sauntering up the South Coast

The trip has now well and truly started.

We set out for Merimbula on a Sunday afternoon, which seems like a weird time of the week to begin a trip, but as we soon discovered, days of the week don’t mean much to us anymore. Doesn’t take long to relax into holiday mode!

We decided to ease ourselves into life on the road, by staying in some more decked out holiday parks to begin with, until we get into the swing of things. Merimbula is always lovely, but a bit busier than we had hoped, even though it’s not peak holiday season. After a couple of nights there, I found myself longing for somewhere a bit more quiet and simple, so we decided to keep moving northward up the coast,  to see what we could find.

One of the tourist brochures claimed that Tathra is where you’ll find the best oysters in Australia, so of course we had to put this to the test.  After picking up nice fat local oysters, along with a nice cold bottle of sauvignon blanc and some hot chips, we headed out to Gillards Beach in the Mimosa Rocks National Park. Heaven!!  These oysters are seriously good, and totally lived up to the hype.

And what a spot for it, too! This campground was a real find – beautiful scenery, with camping sites right on a deserted stretch of beach. We had visits from all the local wildlife including black cockatoos, roos, wallabies (one cheeky little fellow came right up and had a good sniff of Oli’s arm and tshirt while we were sitting around the campfire), possums, a little potaroo, and an enormous monitor lizard which made me shriek and run for the van! Truly memorable, we didn’t want to leave this spot but decided to keep on moving.

Bermagui was next, where we stayed at an old skool camping ground full of friendly grey nomads. Glad we checked out this delightful little town, it’s got a lovely vibe. If you visit, make sure you have a swim at Blue Pool – it’s an awesome little spot.

We had a one night stay in Narooma, to top up on a few bits and pieces before heading on to the Cobargo Folk Festival for the weekend – we nabbed a powered site and lived it up in folkie-hippie style for the weekend, enjoying some good music,  laid back atmosphere and gorgeous country scenery. I did however manage to get bitten by something nasty while sitting in the grass, which resulted in another bloody allergic reaction and a subsequent trip to the Moruya Hospital to get it sorted. All good now!

We’re already getting used to living in such a little space, and making it work for us. Have found some of the stuff we’ve brought along has been either completely genius, or totally ridiculous. Why I thought a massive Tupperware box of rice would be a good thing to take, I’ll never know! But Oli’s idea of bringing a plug-in outside lamp was genius, for those times when dinner gets a bit late and we end up cooking after the sun goes down. 

I think we’ve decided our favourite spots so far are the National Parks campgrounds. I’m writing this from Pretty Beach at Murramarang NP just north of Batemans Bay. Again, native animals everywhere (we were woken by a possum last night making awful noises just outside the van!), perfect scenery, cheap, and not too busy. Think we’ll stay another night or maybe two, then push onwards.

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One mother of a to-do list

Only 18 more days until we leave Sydney and begin our adventure.   It’s a weird stage actually; we both keep alternating between being ridiculously excited about our imminent departure,  and freaking out about a) how much we still have to do to get ourselves and the van ready, b) whether we have saved enough money for this trip and c) having to go through the tedious and time consuming process of packing up our house and putting it into storage.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Soon, the house will be all packed up, and we’ll be on the road down to Canberra, to settle the monkey-cat into his new foster home (that is, my parent’s place). From there, we’ll either head down to Victoria, or possibly down to the south coast of NSW and bum around for 3 weeks. Then we need to come back up to Sydney for a wedding, before we begin our trip proper, heading north and hopefully doing some volunteering at Bluesfest in Byron Bay over Easter.

It feels amazing to have no real plans set in stone, but to instead be able to take things as they come and set our course as we go along. Who knows where this year may take us!

At this point, I’m enjoying the reactions we’ve been getting from friends, colleagues and family when we tell them we’re taking a year of to do this trip around the country. Quite a few seem surprised it’s not all idle threats. I loved the reaction of one friend (hi Simmo!) who said “Holy shit, it’s actually happening! When Oli told me I thought it was just one of those things people say, like ‘we’re gonna stop drinking’.”

