Tips from the road

Like I have said before, to me, road tripping around Australia is the best way to see it. You don’t have the restriction of being on a tour bus, and it’s an experience in itself.

Now when you start your very first road trip you are going to be nervous but most of all excited. You won’t know what to expect, but that’s the fun part. And the further you get into the road trip, the more you will learn.

So after completing a few road trips, this is what we have learnt and are our tips from the road.

My number one tip is; make ideas not plans. As a set plan can be really trip defining, especially as generally you won’t know how long it will take to get from one place to another, a set plan can be exhausting. So what we do, as were not really planners anyway, is write down a list of all the places we want to see along the way, and then work through the list as we go. This works really well for us as you can decide how long you want to spend in a place. As many times we’ve prejudged a place based on other people’s stories, and then when we got there we loved it and ended staying for a couple of days. This works the other way too though, as there have been times where a place hasn’t lived up to our expectations and we spent less time there.

I am going to contradict my first tip though, as I would say when you are going to places that require certain conditions, that it is best to research and plan a time to go. For example if you are going to go see blow holes, they are normally at their best in windy conditions when the waves are bigger.

One of our most important tips, which we generally avoid doing at all costs, is night driving. Now, night driving in Australia is anytime when the sun is down, when wildlife comes out to play. I know it might sound crazy, mainly to Europeans as we are used to sunlight up until 10pm in summer, and being able to drive throughout the night in well-lit conditions. But in Australia, outside city limits means complete darkness with only your headlights lighting up the road. And this is what kangaroos and other critters are attracted to, and they can be pretty big and ultimately can write of your vehicle if one hops in the way.

This may be an obvious one, but share the driving if you can. Australia is a MASSIVE country, and sometimes there will be times you’ll have 8 hour-long driving days where there won’t be much to see. And even if you are sharing the driving, take breaks in between as the road does get boring sometimes.

To follow the last one, make games to keep you entertained. Sometimes I spy is impossible to play so you’ll have to get inventive. When we were on quieter roads, We had a game where we would guess what the next vehicle would be; a car, caravan, road train.

Also on the point of other vehicles, on the long quiet roads, be friendly and give a nod to fellow roadtrippers.

Another big one would be to try and stick to roads that your vehicle is capable of, unless you have a 4wd and can pretty much conquer the world. There will be unsealed roads that you’ll come Across, which literally feel like they will shake apart your vehicle. So unless you know it’s only a short way along unsealed road, I would avoid taking the road. But obviously it’s at the driver discretion, if you have your own vehicle and want to risk miles of rattling then you may be rewarded by the destination. However, in a rental vehicle I would discourage it as once your past a certain point of unsealed road, with most company’s the insurance becomes void and you are liable for all costs if something goes wrong.

I would also recommend following Australia driving laws, keeping to the speed limit especially in cities, and parking in allocated spaces. Also make sure you park in the direction of traffic, as it seems there hot on is, and I got a $180 ticket for this.

And keep an eye out for toll roads, these are in the main city areas of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. But you can avoid them, it just gets a bit confusing on the smaller roads.

Food is an important one, and one of our favourite things. When your out on a road trip do not expect to cook gourmet meals, as generally you will only have a stove top and possible bbq to work with. An oven is a luxury that you sometimes get at a campsite. So I would say to come up with meal ideas that can be made on the hob, and require minimal ingredients as storage space is limited.
However I would say to stock up on food when you can, while in civilization. As sometimes you’ll be out in the middle of no where with no stores around, and miles away from another one. If your new to Australia, Coles, Woolworths and Aldi are the go to stores.

Also grab some snacks for the road that you can have in the cab, as on long journeys you can get quite an appetite. We had some chocolate with coffee beans in for part of our trip which was ace, as it would give us a buzz.

This one sounds a bit lame, and something a parent would say. But make sure you have plenty of water with you, as you never know what might happen and you could get stuck somewhere in the Australian heat.

Another must have in my opinion, is either of the campsite apps; Wikicamps or Campermate. They make life so much easier, as you can look up free or paid campsites to stay at, and they even give reviews and photos sometimes. Also the app Fuel map is handy to have, as it shows nearby fuel stations and how much the price is on fuel.

On the topic of campsites, generally you won’t need to book ahead so you get the flexibility. However if it is the holidays, you may need to book as the campsites get very busy. So if possible I would recommend avoiding road tripping during school holidays.

And make friends with fellow campers, most the time they’ll have tips on places to go along your route.

But most of all, if you don’t take anything else from this post, have fun. Take heaps of photos, wake up early for sunrise, get out your comfort zone and life the dream.

 

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The Great Ocean Road and beyond

We were back on the road again, and on our way to Melbourne for Christmas. It felt so good to be back out on the road again, but there was a bit of pressure as we did need to get to Melbourne for the 18th December, to check into our rental house.

We had a long drive from Adelaide as we planned to visit the Blue lake near Mount Gambier, which was over a 4 hour drive, via the giant Lobster. Australia seems to have a thing for oversized items; lobsters, bananas, prawns. I have no idea why but they make an interesting photo.

The Blue Lake exceeded our expectations, and unlike the previous pink lakes we had seen, this one was actually a bright shade of blue. The lake itself is in a large crater, in a dormant volcano that is believed to have last erupted 6000 years ago. It was actually really impressive, and our photos definitely do not do it justice, as it was a bright cobalt blue. We had a walk around part of the lake while we were there, as well as a hike up some steps for a view over the surrounding area. And then we went and found a campsite for the evening nearby, with the bonus of a giant pillow to play around on.

The following morning we left Mount Gambier to begin our drive along the Great Ocean Road, and into the state of Victoria.

Our first stop along the Great Ocean road was the Bay of Islands, which is a lookout point that overlooks some rock stacks dotted just offshore. We did the short walk down from the car park, took some photos and then got back in the van again, as it looked like rain was ominous and we had a lot planned.

The next place we stopped to see was The Grotto, which is another rock formation, and probably one of the most interesting ones. It is a small cave like formation, that is about halfway up the cliff face and has been naturally worn down by the ocean. Again there was a walkway down from the car park to a lookout point, which then carried on to the cave part of the Grotto.

After The Grotto came London bridge and the arch (now known as London Arch), which is an arch formation just off the shore. We spent a little while at this one, as we had a walk down to the beach. 

The last stop before the Twelve apostles was the Loch ard Gorge, which was more of an enclosed bay than a rock formation. It had cliff faces that curved around the blue-green water and yellow sand. It also had an interesting back story as to how it got its name, as it was named after a boat that wrecked nearby with only 2 young survivors.

The final stop for rock formations was the 12 Apostles, the most iconic stop along the Great Ocean road. We actually went to see them in the afternoon, and then came back again at sunset. The Twelve apostles is a collection of rocks just offshore, within close proximity to each other, however there aren’t actually 12 of them. There are only 8 left, although it is quite difficult to count 8. It was more exciting the second time we saw them, as we were kind of over rock formations in the afternoon as we’d seen so many. So after a break where we checked into a nearby campsite, we were refreshed and ready to go again. And it was good as we took the blanket with us, as the wind was freezing and we snuggled up watching the sunset over the apostles. I would definitely recommend going to see them as the sun sets as it gives a pretty backdrop, and would be even better if the sky was clear.

After staying overnight by the Twelve apostles, we then made our way towards the seaside town of Lorne. Which is the literal ideal of a seaside town. The sea front is lined with chip shops and stores selling buckets and spades, and has a busy beach area. So obviously we did the typically British thing, and had fish and chips on the beach, with a battered mars bar for desert. 

After Lorne was my favourite part of the drive along the Great Ocean Road, as the winding road followed along the edge of the ocean. We continued on our drive until we got to Torquay, the place where Ripcurl and Quicksilver originated from, the home of surf. We had a quick look at the beaches and a browse of the surf shops and then got back on the road as we were pushed for time.

We then drove through to Melbourne, we would’ve like to have stopped in Geelong but we just didn’t have the time. We were pretty excited when we drove into Melbourne, as we could see the city skyline on the road in. Which meant that it was time to have Christmas in Melbourne.

The iconic Great Ocean Road really is a must do in Australia, as it documents some beautiful sea front all along one road, as well as some mind-blowing rock formations. even though we did get tired of rock formations as we had seen so many, it doesn’t take away the fact that they are naturally made and ever-changing.

And I would say that if any road were to sum up the ideas of a road trip, it would be this one. As it is very much about the journey rather than the destination, and the reliability of living out of a van. Being able to have moments of comfort in beautiful places.


40 Degrees in Adelaide

It was good to arrive into Adelaide and into the comfort of a home again. As much as I do love being on the road, I do also miss a sofa, a bit of TV and being able to cook meals using an oven rather than a stove top. And we were lucky enough to be able to stay with Adam’s Uncle Tony and Aunt Ned while we were staying in Adelaide.

I think we spent about a week in Adelaide exploring the city, it was good as Tony and Ned took us to a few places and were almost like our own Adelaide tour guides. The first place we saw in Adelaide was Glenelg, as far as I can work out, Glenelg seemed to be the main hub of Adelaide or at least my favourite part. It was on the beachfront and had a small jetty lined with fishermen and a main street with lots of independent cafes and bars. While we were there, We went to the museum that was in the old town hall, it had interesting exhibitions where we learnt about the history of the town.

Another one of the main parts of Adelaide would be the city centre, and Rundle mall. The mall is a massive outdoor shopping complex that has all the stores you could think of. we did have a wander around one day, but we didn’t buy anything as we were pushed for space in the van.

We also went outside the city limits and visited Monarto zoo, which is a little bit like Longleat at home, as you can go through the enclosures on a bus. We got to see them feeding some of the animals like the giraffes and the lions, and see other animals like rhinos pretty close up. There was a little bit of a drama while we were there though, as there was a small wildfire quite close to the zoo so we had to be evacuated back to the main area.

Another day we went to Hahndorf, which is the oldest German settlement in Australia. It was mad to see, as it was all very traditionally German. We walked along the main street which had small outlets and bakeries, it also had a traditional Bavarian beer house. The only problem we had was that some of the shops were closed on a Tuesday, and that was the day we visited, so it wasn’t as lively as it could’ve been.

One of my favourite days in Adelaide was when we visited the Haigh’s chocolate factory, and we had a guided tour showing us the process of making the chocolates. Haigh’s is a family owned Australian chocolate company that is over 100 years old, and I would say the best chocolate manufacturer in Australia. My favourite part of the tour was getting free samples at every stop, and Haigh’s chocolate is yum. We did also buy some chocolate and some fancy hot chocolate too.

