australia - fraser island - backpacking around the world in 333 days
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around the world in 333 days

REPORT 20 - April 2001

Australia
Fraser Island

As if Australia itself were not sparsely populated enough, then Fraser Island, the 120 kilometre long hulk of sand that forms the countries most Easterly point, has to be remote enough for even the most extreme of agoraphobics. Separated from the mainland by as little as 2 kilometres of water, the island has mainly avoided the havoc wreaked by introduced species and nowadays markets itself as the world's largest sand island where the wildlife is that little bit wilder. With no roads and a human population far out numbered by the resident dingoes, this really is not the place for anything to go wrong: but go wrong it would.

A 4 by 4 is a necessity for anyone visiting the island as the main highway is the beach and tarmac is a thing of fancy. Hervey Bay, a quiet coastal town on the main land, acts as the gateway to the island where backpackers can be found cramming the hostels on their way up and down the East coast. Fraser is undoubtedly one of Australia's highlights and for the backpacker, the cheapest way to explore this natural delight is to sign up for one of the self drive tours that depart for the island daily.

3 English, 1 Dutch, 1 Canadian, 1 Dane, 1 Korean and last, but not least, 1 Welsh found themselves deposited on the island after a short ferry crossing. It was rather strange having no guide, as that feeling of safety that comes from being in the company of someone, who in the very least, has local knowledge, was totally removed. There was a definite excitement, or maybe it was nervousness, which our other tours in Australia had lacked. As we drove down the beach following our suggested itinerary, we quickly came to realise that the words wild and remote don't really do justice to the place.

Driving along the beach, just metres from the sea gave us a real sense of freedom and we soon reached the Milano shipwreck. This once great passenger liner broke free from its towrope as it was being towed back to Japan and became well and truly stuck. The ships rusting remains now provide a rather unique photo opportunity. We carried on up the wide sandy beach that flanks the forested interior and as we reached Indian head, the Northern tip of the island, we experienced our first dose of bad luck as our vehicle became stuck in deep sand and we (I shall name no names) proceeded to burn the clutch out.

We set up our camp just back from the beach, trying to ignore the blustering wind and spent the night blissfully unaware of the damage we had done to our mobility. After some pathetic attempts to light a fire, we finally managed to cook our food and sat back hoping for better weather the next day. The following morning the tide was in which meant that our 'highway' was temporarily flooded so we walked up to Indian Head to kill time. The walk was well worth it as we were rewarded with superb views out to sea and along the coast. An hour or so later as the tide receded and we drove back down the beach again, stopping at the coloured sands and Eli Creek for a swim.

That was the end of our sightseeing for that day as our 4 by 4's clutch finally gave up the ghost. It was a long walk down the desolate beach to the phone and after a good six hours of sitting around in the rain, two mechanics (think Robinson Crusoe with can of beer rather than the man from the AA) finally arrived. They towed us back to their 'workshop', dropping us off at a suitable patch of ground to camp on for the night. David Easton, a British day-tripper to the island, had disappeared in mysterious circumstances only a week before our visit. It was, as you can imagine, of little comfort that he was last sighted under a kilometre from the desolate area we were staying on and I for one was not venturing too far away from camp when nature called.

We just had enough time the next day, once we were given our new vehicle, to visit Lake Wabby (after fixing a puncture). The rain eased off a little and we took the hour's walk through the forest to the lake and took a dip to cool off. Steep sand dunes have built fortress like walls around the stunning lake and we took great pleasure in running down the dunes and crashing into the lake before racing back to the other side of the island across the criss-cross of sand tracks, just in time to meet the ferry back to the mainland.

For all our whining about what went wrong on our three-day trip, we found the whole experience quite amusing, at times verging on the surreal. Eight people, from eight totally different backgrounds are all thrust together on a remote sand bar, where they have to navigate their way around, make do with too little food, avoid the savage dingoes while trying to get on with one another... there has to be a TV show in there somewhere....

The dingoes of Fraser Island have the rather difficult task of being both the islands symbol and its curse. In recent weeks, following our visit, one nine-year-old boy has been mauled to death, creating headlines around the world. As far as the backpacker scene is concerned, the vast majority, if not all, of the budget tours to the island are of the self-drive non-guided variety. Although we received a full and detailed briefing crammed full of must and mustn't do's, this latest piece of tragic news only goes highlight the dangers.

Jon & liz
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Lake Wabby low bandwidth high bandwidth
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Milano Shipwreck


West Beach


Towed for Repairs


The Coloured Sands


Indian Head


Changing the wheel


Milano Wreck

REPORT ARCHIVE
The Beginning 14 - THAILAND Bangkok
01 - INDIA Delhi 15 - THAILAND Bridge Over the River Kwai
02 - INDIA Agra Taj Mahal 16 - THAILAND Chang Mai - The Long Necks
03 - INDIA Jaipur 17 - AUSTRALIA Kakadu National Park
04 - INDIA Camel Safari 18 - AUSTRALIA Ayers Rock
05 - INDIA Mount Abu 19 - AUSTRALIA Great barrier Reef
06 - INDIA Goa 20 - AUSTRALIA Fraser Island
07 - INDIA Mumbai (Bombay) 21 - AUSTRALIA Sydney
08 - HONG KONG 22 - NEW ZEALAND South Island
09 - PHILIPPINES Boracay & Panglao Island 23 - NEW ZEALAND North Island
10 - PHILIPPINES Bohol Chocolate Hills 24 - USA Hawaii Oahu Island
11 - PHILIPPINES Banaue Rice Terraces 25 - USA San Francisco
12 - MALAYSIA Kuala Lumpur 26 - USA Washington DC
13 - MALAYSIA Penang, Georgetown 27 - USA New York
  28 - UK - THE END
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