As I rolled over in my bed my eyes shot open. I would normally wake from the rays of the early morning sun but the alcohol from the night before had made me restless and I rose much earlier than usual; the sun wasn’t even up yet.
I drearily put my shoes on and stumbled around in my tent in search of a head torch. I had always planned to catch the sunrise since moving here but games of beer pong and bonfire nights with the backpackers had taken preference. There was no way I was going back to sleep now so a spontaneous trip to watch dawn break seemed fitting.
I was currently living and working on a world heritage listed site; Fraser Island. Fraser is a well known tourist destination in Queensland. It is also, however, known for being home to dingoes, sharks, spiders and multiple species of venomous snakes.
With my morning activity plan decided, I zipped up my tent and grabbed a roadie beer to accompany me on my early morning endevour (and to cure the hangover).
The flickers of light from my torch danced on the undergrowth beneath my feet. I headed for the campground exit. Right when I was about to acknowledge how completely silent the campground was, I heard a sound of life from the trees. The animals of Fraser Island were waking up.
A faint squawk bellowed from above me and I gazed up in consuming curiousity. It was a kookaburra announcing its first laugh of the day. Suddenly an Eastern Curlew let out its call. I finally knew what the park rangers meant when they said this bird’s call either sounds like it’s having an orgasm or being murdered.
Only seconds later I heard a rustling. My eyes directed to the top of another tree now as I studied a goanna climbing some nerve-racking heights. It looked like it was in search of the first rays of the day and it reminded me of my mission to watch the sunrise. I knew that dawn break wasn’t far off and out of love of the moment before the sunrise, I picked up some speed in my stride.
My brain was numb from the alcohol of the night before but my mind was awake with excitement. I cheered on a gecko as it scaled a rock, successfully catching its early morning fly for breakfast. I took another sip of my early morning alcoholic breakfast and pressed on.
I reached the edge of the campground and smirked to myself. A single bird call that had broken the silence of the solemn bush 5 minutes ago had now turned into a choir made up of different bird species. Each call and song unique.
Wanting to find some higher ground with the best views, I headed for ‘signal hill.’ It was a steep trek covered in thick bushland and dingoes were known to frequent the area. Basically it was a lively playground for the nature of Fraser but it was the only place that had reception.
I had only made the pilgrimage to signal hill once before when I first landed on the island and had the initial ‘culture shock’ of not having reception. It hadn’t fazed me since but a birds eye view of the island deemed it an ideal spot for a sunrise.
As I trudged through the thick bushes, my mind wandered to the happenings of the party from the night before. With my head still spinning from the alcohol, I stepped down and thought I must still be highly intoxicated or still dreaming when I realised a deadly snake was centimetres away from me.
The snake coiled in shock while I froze in fear. I expected it to lunge at me but it continued to sliver along. I could tell from the patterns on its back and its unique brow that it was the deadly one the island locals warn you about. As the snake disappeared into the bush, my thoughts raced. I lost my breath thinking about how insanely venomous and life threatening this snake was and how remote my location was. When you’re hours drive away from the island airport with no anti venom, ‘death adder’ is not the name of a snake that you want to run into!
Still startled with fear, I managed to race the last few steps to the top of signal hill. As I reached the peak, I took a few deep breathes of the fresh outback air and the headache of my hangover eased. I sat down and appreciated that I was actually alive to view the sunset!
A sense of appreciation came over me; it’s not every day you get to watch the morning twilight on the world’s largest sand island. As the sun crept up past the horizon, I watched a pack of dingoes turn into dots as they furthered down the beach and looked on in astonishment at a sea eagle picking up a snake and dropping it from high up. I could see why this place was heritage listed.
When I returned to camp, I shared my experience with the locals and each person responded with their (a little too late) advice on what to do when you come across a snake. They spoke of local Aboriginal techniques and regurgitated “something they saw on Man vs. Wild this one time.”
But if you ask me.. you can hear all the safety warnings in the world, have anti venom available on site and be stocked with first aid snake bite kits but in order to avoid getting into that situation again, I thought I’d listen to the professionals. I decided to be extra careful and take the special precautions they advised: for my own safety, I agreed to have a sleep in next time! 😉