Up To My Axels In Adventure On Fraser Island

26 March 2015
Read Time: 2.9 mins

A 5am wake up call, four-and-a-half hours on the road, and about an hour on a barge (including some time spent at the helm, thank you very much), brought me to the western shores of Fraser Island.

Before I could unzip my suitcase and take a token hotel room selfie at Kingfisher Bay Resort, I was heaving a three-seater canoe into and subsequently out of the surf.

There was not a shred of elegance to this late afternoon activity – no running barefoot down the beach, dress billowing out behind me, sunlight bouncing off my shoulders. Heels were dug into the sand, grunting noises were made, skin was blistered.

 Totally worth the effort

I quickly came to realise my mascara would remain capped for the duration of my time on Fraser Island and patted myself on the back for not packing a hair straightener.

For a girl from Far North Queensland who once proudly spent eight days getting snagged by 'wait-a-while' vines hiking around Cooktown and camped under the stars in a Western Queensland dust-bowl, my bush smarts had fallen by the wayside of late. But I was determined it would all coming screaming back to me on Fraser Island.

 Swapping the stilettos for the sand on Fraser Island

I now know why they invented 'island time' – to trick your body into doing more within the confines of a day. A day on Fraser Island is nowhere near enough. A week might only just cut it.

I was joined on the island by a bunch of lovely ladies; we were all there to learn the refined art of four-wheel-driving. I wondered: was this a girl's weekend gone wrong? Or an opportunity to throw our stilettos to the wind?

We were on Fraser to find our 'moxie' – a word that's on the brink of extinction, meaning courage, grit or determination. As in "Boy, she sure has moxie!"

That weekend, we would bring moxie back in a big way.

 Making a splash on the beach highway (Image: Reichlyn Photography)

Fast forward 48 hours and I had the ocean rolling on in my side-view mirror; I'd just hit 80 kilometres an hour flying down the beach highway past anglers and the skeletal remains of the SS Maheno. Somewhere out there on 75 Mile Beach, I found my moxie.

High range, low range, traction control... these are all words that have been forcibly added to my vocabulary alongside other rarely used phrases like 'oil check' and 'mortgage lender'.

But there I was, taking pressure out of tyres and locking hubs, ready to grab the wheel and make tracks on the world's largest sand island.

The rain gods smiled upon us, dampening the sand enough to negate some of the slipperiness on our first day. By day two, our collective confidence was at an all-time high and we were ready for a cross-island expedition on the now soft, powdery sand.

 Nice day for a Sunday drive, right?

You know when you step onto silky white sand, your feet squeaking and sinking with every step? It takes some skill to handle a hunking great four-wheel-drive bearing down on this icing-sugar-like terrain.

Without actually making the tyre larger (an impossible feat), you have to increase the amount of tread that comes into contact with the ground. Let some air out and hey presto, you've got increased traction and less chance of sinking! A pinch of elbow grease goes a long way on the sandy highway.

Nothing gives you a bit of extra pluck and courage like having an experienced crew leading the charge and bringing up the rear. They don't get much better than Dave and Brad from Australian Offroad Academy, who patiently put up with our many stops for photoshoots and cheeky two-way radio banter.

 Hitting the road, Fraser style (Image: Reichlyn Photography)

I roared along with the windows down in the 'Crusty Cruiser', which was actually a current model Land Cruiser but looked positively archaic next to the Red Hornet – a Toyota FJ Cruiser with all the mod-cons, which takes away half the fun, if you ask me.

We bumped and bounded from east to west on the island, discovering the impossibly clear waters of Lake McKenzie, ancient trees that were so profoundly beautiful loggers refused to give them the chop, and emerald lakes perched atop sand dunes, which looked like misplaced puddles from a distance.

 Sneaking through the Fraser Island forests (Image: Reichlyn Photography)

The prehistoric landscapes of Fraser Island are surreal. Feeling the pillowy sand underfoot, you start to wonder if the massive eucalypts would topple if you gave them a gentle nudge. How rain-fed lakes, dense woodlands and resort villages don't just disappear into the sands a la Atlantis, I'll never know.

That's the beauty of Fraser Island – it makes you think. You think about how privileged you are to be standing on a slice of paradise and it makes you want to do more. Be more.

You push your boundaries and do things you wouldn't normally do, like hauling canoes out of the ocean, rescuing a bogged member of your convoy, or chowing down on your country's national emblems. That's what you call moxie.

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Visit your local Flight Centre or call 131 600 for more travel advice and the latest travel deals for Fraser Island.

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Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg