There’s nothing in the red center of Australia.
If by nothing you mean echos of endless wide spaces and wide sky that holds the world together like an eternal ribbon of Australian blue around a package of rainbow colours that can only be unwrapped slowly.
Beneath the thin veneer of “nothing” are layers of something stunningly, historically, culturally, naturally, creatively beautiful.
The earth is simultaneously desert-hard and sand-silt soft, as if the entire surface was sifted through a flour sieve.
“Red” is not the right word. I’m not sure there is a right word. The soil is a particular shade of burnt sienna that Crayola never thought of.
“Green” runs the gamut from dusty sage, almost grey, through every subtlety of Mediterranean olive, to garish lime. There is plant life everywhere, even where it seems there is not.
Where there are trees, they are black and gnarled; an aboriginal crone’s hand reaching out of the parched soil, grasping desperately at the sky, begging for water.
There’s nothing in the red center of Australia
Except life in unexpected places:
Lizards, big and small. Under rocks, in the shade, waddling awkwardly through the camp kitchen, picking at scraps.
Great big, tick shaped beetles, huddled beneath pieces of curling bark on the trunk of a tree.
Snakes (even though I don’t like them)
Enormous, Wedge-tailed eagles whirling overhead, crouched over road-kill-a-roos, perched majestically on bare branches.
Dusty children perched on piles of old rubber tires on turn offs to dirt roads leading nowhere.
Flies; god, the flies.
Wildflowers, in white and yellow, the tiniest things, blooming in a blooming desert! Against all odds, laughing at the sun.
Heat is a living thing, dancing in an iridescent ball gown to music only she can hear.
There is nothing in the red center of Australia.
Except the beating heart of a continent:
Dirt the colour of dried blood.
A rock, like an enormous, petrified heart jutting out of the earth.
I can hear the heartbeat, if I stand still, in the pounding of my own blood at my temples, agitated by the incredible heat, the searing sun, the blinding reflections.
At night, the “nothing” sings.
Insect songs, celebrating relief from another day’s heat.
Star songs, sung for thousands of years over sleeping souls by watchful guardians.
The drumbeat of the darkness.
The long, low hum of the moon; perhaps it’s echo inspired the didgeridoo.
The grass whispers behind the melody, wind through long, feathery reeds.
It’s a lullaby.
There’s nothing in the red center of Australia.
Unless you take the time to look.
I have recently decided that wander-lusters come in many varieties- many more than I had thought. You know, we like to find our commonalities so it is comfortable to believe that a traveler is a traveler is a traveler is a traveler. But one man’s treasure is another one’s trash. That is true for the non-material treasures we find out on the road just as it is in “real life” back home with material things.
For instance when my husband and I were conversing about the reasons why we travel, one man said that our travel style would not be his idea of a good time at all, even though he considers himself a traveler too. For him, travel is about photography and natural beauty. And if he can’t take his camera lenses somewhere, then it won’t be as joyful to be there.
The fact is, there are as many types of travelers as there are types of people. There are people who love history and that’s why they travel. And people who love people and that’s why they travel. Or people who love animals and that’s why they travel. It goes on and on.
Of course, most of us who love travel probably have many passions sourcing that love. We love people and adventure and culture and artwork and nature…and that is why we travel.
For that reason, it can be hard to answer that question…”Where was your favorite place to travel to?” One place fuels one passion while another place fuels another.
Thus, I give you my 15 paradises for my 15 different passions.
Zakynthos is just the place to go to feel like the rest of the world’s hustle is out of reach. The towns are small and everything is on “island time.” The day’s itinerary often included “jumping into blue water” and “riding a scooter along the cliffs.”
Amritsar is essentially the birthplace of the Sikhs and is home of their most important temple, the Golden Temple. Unlike some religious sights, the Golden Temple is both accommodating to tourists and apathetic of them. I love that. They are purely going about their own religious duties here and while tourists are welcome (as long as they cover their heads and remove their shoes,) there are no disgenuine displays for them.
It’s a place to soak up a genuinely fascinating series of religious practices. Men and women bathe in the waters, there is a kitchen dedicated to serving literally thousands of poor people and visitors, and many of the men have enormous turbans and long swords at their sides, important pieces of the Sikh disciplines.
Anyone who’s been to Prague disagrees with me on this but I have yet to see Prague (hopefully this fall). So until I see Prague, Vienna wins out as my favorite city for architectural beauty. Every building has that gorgeous stature of something built in a time when things were beautiful instead of efficient. The effect is quite romantic. Unfortunately the Rathaus, one of the most impressive buildings in Vienna, is frequently hosting private festivals, parties, events, etc. So you cannot always get very close to it if a special event is going on.
Not to worry though. Every other building is beautiful too.
Queenstown is not only gorgeous but also has at least three different area mountains for skiing, snowboarding, etc. etc, including The Remarkables which are…remarkable! But you aren’t out of luck if you dislike skiing or snowboarding. You can go sky-diving or hang-gliding or hiking. There’s something for everyone.