Whilst we were in Adelaide we had to go to the Barossa valley, and find some wine to sample. The Barossa valley is world famous for its wineries, and produce some of the best wines in Australia. As we are not wine geeks, we just picked a winery based on looks and ratings on trip advisor, so we ended up at Seppeltsfield. I think it was a good choice as they have a wine tasting board, which combined food and wine complimenting each other. It also made it more fun for Adam, who is not a fan of wine (after a certain occasion when he drank bottle loads), as he got to eat the bite size pieces of food. After working our way through the wine board, and purchasing some of the sweetest wine they had, we then made our way back to the city. 

Also as Christmas was only about a week away, we did try and get in the Christmas spirit. Which is really difficult in temperatures of 40 degrees plus. But we went to Carols by candlelight one evening, and spent the evening watching a free gig in the park. It was amazing, they run the show every year and I think donations they get for it go to charity. And they did have professionals singing, not just your average knock door carolers.

After the gig finished we had a wander around the Christmas decorations in the city, especially as public transport was rammed. It was nice to see the decorations, and it actually felt Christmassy in the dark, despite the fact it was still hot.

One evening we met up with one of our old school teachers, which was totally crazy. As Adam has him as a Facebook friend, he messaged to say if we were in the area to come say hi. So we did, we went over his house for drinks to catch up. It was really nice to catch up as adults and find out about his move to Australia, and that he was in a totally different career as you can’t just transfer over to teaching here.

 

Once our week in Adelaide was up, we ended the week with a meal with Tony and Ned and then left for Melbourne. We had a good time in Adelaide, it’s not one of our favourite city’s as it’s quite small but for a small city it has quite a lot to offer. One of our only problems we had while we were there though, was the heat. It was literally 40 degrees the whole week, and I don’t think it ever went below 30, even in the evening. But we didn’t let it get in the way of experiencing what the city had to offer.

We were very excited to get back on the road though, and make our way towards Melbourne and our first Christmas in Australia.

Our first road trip

Our very first road trip. Wow. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we were super excited to get out on the road in our new mobile home and see all the places we’d read about. But we were also sad to be leaving Perth, as it’s all we’d known in Australia so far and it is such a beautiful city.

Before we drove out of Perth, we stopped off up the hill on the way to Kalamunda, as there is a view point that looks over the city that I had driven past everyday on the way back from work, just to say a final goodbye to our first Australia home.

Then we hit the road, Perth to Adelaide in less than 2 weeks. 

Once we were on the road, our first destination was Busselton to see the 2km long jetty. We had originally wanted to stop off in Bunbury to see if we could spot any dolphins, but as we were a day behind already we decided to skip it. We had left late as well, so after a 2 1/2 hour drive, we arrived into Busselton just as the sun was about to set. So we found a campsite to stay for the evening, ordered some Chinese for dinner and then spent our first excitable evening in the camper. It was here that I also discovered that Australian Chinese fried rice involves a lot of meat, so I ended up with a rice free meal.

The next morning we got up reasonably early, as you have to check out of campsites by 10am, and we went down to the Jetty. Our first port of call though, before trekking down the 2km jetty and back, was a quick breakfast in a nice cafe on the seafront. Then after filling up on some amazing pancakes, we started our walk along the Jetty. The jetty was pretty cool, it had a blue shed on it which stood out against the water, a train that goes up and down and an under water observatory. The under water observatory was interesting, as it was a building towards the end of the jetty that you went in, walked down some stairs and then it was like being in an aquarium. It had big glass windows that looked out underneath the jetty at the wooden posts, that were all covered in colourful coral. After spending a bit of time looking at the coral, and learning about the jetty and the marine life around it, we then got back up to dry land and slowly made our way back to van. 

Once we had seen all there was to see of Busselton, we left to make our way towards Margaret River. We had a bit of a laugh on the way, as we drove through a town called Cowaramup that had lots of plastic cows dotted around wearing Santa hats.

It didn’t take long to get to our next destination, being only 45 minutes, we got to Margaret River in the early afternoon. We didn’t spend much time there though, as with our tight schedule it didn’t quite make the cut. Looking back though, I do wish we had planned for more time there as it was a nice town and it has some great beaches. Oh and lots of wine. That’s what it’s largely known for, the wineries and the surfing beaches. I think they host some of the big surfing competitions throughout the year there, which is easy to see why as the waves are insane. There was even a sign by Surfers point beach categorizing the waves into expert and legendary. After having a wander around town and a quick lunch break, we left for our final destination of the day, Pemberton.

Pemberton wasn’t too far from Margaret river, but it felt like it was. As we’d gone from the beach, into the middle of the forest. And Once we got there it was beginning to get dark, so we found a campsite for the evening and did some planning for the following days.

