the least appetising thing I’d ever seen but when in Fraser Island.. why not eat a huge fly. I timidly bit down and felt a honey tasting liquid oozed into my mouth, to be honest the taste was fine but I’m not in a hurry to try it again. I only realised this hours after but that same breed of fly had been biting me the whole time we were at Eli Creek so now I’m kind of concerned that I’ve just eaten a human blood sucking insect – is that cannibalism on some level? So gross.
The second evening was pretty similar to the first, however this time I summoned up enough courage to chat to a group of 6 English girls all similar age to me who were travelling together in a big group. Ordinarily it is not like me to just walk up to a group of people who already know each other and just introduce myself, however, I think travelling on my own has pushed me to do things out of my comfort zone and I’m so pleased I did. The girls were so friendly, welcoming and really similar to a lot of people I know back home and I enjoyed not being the youngest for once although I have found that age doesn’t matters less and less the older you are. I spent most of the evening with them and we walked down to the beach to see the stars before the moon rose. I have never seen so many stars in my life. The whole sky was freckled with bright glimmering lights.
Today was very relaxed. Most of our tour group – not including me – were pretty hungover so Jonesy decided to give us a more chilled day. The choice was between visiting another lake or a 3 hour hike. as you probably gathered, most people chose the visit to the lake. In hindsight however, I and a few others wished we’d gone on the hike. We heard from other groups that the views were incredible. The lake was still lovely but not as beautiful as Lake Mackenzie. It was a Tea tree lake so brown in colour from the Tea-tree oil, but actually it just looks muddy. This was the last stop on Fraser Island before heading back to the ferry.
Given that it was our last day on Fraser Island, I seized the opportunity to sit in the front of the 4 wheel drive. Sitting in the front was so much better. For starters the view is much better, its much less bumpy but still fun and finally you get tot control the music. Having listened to the same playlist on repeat for the past 2 days, this was amazing.
Having not showered for nearly 3 days (we’d bathed in numerous lakes so we didn’t smell too bad) but we were all dying for a hot shower and to wash our hair. Our last evening on Rainbow Beach was spent eating Pizza in the local cafe with some travellers from other groups, sharing stories of our time on Fraser Island. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to has described it as their favourite place so far, so I’m so thankful I didn’t miss it out.