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Dances with dingoes on a remote isle

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It was only the third day of our vacation. Our four-wheel-drive had broken down, and we were stuck in a rain forest on the world's largest sand island - which also happens to be populated by Australia's most genetically pure dingoes.

Welcome to Fraser Island, said the young Aussie who stopped to help. Now comes the real adventure part of your holiday, he could have added. Hope you brought the bug spray.

He disappeared to get a park ranger - Fraser Island is one of Australia's World Heritage parks - and we settled in to wait.

The ranger soon arrived and radioed for a tow truck. Her instructions when she left were simple: "If you're still here by 4 o'clock, I'd start hoofing it out to the beach, and try and hitch a ride home."

The suggestion wasn't exactly enticing. We were an hour's drive from the beach on a rolling soft-sand track. We were also a two-hour drive up 75-Mile Beach, Fraser Island's main drag, from where we were staying.

Then there was that thing about dingoes. The prevailing scientific theory is that this type of wild dog came across a land bridge from Asia millions of years ago to terrorize the unsuspecting marsupials who had the place largely to themselves. This is supposed to make them ecologically fascinating, historical travelers stranded by a sudden change in the tides that at some point left them the main mammalian predator in what became Australia.

Thanks to another fluke of geography, the dingoes on Fraser Island, unlike their mainland counterparts, never interbred with domestic dogs. A nice thought if you're into genetics, but hardly comforting if you might have to set out on a two-hour hike through their territory.


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