The next day we got up to find some new friends camped out by the van, some little ducks that we shared breakfast with in exchange for some photos.  After they moved on, we then set off for the day to The Gloucester and Diamond trees. Pemberton is known for its massive Karri trees, especially the Gloucester and Diamond trees as they have old fire look out points that are over 50 metres above the ground. The trees basically have metal pegs that spiral up to the top, until they reach a platform that looks out over the other trees in the forest. Obviously I couldn’t resist climbing to the top, which would be to the horror of my parents as there was no harness or anything to stop you falling 50 metres down. Adam did also attempt the climb, but after getting a little way up he decided he wasn’t a fan of heights and lack of safety precautions. But I carried on and eventually made it to the top, it was quite a climb though as eventually the pegs turned into a small vertical ladder, which looked a bit sketchy and was probably the worst part of the climb. After that though I was at the top of the tree, and could see over all the trees in the forest, as well as looking down and seeing how high I was and how small Adam looked. Once I had got photo and video evidence and a bit of a rest, I then began my decent down to a relieved Adam. I was buzzing when I got down, which I guess would be from the adrenaline. I would definitely do it again and would recommend it to anyone thinking about it, unless they’re scared of heights.

After we had a short walk around the forest and I calmed down a bit, we then left to go to the Valley of the Giants in Denmark. Which isn’t as exciting as the name suggest, there aren’t any oversized people running around a valley. Instead there are more giant trees and a sky walk that walks through the tree tops, it was pretty fun there though. It also has the worst coffee there that we’ve ever tasted. We spent a couple of hours walking through the tree tops and the valley, and messing around taking photos with fat trees. But then it was time to go in search of a campsite for the evening.

We ended up driving about half an hour to Williams Bay national park, and found a campsite by Ocean beach. The following morning we went to explore the beach, it was a really nice beach with contrasting blue waters on white sand, but not so great against a grey sky. This was one of the down points of our trip, we seemed to be following the rain wherever we went, and as we had planned to see lots of beautiful beaches it meant we spent less time on them. We didn’t let the rain ruin our trip though, and we still went to see all the places we wanted, we just have lots of photos of us on beaches in the rain. 

After a quick stop off at Ocean beach, we then drove back into the national park to see Elephant rocks and Greens pool. I couldn’t actually believe how much some of the rocks did look like elephants in the shallow water.We spent a little time wandering around the Elephant rocks in the cove and taking lots of photos, but then we headed over to greens pool as it looked like the rain was coming. Like many of the beaches we have seen, Greens pool was a little piece of paradise. It had calm water and pristine sand, and would’ve been a great place to go for a swim if it hadn’t been freezing and just about to rain. 

Our next stop for the day was Tornirrup national park, to see the natural bridge and gap formations as well as the so called blow holes. It was interesting to see the bridge as it was completely supported by itself, and looked as though it could collapse at any time. And it was formed only by the power of the ocean, wearing away at the Rock over many years. The gap wasn’t as impressive, as to us it just looked like a couple of cliff faces opposite each other. But the whole area was quite interesting as it had once been a part of the Antarctic.

After we had seen enough of those rocks, we then went to see more rocks, otherwise known as the blow holes. I think we had chose completely the wrong time to come and see them though, as they were not blowing so nothing was happening  and it was absolutely peeing it down so we got drenched. We have since learnt, that when we’re visiting places that rely on the tide to be in a certain place, to plan ahead.

Since getting completely soaked at the blow holes, we then decided to go into the nearest town-Albany. Albany was a quaint gorgeous little town that was decorated with Christmas decoration beautifully, but we couldn’t fully appreciate it until we had found a cafe and had a hot chocolate and defrosted a bit.

Towns like that one make me love road trips just a little bit more, as they just appear in all their cute glory when you least expect it, and it make you fell like your in a old Western film.

Once we had walked up and down the Main Street in Albany we then left for Bremer Bay, where we had planned to stay for the evening. We definitely had underestimated the time it would take to get to Bremer bay, as it was getting close to the closing time of the campsite we were going to, and we were still quite far away. But we got there in time and checked in for the evening.

The following morning we went to the beach, in the rain again, and we took Sheila down on the sand with us to get some good photos. I wouldn’t recommend taking a non 4wd onto sand though, as it’s so easy for them to get stuck. We were fine though and Sheila breezed through the sand.

It was a shame with the weather here, as it would’ve been good to spend more time at the beach. Especially as it was such an effort to get the bay, on the only road that goes in and out of Bremer bay.

So we then started our way back on the one road out, until we got back to the main road and drove to our next stop, the Pink lake. I was excited to see a lake that was pink, as I didn’t even know such a thing existed until I flew over Perth when we arrived in Australia. But just like the “pink lake” we saw on Rottnest, this pink lake wasn’t pink ever and just looked like a regular lake.

After the disappointment of the not pink lake, we then drove towards Esperance and along the Great Ocean drive past more beaches. We stopped of at a few of the beaches, but we stayed at Twilight beach for a bit longer as it was absolutely stunning (it was actually voted the best beach in Australia in 2006). We had a walk along the beach and then we sat on the sand looking out at the blue ocean for a while, until it was time to go and find a campsite.

The following day we decided to hike up Frenchman’s peak in cape Le grand national park, to get a view over the park. It was a good hike, I think it took us just over an hour to do as the majority of the hike was uphill and very steep. But it was well worth it as the view was amazing, it felt like we were on top of the world, and we had a laugh doing it.

