Rambo beeped his horn. “Hurry up, Harry! We’re ready to go.”
In our blissful bubble of enjoyment, we hadn’t noticed everyone had piled back into the 4-wheel-drive. Like partners in crime, we slunk back to the prison on wheels, making a silent protest by taking as much time as we dared, under the disapproving glares of everyone. How had we managed to escape so perfectly to enjoy an hour of freedom?
Off we sped. With his foot firmly on the pedal, Rambo showed off his top gears and dodged large rocks littered along the beach. A sharp turn left and the landscape changed dramatically. “Hold on, this is the fun part.,” cooed our driver, jamming his foot down harder.
The beach was now far behind us and we were hurtling down a bush track, barrelling past Scribbly Gums and Piccabeen palms, Brush Box and Pandanus. Ruts in the sandy earth sent us flying in our seats, our heads hitting the roof of the car. But the squeals only seemed to excite our driver who thought we were enjoying the horrendous bumpy ride, jabbing on and off the brakes. “Love it, hey?”
“No!” cried Mickey’s sister from the back. “Why are you driving like a maniac?”
“Hey, mate. Trust me, I’m skilled at this,” Rambo-on-speed boasted. “You have to drive in the right gear all the way. Would you rather get bogged in the sand?”
No one replied. We were too busy untangling limbs from each other: even with our seat belts on, we were being whirled about as if by a manic washing machine, and landing heavily on the person next to us.
Feeling stiff muscles in every part of our bodies, we toppled out of the troop carrier.
“I’m so looking forward to a relaxing swim in the pool,” Harry said, collecting his camera gear and handing me my battered bag. I beamed at him. What a delicious thought, our ordeal was over.
Another tour operator from the same company took over from Rambo. He herded the eight of us into the resort foyer and instructed us to wait. He had a more pressing job at hand, to attend to HIS ‘special guests’ who, apparently, having paid much more than us, had to be shown to their rooms first.
“OK,” he said on his return twenty minutes later. “Back in the car.”
“What?” we all protested. “Is this for real?”
“Back in the car,” he repeated. “I’ve got to drive you to your shared accommodation. It’s two kilometres down the road – unless,” he added with a smirk, “ you want to wait for the bus?”
“Talk about false advertising,” Harry complained. “What about access to the resort’s swimming pool?”
“Mate, you can still use the pool,” he snarled. “But you booked the shared dormitory down the road. A two kilometre walk won’t kill you, will it?”
Great Advice at Breakfast
At breakfast the following morning, Harry and I were deep in conversation. We sat in the communal restaurant of the resort contemplating whether we had the stamina to put ourselves through another harrowing day with our ‘experienced’ tour guide (from hell). We were still recovering from his control-freak tactics that just didn’t work for us.
It seemed such a waste of money to forgo the pre-paid itinerary of the day, but the thought of remaining in the resort to dip in the pool or listen to an audio book or take a leisurely stroll together through the island’s native woodland and rainforest, seemed one option we could certainly handle.
Harry went over to the buffet table to check out what was on offer. I sipped fresh coffee, thinking of our options. I caught the sound of an American accent on the next table and made an impulsive request to the guy talking to his friend.
The young Californian turned his head and fired his advice, as straight as an arrow,
“Go with the challenge. You’re here now, you might as well embrace it!”
My eyes opened wide. He was right. By the time Harry got back with our bowl of muesli, I announced with renewed vigour “Let’s embrace doing the tour today!”
Harry fell into his seat, took a minute to think about it and replied cheerfully,“I’m game, if you are.”
What I so love about Harry is that he is a YES man and so, arming ourselves with the resolve to have a great day, no matter what Rambo may have planned for us, we could set our minds to enjoy all the natural highlights of this unique island.
Do go – it’s worth it! Here’s some pics from our album..
In honour of this beautiful island, and rather than dwell on the crazy antics of our tour guide or our experience of hidden costs and false advertising, we would like to leave you with some of the true highlights of the natural beauty of Fraser Island which we eventually discovered over the next two days….
The largest creek on the east coast of the island. A freshwater wash-out pool with a gentle flow of 80 million litres per day! We immersed our bodies to float on the gentle current of freshwater – such a treat so close to the sea – and experienced a truly relaxing swim. A great moment to turn off your mind and float downstream, as the song says.
Indian Head Rock
A definite highlight of our trip on Fraser Island.
After making our way along the well-defined board walk with clearly marked wooden steps, we came to an enclosed rock pool. Sharing the experience with many other visitors, we sat in the shallow salty water as ocean waves pounded the rocks around us. Every now and then, a rush of water spilled over the rocks creating masses of foaming bubbles – as if we were sitting in a giant glass of champagne!
A lake perched one hundred metres above sea level, cradled by sand which is pure white granules of silica. We did finally get to swim in one of the freshwater lakes on the island on our last day. Harry spotted dingo paw tracks leading from the edge of the lake into the scrub and kept a look out for any snakes timing their dip in the water with ours. He also kept us a safe distance away from our verbose guide, who was busy annoying the other ‘lucky guests’ trying to playfully drown him in the lake!
Further fascinating stories about Fraser Island
Link to the aboriginal dreamtime story and history: Explore Fraser Island
The novel, A Fringe of Leaves by Patrick White (1976) is a fictitious interpretation of the true shipwreck of the ‘Stirling Castle’ in 1836. Captain James Fraser and his crew did not survive but his wife, Eliza Fraser was rescued six weeks later by a convict.
Published by Jonathan Cape 1976. ISBN: 0-224-00902-8
And if all this is not enough…
A drama film produced in 1976 starring Susannah York plays the leading role in ‘Eliza Fraser’ (The Adventures of Eliza Fraser).
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Copyright © Maribel Steel
Photography Copyright © Harry Williamson