Switzerland is full of incredible views at every turn. Just driving to your destination is an activity in and of itself simply for the scenery throughout the Swiss Alps. Unfortunately, it’s heinously expensive.
I love Thai food. Everything from the fried noodle dishes of Pad Thai and Pad See Ew to the soups like Tom Ka Gai and Tom Yum. Thai food is full of the delicious flavors of kefir lime, lemongrass, ginger, coconut milk and other novel things. If you like spicy food go for the Pad Kra Pow (minced chicken in peppers and basil) or if you like the sweeter dishes, go for the Tom Ka Gai, (a coconut based soup with straw mushrooms, pea eggplants and other quintessentially Thai ingredients.)
Bangkok in particular is a good spot for Thai food because you will be able to find Northern Thai dishes as well as Southern Thai dishes. Also Bangkok has lots of street vendors with quality dishes for sometimes even less than a dollar.
Fiji is not only home to some pretty amazing tropical fish, but to some impressive soft corals as well, which contributes greatly to its popularity as a spot for diving and snorkeling. Snorkeling is a beautiful adventure in the Yesawas where there’s no telling what you’ll see in the clear waters. (…anyone know what that thing in the picture is? We could never figure it out!)
Next time someone asks you where your “favorite place to travel” is, what will you say? Do you have a favorite place for each of your interests?
With 22,292 miles of coastline, 37,117 miles if you count that of the many outlying islands, Australia is a vast continent that provides the perfect mix of terrain for a road trip of epic proportions.
From the rugged shores of Victoria all the way to the hot and humid deserts of the Northern Territory, many travelers crave the open road experience only Australia can offer.
But what does it really cost to explore Australia overland, and what are the best travel hacks to use en route?
There’s no getting around the fact that to road trip you need a vehicle, and if you plan to be on the road for more than a few weeks it makes sense to buy rather than rent.
Remember to consider your accommodation budget when looking for your vehicle. To keep your costs down consider how you can adapt your vehicle to accommodate yourself and your travel buddies. With a little imagination it’s easy to make some simple adjustments so you can sleep and eat on the open road.
Note – This might not be applicable if you’re renting a vehicle. You’ll not be able to alter the fabric of the vehicle in anyway so make sure you try out any potential sleeping positions before signing the rental contract!
If you’re time poor as well as on a tight budget take a look at these clever tricks for securing cheap rentals.
Rental companies often dramatically discount certain routes in a bid to relocate vehicles that are needed at other centers or have been left with them as part of a one way rental. These deals are often a tiny fraction of the actual rental rate and more often than not the rental agency provide you with a budget for fuel.
If you can find these deals to help you hop about the country they are a great option for those who want to see the country but have limited funds to do so.
Note that time limits are placed on this kind of rental so this not a good option for anyone who wants to explore at their own pace.
Take a look at;
Apollo Camper – Relocation deals
Vroom Vroom Vroom – Relocation deals
Britz – Relocation deals
If you’re a solo traveler or travelling with just one other person, consider advertising for a few travel buddies to reduce your share of the total cost of your trip.
Websites like Gumtree, Trav Buddy and Travel Friend are a great place to start. You can also details of your trip, expected cost and your ideal travel buddy to online travel forums, Lonely Planet have a great forum here.
Accommodation can account for a fair chunk of your travel fund if you don’t actively seek low cost options. Even hostels can be costly in the most popular locations so don’t rely on them for a cheap room for the night.
If you’re happy to sleep out under the stars, or in your vehicle then a copy of the latest edition of the Camps Book is a worthwhile investment. Detailing a wealth of low cost – under $25 AUD/night – and free camping options across the country this guide is worth its weight in gold. It also doubles as a countrywide road map.
Websites like HelpX that detail accommodation/volunteer exchange opportunities can also offer road trippers a break from their daily budget constraints. Take a look at the opportunities listed along your route and consider an alternative to the tourist attractions along the way.
Looking for free accommodation without the volunteer price tag? Consider house sitting. An accommodation/caretaking exchange house sitters step into the shoes of the home owner during their stay. Sign up with the world’s biggest house sitting website Trusted House Sitters to apply for assignments.
The cost of living in Australia is higher than that in other countries on the well-trodden backpacker trail so it pays to be considered each time you make a purchase.
Other than the cost of purchasing or renting your vehicle your other major expenses will be groceries, fuel and activities. Check out this collection of useful links for ways to save on the road.
Motor Mouth – A fuel price comparison website. Find the cost of fuel at all the gas stations close by. Also worth noting is their research which suggests that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to top up on fuel.
Note – If you shop in any of the major supermarkets you’ll find a fuel discount docket at the bottom of your receipt. Watch out for holiday bonuses where savings can reach 75c / liter.
Oz Bargains – A forum for discounts and deals. You’ll find almost anything here, as long as it’s discounted or offered in a deal! Check here for pay as you go mobile sims, great for mobile internet on the road, activates and tickets, and accessories to kit out your camper.