After another half an hour of getting down from our hike, we then made our way to Lucky bay. Lucky bay in Esperance is, and I think will always be my favourite beach in Australia. It was also the first time on our road trip that we were actually able to go in the water at the beach, as the sun had finally come out. It was so good to be able to put on a bikini and sunbathe on the beach for the afternoon, and to go for a swim in the clear water.We had so much fun playing like kids in the water and not caring what people thought, generally as there was only about 4 other people on the beach. I think that was probably one of my favourite days in Australia, as it was just perfect. I cannot put into words how beautiful that place is, and I definitely want to go back one day. I’d love to stay at the campsite that is right on the beach, as we couldn’t when we were there as it was closed for a refurbishment. I am so glad we decided to do our road trip, if only for this beach, as we finally got the beach experience with the whitest sand and bluest water, as well as kangaroos hopping along the sand. 

Sadly we did eventually have to leave the beach, and make our way toward the most boring part of our trip. We were at the beginning of the dreaded Nullarbor. This was the part of our road trip that we were most nervous about, as we didn’t know what to expect as we had heard many different stories. And all we could visualize was that part in the second Inbetweeners movie where they get stranded in the desert. As that is basically what the Nullarbor is, not much else apart from sand and the odd roadhouse, even the word Nullarbor means no trees.

But after the longest 3 days of driving over it, It wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t do it again though. It was just a really long road with not much to see other than sand, road signs and the odd dead animal at the side of the road. It also has a stretch of road that is literally 90 miles straight and very boring. There was a place along it called Cocklebiddy, which Adam was impressed at as that is his nickname- Biddy. That was one of the only highlights of that road though, as well as seeing the famous yellow sign that typically represents Australia. But that was about it, it makes you very glad to have an aux lead and iPod (the radio definitely doesn’t work out there), and it also makes you appreciate small games like guess the next car. ( I spy is off the cards as there’s not much to look at.)

I would still recommend the road trip over it though, as it’s an experience, and is not as scary as everyone makes out. It has a tarmacked road the whole way, there are enough petrol stations to not run out of petrol and there are always people driving it. The only bad thing is that the petrol prices get more expensive the further out you get, they were closer to $2 a litre, so we filled our Jerry can up before we left civilization as a precaution and it saved us some pennies. 

On the final stretch of the Nullarbor, just past the South Australian border, we stopped of at the Head of the Bight to see the Bunda cliffs. They were pretty mad as the cliffs went on for about 200km so they looked like they went on forever, and it’s quite funny as the bottom of Australia just ends with a drop of a cliff.

After our 3 days of being in the outback, we finally made it to civilization again and to our next stop of Streaky bay. We had a bit of a nightmare on this part of the journey, as we had crossed the WA/SA border and jumped forward in time without even realising it. So when we were on our way to the campsite it started getting dark, and after checking the time on our phone we then realised the time and that we didn’t have long until the campsite shut for the evening. Obviously we wanted to get to the campsite before it shut, and we didn’t want to be on the road in pitch black (that’s when all the animals come out in Australia), so we had to get a major shifty on.

The following morning we got up to find some Pelicans on the water, that the campsite was right next to. So we got some photos of them (they look more like black dots), and then we got on the road for the final part of our journey to Adelaide.

We left Streaky bay early as it was a long drive to Adelaide, but we didn’t have any other sights we wanted to see along the way, so we decided to make the journey in one day. And there really wasn’t much to see on the route we took, it was a pretty drive when we drove through the mountain ranges though. And we arrived into Adelaide in the late afternoon and found Adams uncles house.

Our first road trip really was amazing, and I am so glad that we did end up driving over to Adelaide. I cant even imagine not seeing the places we got to see, as they are just unforgettable and some of my favourite spots in Australia.

So if anyone is reading this and thinking should I drive across the Nullarbor, stop thinking and start planning. There really is no better way to see Australia than on the road.

See my next post for our Adelaide adventures.

 

A getaway on Rottnest

Rottnest island is a spot of paradise, just a 45 minute boat journey from Freemantle. Where we decided to have a mini break for a couple of days, before we left Perth.

It is an absolutely stunning island, and I’d never seen anything like it. Beaches with the whitest sands and bluest water. It also has these cute little rat like things called quokkas running around, that makes for an essential Rottnest selfie. They are also the reason the island got the name Rottnest, as it literally translates into rats nest. Sounds beautiful.

We arrived on the island early in the morning and were unable to check into the hotel, so we dropped our luggage off at reception and went to explore. The first thing we did was rent bicycles, as that’s the thing you do there, as the only other transport on the island is the bus.

Then we rode around the island, stopping off every so often at a beach that looked nice. We had the idea that we would scout out the beaches, and then come back to our favourite the following day. I think we got about halfway around the island though, and learnt that we were getting sunburnt so we decided to go back and check into the hotel. I think that is one of the worst sunburns I’ve had, even the tops of my hands were burnt.

After a quick recovery and applying bucket loads of factor 50, we headed out again. We rode to Oliver hill battery, which as the name suggests was up a bloody big hill. It was worth it though, as it had great views out and it had a big gun that seemed to impress Adam.

We also went to see the pink lake, which was more of a murky brown lake. But while we were there we did find a lake that was frothing bubbles, which was pretty cool.

By this time it was starting to get late, so we made our way back to the hotel to get ready to go out for dinner. We found this nice restaurant to eat at which seemed pretty fancy, that we then followed up by going to a rowdy pub for a pub quiz.

