That’s a wrap! Our lap of Australia is officially over. Before we start to think about houses and jobs and study and 2018 goals I wanted to reflect on our incredible year of traveling Australia.
If you interested in our trip stats and general highlights you can see those here
The general advice is to budget a dollar for every kilometre you plan on driving, which was pretty spot on for us! The only thing that was too expensive for our budget that I would have really liked to have done was the “Horizontal Falls” tour and a cruise of the Buccaneer Archipelago. But hey, that can be a trip for some time in the future. I can’t complain, because the few tours we splashed out for were fantastic. These included swimming with the whale sharks on the Ningaloo reef, a trip into West Arnhem land, a snorkel tour on the GBR and sea kayaking on the Freycinet Peninsula in Tassie. We also spent $550 on the ferry over to Kangaroo Island for only four days, which in hindsight is a silly amount of money to spend for the limited time we had there – but we may never get there again and it was an awesome spot so it was worth it!
We really did zero research on things to do and places to visit before we left on our trip. We had a rough guide of how long we would spend in each state and then really just planned week to week – making sure that we visited popular spots out of peak times where possible. With twelve months our limit we quickly realised that you really only have time to see the main highlights of each state you visit if you want to get around the country without rushing too much. It was not the “spend a week in one spot lying on the beach” kind of trip I had been envisioning – at least for us. In reality though after a few days in one spot we would be feeling restless and ready to move on again to see the next amazing thing.
In the end we spent three weeks in Tasmania, four weeks in Victoria, four weeks in South Australia, three months in WA, six weeks in the Northern Territory, six weeks in Queensland and about seven weeks in NSW. Roughly. If we did it again I think more time in Tassie and less time in our home state would have been the way to go, but that was more a matter of circumstance for us than anything else. Three weeks is definitely the minimum amount of time to visit Tassie though, we both really wish we had longer! I’m happy with our clock-wise direction, as it meant we hit Broome late May just before the crazy tourist season (and accompanying prices) hit and completed the Gibb early in the season before school holidays hit. Visiting Kakadu later in the season in August meant it wasn’t busy although it was bloody hot and humid and the water had dried up.
Being with your partner 24/7 is definitely a challenge and I think a trip like this can either make or break a relationship! Jason and I rarely argue normally but we definitely had a few blow ups at each other on this trip. Usually it was a result of being tired, frustrated or being in each other’s pockets too much and was usually over something fairly minor like the best place to set up camp. Luckily we are very good at being comfortable in our silence and also good at being silly and coming up with stupid songs and dances when we are bored. It can’t have been too bad because we are now engaged!
THE SET UP
We have now seen every single kind of set up under the sun but I still think the camper trailer was the right set up for us. The main benefit was that we could explore for the day and have something already set up to come back to. Plus it came with a great kitchen set up and a decent sized awning that we could turn into a second room if we wanted more privacy or if it was bucketing down with rain. Our trailer was a $14,000 Mars camper trailer which is at the low end of the scale and as you would expect with that price it has had its fair share of cosmetic issues but two services have come up with zero structural issues. The only thing we have had done is the wheel bearings repacked, which is something that needs to be maintained and a common problem for campers when traveling off road. But we survived the Gibb River Road, Tanami road, the road into the Bungles and part of the Savannah way (before our car ran into strife) with no worries. The best advice that you hear all the time but is so true is to drive to the conditions, which may seem fairly obvious, but when you think about how some people start driving like lunatics in the rain, you can get an idea of how they might drive on a dirt road. The other thing is that Mars provide excellent post-sale service, and the issues that we had with the wiring and water tank were all sorted out for us at the Brisbane store. I would highly recommend them.
There were definitely moments in September and October where I would have liked to have abandoned Mable Terence in a field but that was mainly because of the ongoing mould issue we had with the canvas tent. While the appearance of the canvas is still not great I feel fairly confident that the mould itself has been killed, the proof will be when we pull it out again after a few months in storage I guess.
We are hanging on to Mable Terence for now; there are plenty of options to replace the tent if we decide to go down that path. We just need to find a rental property that has a big enough driveway to store it!
Before and during our journey I had my fair share of concerns and fears of what could happen including:
- being eaten by a crocodile or shark (I even had dreams about this!)
- encountering a big spider or snake in the tent
- having our swag trodden on by a cow whilst we were asleep
- being attacked by a dingo
- being killed in a horrific head on car crash, potentially involving road trains
- a murderer walking into our tent and killing us in our sleep
Okay, some of these things are pretty macabre; but they have been known to happen and hence something to worry about! Obviously none of those things happened – we were careful and cautious and never felt in danger at any time. In fact, there are so many travellers on the road and many people will bend over backwards to help, people are just so friendly. Everyone wants to talk about where you’ve been, where you’re going, your set up, share tips, talk road conditions, etc etc. I will miss that. I go for a walk around the river near my parents’ house and I go to smile and say hello to someone walking past and am lucky for them to look in my direction in return.
THE THINGS WE’LL MISS
- 5pm drink time
- Relaxing on the camper bed with a book or podcast (okay we can still do these things but it’s different when you are camping in a magnificent location!)