Groupon – A daily deals website. Check here for activities, tickets and restaurant discounts.
Seek out free WiFi in cafes and public spaces.
Fill your water bottles at public fountains, – these can be found in most Australia towns just avoid drinking from any that are labelled as ‘bore water’.
Eat local. Buy produce grown locally to reduce the cost of your weekly shop, and consider going meet free for a proportion of the week to limit your spending.
Don’t forget to search for relevant Aussie Apps to assist with your quest for a low cost road trip.
Ann’s words have echoed in my mind as her sweet, octogenarian face has pleasantly haunted my afternoon walks. We wandered slowly through the natural bridge outside of Waitomo with her and her husband, Ross. I quietly got the kids’ attention and encouraged them to walk more slowly behind him, and not press forward as he did his aged best to step over tree roots and up the rocky stairs to the high meadow where we laughed together about the crazy idea of standing in the presence of 3 million year old oysters. Tony gave him a leg up over the fences. He laughed, good-naturedly, when the boys leapt out from behind blackberry bushes with a roar, as he had undoubtedly done forty years before I took my first breath.
Ann was hand washing for the two of them in a little tub out the back of her camper van, using water that Ross was bringing, one bucket at a time from the bridge. He’d lower the bucket the twenty or so feet to the surface with a long rope and then haul it up, mostly full, hand over hand before delivering it to his white haired wife. By the time she was done rinsing he was there to help her wring out his trousers, one on each end, twisting hard, and hang the clothes from a line he’s strung under the awning.
She commiserated with me over hand washing for six, producing meals for an army on two burners in a three foot square space, and the difficulties of adventuring with children. She’d raised a tribe too, in her day, and they’d camped the length and breadth of their island homes. Perhaps she’s a premonition of myself.
I’ve been thinking about that statement, and the layers of meaning it embodies.
Truth be told, living this way is a lot of work. Staying home is far and away easier. But the best things in life are always the things that require the most from us, that we have to work our rear-ends off to achieve. The things we are proudest of mean so much to us because they’ve cost us the most.
Marriage is like that.
Raising kids is like that.
Traveling is like that.
All three together is the perfect storm of all that and two bags of chips.
There was so much encouragement in Ann’s face as we talked and washed and shared “mama” stories. The older I get the more I appreciate the stories of old women. I think because I’m just beginning to understand the many-layered thing that a woman’s life is, stretched thin over the better part of a century. Perhaps it’s because I can see myself in their eyes more clearly than I could at twenty, or thirty.
So many people give up. They give up on the thing they really, really want to do. There are so many reasons: It gets too hard. It costs too much. It hurts too badly. It isn’t what we signed up for. Someone else fails us. We fail ourselves. It’s inconvenient. It’s easier to stay home, in some capacity. We feel that we don’t deserve it, aren’t “worth” it. It’s a fight.
I’ve been thinking lots about the things I really want to do. The big things and the small things. The hard things and the harder things.The things that seem mundane, like staying married until I’m in my eighties, raising kids who are productive citizens and learning to write. The things that seem like pipe dreams too: seeing Antarctica, changing the world, and successfully handing my parents’ legacy to my grandkids. I really, really want to do these things.
For tonight, the things I really want to do included cooking 3 kilos of meat, enough potatoes, cheesy cauliflower & salad for an army, making a double batch of ginger cookies and making my husband laugh until he was squirming to get away from me, which is an accomplishment. I want to sit and sip my tea, munch my still warm ginger treat and thank the gods that be for friends who love me enough to mail me the exact type of tea that keeps me from killing the children; who I want so desperately to strangle sometimes when we all are living in 126 square feet. And I’m willing to live in 126 square feet of rolling space because I really, really want, quite desperately, to make their childhood epic and not to miss a moment of it.
What do you really want to do?
For many graduates, myself included, a year out to travel the world is seen as a stepping stone on the path to adulthood. Post degree but prior to entering into the working world, a year abroad can provide a few life lessons that are seldom taught within the curriculum of modern education.
The ability to adapt to new circumstances, overcome challenges and stride out forging your own path in life, travel educates in a way that not even the most accomplished and engaging teacher can.
One of the most popular opportunities for graduates seeking the chance to travel is a twelve month Australian Working Holiday Visa. Available to residents of over twenty five countries this visa provides the chance to live and work abroad, explore one of the most diverse continents on the planet and take a class in life that forces you to leap outside your comfort zone.
One year sounds like ample time to explore one country. However thanks to the sheer scale of the Australian continent and the wealth of landscapes to explore, twelve months will fly past in the blink of an eye when you’re Down Under.
If you’re considering taking the opportunity to sample life in Australia then I highly recommend you take the time to consider exactly what you hope to get out of your stay.
Do you intend to base yourself in one place and seek employment in the field in which you studied while at University? Fly by the seat of your pants and take cash in hand work as you travel across all six states? Perhaps there are certain parts of the country you’re desperate to see and so want to plan an epic road trip?
Whatever you want to do while you’re Down Under here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your twelve month stay.