The following day we started off with a breakfast at the coffee club, it had to be one of the nicest cafes of theirs I have seen, as it looked out onto the ocean. After stuffing our faces and gazing out at the blue water for a while, we got back on our bikes again and continued riding around to beaches.

We found one where we did a bit of snorkeling, called Little Salmon Bay, here I discovered I wasn’t really a fan of snorkeling. Mainly because of the fact that I’m not too keen on the idea of swimming around with fish, and the other being I had no idea what I was suppose to be looking at. We did look pretty good in the snorkel gear though, and I enjoyed waddling around in flippers.

After that we continue around the island to Pinky beach, which is right by Bathurst lighthouse. This is where I took my favourite photo from our trip of the beach, looking up to the lighthouse. While we were there we cycled up to the lighthouse to check it out, and on the way we were greeted by a little quokka who got his best selfie face on.

Then we spent the rest of the day hanging out at the beach, until it was time to drop the bikes off and get back on the boat back to Perth.

 

And that was our island getaway, I really can’t recommend Rottnest enough. If anyone reading this gets the chance to go, don’t even think about it, just go.

Turning a minivan into a home on wheels

Once we had the van the fun began. I think we were literally so excited that we began to plan on that first day of bringing the van home.

We started out by doing some research online to get some ideas and inspiration, and we then came up with the idea and worked out all the measurements. Bearing in mind neither I or Adam have any experience in this kind of thing, Adam having training in plumbing and me in Art we managed to put something together though.

We showed Trish and Darren our plans, and I think they must’ve thought we were mad, and I don’t blame them. As it was now late October and we were leaving Perth the beginning of December, so we had 1 month to build this extravagant plan, as well as working most days in the week. They did suggest just throwing a mattress in the back, but I had my mind set on our design and had a vision for what I wanted it to look like. And once I start something, it is getting finished- no matter how hard I have to work.

This was our original design that we worked from, we did have to tweak it along the way though.

Then the real work began…

We started off by gutting the van, pulling the seats out and taking the carpet up so we just had a shell. We managed to sell the seats as well, which was a bonus as it gave us more money we could put into the build, that would have otherwise been scrapped. Then once we had our skeleton of a van we cleaned it up and got everything all shiny and new looking, and filled in any holes that the seat belt bolts left behind.

Our next step was putting in a new floor and insulating the van, so that in the summer it keeps out the heat and in the winter it keeps in the heat. We used metal roof insulation that we put on the base and sides of the van, we didn’t put any in the ceiling as it already had a decent looking lining that we didn’t want to mess up. The insulation stuff was a pain though, as you can’t touch it without gloves as it can give you microscopic splinters, and you also have to be careful not to breath in any fibers of it. So that’s what the photos of me all masked up are about.

Once that was done we then finished it off by putting in laminate flooring, that Adam cut to the right size and shape. Then it started to look good.

Also around this time we got tinted windows, as Trish and Darren suggested, to keep more heat out in the summer and for more privacy. That was a great decision as you really can’t see into the van unless you press your nose against the glass, and it is cooler when it’s sunny.

Those bits were the simple part, then came the actual design plan.

The start of building the bed base. Which we started off by boxing up the wheel arches as they were just in the way. We did this using untreated pine, that we literally just boxed around the arches as you can see in the photos, which we then screwed into the floor and then pinned plywood to the top of it. So we then kind of had two miniature seats on either side of the van. We didn’t cover the sides of these as we could still use the space for extra storage, but we did make a front piece to cover them so it looked pretty from the inside though.

We then turned those two small boxes into a bigger back section in the van, we did that by building a middle supporting section. Which was made up of 3 verticals support posts (we used 42mm square post with a height of 288mm) that were held together by horizontal supports on the top and bottom of both sides and a couple of bottom supporting pieces. Which we then screwed into the center of the floor to hold it in place. Once it was sturdy we then pinned a bigger piece of plywood to the top, this then became the smaller seating area we planned and the top of the bed.

Once we had the back part finished we then started work on the fixed part of the bed, this part would then have a sliding piece added for the double bed. This bit, like the last part was reasonably easy as we just built another simple box using the same method as before. We did come up against a small issue though, as on the side of the van at the back of the sliding door, the panel has a bulge which comes inwards slightly. So we had to box around that part individually, we ended up using 8 vertical supports (using untreated pine post 42mm square that were 276mm long). Then like we had previously done, we put horizontal supports (using planks of wood that were 19mm thick and 89mm wide) on the outside of these at the top and bottom with the exception of the back end. We then fitted 3 floor supports between the 2 end vertical supports and the middle ones, these were then screwed into the floor and into the back piece to hold it all together.

Working out all the height measurements was probably one of the hardest parts, as we had to have the back piece and the side piece flush so the bed didn’t raise up at points. So I had to take into consideration the wood that we were going to use as the top part, which would also be able to lift.

The next part was definitely the most tricky part. So as part of our design we had planned for a corner sofa that could be pulled out into a small double bed, that would also be able to lift so we could use the space underneath for storage. To be able to achieve this we used a slat system, that would be able to slide between each other. For this we made a front piece, using 3 vertical support pieces that we attached together using 2 horizontal supports at either end. Which later on we added another plank to, to make it look pretty. This part then had some dowels fitted so it would stay in place when we had it set up as a corner sofa. 

