Fraser Island Reflections

As our last night on Fraser Island draws to a close, I wonder how it’s possible to feel so happy and sad all at once. It’s been amazing – so many new experiences for me – and probably life-changing. I would never have guessed I’d spend nearly two weeks in the company of children under the age of two, and come away feeling so relaxed and chilled out. That’s probably partly because it’s such a change from my normal life, but for whatever reason it’s opened my eyes for the first time properly to the joys of a young family, and it’s the first time I can remember truly wanting one of my own. I’ve even got pretty good at putting nappies on (haven’t had to face the poo though).

As I write this, I haven’t quite finished putting together all of the blog posts I’m hoping to, so it’s strange in a way that I’m writing the end before the middle. Even as I’ve been trying to document the days I’ve spent here, there are so many things that have become almost every day, and escaped the day to day records. So many precious memories that can’t be captured as a single moment, but that I will look back on and long for when I return to life in Sydney. I wanted to take the time to try and capture the spirit of this trip, because while I’ve been here, Fraser Island has certainly captured some of my spirit.

The days here start when I slowly become aware of the roar of the ocean, or occasionally the patter of rain on my tent. I have time to wake up slowly and appreciate nature all around me. Through the thin walls of my tent, I soon hear the noise of the others, until I know that Yolly and the girls are up, then it’s time to stretch and emerge.

Mya usually greets me with a hug around my knees, her hair is a cloud of blond tangles as she looks up and says “Good morning, Jo”, and I wonder if there’s a better way to start the day than this. If the sun is out, I can walk across the dunes and watch it dance across the breaking waves.

I brush my teeth outside in the grass with a cup of water. The kids eat their breakfast and Ivy ends up wearing part of hers, then it’s our turn to eat, we sit outside, with tea and food cooked on the tiny gas stoves inside the tent.

Part of the day is usually spent chilling under the tarp with my kindle, or playing in the waves. Sometimes I get to hold Ivy’s tiny hands – or rather, she wraps her fingers around mine – and walk her around. Sometimes, I go out into the ocean with Yolly and we swing the girls in the waves while they giggle. Mya is a gorgeous little angel, but when baby Ivy smiles and laughs, it’s magical. Sometimes Mya comes over, wraps her little arms around me, and says, “Hello, Jo”.

The sand gets everywhere. It sticks to our feet, it blows into our faces, it invades our food and it sneaks into our beds. It doesn’t matter how much we sweep, every day, it’s always there. I tried not to fight it, that would be a losing battle, but sometimes it’s hard to ignore the crunch. It does have its up side though: it brushes our skin soft as silk, warms (and sometimes burns) our feet as we walk across it. Soft and dry, it’s nearly impossible to walk in, and it’s a miracle to see the life that survives here.

There are no mirrors in the tents. I can’t see how bad my hair looks and I haven’t even thought about make up since I got here. I’ve worn the same thongs (flip flops!) all week – when I bother to wear shoes – and bummed around in my bikini most of the week. It’s liberating to not have to worry about any of that.

Most days involve getting in the car to go somewhere. Driving over the beach is the best part, since anywhere else is spectacularly bumpy. I still hold on and try to hold in the gulps, but over the worst bumps, sometimes I let out a girly shriek. The first drives were terrifying, but somehow now it doesn’t seem quite so bad. Yolly and I try to take turns to sit in the back with the girls. I feed them far too much sugar. Mya has learned to say “Peas, Jo” (she can’t quite master ‘L’ yet) to get pretty much anything she wants. Ivy loves chocolate, she loves to spread it all over her face and laugh about it, and we love to photograph her when she does it.

The days end with the light slowly fading over the tarp, while I swig a glass or three of wine, and Yolly and Casey feed and shower the girls. The shower is still an amazement: a small ensuite tent with a shower hose. When they’re all clean, it’s stories, cuddles and bed. We’re not usually that far behind, and I fall asleep quickly while I’m trying to hold on to the sound of the outside as long as possible. Tonight, that will be especially true as it will be the last one. On the plus side, I now own the tent and am already planning my next camping trip, as well as my next trip back to Fernvale.