A working holiday visa is not something every country offers foreign nationals visiting its shores, so consider making the most of the chance to gain employment abroad. If you’re considering immigrating to Australia making connections within the industry you intend to work is invaluable.
A few months prior to your arrival research employers in your sector and reach out to them with your CV detailing your skills and qualifications, and inspiring them to hire you during your stay.
Check online job listings regularly and apply before you arrive. Don’t limit yourself to one location, search countrywide for the greatest chance of success.
Note that under the terms of the visa you are only eligible to work for any one employer for a maximum of six months.
If you’ve managed to save a few dollars prior to your arrival in Australia then a road trip of epic proportions is one way to maximize your time on the red continent. While the adventure itself will offer an education of unimaginable significance, the experience will help to shape the person you are as you stride out into the big bad world.
Take to the highway and immerse yourself in the heritage of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, head Ouback and explore the barren red center, explore shipwrecks off the Queensland coast and swim with Dolphins in Western Australia.
Consult the Vagablogging guides to buying a campervan in Australia and selling a vehicle at the end of your stay to ensure you invest wisely, have a hassle free trip and potentially earn a small profit when your adventure is over. Don’t forget you could also earn a few bucks towards your fuel costs by providing a cost effective transport service to other travelers heading the same way as you!
The concept of house sitting is fast becoming recognized as a tool that can subsidize the cost of accommodation when travelling. In short it offers house and pet owners a low cost option for property and pet care, while providing rent free accommodation for travelers.
If you want to see numerous parts of Australia but don’t have the desire to be on the move for your entire stay, then house and pet sitting is something you should consider. With the chance to live like a local on a reduced daily budget, a house sitting assignment could provide respite from periods of travel and employment.
It’s important to note that some assignments are unsuitable for sitters who are not financially self-sufficient for the duration of their stay, so if you intend to seek employment while house sitting you must mention this in your application. Consider also the logistics of travelling to and from assignments, as well as your transport needs during your stay.
Volunteering is something many associate with charity work but there are a range of volunteer options for those who visit Australia on a working holiday visa. Those travelling on a reduced budget should consider the benefits of an exchange arrangement whereby you donate your time in exchange for room and board.
Australia is well known for its seasonal work and backpackers are often recruited to pick fruit, tend to livestock and assist on rural properties. HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farm stays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats willing to offer backpackers free lodging in exchange for their help.
Further useful links;
Have you spent twelve months or more in Australia? How would you recommend those on a Working Holiday Visa maximize their stay in the country?
A 12 month working holiday visa is becoming a rite of passage for those graduating college and university. Offering the opportunity to take a step into the unknown, it is a time to sit in on a master class at the university of life.
Popular amongst those who spend a year in Australia is the quintessential Aussie road trip. Encompassing some of the world’s best driving routes an overland adventure offers an education quite unlike that which you’ll find in a classroom.
While the adventure itself offers the chance to overcome challenges and problem solve on the fly, the logistics of buying and selling your vehicle provide a valuable lesson in the economics of trade and the finer points of investment.
In part one of this series I looked at the best way to go about purchasing a suitable campervan in Australia. I highlighted the importance of understanding the market, checking every aspect of a suitable vehicle and ensuring you consider all the factors impacting your budget.
Today I’m going to take a look at the best practises for selling your vehicle after you’ve travelled the length and breadth of the hinterlands, rural outback and rugged coastlines on offer in Australia.
For those with an eye for detail there’s a potential profit to be made on your initial investment. Having already followed the advice laid out in part one of this series and invested wisely in a reliable and well maintained vehicle, now is your chance to recoup your money.
The first step to sell your camper is to prepare it for sale. Remember that when it comes to online advertising it pays to look good.
Often buyers are unable to see potential in grubby vehicles in need of small repairs. Every suggestion listed above will add value to your camper.
The next step is to list your vehicle for sale.
I highly recommend doing this as far in advance of your departure as feasible. Include a suitable hand over date on your advert and inform buyers of your itinerary up until that date should they wish to view it.
It’s much better to have interested buyers waiting for you rather than desperately searching for buyers last minute.
Now that your camper is clean remove all of your belongings and take some photographs with which to advertise the camper online.
The more information you can pack into your advert the more interest you will have from buyers who believe your camper to be the most well equipped to carry them around Australia.
Once you’ve collated all the information for your advert.
Maximise your coverage by investing time into covering as many outlets as possible.
As you approach the end of your road trip post details of your camper on public notice boards in supermarkets and hostels close to the location in which you plan to sell. Make up some cards detailing the basic specs, asking price and your contact info and carry them with you.
There are a number of places online where you can advertise your vehicle for free. Note that some charge a final selling fee if sold as a result of your advert on their platform.
Free to list;
List at a fee;
In Print Classifieds
Investigate the value in advertising in local newspapers and circulars. Consider readership numbers and the type of buyer you will be accessing through this format. I would suggest that publications aimed at the retired and student market would be most worthwhile.
Consider psychological price barriers when listing your campervan for sale.
