When I booked my East Coast trip back in January, the only thing I knew that was a ‘must do’ was the Great Barrier Reef. I had no idea that there was a massive sand island that was a ‘must-see’ until my rather pushy travel agent insisted I do it as it was an ‘essential’ of the East Coast (clearly he hasn’t heard of things like accommodation and food that are actually essential when travelling the East Coast). But anyway, like the naive traveller that I pretty much still am, I threw my money at him, ignoring the phrases ‘camping’, ‘dingos’ and ‘sleeping bag hire’, that he murmured in his Northern accent.
For those who don’t know, I absolutely hate camping. Picture any page 3 model in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here screaming at her own shadow in the jungle and you’ll get an idea of how I feel about the whole thing. I think it stems from being 8 at Guide Camp and being completely unable to tie my bedding into the perfect knot, much to the frustration of the camp leader. Then there was all the camping at festivals, with the world spinning after too much cheap vodka and drunkards screaming at 5am. I’ve even tried glamping in Oz, in a tent with a mattress, duvet, plug points and still wanted to jump off a cliff after half an hour. So I really tried to put the whole thing to the back of my mind and pretend it wasn’t really happening, a bit like Brexit or the whole Donald Trump thing.
But like those two political nightmares, the camping came round soon enough, and I found myself being bundled into a 4 x 4 at the ungodly hour of 7.45am with my prison issue plate, bowl and cup, a sleeping bag and a million and one bags surrounding me. We were in group 3 of 4 groups of landrovers travelling in convoy, and looking around our other group members, I realised I was surrounded by GI Joes and Janes – people that liked camping (I know right), and were super excited to be in touch with their natural side. But I digress… a bit more about the actual island.
Fraser Island is, admittedly, something out of a postcard. On the first day, we visited Lake McKenzie, and I was pretty sure I’d stepped onto the shoot of a holiday brochure, particularly with the hottest young couple ever frolicking in the water. The water was so clear and felt amazing on the skin, and when you accidentally got a mouthful, it was like having a glass of water before bed rather than swallowing half the ocean. Amazing. Of course, this meant 5 million hours of photoshoots by everyone on the tour, and even a new profile picture for me, showing me oh-so-casually walking out to sea (Read: the only one of the fifty million pictures taken not to show my sweaty, sunburnt face!).
The first evening was where it all went downhill. Our tour guide, Crumpy (or ‘Grumpy’ if people were being dicks), non-ironically informed us to watch out for snakes and take a dingo stick and a friend whenever we went anywhere. And the tents, were, well, tent-y. And the showers? $2 for 3 minutes. So, to shake off the feelings of RIP Meg, I hit the goon. Big time. For those non backpackers reading, goon is a very cheap 5 litre bag of wine that skint backpackers like myself use to get hammered. Verb: slap the goon, meaning to whack the bag to get the goon to come out. After a few hours on the goon, I found myself staggering down to the beach waving a dingo stick around madly, losing my flip flops with every second step. A few hours later, I was in the toilet doing dolphin imitations for Natasha with my water bottle. So alas, the goon broke me and I was in bed by the wild time of 10.15pm. Rock and roll… Apparently, I was still slightly drunk at 2am when Natasha went to the loo and I chased after her with my dingo stick to prove my merit as a friend by not letting her walk alone (the campsite was dingo-proof).
Possibly unsurprisingly, the next morning was a bit of a write-off. Without my trusty coconut water to cure my hangover, I was about as fun as watching paint dry, and a dull shade of magnolia at that. We visited a fresh water real life lazy river, but as we had no rubber rings to float down the river with, I flopped down by the river in a strop and fell asleep, with my arms above me. This didn’t work out well, as I discovered when I woke up with bright red armpits and second degree burns around my bikini, resulting in the purchase of a very expensive burn gel days later when my chest still felt like a hot stove.
That afternoon was possibly the most traumatic of the whole trip for two reasons. Firstly, my iPhone finally had its moment on the aux cable, meaning my music was broadcast to the whole car. Considering my music is mainly a mix of club music c. 2009, the Sugababes and Matt Cardle, this was a highly stressful experience, highlighted when someone asked if I had any music ‘from 2017’. Burn. Secondly, I almost died in the champagne pools, and ended up with a battle scar (well, a tiny scratch). Champagne pools are small rock pools that the waves from the ocean crash into, causing a frothy, champagne-y effect. The first few times the waves crashed over the rocks, the effect was no different to a wave pool, so being the adrenaline junkie I am, I decided to go hang out with the boys in the hardcore pool. Maybe I should have considered that this was a bad idea, as three strong men were struggling to stay on their feet, but well, coulda woulda shoulda and all that. So, hanging on to a certain policeman for dear life, I awaited the wave, and – lucky me – got two at once! I was pretty certain it was RIP Meg as I was dragged away from the guys and over the rock faces, clinging on to a leg here and an arm there for my dear life. If it wasn’t for PC Chris, pretty certain it would have actually been RIP Meg. As I eventually surfaced, I found the whole group crowded round being all ‘u ok hun’, but obviously I played it really cool and pretended I hadn’t almost died. Luckily, I was off the hook when another guy legit almost died as he surfaced looking like he’d got into a fight with a tiger.
So yeah, Fraser Island pretty much broke me. By the time we returned to human life the next day, I was burnt, bruised, broken and covered in more dirt then I thought was humanly possible. But, y’know, surprisingly awake considering the time spent in a tent, but then maybe that’s my koala tendencies to sleep anywhere, anytime. Or maybe that was just the goon, causing me to low key pass out…
Either way, I was bloody glad to have a shower that wasn’t three minutes and sandy. Camping? Never, ever, ever, again. Girl likes a bed.