Shortly after my safe, but tiring touch down at Caroline’s place in Rainbow Beach, I was at the 4×4 centre. I was signing my life away and Caroline was sorting ice for the esky (that’s weird Australian talk for coolbox). All the food had been taken care of, Caroline had also provided all the camping equipment so I just needed to sort the beers and we were on our merry way.
The adventure of Fraser beings immediately as you negotiate beach terrain to board the barge, it’s ramp lowered down directly onto the sand. Pretty interesting stuff for an off-road novice. Caroline was still somewhat incapacitated by her sprained arm so her 4×4 expertise could only come through in directions to me!
Driving up the sands of Fraser Island beach that run for 75 miles was such a buzz! I forgot my tiredness and we headed for the SS Maheno, a ship wreck on the shores.
The horseflies were out in force. Horrible flying bugs that give a really sharp bite. They are like heat seeking missiles! We also spotted a couple of the dingos that call Fraser home. Supposedly the last remaining pure breed dingoes in Australia. Dogs are not allowed on the island, to prevent cross breeding. The dingoes can be dangerous though and the advise is to stay away from them, and definitely don’t feed them!
It was soon time to set up camp. Prepare for the ‘really interesting’ bit! The weather had turned bad. It was pretty windy and the rain was coming down. Never a good time to put up a tent, but we got there eventually. We were very secluded in our spot beneath some trees. The muddy, sandy track full of potholes, puddles and tree roots on the way up was great fun! As we settled down for a few drinks, a niggling suspicion I had came true. After preparing us some food (it was great having someone cook for me!) Caroline disappeared into the tent. I relaxed in a chair with a cold beer from the esky. Caroline then re-emerged from the tent wearing considerably less clothing than when she went in. The conclusion to my suspicion goes something like this; Caroline is a nudist.
She didn’t get much sleep that night. I, on the other hand, slept like a log, totally exhausted after the drive from Cairns and the off roading around Fraser. Well, I say a log. Going by the recording that poor Caroline made on her phone, it was more like the chainsaw that cut down the log. I wonder if I ever snored like that in my life before? Either way, it was hard to believe that I was listening to playback of me!! An exhausting drive + a full tummy + a couple of beers = Gordie in the deepest of sleeps with the loudest of snores! Caroline, if you’re reading, then I apologise!
The second day on Fraser was a bit of a write off I’m afraid. I had some kind of delayed reaction tiredness kick in, maybe the adrenalin ran out? Plus, the weather was REALLY bad. Having seen so many pictures of this beautiful World Heritage site from fellow travellers, it looked very different shrouded in cloud with the rain lashing down! Still, we battled on and made it up to Lake Mckenzie. Although, not before having to pack up camp as the ranger closed the area due to falling debris from the trees!
Lake Mckenzie was pretty cool though. I think it’s probably the first freshwater lake I’ve ever been in, and the water was pretty warm too. It really is like a giant bath!
This was really the last play of the day, as we headed back to the small township on the island before I decided that I wanted to get on my way. Having had so much time on my hands, I really felt a bit of pressure now about getting back to Sydney on time. Plus the cannonball run with the camper meant heavy fines if I delivered it back late. In hindsight, it was probably quite selfish. Caroline had done so much to put the trip together and I might have seemed ungrateful at the time, but I just had that feeling that I needed to move on and didn‘t want to spend another night on the island.
We caught the last barge of the day as they were preparing to halt sailing due to the winds, which by now exceeded 40 knots! Back on the mainland, I took the 4×4 to the specially built jet wash designed to remove as much sand and salt as possible. Back at Caroline’s I got the news of the Christchurch earthquake. Watching the scenes of total devastation, I really began to wonder how many natural disasters my trip would entail. And, how many times would I be able to dodge them? With alarming regularity, the disasters all happened around 1 week before I was due in the area. Brisbane floods, Cairns Cyclone and now Christchurch earthquake. I was considering emailing the emergency services of the countries I had yet to visit, just incase!
I’m just gonna take a sec to say “Thank you Caroline for sorting EVERYTHING for the trip, and thank you for making it so memorable. I sure have a tale to tell compared to the usual ‘Fraser’ experience!!”.
I slept in a car park on Noosa beach that night before taking a detour en route to Southport to visit a place I’d spotted on the map. It took me 2 hours out of my way, but it was worth it for the photo opportunity.