$3, 990 is much more appealing to a buyer’s subconscious than $4,300. Price your vehicle accordingly.
Don’t forget to factor in room for negotiation. It is unlikely that a buyer will offer you your asking price so have in mind your minimum price when constructing your initial sale price.
When a prospective buyer comes to view your campervan make sure you highlight its best features, talk about the superb experience you’ve had travelling the country and how the campervan has performed.
Make sure your insurance policy covers prospective buyers taking a test drive.
Answer any questions as thoroughly as possible and be honest with regard to any damage or broken features.
Have all relevant paperwork organised in a folder. This not only allows you to show the buyer the full service history but it promotes an attitude of responsibility and care.
Barter respectfully, if a buyer makes a low offer explain why you can’t let the vehicle sell for that much and then give them your lowest price.
Just as was the case when you purchased your campervan, buyers and sellers are required to comply with regulations set out by the state in which you plan to sell. Below I’ve collated some useful links pertaining to requirements of the seller in each of the seven states;
Note that while not all states require the seller to provide a recent vehicle safety inspection certificate, having one to show potential buyers instils confidence and may provide you with a stronger position when the inevitable negotiations begin.
Put it down in writing, make up a receipt for any money that changes hands, detail exactly what has been paid and the terms of the sale. The NRMA have a great template here.
Always write ‘Sold as is, where is’ on the receipt and make sure the buyer is aware of this agreement.
Be sure to sign the registration document and retain the buyers’ section to send to the local traffic authority.
Remember to cancel any insurance and roadside assistance plans.
For those who invest their time and money wisely, buying and selling a campervan in Australia can be a great way to utilise your travel fund for a cost effective Aussie escape.
With the potential to recoup your investment in full, take advantage of free transport and accommodation for the duration of your trip, and possibly earn some additional funds to offset the cost of fuel, it is well worth considering buying instead of renting a vehicle for your epic Australian Road Trip.
Have you sold a campervan in Australia? Tell me about your experience. Do you have any advice to add?
Airlie Beach is a small town but quite competitive from business to business. All camping pitches we tried were no more than $25 which is very affordable compared with other campsites around Australia, but all vary in quality. The same competition goes for the bars and taverns that run the main beach street. Every bar on this strip seems to offer some sort of happy hour and in typical Australian style alcohol is cheap and abundant all day on Sundays. Expect to pay about $5-$10 for a pitcher of beer and some include a free BBQ. The most costly element is the tours that run around the Whitsundays. You could pay upwards of $60 but anything worth seeing would be $110 or more.
What would have been a typical day, turned into a 3 day stopover. We had hit Airlie Beach in the midst of a cyclone warning so it was batton down the hatches. All boats were land locked or stranded on the Islands. We did what any good traveller would do and snuggled up at a bar and drank!
The atmosphere was high at the local sports bar where we sheltered from the storm. A local band played an array of music from Johnny Cash to Guns and Roses. It seemed every disappointed and stranded traveller had made their way here bringing with them the booming atmosphere, so we danced sang and drank beer until our hearts content. The night is a vague memory but from what I gather it involved building 6 foot beer pitcher towers, at least one table dance and singing Bon Jovi as loud as my vocals would allow! I would happily recollect the end of this night if ever I remember!
After a lot of high winds and torrential downpour, two days later the boats were back on the water and after a long wait we finally boarded a ferry trip around the Whitsundays. Despite the cyclone, the weather had become clear and sunny.
We had researched several trips that ran from Airlie, each of them with their own unique take on a Whitsundays tour. We chose the calm Cruise Whitsunday ferries for half a day on Hamilton Island and half a day on Whitehaven Beach. The tours can also be done over two to three days, again they are competitive so each come at varying prices and qualities.
So we set sail! It is about 45 minutes from Airlie to Hamilton Island. The captain engaged us with several stories about the islands and pointed out any great photo opportunities. However, hold on to your hats when on the top deck the wind and waters can be a bit choppy!
Soon we were docking on the beautiful Hamilton Island. To describe my first emotion, it was like stepping into the pages of an Ian Fleming 007 novel. The Island set the perfect James Bond scene – palm trees, exotic villas, yachts I could never afford, alongside bars and restaurants that line the Island front. As the hills stretch up from the bay, various hotel and holiday homes were set amongst the luscious greenery.
We wanted to explore the Island as best we could so we utilised the local transport. Other than the buses, no cars are allowed on the Island; all residents and tourists alike have the use of golf carts. This gave a quirky character to this holiday island. Rental was tempting but not worth the $80 a day rental we would have spent for only a couple of hours use. We opted for the free bus service that tours the island. This is ideal if you don’t mind a 5 minute wait here and there. All three routes will drop you off at all relevant spots each taking a different course around the Island. As Hamilton is relatively small it doesn’t take long to get to any particular area you desire.
We stopped at various look out points to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings, taking in the vibrant greens and blues that radiate from the Island and the surrounding waters. All of this beauty is illuminated by the beautiful golden sunlight of the cloudless skies above.
