At this point I’m basically telling myself, “I told you so.” Plans. See, plans just don’t work for me. And it makes for so much more fun this way. After a great time in Brisbane and Noosa, I figured I might as well hit up Rainbow again on my way north. I would be driving right by it, after all. I also had a friend who is one of the guides for the Fraser Island trips who offered to let me jump on his tour. Sounds good.
This was all easier said than done. The road to Rainbow was still flooded, so after an extra couple of nights in Noosa (and I’m not alone in this), the 4WD company from Rainbow organized a caravan of Land Cruisers to come and collect stranded backpackers from Noosa. The ratio of people trying to get back to Rainbow to spots in cars ended up not being in my favour, so Amanda and I were left behind in Noosa. Amanda is another Canadian working in Rainbow for one of the hostels. With a second pick-up later that afternoon, we were confident in the fact we would be getting to Rainbow at some point that day and spent the afternoon having a couple of drinks and chatting. We were at the Noosa Junction on time, ready to get picked up, when we received a call from the 4WD boys, essentially culminating with, “We’re not coming.” A moment of panic was followed quickly with reassurance they had booked us on a privately chartered minibus. We somehow managed to become responsible for organizing said minibus and getting the remaining stranded backpackers sorted and on their way. I never thought that I’d be trying this hard to get back to Rainbow. With a higher level of excitement than I would have anticipated, we finally saw signs for town. I hadn’t told too many people that I was coming back, and even after having only being gone for a few days, I had a brilliant reception. Nearly everyone I knew happened to be at the bar when I walked in, and I had an excellent welcome “home” night. I hit the hay and woke up late and cheery to greet grey skies, a three-day trip to my favourite island on the menu.
The weather would have had to try quite hard to be much worse. For the most part, though, our group kept their smiles on and we had an amazing trip. I had a bit of a different experience than my first tag-a-long trip, and spent most of my time chilling in the guides’ area of camp. I think this may have had something to do with the fact that my patience level for backpackers was pretty low after the travel job. I was more interested in relaxing, sipping on rum, and chatting than skulling goon (really cheap, horrible, awful “wine” that is the backpacker staple) and partying with 150-odd travellers.
The first time I visited Fraser on a tag-a-long, we stayed at beach camp. This is essentially a couple of rows of non-permanent tents, and a pail with a plank on it as an emergency toilet. Gas cookers and a string of Christmas lights for both ambient and functional lighting completed the ensemble. This time around, I was at K’gari, the permanent campground (though still with non-permanent tents). K’gari is on Aboriginal land and I got to meet a couple of the Aboriginal people who live there. Spitting into the fire and whistling were believed to bring about evil spirits and were not to be done while in the campground. Not whistling is harder than you think, especially when I’ve been trying to learn to whistle for the last couple of years and have been practicing at any given moment.
After a lovely three days on the island – intermittently spoiled by drunken Irish antics – we headed back to the mainland. I was set to head to a place called 1770 in the next couple of days. 1770 is where Cook first landed in Queensland, (his second landing in Australia) in the year 1770 (go figure) and has two things that appealed to me: cheap surfing and a deserted island castaway trip. Such is my luck with getting where I’m meant to be; the buses were not dropping anyone off at 1770 for a few days. (Is this getting repetitive and boring yet?) I swapped some dates around (take that, Plan!) and decided to head straight to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. I booked my bus for Tuesday evening (arriving Wednesday morning), and shuffled my boat forward a couple of days to leave on Friday morning.
With little of the fanfare from previous “I’m leaving Rainbow” nights, I had a quiet drink at Fraser’s on Rainbow, and said goodbye to the people who happened to be there. Approximately twenty minutes before my bus would take off, I got word that buses were only going as far north as Hervey Bay (about two hours north of Rainbow) and that everything north of that, including Airlie Beach was not accessible. The woman at the call centre for Premier bus must have thought I was a bit unhinged, because when she told me this I could not stop laughing. The hilarity of my inability to get out of this town was not lost on me, I assure you. With little hope, I changed my ticket to the following day and ordered another drink.
Luckily, the sun came out and dried up whatever particular patch of road seemed to be the issue, so I was on the bus the next night (for a cruisy 14 hours), and arrived in Airlie with plenty of time to catch my boat the following day. Next: the boat.