I can’t pretend I won’t be happy to get back to some of my home comforts … mainly those in the bathroom! But I will miss Yolly, Casey and the girls terribly, as well as all of the others who shared our holiday here. I’ll miss the chilled out atmosphere of the last ten days or so. I’m so glad that I decided to come, and so grateful to Yolly and Casey for sharing their holiday (and everything else!) with me – because it really has been totally amazing!

The long trip home.

Apparently, we got up at 5:30 on Monday morning to start packing. I didn’t really take much notice of the time anymore, but it seemed to take ages to pack up. I caught sight of Casey’s watch as we left and it was only 9:30 – I had thought it was nearer midday!

I couldn’t believe how full the trailer and car still were – we’d eaten loads of the food we’d brought along, surely there should have been more room? Still, we all fitted in somehow, and finally we were off. Things got off to a bit of a rocky start when we took the road up and around the rocks, and a frustrated bus driver on the other side tried to block Casey from coming out. He’d been waiting a while to get through the single track road, but the rangers were waving everybody through from our side, and he finally got annoyed enough to try and stop people. It wasn’t very helpful, considering we were already through, luckily he let us out …

As we drew closer to the barge pick up point, there was a huge queue of cars. The two barges take around ten at a time, but they’re so efficient, and it’s only a short round trip, maybe fifteen minutes in all. We had long enough to enjoy a morning beer while we were waiting though – might as well stretch the holiday out as long as possible :)

We stopped in Rainbow in another queue, to put air back into the soft tyres before getting back on the roads. I had my first Gaytime ice cream, I’d been looking for them in Eurong and Happy Valley all week but they hadn’t had any. It was amazing, and I shared bits of it with Ivy – she was so cute trying to eat the last bits off of the stick, and so messy too.

The rest of the journey was fairly boring, roads weren’t as much fun as driving on the beach. We tried to play I Spy, and Yolly got us stumped with “Bonnet” – it doesn’t really last very long though.

Finally, we made it home, with just enough time for a quick shower before I had to leave to get my flight home. Boooo! The girls weren’t thrilled at being strapped back into the car, but Yolly distracted them with the Christmas presents they hadn’t been able to fit in to take to the beach. Mya unwrapped a gorgeous little swimsuit and some ink stamps, and amused herself trying on Ivy’s new shoes during the drive.

As we reached the airport, she had been suspiciously quiet. I turned around to see her hands covered in blue ink from the stamps, with a big smudge on her nose – she looked so cute, I couldn’t stop laughing – I wish I’d taken a photo before we cleaned it off, because of all the funny things she does, that one definitely got me the most.

At the check in desk, my suitcase and tent together weighed in at a smidgen over 23kg, and I was delighted that I could take both of them home! The dramas weren’t quite over though – my flight was delayed due to a late arrival, which turned out to have an engineering fault. As they announced the change of gate, they were also looking for six volunteers to take a flight the next day. I was going to do it, they were offering a full refund plus accommodation and flight home, I would get a nice early night and a bit of money in my pocket instead of arriving home at midnight! It turned out they found a bigger plane after all then – I don’t think I was the only disappointed one, I heard other passengers who had been wanting the same.

Finally, finally we were in the air and on our way home. With ten minutes to go, they announced that we were going to try and land before the 11pm curfew at Sydney airport, to avoid being diverted. I crossed my fingers that we weren’t going to be heading BACK to Brisbane … that would have been awful, but happily we were soon landing, and heading through the airport. I collapsed into a taxi, blow the cost, there were no ferries anyway and I couldn’t be bothered to mess about with buses and trains – this holiday deserved to be finished off in style!

Intrepid Explorers.

We were up bright and early(ish), breakfasted and packing the cars for Lake MacKenzie on Tuesday. I didn’t bother with checking the time to get up, just dozed in bed until I could hear the girls outside – far better than any alarm clock. We packed up the floaty toys, chairs, towels and food and headed out via Eurong.