After many selfies and 101 scenic photos later we jumped back on the bus to stop at the Island’ s hotel! Here we found a beautiful family friendly pool. It was busy but calm. A pool bar served us a couple of beers and we relaxed poolside taking in the sun and enjoying relaxation time. It all felt very tropical, the palm trees hang over offering some much needed shade. However, do bare in mind you have to keep an eye on your watch as it is too easy to let time slip away and miss your ferry!
We rinsed off and jumped back on the bus to stop off at a local eatery. What you will find on the right tour is that a meal would be included in the ferry cruise. So we headed down to the local tavern. We found there is a great selection of great quality food. I do consider myself a somewhat burger connoisseur and so I opted for the double bacon burger and chips. I was not disappointed. I swigged it down with a beer and sat and watched life go by. Before long it was time to climb back aboard the ferry and onwards to Whitehaven Beach, 30 mins from Hamilton.
At this point the seas had become a bit choppy. This gave us a lot of amusement watching the unfortunate few become drenched with passing waves. This also brought about a few green faces as the boat swayed from left to right and also with great force the boat found itself rocking backwards and forwards. After enduring this roller coaster boat ride before long we had reached our beach destination.
Stinger suits were handed out, these give protection from the deadly Box Jellyfish that were in the waters for the summer season. We were dropped off at the shore by a barge and made our way onto the beautiful white sands. If we wanted to find paradise this was it. The beautiful sands stretch for over a mile without any disruptions or eyesores to spoil the view. Other than the tourists brought in from the ferries, this island was uninhabited which made it peaceful and calm. I proceeded to scream Wilson in my best Tom Hanks castaway re-enactment, something that apparently only I found funny! So swiftly moving on, it felt good to see a piece of the world that hadn’t been spoiled by a Hilton Hotel or beach condos.
In our very unforgiving stinger suits we made for the crystal clear waters. It felt good to just lie back and float, staring into the vast blue sky above. We headed back to land, peeled off our suits and led out, topping up our tans and enjoying the warmth of the beautiful sunshine.
The short amount of time on this beach shot by yet again before we soon had to climb back aboard the ferry. We enjoyed a familiar English cream tea with scones, jam and clotted cream, along with various fruits. The only fault with this is trying to devour a cream covered scone and drink a hot cup of coffee with a ship almost doing backflips off a choppy sea. This was a messy affair!
Back on terra firma and after a long day it took all of ten minutes to fall off to sleep in the comfort of our campervan.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local
The best conversations were with the knowledgable pilot and hosts on the ferry. We were given a detailed history of Captain Cook’s discovery of the Whitsunday’s and the reason it was named so. The trivia is this, Cook discovered the passage on the Christian day of Whitsunday. The Sunday after Whitsun, interesting. We were indulged with brilliant facts of island prices and the vast fortunes spent on developments in various areas. It seemed for a small dent in a billionaire’s fortune you could obtain a small holiday island of your own. I can but dream!
Describe a challenge you faced:
The only challenge for us was waiting and biding our time during the cyclone. We were unlucky to have reached Airlie at this time. We sat watching every detail from the weather reports and talked to locals asking what they predicted. We had our hearts set on seeing the Whitsunday’s and this was put into jeopardy. We had to make a decision as time was not on our side and our schedule was slowly becoming disjointed. Fortunately we stuck it out and despite having to sacrifice other elements of our trip we didn’t regret waiting and exploring the islands.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I thoroughly enjoyed the Whitsundays, it feels like no other part of Australia. The feeling that you have escaped to a small pocket of paradise. The only dislike was the little amount of time spent on Whitehaven Beach. As we were fortunate enough to have taken the half day trip to Hamilton, we felt we had seen as much as we could have done in the time given. I felt that those who had only paid for a half day trip to Whitehaven were short changed with only 45 mins spent here.
What new lesson did you learn?
Good things come to those who wait!!!
When you’re Down Under on a working holiday visa, taking some time out to explore the varied landscapes of the largest island on earth is an essential addition to your itinerary.
Those with the benefit of time to explore but the restrictions of a small budget, should avoid organized tours and internal flights and instead consider a cost effective and rather more quintessential, Aussie road trip.
Often negating the need for additional outlay on accommodation and public transport, a road trip can provide the opportunity to travel on your own terms and at greatly reduced expense.
In this two part series I’ll be walking through the process of both buying a suitable campervan, and selling it on once you’ve completed your trip.
Taking some time to research the current market value for a standard campervan prior to your arrival in Australia may help to determine how you much you will likely need to invest, and where to find the best deals.
There is some debate as to the correlation between geographic location and selling price. Cities such as Darwin and Cairns offer the potential for a more competitive market than the overcrowded tourist centers of Sydney and Melbourne, so you may find prices are more accessible. Having said that the increased number of travelers looking to sell before they fly from the major international hubs can facilitate some good deals.
Wherever you plan to buy be mindful that price is not the only factor that should determine which van you purchase.
