So, into the Outback then... High point of the 12 hour journey; seeing my first kangaroos in the wild. Low point; an inadvisable pint at a lonely roadhouse that left me nursing a bladder like an over full water bomb on the rough and ready final stretch of road to the cattle station.
Kroombit is a working farm that has diversified into a backpacker's destination and it divided opinion on the bus. Even if you only stop here overnight, you get to ride the bucking bronco, learn how to crack a whip, round up goats on horseback, go clay pigeon shooting and take part in the goat rodeo. It's just supposed to represent normal farm life, but some people get understandably squeamish when it comes to tripping up goats and kneeling on them. However, if you're going to get the maximum out of it, you just have to get stuck in. As simple country folk, I was ok. And I owed the goats for previous crimes.
The four of us had a great time, although Laura didn't want to get involved with manhandling the goats, which is fair enough. She wanted me to make some point about how it's great here, but that you should know what's involved before you come. However, I forget the details.
Stuart wanted to me to make some point about how if the German girl who took him horse riding, wants to saddle him up and crack the whip, then she is to be his guest. I forget the detail of that one too. Either that or it's one of those involuntary mental blocks your mind creates when images get too dodgy to deal with.
After just one night, we headed off to Fraser Island, which is the bit of this trip I'd been most looking forward to.
Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island, a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's famous for humpback whales, dolphins, dingos, crystal clear freshwater lakes, huge sand dunes and a delicately balanced eco-system unlike anything else on the planet. Quite why they let 250,000 drive over it in huge great 4x4s every year is something of a mystery to me, but when in Rome and all that...
We managed to get ourselves a land cruiser between the four of us, which was a) lucky and b) about the best thing that could have happened. Normally, you'd expect 9 or 10 people to a vehicle and that can get cramped and rife with arguments if you're unlucky with who you get pitched in with.
After going through the briefing at a million miles an hour, at stupid o'clock in the morning, we found ourselves on Fraser with little idea where we were going or how this truck thing worked. We did have a cooler full of beer though, so things could have been worse.
After a couple of girlish attempts at the first obstacle, we soon got the hang of it. Let's off road! Sorted! Gripped! Destination Lake McKenzie. We spent the afternoon chilling out by this stunning, crystal clear lake, before heading vaguely north with no real destination. Fortunately we hit the beach just before dark and found ourselves somewhere to camp.
Unfortunately, the sand flies had found it first. I'm not sure what the ethics are behind swatting bugs in a national park, but the scores finished something like 10-1 to me.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to find we had a flat tyre. Today was going to be one big team building exercise. Combine changing the wheel of a 2 ton truck in soft sand with finding a source of compressed air in a wilderness and getting two Germans in a 2-wheel drive automatic hairdressers car out of a sand dune and you have a well-drilled team, ready to take on the Paris-Dakar rally. That's if they let you spend half the day chilling out in another piece of lakey beauty and take photos of famous ship wrecks.
The final day began with another flat and another pre-7am wheel change. This isn't a holiday you know, we had to cross a certain creek at low tide or face spending the day bumping along inland tracks and risk missing the ferry back. Our reward was a sweltering trek across desert-like dunes to Lake Wabby, the deepest of all the islands water holes. Situated at the bottom of an enormous dune, it's possibly the most trewarding swim I've ever had. And as an added bonus, it's populated by shoals of tiny fish that seem to subsist solely on a diet of post-sunburn skin peelings.
And with that image, I'll have to leave you. The timer's ticking, reception's shut and the bar is open. Merry Christmas!