Then we began the top slats, this is the part we had the most issues on and had to redo a few times. For this bit we used 2 pieces of wood that were the length of the bed and attached 7 pieces of wood for the slats with equal distances in between them. One of the lengths of wood was in line with the end of the slats, the other needed to be set back to the width of the plank of wood so that the slide out bit would fit underneath. Also the 2 end slats and the middle one were longer than the rest, so that when it was lifted to get to the storage then both parts would lift together. Once that was done we made the sliding slats, so similar to the last one, we used another 2 lengths of wood and attached 6 slats. But with the slats on this one, both ends of the slats were in line with the edge of the lengths of wood. And they were opposite to the other piece, with a gap at each end of the length of wood and space equally to fit between the planks of the other piece. This part we then used dowels to fix to the vertical piece we had already made, but it wasn’t glued as it needed to be possible to lift without lifting the whole thing. We then attached the top using hinges along the back, which is where we had a problem as it wouldn’t lift because of the bulge I previous spoke about. So we had to take it off again and cut a piece out to fit around it, and then fitted it again. And then it worked, it was able to lift to access the space and to pull out into a bed.

In the final stages of the build, when we were still finishing off the side piece of the bed with a couple of weeks until our deadline, we knew we had to get the cushions and covers ordered so they would be ready in time. This required some brain power to work out as well as lots of paper prototyping to make sure I got it right, it also involved some shopping to pick out a pretty fabric. These turned out amazing though, and they all fitted. The only thing I would change on these would be the height of the headboard piece, as it could’ve been smaller by about 100mm because the van tapers in a bit towards the top, so it is a slight squeeze on that one.

We really pushed up until the final moment, but we did have to postpone our road trip by a day, as we were still finishing off the last bits. On the last day we were still making the curtains, which I managed to rope Adam into helping to stitch. They were very basic though -we just hemmed around them and left the gap to feed the curtain track though.

Then when the van was all completed we had a quick pit stop to Kmart to pick up living equipment. As we didn’t build a kitchen area in the back we just picked up storage boxes to put stuff into.We were really lucky as well because we got these under bed storage boxes that literally fit perfect under the bed at the back, these would then be our wardrobe for the following months. We also used the wheel arch boxes to store our shoes.

Also at Kmart we picked up cooking equipment in the form of like a 50 piece set including pots, pans and utensils. We already had a stove and gas that I got from someone on Gumtree. We also got bedding gear, a few cushions to make it look pretty and some battery powered led lights for when it’s dark.

And that was the birth of our very own custom built campervan, Sheila.

We were literally so proud with how she turned out, it was a very intense month with moments where we thought how are we going to get this done, but after a lot of hard work and many trips to Bunnings we finished it only a day after we originally planned.

And I think personally our little home on wheels is probably one of my greatest achievements, it’s definitely up there with my uni degree. It just showed me that really I can do anything that I put my mind to, and also gave me an idea on a dream career (which is something I never really thought about before).

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And so began our first road trip, from Perth to Melbourne via Adelaide.

See my next post for more on our first road trip.

…We bought a Van

So this was a very spontaneous purchase, as like I said before, we went to a wildlife park for the day and came home with a van.

We had been debating it for the previous few days though, as we were trying to figure out how we would get to Melbourne for Christmas. Prior to the van we were going to fly but we would have missed so many beautiful places.

It was, however, always our original plan before we came over to Australia to get a van. So we had done some research into vans before hand, and that’s why we saved the amount we did – as we were looking at Travellers Autobarn vans which were $8000 plus. But when we were over here every Ozzie we spoke to seemed to warn us against making the trip across the Nulabor.

So in the end we decided we weren’t going to get a van, and we would make our way across another way. Then we discovered the Indian Pacific Railway line which went from Perth to Adelaide, which seemed like a great way to travel across even though we would be restrained to the train route.

As well as that I was looking at renting a camper van so we could do a road trip around WA, as I really wanted to go down to Esperance as all the photos of that place looked stunning.

After looking into the train a bit though, I found that you could take vehicles over with you. It was expensive, but you could do it. So I began contacting the train line to find out details about how that would work. They told me the dimensions the vehicle could be up to, and that a small camper van would fit.

And that brings us to the day we went to that wildlife park…I got an email from the train line saying they only had one space available for a camper van. So while we were sat there eating our ice cream at the end of the day we were looking on Gumtree at Vans (Gumtree is the thing to use over here).

And then we found this van that sounded amazing, it hadn’t done too many kilometres and it wasnt too old, and it looked good. The only thing though, was that it was a mini van and rather than having a bed it had 5 seats inside. So we left the wildlife park and went over to see it, with the pretext that we would just see it to get an idea of vans and the cost.

But after looking at it, it seemed like a steal. It had only had one owner which was like an arch bishop or something religious. It was a 2006 model and had done just over 147000km, and you could tell it had been looked after. And it just seemed right.

So that was it…right there and then we purchased the van.

However, when we got home and emailed the train people back they then let us know they were all sold out. So that plan was out the window, and we now had to drive across the Nullabor. Decision made.

But this meant we had to turn our minivan into a home on wheels, and all in about one month as well as working.

And this is how she looked to begin with…

 

See my next post on how we turned our minivan into our amazing home on wheels.