I had managed to get sunburn on my bum (well, the bit of it near my bikini bottoms … apologies for the detail), so when we stopped in Eurong, I took the opportunity to look for a new pair of board shorts to protect the area from further damage :) Yolly was also shopping for a new bikini, so we finally left for the lake with our bags a little later than planned.

Yolly watches over the water

I didn’t really know where we were going, I guess I’d expected that we’d just drive a bit further up the beach, but it turned out that we were going further inland – over more of the same bumpy tracks that led into Eurong and Happy Valley. Some of them were REALLY bumpy … I wanted to hang on tight, but after a while I got more used to it. I’m not sure that kind of driving is my cup of tea :)

Finally we were there, looking for a place to park. Three cars had taken up enough space for six, and everybody else was complaining about their lack of consideration – even other drivers on their way in commented to us as we walked back across the car park. There were signs everywhere warning us not to take food on to the beach, so as not to encourage the dingoes in the area to get too close to humans.

Yolly, Casey and the girls!

This is my cross face

Playing on the lilo with Mum

Lake MacKenzie is a freshwater lake, fed only by rainfall, which meant it the water was pretty warm! There are turtles, but I didn’t see any – I borrowed Anthony’s snorkel for a nosy underwater, but my ears were still stuffed up from my recent cold, and the water wasn’t clear but there didn’t seem to be much life in it. As I swam further out, there were patches where it grew suddenly cold and warm again, but it didn’t seem very deep – maybe three or four metres at the most.

The surroundings were beautiful – soft white sand, turquoise green lake and warm sunshine beating down on us, while we all splashed around and enjoyed the cool water. I tried to laze on Ploy’s lilo and floaty seat, but Casey and Anthony managed to catch me unaware and push me off … twice. Even when they grow up, boys will still be boys.

Beautiful!

We left the lake in the early afternoon to head back to camp, where the younger kids could sleep for a bit as they were starting to get cranky. Ivy and Mya dozed off in the car, their little heads rocking along the bumps without stirring. Off for another lazy afternoon of reading in the sun, and playing in the sea …

Later in the afternoon, Anthony predicted that we would be hit by a storm, so Steph helped me to dig in some extra pegs for my tent, which had been moved to make room for Phil’s the previous day. The rain took longer than anticipated, but shortly after dark we could see lightning flashing out to sea, and not long after we were being blasted.

Enjoying the play doh as much as the kids

Play Doh!

Squidgy

On Wednesday, other than a trip out to town to get food and water, and dump rubbish bags, we stayed at the camp site. Ploy brought out an amazing Play-Doh Sushi set, and we sat down with the kids to create something appetising … Phoebe found the Play Doh itself quite tasty though, and we had to try and encourage her to create instead of eat. The sushi pieces were complicated for Ploy and I, let alone the younger ones – although Tyler made some pretty good rice-like creations. I made a turtle, which only Zeb correctly identified. They all seemed to enjoy it, but I do think I probably had at least as much, if not more fun than any of the kids …

The weather was damp and grey on Thursday, and together with Steph and Anthony and their family, we headed out to explore more of the island (and more of it’s bumpy tracks …)

Down the slide with mummy!

Not sure if that's a look of enjoyment ...

A huge ladder for a little girl, but she managed it!

We started by heading over to Kingfisher Bay on the other side of the island, where we found a shop, and a park. The girls and Zeb had a lot of fun on the climbing frame and slide, I also tried out the slide and swing! Back in the car, it was off for a drive further around the island – “Exploring”, Casey and Anthony said … or rather, dozing in the front seat for me.

We “explored” some pretty bumpy tracks – Yolly took over the wheel for a while, and I heard vague conversations about quicksand while I was dozing … or was that a dream? There was some beautiful scenery – we visited a small creek and a beach, then headed back – on the bumpy, scenic route again.

Bumpy tracks

Back at the campsite, Phil told us it had been drizzling all day – at least we’d got some dry and half decent weather on the other side of the island. Another day on the beach finished in much the same way as the others – a lazy, chilled out meal, wine, and falling into bed to the sound of the waves …