“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
February 2, 2012, Washington, DC: It happens. We get older. We can’t find the time. We don’t have the money. We get stuck at work and we stop playing. Playgrounds all over the world are lost on us.
And then we wake up. Save up. Pack up. In traveling, we remember what else is out there. Like fun. If we strike gold, we find ourselves in the middle of a fantastical place like Fraser Island, starring in a real live video game. Super Mario Brothers pales in comparison.
Fraser Island is the largest island in the world that’s made entirely of sand. It stretches one hundred and twenty-five kilometres through Hervey Bay, north of Brisbane and south of the Great Barrier Reef along Queensland’s coast. To reach this playground, we rent a four-wheel drive truck outfitted with camping equipment and a map and we drive onto a ferry. We are let loose on the other side.
On Fraser Island, it’s anybody’s game. We race through colorful mazes and sandy roads, as if searching for cherries, dodging ghosts and reaching for stars that will make us invincible. Inland, dense rows of trees poke out of the sand, surrounding the pristine freshwater Lake Mackenzie. Sandy bottom creeks run clear as day. Dunes stretch high into the sky. Like a game of leap frog, we hurl ourselves down the sandy hills at Rainbow Gorge. We roll down another, splashing directly into Lake Wabby where the slope continues to fall below the waterline.
Maps are marked with places to camp, if only we can navigate the detours. Finally, we reach the far coast, emerging from the trees onto a wide empty beach lining open ocean. We accelerate to the next level. A new landscape. A whole other world.
The dingos come in the evening to steal our food. We keep night watch. We let our imaginations run wild.
We dream up the games we’ll play tomorrow.