May 2024

The Fraser Island Experiment


It feels like we just got off some weird reality TV show/Gilligan’s Island experiment. Tag line: “One island. 10 people. One jeep. Four nationalities. How will they survive?”

Standing in the sand blow in Rainbow Beach

Standing in the sand blow in Rainbow Beach

It all started off upon arriving in Rainbow Beach four days ago. We made it to our resort called Dingo’s, checked in, and had to wait a few hours for our Fraser Island safety briefing. We killed some time chilling out before the briefing and were in a room with two British girls and one fellow from Switzerland. Nobody really knew what to expect. We went to the briefing, and discovered that 60 people were embarking on this trip, and that we’d be segregated into six groups of 10. I was a little shocked – I had seen the jeeps they were planning to put us in, and they weren’t very big – I had thought we’d have 7 per group. We had to watch a movie about Fraser Island about how to drive, how to behave, and how to protect ourselves from Dingos. Then, they put us into groups. Now, in a situation like this, you start to scope the crowd and make judgments based on initial looks and behaviour. Like, oh, I don’t want to be with them….they look wild (to the guys who asked about skin boarding in the ocean), or oh, she hasn’t roughed it before, that could be interesting (to the lady who asked how you go to the bathroom without any toilets in the vicinity. To those wondering, you dig a hole with a shovel.:))

The new happy family that's all going to fit in a tiny 4x4

The new happy family that's all going to fit in a tiny 4x4

Anyway, so we get put into our groups, and tried to be positive about who we were going to be spending lots of time and space with over the next few days. Our group consisted of three Irish folks who were a bit older, three Germans who were quite a bit younger, and two fun French girls, one who was the ripe old age of 18. It seemed pretty good. We had to decide on our alcohol and pre-order it for the time we were gone, and our group seemed to go a bit mild. While all the other groups maxed out their booze (4 flats of beer and 4 bags of “goon” [boxed wine]), we only got one of each, and Scott and I accounted for half the group’s booze. This immediately concerned Scott – he was worried they’d be uptight.

Things went pretty seamlessly that afternoon as we got ourselves organized and got to know each other. The hostel offered a free shuttle to a vantage point to see the sunset, so a bunch of us decided to do it. We went with Constantine, the fellow from Switzerland from our room. We made it up there, and it was stunning. They took us to a sandblow, which is a really amazing little valley of sand between the ocean and the land. It was phenomenal. It was like walking through a desert or something. We walked around, found the two girls from France, and all hunkered down to watch the sunset. It was beautiful. We all walked back to the hostel together and enjoyed a $5 pasta meal from the hostel.

The next morning, we got up early to go on the trip. It consisted of packing our personal items into a small bag and getting all our camping gear organized and put onto the roof of our 4×4 jeep. The excursion company provided us with tents, sleeping bags, food and cooking utensils, and even provided a detailed meal plan for us. It was quite well organized. Once we were all packed up, we had another lengthy safety brief, and those of us who were driving (which included both Scott and myself) how to drive the beast. You were only allowed to drive if you were over 21 and had been driving a manual for 2 years. This automatically discluded about half our group.

4x4'ing on the beach on Fraser island

4x4'ing on the beach on Fraser island

Finally, we set off. The older Irish lady was up first to drive. We got on the ferry to ride over to the Island, and were set free. We had been given a recommended itinerary with places to see during which times, as we were supposed to only drive during safe driving times…i.e., low tide, as that is when the sand is the hardest and you actually don’t need to use 4 wheel drive. We were also very top heavy, so there was a strong risk that we could roll ourselves if not being careful and riding too much on mushy sand.

I took over the driving as soon as we got through the tricky parts to cruise down the beach. It was pretty scary – being responsible for nine other lives and again, shifting gears with my left hand. We were constantly reminded by the uptight Irish lady that people had died a few weeks before because they were going too fast (nevermind the fact that they were drunk and drag-racing on the beach at night). But, I managed with lots of help from Scott, and then he took over the harrowing off-road 15km drive up to Mackenzie Lake, where if you went over 30 km/hr people were hitting the roofs and spilling their lunch. Driving in sand is a lot like driving in deep snow, so Scott didn’t find it too bad and did a pretty decent job.

Beer in Mackenzie lake!  This is paradise!

Beer in Mackenzie lake! This is paradise!

Mackenzie was absolutely stunning – I’ve seen and heard about it from heaps of people, and it was just as amazing in real life. It’s a giant fresh water lake, 100% clear, and with gorgeous white sand. We hung out there with our group and just enjoyed our surroundings. Upon leaving, however, we experienced our first social experiment difficulty. Our itinerary told us we should leave the lake at around 4 p.m., to make it to our campsite during low tide, and to ensure we would make dinner while it was still light out. The two French girls, however, did not want to leave and put up a bit of a fuss. It was at that moment that we realized keeping 10 people happy would be a challenge over the next few days.

We drove to camp, and found our other camrades and started cooking dinner. Only 4 of the 6 jeeps made it to camp that night – we werent sure what had happened to the other two…and discovered later that they were staying just a few sites down the beach from us. Whoops.

Our meal plan for that night consisted of potato salad (who plans potato salad when camping?! It has too many steps and ingredients!), and steaks fried in a pan (again, there are far easier things to cook when camping than steak!). Unfortunately, the sun had set while we were trying to boil all the damn potatoes, and it was a new moon, so it was pitch black, and what looked like a storm started to come in. We had nothing but the other jeeps to tie a tarp to, so we made an alliance with another group to move their jeep next to ours and tie the tarp between the two. We instantly became friends and two groups became one. Our little tarp area also became the common area and dance area for all four groups that night, even though the rain didn’t come. It was fun.

Meanwhile, the 18-yr old French girl, who by this time was 3 beers in and hammered, decided that she was God’s gift to cooking, so she took on making the steaks. Everybody in the group was a bit worried about this and told Scott to cook them, but she refused to give up the chef’s hat. Scott asked her “When was the last time you cooked a steak?” and she said “Oh, a long time!”. Like when? You’re 18! So the steaks ended up being completely raw inside, which really pissed off the anal retentive group that were evidently expecting a gourmet meal. Nevermind that it was a small issue to throw them back on the grill.

Continued on Page 2

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