Buying from a private seller or at an auction is the best way to secure a good price however a guarantee of title, legal protection and a warranty is provided when purchasing a used vehicle from a licensed dealership.
There are three main outlets for second hand vehicles; Classifieds, used vehicle sellers and car markets.
Used Campervan Sellers
It is also worth keeping an eye out for adverts on community noticeboards in supermarkets and hostels. A bargain can often be found when travelers leaving the country list their vehicles for a quick sale.
Whether or not you to choose to buy a standard ‘Backpacker Van’ (a converted Toyota HiAce or other Kombi style van) there are a number of things to consider.
The first is the age, history and condition of the vehicle.
Ask the seller to show you:
If you feel it necessary you can carry out an ownership check yourself using this state specific transport resource.
If the vehicle appears to be what you’re looking for;
If you are considering a purchase take the van to a reputable garage for a full mechanical inspection. The $100 or so you spend on this may save you the expense of future breakdowns and repairs.
Always take a test drive.
There a number of costs associated with the purchase of a second hand vehicle and you should factor these into your budget.
The first is registration. All vehicles sold within Australia must have a valid registration certificate. Each state enforces slightly different regulations and as such the costs involved when buying and selling vary too.
In terms of registration or REGO as it is commonly referred to, vehicles registered in Western Australia are the most cost effective to purchase and those in New South Wales the most expensive. Full details pertaining to each state can be found below.
Victoria – www.vicroads.vic.gov.au
New South Wales – www.rta.nsw.gov.au
Queensland – www.tmr.qld.gov.au
South Australia – www.transport.sa.gov.au
Western Australia – www.transport.wa.gov.au
Tasmania – www.transport.tas.gov.au
Northern Territory – www.nt.gov.au/transport/mvr
Australia Capital Territory – www.canberraconnect.act.gov.au
Once you’ve bought a campervan you must transfer the registration into your name within 14 days, and it is worth noting that you can choose to register the vehicle in a state different to that which it was registered in when you purchased it. To do this you must register it with the local transport authority in your desired state by providing your passport and driver’s license, proof of your residential address within that state, and proof of CTP/third party personal insurance.
Note that there is a fee associated with the transfer of registration.
If like many travelers in Australia you do not have a residential address, a rental receipt in the form of a campsite/hostel receipt on letter headed paper detailing your name and the number of nights you stayed there will be accepted.
You will also be required to pay stamp duty on the purchase. A government tax it is mandatory and varies based on the state in which you register, and the cost of the vehicle. You can utilize this resource provided by the Australian Government to calculate stamp duty here.
Vehicle Inspection Certificate
Commonly known as a ‘pink slip’ or ‘blue slip’ depending on which state you’re in, this is essentially a certificate of road worthiness. In some states it is a requirement that all second hand vehicles have an inspection certificate no more than 28 days old and it is recommended that all buyers ask for this regardless. This is not a cost applicable to you during the sale however you will be responsible for renewing this when you come to sell.
To transfer the registration of a vehicle into your name you are required to hold third party personal insurance as a minimum. It is worth calling the major insurance providers to find the best rate as the quoted cost can vary significantly.
Agreeing a Sale
When you’ve finally found a road worthy camper at a great price the next step is to agree the terms of the sale.
Write a receipt detailing any agreed terms and be aware that if the owner is selling the vehicle privately and states that it is ‘sold as seen’, you will have no comeback should the wheels fall off 5 minutes after you hand over the cash. Double check the condition of the interior and engine and then check again.
For those who invest time into finding the right campervan at the right price, there is the possibility of financial reward. Once your Aussie adventure is over, if you’ve maintained it well you might just be able to sell it on for a small profit recouping your initial investment with a small rebate for the fuel you’ve bought along the way.
What about you? Have you purchased a camper van in Australia? What was your experience? Do you have anything to add?
Nimbin is a hard place to spend money. You will find that much of the town is free to browse, the area almost feels like entertainment in itself. We spent around $40 dollars on food and drink but this was out of choice. Nimbin is very backpacker friendly so we were able to park our van off a side street and sleep for the night cost free.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
This small town is strange in itself. If you think the flower power era died, you’re wrong, it retired to the hills of New South Wales. The feeling of a bohemian left wing society resonates from every glass fronted building. The town is radiant in bright colours from yellows to oranges to luminous greens. Not a dash of dull colour is wasted on the walls and door frames. You don’t need to step out of the van to be overwhelmed with happiness.
You’ll spot the odd skateboarding OAP, an abundance of dreadlocks and beards, many musicians, writers and artists alike. Amongst all of this, the very backbone of the town is the use of alternative ‘herbs’ and the strong unity it has between locals and travellers alike.
Describe a typical day:
Nimbin only needs a day or two at most if your enjoying the vibe.
We drove in from Byron Bay. This can be just over an hour and a half without stopping for a coffee. If a space can be found amongst the variety of campervans that line the streets then you can park up and walk everywhere on foot.
