Entry 8:Day 27 to 29

Fraser Island - 3 Day Adventure Tour

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This entry does not contain any pictures. Why? Well, if you are going to the largest sand island on earth you don't want to bring any electronic equipment - because after you leave you'll have sand everywhere and I mean "everywhere" (let your imagination go wild here). But let's start where we left off last time.

After my sailing trip in the Whitsundays, I left Airlie Beach for Hervey Bay, the gateway to Fraser Island, the largest sand island on our planet. It took me two days to drive the 800 km from Airlie to Hervey (just because the highways are not really highways - see next entry - and I don't drive at night - see next entry as well). I stayed in Gladstone one night. Gladstone is one of the most important and busiest seaports in Australia - very industrial.

On Tuesday (July 2) I arrived in Hervey Bay and checked into the Koala Backpackers Resort. I also booked a three day trip to Fraser Island. But this trip was not going to be your normal "guided tour". During this trip you are on your own - which means 9 strangers leave Hervey Bay equipped with a 4WD truck, all necessary camping equipment, and the determination to have the three funniest days of their holiday. And let me tell you: it was fun.

The day before the tour started everyone had to meet at three o'clock to get all necessary instruction and to be divided into groups. As I was alone I was particularly interested, not to say nervous, to see who will be on my team. It turned out very well: our group consisted of three Brits (all female), two Swedes (male), one Canadian (male), one Australian (female), and - hard to believe but not one but two Austrians (one female from the Tyrol and one male - well, you guessed it, that would be me!).

On Wednesday we started our adventure. Everyone over 21 is allowed to drive the 4WD which is packed to the roof with food, camping equipment, extra clothing, people, and alcohol. Our team decided that we were all alcoholics - thus we bought 132 (!) cans of beer and 12 liters of wine - I take your bets now: how much was left over after the three days? (answer at the end of this entry).

Everything started off well. The group bonded quickly and we had a great first day. We visited Lake McKenzie - unbelievably clear and cold water, beautiful beaches, and stray dingoes. Inland the roads are all sand and you are allowed to drive 35 km/h. On the beach it is still sand but it is much firmer and thus you are allowed to drive 80 km/h but only when it is low tide. So we had to wait until right around noon to drive up north on the beach. The beach is almost like a highway - lots of traffic with one minor difference: if you look into the rear view mirror and you see a plane landing you are not crazy. Scenic flights can be booked on the mainland and they take you around Fraser Island and land on one of the beautiful sandy beaches. As the suns sets around 5:30pm (remember it's Winter in Australia) we settled for a camping ground in the most northern point of Fraser that you can reach by car. There is about 30 km more north of that point but it is a holy ground for aboriginals. The whole island by the way is 160 km long and 30 km wide at the widest point. We built our tents and had a lovely barbie (=Australian for BBQ).

We rose early the next day, broke our tents, and left for "Champagne Pools" - a rocky beach with pools washed out by the sea and sheltered from the waves. After that we visited some enormous sand dunes. Then we wanted to drive to the most southern point you can drive on the island - "wanted"! About 4 km from the main resort on the east coast of the island our car broke down - well not actually broke down but the six bolts that hold the rear differential broke loose - which means: we needed repair. So we went to the nearest mechanic (luckily only 4 km down the beach) as we were told by the rental company at the briefing two days ago.

The mechanic, Pete McDonald, is a funny guy to say the least. When we arrived around four o'clock, he was sitting in his shop with two buddies drinking a beer and smoking. And he did not move when we entered his shop. We had to move the car so that he could see what's wrong from where he was sitting - very convenient! His friend, Wayne as we found out later, was the first to move and take a look at the car. He shook his head - not a good sign I thought. Then Pete moved for the first time and also shook his head when he saw our problem. He called someone, mumbled something, and his friend Wayne translated for us: "He does not have the parts you need. It'll take until tomorrow afternoon". "Tomorrow afternoon!", we screamed. That's when our ferry leaves back home. That's not acceptable - we are being deprived of what is supposed to be our funniest days! But Wayne said that there is nothing we can do and that we could stay in Pete's spare house. With the night approaching fast and the prospect of a hot shower and a real bed instead of the floor of a tent, we agreed. Pete charged us $8 for the night and we were sure we would get the money back from the rental company because the damage was clearly not our fault. Then Pete started to work on our car - realizing that he could take one bolt from all other tires which meant we could leave tomorrow morning and at least not lose the whole day tomorrow. We were satisfied. We settled in his house and started to cook dinner.

After dinner and several of cans of our still huge beer depot, Pete came by to see how we were. He was showered and had changed - I'm not sure if he does that every day or just because he had some guests. Anyway, he invited us to his house were several of his friends played pool. Suddenly Wayne, who was overtly drunk already, came and told Pete to come back to his house because some people arrived. Pete left and we followed his invitation to his house. In his house we met several other locals who were playing pool at Pete's table. It is hard to describe the whole evening but let me assure you: the later it got, the more we drank, the funnier it was to make friends with the locals. They were all very funny drunks - and so were we. I have to admit: at first I was pissed off because I came to Fraser to camp but after that night I was happy that we had that little problem with our car - I really had the funniest days of my holiday - at least during this week.

The next day we got up early - despite the alcohol - and hoped Pete would do so too - because after all we also wanted to see the island. Pete got up and within half an hour he completed the repair - if you ask me he could have done it last night but he wanted to make some money in his house and have some new company for the evening. Anyway we left around 10 am and drove to see some other sites on the island.

When we returned to the mainland and returned our car we had a little eye opener: yes, we got the money back and even $15 per head for our inconvenience but what was the funniest thing of all: the house we stayed in at Pete's, actually belonged to the Rental company and Pete was not supposed to charge us anything - but as he has a monopoly on repair shops on the island there is nothing that the rental company can do about him charging people for the house!!!

The night we returned we celebrated our trip which was definitely funnier than any other group's. We drank the rest of our alcohol: 5 beer cans and 8 liters of wine - not bad for three days, huh? We once again partied hard and then it happened. But more about that in the next entry.

Today it's Saturday, July 6. And I'm waiting in Hervey Bay.

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