Vanuatu was fun, but getting back to Australia meant we were back on task. No messing about on volcanoes and junk, just straight up travelling to the main places every traveller must go to in Oz, as nobody dislikes this part of the trip. Fraser Island, the Whitsundays and Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef. On reflection our timeframe is madness. We spent three weeks dawdling comparatively in Melbourne, Sydney then coasting up to Brisbane. Now the premise 1,684 km from Brisbane to Cairns, in 10 days seems daunting. Taking 3 days in Fraser, 3 days in the Whitsundays and 2 days in Cairns we would become firm friends or (most likely lets be honest) hate the sight of those big red overnight Greyhound buses.
I Google the time to get from Brisbane to Rainbow Beach. It should take three hours, but for some reason the bus will take 6
Our first of those 10 nights would have to be in Brisbane in order to get the 8am bus the next day. Brizzy welcomes us in a hot and humid state, so hot in fact that the it breaks and creates an astonishing lightning storm in the distance and then eventually right over our heads in the middle of town. Explosive noise, white flashes and thick rain clear the town… its biblical.
For some reason before we board our first of many Greyhounds, I Google the time to get from Brisbane to Rainbow Beach. It should take three hours, but for some reason the bus will take 6. This isn’t some kind of mistake we realise, but that the bus picks up every backpacker in Queensland on their way up the coast like us (we later learn that there are “up” people and “down” people and the first question everybody asks is which way are you headed). The coach is fine though, it has wifi, air con and comfy seats, but no eating of any kind, and no drinking of milky products, like milk, chocolate milk, banana milk, strawberry milk, toffee milk, coffee or any other milk products. Thorough, message received mate I wont be drinking full-stop.
We get to Rainbow beach hostel and check-in, asking the right questions about what we need to bring to Fraser the following day: snacks, booze, camera, clothes and that’s all. Information gathered we get the jump on our other Fraser people and head to the supermarkets, before our group induction. During which Kelly gets chatting to a lad called Keelan, West ham, too-Essex to function, but still a great bloke all round and we would later learn could turn a funeral into a party. The banter begins as the tour guide starts his briefing by laying into the Germans, picking on a bloke for having no humour. It became awkward when it turns out he actually had no humour and refused to laugh no matter how easy the guide made it for him to do so and alleviate the #awks.
Naturally he was in our group. Groups being the 8 people who would occupy a 4×4 for 3 days together, driving, directing, chatting, etc. Groups were decided somehow (I wasn’t listening), and we ended up with two Duchies (Berry and Marscha), two Swedes (Emma and Evelina) and two Germans (Tamara and Torben). We would all become great friends through the magic of song and dance – but more on that later.
The tour guide finished with a scary, but very made-up story to keep us straight and narrow, on what was promising to be a very boozy endeavor. Apparently one night a German guy got drunk and decided he wanted to walk on the beach, away from the safety of his camp, then passed out. He woke to some Dingo surrounding him, stood up to escape only to collapse having had his calf muscle eaten during his slumber. I don’t think anyone actually believes this, but everybody now believed in the danger of wild dogs.
Next morning at 7:30AM all 4 groups are ready and waiting to leave, when it rains. Torrential isn’t even a good description for this either, it was like a solid block of water came down for half an hour straight. We were crestfallen, our hopeful foray on Fraser would not be a sunny affair we decided. When the rain did break we ran to the cars. Before driving though we had to inspect them. Inspect them for damage as we were technically hiring them, even though car #1 was always going to be driven by our guide Pete, and therefore we should be safe. Our group (#3) decided Kelly could drive first, and really rather than circling the scratches and chips on our review sheet we should be circling the entire car – given the damage we found.
Onwards finally and we convoy to the ferry, make the crossing and head to Lake Mackensie, our first stop. Which is amazing, and still my favourite place on Fraser. The sun came out, the water is warm, and the sand is exfoliating I’m told by Tamara, rubbing into my face like a prize plonker (albeit with wonderful skin). A few group snaps required and that’s a wrap for Mackensie, which (chortle) brings me to lunch.
Lunch the first day was unique in that we didn’t know what we would be having for lunch, but every day after was the same, and even though politics weren’t on the menu it came with an ample side of the stuff. We had wraps (hence the chortle – keep up) with salami or ham, grated cheese, beetroot, sweetcorn, lettuce and mayonnaise. The politics although not official were amuzing-cum-irritating depending on the tactics used and successes gained. See cheese apparently is a more in-demand commodity than oil in the right situation. Also whether you take your allotted two wraps at once, or queue then queue again for your second wrap is a tactic you may choose to employ, one suspects based on the experience of a prior cheese let down.