Perth is forever our fave <3

So we are a year on now from when we took these photos but I’m finally getting around to post them up here. Hopefully at some point I am going to get up to date with all photos and posts on here so I can share them with the world. 🙂

This post is going to be a long one, as I will post all our photos from Perth and try and explain what they are. Ha. So these photos date between the 16th September and 4th December 2015.

Where to start…these photos are from our first week in Perth, where we started off by staying in The Old Swan Barracks in Northbridge in Perth city. Before we arrived here we were not too keen on staying in this hostel as all their reviews sounded absolutely AWFUL!! But as it was part of our starter package we had, we gave it a go anyway. Those reviews couldn’t be any further from what we experienced, despite going in with a negative mind frame and looking for the things that were wrong, we found it to be an awesome place to stay. It was different and pretty cool as it was a converted army barracks, and it had a massive social area which had a bar where I had my first XXXX beer.

The first photos show our first food that we ate in Australia, when we arrived we got to the hostel late and were absolutely shattered! So all we could get was a packet of crisps, which was our first meal after so many hours of travel, and we were pretty excited about them anyway. The day after we started off by getting a Subway- sticking to what we know. Ha. We also then went shopping to get the essentials, so I could have a bag. 🙂

The first week in Perth was a bit of a struggle with jet lag, it would get to lunch time and we would want a nap. So we weren’t too much fun that week.

After the first few days of setting everything up and checking out the city, my aunt Trish picked us up to stay at her house. Which was amazing, we were so lucky to have family that could help us out, and they have a beautiful house with a pool, so it was like being on holiday while we were there. It was also lovely as I got to know Trish, her husband Darren and my cousins that I’ve only really met a couple of times.

It was awesome staying with Trish, as she took us around to see the sights of Perth, the next photo’s are of Fremantle boat harbour where we went with Trish and Darren to Little creatures brewery to try the local beer.

In the first weeks of staying at Trish’s we did some of the boring stuff like looking for jobs and searching for a car, we were lucky as they let us use the family car for a while so we could search for them. We found our car after about a week of searching, after seeing some frogs of cars we ended up with a Hyundai Accent, and it was awesome! 🙂

Once we had the car, our adventures could begin.

We continued looking for jobs- which was like a job in itself. It was definitely more difficult finding jobs in Perth than what we thought. But after CV pumping around the local area, I managed to get a job in a small cafe in the Kalamunda area for a few days a week. It was pretty good working there as I could drink Chai to my hearts content and I would get to bring home free cake every so often. 🙂  And Trish managed to get Adam a job as a pet food delivery driver, Adam also managed to find a gardening job around the corner from Trish’s after I made him some flyers to post around. So he was working on a self sustainable property with this lovely couple who owned it. He also got me a few hours working there too for some extra cashinga. In the photos there is a picture of Adams handy work of trimming a tree, and also of a big spider. Eugh.

While we were looking for jobs we went up to a small vineyard in the hills of Perth to put in some CV’s, however instead we did a cider tasting paddle board and had lunch, it was so beautiful up there and the cider was great!

When we were not at work we spent a lot of time at beaches- and BOY does WA have the best beaches!! I think Cottesloe was our favorite but Hilary’s is up there and also Scarborough beach is nice too! We also liked to go down to Freo (Freemantle) as it is such a cool quirky area of Perth, we went there for brekkie as its famous for its Cappuccino strip.

We also loved to go to Kings park, I think it is the nicest park I’ve ever been to- sorry New York, it beats Central park. Its just such a pretty place, it looks over the city and it has the best sunsets that set as a backdrop to the city. It is also just lovely to go to for a walk as its all green and beautifully colourful in spring. Also when we were there it had a tree for the Queen, which was all dressed up. They love the Queen over here, they even get a public holiday for her birthday which I would like to point out that the UK doesn’t get, even though she’s our queen. Ha.

We also had a few nights out, we went and saw a Cirque du Soleil called Totem which was really good. We also went to Oktoberfest, which was a laugh- although we were literally the only people there that didn’t dress up. Oops. It was good though as there was a silent disco- which I absolutely love!! And a main stage, so it was like being at a mini festival.

As well as that we went to The Perth show for a day out, and saw the fireworks they also had Monster trucks, and lots of different categories of stuff, like cakes, flowers, and beer. There was a wood chopping competition which was a good laugh too.In my photos there is a photo of a framed artwork- which is actually made of icing. Crazy good!

We then went for a day out at Caversham Wildlife park, where they have Kangaroos that you can feed, and koalas that you can hold. They have other Australian animals too, like wombats, lots of different types of birds, dingo’s and a white peacock- which was a first.

This day also turned out to be the day we bought our van, but see my next post about that one.

Perth really is pretty, the sunsets there are insane, and the city silhouette looks amazing from so many different angles. These photos below are from when we went to Crown casino for the day, and it just had this view that looked out on the water.

In our last week in Perth we did some touristing, we went to see Fremantle prison. It was really interesting going to the prison as it seemed so old yet it only closed down in 1991. And the reason it did close is pretty mad, as it had to close because of the plumbing as they didn’t have toilets in the cells. The prison was massive, it had so many different parts to it, and the prison cells all seemed so different. And it was originally built by the convicts that were sent there. It was quite nice to see that the prisoners had made their cells their own though, as some had painted full on wall murals in their rooms, some even had TV.  It also had a gallows, that is how crazy it was, we found out as well that they used to use punishments in there like lashes and solitary confinement.