Fritz was from Austria but had lived in Australia for decades. He was a likeable bloke, although his jokes were all terrible, and he told them relentlessly and we were stuck in a jeep with him all day. Troy, who drove the other jeep, was as Australian as Vegemite and didgeridoos. He was a big man with a bush hat and mirror shades, and a head full of imagery like “as busy as a one-legged man at an arse kicking competition”.
We trundled off the ferry as it docked at Fraser Island and cut through the rainforest, where Fritz pointed out scribbly gums and funnel web spiders’ nests, then stopped at a lake where the sun arranged shapes on the water and the others swam and I sat on the bank and got bitten by sandflies. Fruit, cheese, biscuits and Fritz’s bad jokes, then back in the Land Cruiser, back through the rainforest and onto the beach and a fast run down the creamy sand, watching out for the plane which uses it as a landing strip.
The sky went into a sulk and flung a few minutes of rain at the windscreen. We slowed to look at wild dingoes loping guiltily along the beach and stopped to photograph the wreck of the Maheno, a grand Edwardian liner which slipped its towline and beached on its way to the scrappers in 1935. No one could be bothered to shift it from there and it has been left to decompose.
Then back in the jeep, speeding down the Seventy Five Mile Beach, slowing to bounce over half-buried rocks, then taking a hill at a run. The sky had cheered up by then. Sandwiches, crisps and beer for lunch.
“Grab some more food, mate,” Troy said.
“No I’m good, mate.”
“Another beer then.”
“I’m good, thanks.”
“Does your husband know you’re out?”
We stopped again in the afternoon to clamber up rocks and look out across the frothing ocean, and get bitten by more sandflies; and then again to laugh at a tour bus which had got too close to the water and sunk up to its axles and was listing hard to port. Then hurrying to catch the ferry back to Hervey Bay.
© Richard Senior 2015