There are many reasons why we don't do family holidays very often, but when my sister Catie moved to Australia last autumn we couldn't resist planning a trip to visit her. On 7th Feb, me, Mum, Dad and the twins flew out to Sydney for a three week east coast holiday.
We worked our way from Sydney up to Port Macquarie, where Catie works in the ED, via the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley and Port Stephens. By this point we'd had two weeks of gorgeous weather, had seen some incredible things, and absolutely nothing had gone wrong (except for Dad scraping the side of the hire car a little). Our plan was to head further north and visit Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, which was somewhere I'd wanted to go for years, and a trip we'd spent a huge amount of time and money organising. We would pick Catie up from Brisbane airport the day before, stay over in Eumundi (near Noosa), and then head off early to Rainbow Beach to pick up our 4x4 and get the ferry across to Fraser Island.
With only a couple of days to go, however, tropical cyclone Marcia hit the Queensland coast. We were a few hundred miles south at the time, and even though we were heading north to meet it, the worst of the weather was over by the time we got near. Catie's flight was as scheduled, and we made it to Eumundi fine. But although the weather had improved, the water levels of the Mary River were still rising. We woke up on the day of our drive to Rainbow Beach to find that the Bruce Highway - the main road up the east coast of Australia through Queensland - was blocked at Gympie and Kybong, and that there was further flooding at Six Mile Creek.
A policeman told us we had absolutely no chance of passing north to Rainbow Beach without a 4x4 before the floods went down, which could be a couple of days. Challenge accepted! After a brief detour into Noosa to psyche ourselves up over brunch, we decided that we had nothing to lose by trying to find a route through the little back roads east of the flooding. I was to be chief navigator.
Armed with my Nokia Maps, we set off northbound from Noosa. We found our way onto Cootharaba Road, from where we hoped we might be able to cut across up to the Pomona Kin Kin Road. Our first possible turn off was unpaved and rough looking - not suitable for our hire car (a faithful but two wheel drive Hyundai Imax) - so we steered clear. The next turn off seemed to be a school bus route for the first few miles, so we gave it a go. After a while the tarmac ended, but the road seemed smooth enough so we carried on.
Eventually we arrived at some crossroads, where we had planned to carry straight on. Unfortunately the road ahead seemed to be a private track, was overgrown with plants, and was blocked off by a gate. We turned left instead. Pausing only to remove a fallen tree branch out of the road, we carried on for a couple of miles as the road surface got rougher and rougher. It got to the point where we couldn't continue in the Imax, and our only choice was to turn left into Trickle Creek Farm. Why we ever thought this was a good idea I do not know - I guess we were desperate at this point, and just hoped it would be a through road. We didn't get far enough to find out, as the path got so steep and twisty that we had the choice of turning back or getting stuck, which would be difficult to explain to the car hire company. We gripped our seats in fear as Dad maneuvered a 57 point turn in the narrow road that overlooked a huge drop.
We headed back to the crossroads where we took the only option we had left. After a few miles of tense driving the road started to get smoother and wider. I nervously studied our position on the map as we got closer to the main road, praying that the road wouldn't suddenly become impassable as it had done a few times before. I had never been so happy to see tarmac in my life when we finally made it onto the main road.
Amazingly, we were only a few hours late to Rainbow Beach. We picked up our 4x4, ferried ourselves across to the island, and made it to our accommodation at Kingfisher Bay by sunset. It was worth all the stress. Even though we ended up with only one full day to explore the island, we saw everything we'd hoped to - Lake McKenzie, Seventy-Five Mile Beach, Champagne Pools, Eli Creek, and the Maheno Shipwreck. Plus a cheeky dingo or two.
On the ferry back to Rainbow Beach we laughed about our adventure. Then we opened up the Imax to be hit by a vomit-inducing smell - worse than the smell of the chicken farm in Ilketshall even. But that's a whole different story.