Other people seem slightly perplexed – you can tell they’re wondering to themselves why a young couple would bother joining the grey nomads when they could instead go jetsetting across the world, or use that money on a house deposit. Different strokes for different folks.

But the best is when we tell people what we’re planning and they get all excited for us. We’ve had heaps of hot tips from others who have done the trip or spent some time on the road.

“Get a CB radio” said my brother, “so when you come up behind a big truck that’s just cruising you can have a chat and ask him if it’s ok to overtake.”

“Take fishing rods – it’s great fun, and you might even save a bit of money catching your own dinner,” said a young couple who’d just returned home from a three month stint. “And watch out for those emus!”

“Go mustering – it’s a shitload of fun and you’ll earn some money too!”

One west-coast based friend advised “Make sure you go to Broome, but don’t get stuck in Broome-time. So many people just fall in love with the place and never move on!”

Have you got any hot tips or advice to add to the list? If so, please enlighten us  – leave a comment below.

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progress

We’ve been super slack at updating this thing, but now we’re getting closer to the big trip and there have been lots of developments, so it’s time to get back on here.

We gave Louey-van a run up to Mullumbimby in early Dec, for a spontaneous road trip after I won tix to the music festival there, so it was a great opportunity for us to get a feel for the van, and also for me to get behind the wheel and get some more manual driving practice in.  Discovered that the bed is rock hard and super uncomfy, so we’ve made some adjustments. Also discovered that our we look kinda hard-case and dorky when pulled up next to one of those super-tits ol retro Kombis… but then again, image isn’t everything I s’pose. I’ve heard stories about how much trouble those Kombis can be mechanically, so while we may not look like free-and-easy hippies in our Hi-Ace, at least we can be confident that our campervan will get us across the Nullabor without any dramas (touch wood)!

Anyway, since the Mullumbimby trip we’ve been ploughing through the trip to-do list, installing a pumping new stereo and speakers (thanks Mike!) and getting all the bits and pieces together that we’ll need.

Also, we’re now proud members of WWOOF Australia and will be getting in touch with one of two hosts in the next few days, to see if anyone is mad enough to have us come stay.

So now we’ve got about four more weeks of work to go, then it’ll be time to pack up all our stuff in the Newtown house and hit the road. The fact that it’s all happening so fast freaks me right out, and makes me wonder if we’re completely nuts to be doing this.

Oh what the hell… bring it on!

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the trip starts here…

The bank account may be looking quite empty right now, but we’re one step closer to the start of our trip. Yep, we’ve finally bought our van!

It’s going to be our home and our transport while Oli and I take one year, more or less, out of the 9 to 5 (or in Oli’s case, the 6 to 3) rat race. We’ll be joining the hoards of grey nomads, tripping around the country, taking our time to see as much of this amazing land as we can.

But we’ll be working along the way too. Sometimes volunteering at music festivals, sometimes WWOOFing (that is, Willing Workers on Organic Farms), and sometimes we’ll be fruit and vege picking on the harvest trail.
It’s something we’ve been planning for over a year now, after the idea randomly popped into my head while I was sitting on the bus on the way to work one morning. It’s taken us a while to save the money for our home on wheels, but we got there and have been able to buy it outright. Now we just have to get a bit more cash together, before we hit the road, probably in February.

The van is a beauty too – a ’99 Toyota Hiace pop-top we’ve dubbed Louey. It’s pretty much got everything we need – a bed and a kitchen, and a set of wheels to get us around the country. The only thing it doesn’t have is a bathroom and toilet. We’ll be buying a solar shower, and as for the loo, I think we’ll have to be opportunistic and make the most of truck stop and servos, and get ourselves a good shovel for when we’re camping in more remote spots!

We can’t wait to do some weekend trips around and about, over the next few months before we go, so we can get the feel of it, and find out what extra bits of gear might be helpful. Next weekend looks like a run down to Canberra, where I’ll get my first drive of the van – should be interesting, considering I haven’t driven a manual since I got my drivers license a few years ago, and I’ve never driven anything bigger than a small hatchback! Yikes! Just as well Oli’s a pro at the van driving, I suppose.

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