- 100% nature time
- cooking over the camp fire
- sharing our space with wildlife
- incredible landscapes
- gorge swims
- no technology or TV for entertainment
- simple pleasures
- the freedom that comes with living life on the road
THINGS WE WON’T MISS
- having to walk between fifty and a hundred metres to go to the toilet
- having a movie cut out at a pivotal moment because the lap top battery ran out
- having to constantly wash and dry dishes
- packing/setting up in the rain
- showering in thongs/showers with questionable hygiene, cleanli
- noisy and inconsiderate campers that have no concept of personal space
THINGS WE HAVE COME TO REALISE OR HAVE BEEN REINFORCED
We have been to places that are hundreds of millions years old and seen evidence of the very first living organisms on earth. That really has made us realise the insignificance of our lives in the grander scheme of the evolution of the earth. Which isn’t to say that our lives aren’t important to us or the people who we care about but in reality we are really just a blip on a map along with billions of other blips spanning over a billions of years long time line. Being reminded of this often has been quite humbling and helps not to get too caught up in the dramas of life, to enjoy life as much as we can and pursue what we’re passionate about.
Our oceans are choking with rubbish. Walking along a fairly secluded beach in Cape Tribulation I was picking up some rubbish when I realised that what I was picking up could not be from the few visitors to the beach. Full nutella jar, a single thong, beer cans full of sand and a whole bunch of other stuff that you just wouldn’t take with you to the beach. It had all been washed up from the ocean. It’s super worrying to think about what the earth will be like to live in for future generations, let alone think about what is currently happening to the world’s marine life. Our environment is so beautiful and so important for our survival and it is being trashed. It has made me a lot stricter about my use of single-use plastics and consumption habits in general. Which brings me to our next realisation:
Consume less, we don’t need all the stuff! Some of our best days were when we went for a long walk or a beach snorkel with a tuna salad packed for lunch. Traveling with only the things we needed was so liberating and through the process of putting our belongings into storage we got rid of so much superfluous stuff. Even then, when we visited our storage space yesterday there was a whole bunch of stuff that I looked at and thought – “this crap is not coming with us to the new place!” But now that we’re back home, there is the temptation of going out for dinner even though the fridge is packed with food, buying something at the shops just because we happen to there, thinking about buying a new TV and fridge even though we have those things already, they’re just old. The question I’m going to ask myself from now on is “do I already have enough of this?” whenever I go to purchase something, and if the answer is yes then I won’t buy it.
That there is so much joy to be taken from being outdoors. I was a bit of home-body before we set out on this adventure and not really into outdoor activities outside of lying on the beach and the occasional bush walk. Sometimes walking up the hill and over boulders in 35 degrees is hard and it sucks, sometimes you are scared when you see a reef shark swimming your way whilst snorkelling, or swimming in a hot spring that has just reopened after a croc sighting and of course there are risks associated with outdoor activities. Plus you get dirty and smelly and sore and bored and irritable but it just makes the great times so much sweeter. We have just loved spending all of our time outdoors in 2017 and built up lots of resilience and strength as a result. I have slept so well thanks to breathing in the fresh air and we are healthier in mind, body and spirit. Hopefully we can continue to live a lifestyle where in twenty or thirty years time we are still healthy and fit enough to still do those tricky walks; just like some of the grey nomads we came across!
Country folk do it tough! Stuff us city people take for granted – unlimited potable water, ready access to supplies and services, access to restaurants and entertainment, access to jobs when your town is shutting down around you, well maintained bitumen roads, reasonable postal delivery times (it was going to take one week for something to be posted to us from Melbourne to Darwin, three weeks from to Melbourne to Alice) – they were just things we never had to think or worry about living in the city bubble. We even couldn’t get things we needed to repair our set up in bigger regional towns such as Cairns, they had to be ordered in. In addition to that, we have become far more accepting of other people and have come to understand a bit more about where people from different ages and backgrounds are coming from. I’ve sat down and had conversations with people whose opinion and politics differ very greatly from mine, but are otherwise lovely, kind, generous people. This took me out of my comfort zone of like-minded friends and challenged the way I see people who hold certain views. People are entitled to an opinion, we can agree to disagree and move on to other topics where we do find common ground. And don’t even get me started on the Indigenous communities we visited, which were akin to third world conditions, in fact I’ve visited developing countries that were better resourced than some of those Indigenous communities we visited. Our trip to the NT was a big eye opener. We definitely appreciate how good we’ve got it here in the city when it comes to access to resources and services.
If you are thinking about doing a trip of this nature – big or small, all I can say is do it! It is possible, all it requires is a shift in mindset and letting go of the security blanket of having a regular income, job and home. I was worried about all those things before we left, but I didn’t give it a second thought once we were on the road. The transition to full time travel was tricky and took a couple of months to settle into, but in the end you just make it work.
I’m not sure what the future of this blog will be yet, but thanks to everyone for reading and your lovely feedback. It’s great to have a record of our journey but also to bring some joy or inspiration to others as well. We really did not realise how amazing our country is, but now I think it is the best country in the world – the people, the landscape, the beaches, the adventure, the geological wonders, the wildlife. It really does have it all and I can’t wait to keep exploring!
Until next time – happy camping!