Rough ride part of Fraser Is. fun
YOUNG Russian tourist Svetlana will long remember her first 4WD expedition on Fraser Island on Wednesday.
I will also remember it well because I had to rescue her and the little Daihatsu she was driving three times in the space of just one hour.
But I can’t be too tough on the Russian; she wasn’t alone in getting into trouble on the sand tracks that criss-cross our number one tourist attraction.
Her greatest problem was that someone had let her hire a vehicle that would have been flat out getting over the gentlest of sand dunes, let alone negotiating the treacherous tracks of Fraser.
“My friends said I should get something bigger but it is just me so I thought I would be OK,” was her reasoning.
“I guess I should have listened, no.”
She guessed right. Rescuing Svetlana and a group of Argentineans twice just added to a memorable first day for me on Fraser Island.
After five months as the editor of the local daily I rightfully thought it was about time I saw first-hand the beauty of the island.
A gentle barge ride across in the early morning got us to the Kingfisher Resort where we joined a big contingent of resort guests for breakfast.
No challenge so far, just luxury, but that was all about to change.
We had organised to meet with the local police officers who look after Fraser Island and that meant a trip of more than 30 kilometres across to Eurong.
Just half a kilometre from Kingfisher the track of hell started. I have owned 4WD vehicles for many years and I have driven on some tough tracks but Fraser Island’s on Wednesday were among the most brutal I have encountered.
Recent dry weather and the busy tourist season meant the tracks were not just soft, but also ripped up.
The Department of Environment and Resource Management puts out a report on its website and this labelled the Cornwells Break Road we drove over as “soft and extremely rough”.
Our two backseat passengers have suggested that until it rains DERM should downgrade that to “you must be crazy to drive on this”.
They were right; we were fortunate in that we had a powerful Jeep Wrangler Renegade to tackle the track with plenty of ground clearance. Others weren’t; even strong, reputable 4WDs were meeting trouble.
The local police sergeant told us that after the rains a few weeks ago and grading of the tracks that you could have driven a regular car on the roads.
But he did say the heavy traffic together with tour buses using the track had chewed them up, making life fairly unpleasant for drivers.
While the tracks certainly created plenty of concern they are integral in the adventure of discovering a beautiful island.
Yes, our track trips were painful but when you arrive at destinations like Lake Birrabeen and soak up the beauty of the area the rock and roll nightmare is quickly forgotten.
So the message I have from my quick trip is log on to the DERM website (www.derm.qld.gov.au/fraser) and check the track conditions before you leave.
Secondly, and most importantly, make sure you have a 4WD that can handle the tracks and don’t kid yourself by arriving in a pretend 4WD and expect to be right. Your family Honda CRV, RAV 4 and Nissan X Trail just won’t make it at the moment.
Thirdly take your time; you have to be patient and realise that 10kmh is more than fast enough on these back-breaking courses.
My fourth piece of advice is to put a smile on the dial and live life. This island is just magical, except when you get bogged.