Kelly back at the wheel, we drove to camp along the bumpiest bounciest road I have ever been on. I sat at the back of the car, in the middle so got the full force of every shock. I never sat there again. Emma – as DJ – alleviated the torture with “Peanut Butter Jelly”, a song that will live with me forever, mainly because it was our first all-dancing, all-singing (except Torbin the grumpy German) and all-in-unison moment.
We arrived at camp and discovered our sleeping quarters were super-hot tents, and not very much between us and the ground. I understood why the tradition was to get drunk and pass out here – there was no other way to sleep.
So we got about it; drinking games (Benny Benny and Ring of Fire) led to conversations about German Law, UX in Sydney and each and everyones declaration of who they were and where there were from. Colin the one and only ‘Merican got the most memorable and continuous USA! USA! USA! for his. Now was the time of red goon – goon being cheap, awful wine in a box – but not a lot of memory. We danced on tables in a campsite, we sang merrily and it was a great, great night.
But not a great, great morning. We had a lie in (until 7AM!), and anybody who wasn’t a designated driver looked close to a state of tears. Luckily the Swedes continued to provide the soundtrack to our day, which helped to massively raise the mood – and fill my ever growing travelling playlist tune by tune. Occasional Justin Bieber tracks were slyly thrown in, usually to groans and protest, but from New Zealand to here his new album refuses to go away.
Pete our guide took us to the coloured sands, himself a mirky off-white colour from layers of sunscreen on his face. the Pinnacles being thousands of years of compacted sand blown ashore.
Then we saw the SS Maheno, a ship beached en route to Japan by a cyclone. After this great photo op we finally made it to ‘hangover creek’, which I was very much looking forward to. A dip in freezing water was exactly what I needed, the creek then carrying me along round a bend where I found a small snake. GoPro in tow I tried to get as close as possible to the little guy, wagging his tail as he burrowed for something under the surface of the water. I got too close and he charged me briefly before darting somewhere else, maybe himself scared by my manly whelp.
The rest of the day was packed with Champagne pools, and Indian head, a northern tip of Fraser where we could sit and look out at the ocean – filled with stingray. A few people sat on the cliff edge seemingly unphased by the long rocky drop, Ste a tatooed, ex-military Liverpudlian, comically petrified of spiders but not much else, was one of these daredevils. I’m not afraid of heights but got close to the edge and felt on decidedly unsafe ground.
We finished the day with some group shots of everyone from the Pippie’s tour and headed home for some grub, and a final Australia Day themed party. It hadn’t felt like Australia Day to us, but then Australians just spend the day drinking lots and listening to a top 100 countdown of the songs of the year. So we got half right.
The nights celebrations started with some of the Brits doing the funniest dance-offs I’ve ever seen. Elliot’s tactic for winning the public vote was to make his dance completely ridiculous, more like someone having a fit to a beat rather than an elegant reaction to song. Keelan ever the crowd motivator got everyone onto tables and orchestrated us into readiness as the beat grew, only for it to drop and madness errupt across the camp. I’ll never forget that image. I tried my first proper goon, which actually tasted more like the Hock wine I used to drink at Uni, a sugary sharp taste guaranteed to bring about a painful hangover. We were up the next day at 5AM so I exited the shenanigans earlier than most.
Our final stop on Fraser before heading back to the mainland was at Wabby Lake, a sweaty, spider dodging hour-long walk inland through sand dunes and we saw it. Wabby lake is cool, deep and full of guppy fish who love to nibble at dead flesh so I sat and let them have at it, hoping they’d go for my feet but jumping every time they discovered something on my leg or back that seemed tasty.
We saved the best for last, Kelly drove back (I never drove, couldn’t be bothered), and the car sing along to all the classics we’d heard over the past few days. Peanut Butter Jelly, Bieber, NSYNC, Bang My Head and as we roll into the hostel – Living on a Prayer. Most of the two hours of madness involved me, Berry and Tamara synchronising our interpretive dance moves. Bieber was also filmed. This may or may not see the light of day, but for those that watched the video it’s hilarious.
We didn’t want that to be the end so when we got back to Rainbow beach we headed for the pub and then to the beach to see the sunset.
From Rainbow beach you can’t see the sunset as it goes down in the opposite direction but we had a laugh and the obligatory final group selfie anyway.
After our final goodbyes and seeing everyone off and onto the buses the next day Kelly and I prepared for our first overnight bus. I think by now I can sleep anywhere but we shall see…