It was great to see Cathy Arbuckle again, we were like old friends! Once the whole family was back from work and school we headed to a Malaysian restaurant for food. Derek ordered a selection of dishes and we dined liked kings and queens! It was delicious, and it was so nice sharing a meal with the family. I’m just sorry that, for some reason, none of us took any pictures. Even Derek, who is a professional photographer – damn!! I guess we were having too much fun!
The next day me, Cathy and her daughter Carolyn hit Jupiters casino in Broadbeach. Surprisingly, it’s the first time I’ve ever been in a proper casino! I’m not a big gambler. Although Cathy and Carolyn are regulars. Cathy has a special privileges card which meant we had access to floors further up in the building. Normally, she can only take one guest in but she did a great job blagging it for me! Cathy’s status meant we also got free drinks, result. Carolyn got comfy at some of the big hitting machines, whilst me and Cathy stuck to the low bets. Fate, fortune, karma, luck whatever you want to call it was with Cathy. We sat side by side, and dropped our first few dollars. Almost immediately, Cathy’s machine lit up like a Christmas tree; she won a $2,400 jackpot from her first dollar – awesome!! She disappeared and came back laden with the cash. Generously, she gave me $100 to play with. It was loads of fun, especially with the burden of losing money lifted I could really relax. In the end I came out with more than I went in with and the $100 still in tact – happy days! All good training for Las Vegas baby!!
I spent the evening in Surfers with Paul and Joanne (my Corby friends!). It was cool to have a few drinks with them as they were nearby. I slept that night on the streets in Surfers, parked right near a 5* hotel – cheers easy! I woke up to glorious blue sky and a dip in the ocean, laaavley!
The cannonball run was on schedule, maybe even a little ahead so I ventured off on to some scenic routes taking in Byron Bay and Lennox Head. I found some amazing surf spots and was tempted to chop a tree down and fashion a board to get out there! My last night with the camper was spent holed up in a service area just south of Newcastle. I was woken pretty early by a gang of kids writing in the dirt of the camper, and their parents calling them away!
I clocked in at Apollo/Cheapa Campers Sydney depot with 1 hour to spare. I grabbed my pack and it was all down to my feet once again! I had been in touch with Darren and Nicola throughout most of my Aus adventure and they had invited me to stay for my last 2 nights before my flight. Payback was babysitting on the last night. Their kids are adorable so I had no problem agreeing, especially as they had tickets for Billy Connolly at the Sydney Opera House – how cool?
SOME PICTURES FROM THE LAST SECTION OF MY ROADTRIP
I took the train across to Yowie Bay and it wasn’t long before Darren and I hit the town! He took me to a local bar where we started sinking the beers. I got chatting to some people who recommend a nightclub nearby, the only problem was me and Darren were wearing shorts and thongs (haha, flip-flops!). There was some debate before we headed back to Darren’s to get changed. It was touch and go wether or not Darren had enough Wife miles in the bank to cash in not only a night out, but coming home, getting changed and going out AGAIN! Fortunately he did, either that or he wrote out a big fat I.O.U to Nicola. Good times, and a brilliant unofficial last night in Aus. The official last night was spent curled up with the kids, Libby and Sam before I packed them off to bed and had my inaugural Skype party! So much fun having everyone online all at once, even with the slight technical issues to begin with. Really must do that again sometime!
The morning of my flight, Darren took me with him to work to meet up with my old boss who is out there setting up the Australian version of the company I used to work for in the UK, Duravit. It was really cool to see him, and to see the Duravit Australia setup I’d heard so much about. Never thought that would happen!
Darren kindly dropped me at the airport and my Australian experience was done. One time, however, I will board a flight totally without incident. You might remember the drama of losing my boarding pass leaving Bangkok for Sydney as the young lady called to the queuing passengers “Mr Wooracott?”. Well, Sydney to Auckland I upped my game. Not content with having my name called to just a few passengers, this time I had it boomed across the PA system to the WHOLE damn airport. “This is a final call for flight QF43 to Auckland. Could Mr Gordon Woollacott please proceed immediately to gate 6”. Seriously? I could see gate 6 as the messaged boomed. I wasn’t late. I was pretty much bang on time, although my fellow passengers were all early and on board. Goody two shoes. When I fly from Auckland to Nadi I pledge allegiance to myself, it will go smoothly.
If England is the motherland, then Australia is the naughty school kid. They constantly swear on the radio, innuendo adverts abound and pointless road signs litter the highways.
The population cling to the coast like it’s the back seat of the bus as they all play with their toys. Kites, surfboards, wakeboards, skateboards.
You come to visit a country and leave knowing you visited a continent. I love it.