We stopped by the local information centre and picked up a few leaflets on what was happening in and around the town. Our first stop was the Nimbin Hemp Embassy. This is where you will find lots of Hemp and Nimbin memorabilia. Small pieces of Nimbin’s history and community are displayed here. The most interesting of which is the history of the “Mardi Grass” festival, a celebration for Marajuana. Although use of Marajuana is still illegal in Australia, Mardi Grass allows the town to come alive and voice their own opinion of the current Australian Laws. From the many photographs and videos on show it’s seems to bring the town’s heart beat to the surface with a celebration of colour and music.
Among the various displays at the Embassy you’ll find sculptures from many of the previous Mardi Grass festivals hanging from the walls and ceilings.
Nimbin has a selection of alternative cafés but we were recommended The Rainbow Cafe. A selection of salads, burgers, and other meals are on offer with a great choice of drinks. I recommend their strawberry shake. The café is in keeping with the towns laid back, colourful, hippy like vibe and the staff were very friendly. It was nice to watch the world go by and soak up the atmosphere as I tucked into a gorgeous homemade cheeseburger.
Then it’s off to the Nimbin Museum. Multiple rooms detail the history of Nimbin and it’s surrounding areas. We learned about the intriguing Aquarius Festival and just what prosperity it bough the this community. The museum has plenty to discover and is great for understanding and gaining a perspective of how this quirky town came to be.
We wondered around the various shops from Happy Herbs to a Bong shop. Each selling local products or certain contraband for alternative lifestyles.
If you want a slight reality check take a short drive out to Mt Warning. There is an 8km trek to the top, but to look out at the beautiful surrounding lands is certainly worth the walk. Take a picnic and enjoy the sunshine and a breath of fresh air.
To finish the night, it’s time for a scooner or two at the Nimbin Hotel. Locals and travellers sit alongside each other taking time to meet and greet. We were glad to have stumbled on a night of music from a local guitarist. So we settled down and enjoyed some pub grub, sat back and relaxed whilst enjoying the surroundings. Then a stumble back to sleep in the campervan!
Describe an interesting conversation:
Much of the interesting conversation can be made when conversing with local shop owners. Many of the locals seem to have settled in Nimbin rather than raised here. I was interested to understand why people settle here in Nimbin. However the most interesting ‘conversations’ you will get here are the very brief interactions in regards to local “herbs” or “special cookies”. A small glance, a quick whisper and off they would disappear as quick they had appeared. No ones pushy and they seem to respect tourists.
For anyone with a mind to visit Nimbin please don’t be deterred by it’s alternative thoughts. It is free spirited but can be enjoyed for its creative and artistic, and historical nature.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I really enjoyed Nimbin, it is a hive of creativity and has a great feeling about it. The locals seem like a proud folk who enjoy their lives. It may be a simple way to live but no one seems unhappy. It almost felt like I was in a small corner of Amsterdam where everyone had found their place in the world.
Above everything else they welcome you with open arms, are happy to meet you and seem genuinely interested in who you are.
The only dislike I have is the lack of things to occupy your days. I would have loved to have spent more time just soaking up the energy. Unfortunately a thorough exploration can be done over 2 days at a steady pace.
Where next?- Gold Coast here we come
A big red rock, Kangaroo Dancing, Thorny Lizards and beautiful sunsets
In our fist 3 day stay at Ayres Rock Resort we must have spent about $30 a day, give or take, on food and drink. This however doesn’t include the $25 for a 3 day pass to the Uluru National Park or the $72 we paid for the first 3 night stay on the campground. If $72 sounds affordable that’s because it is but we were lucky to have gone at the end of the winter season. This is when the resort offer 3 nights for the price if 2 on camping pitches.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
Have you ever seen a Thorny Devil? A lizard with spikes all over its body. It’s harmless and if you get near, it stands still hoping not to be seen. The friendly lizard absorbs water from its feet to it’s spikes across the top of its back for consumption. If you were to pick one up and place it on your arm you’ll feel the suction on your skin. They are cute but a bizarre looking reptile.
Describe a typical day:
all activities on the site are included in the price. I would wake up and cook some poached eggs on toast from the camp kitchen. Catch up on some daily news with a coffee. I like to write before midday, an hour putting pen to paper. Get washed and ready and stroll into the town centre. A great indigenous man named Leroy can take you through some bush yarns (stories) about male and female roles in a mob (tribe/family) and talk you through aboriginal weapons and hunting equipment. He is a really interesting man and will happily spend time after to answer any questions you have. I don’t think I quizzed him once without getting a thorough answer – a very knowledgable man.
Soon after weapons it’s time for Udarki (didgeridoo) playing with the Aboriginal Wakagetti team. Again some really great, wise, friendly people who take pride and enjoyment in their work. Be aware that the Didgeridoo is regarded as a mans duty amongst certain aboriginal folk. I loved this as it’s the first time someone has taught me how to really play the instrument unlike my raspberry blowing I did at school!
Once finished its time to make my way to spear and boomerang throwing. This is a great deal of fun, hosted again by the Wakagetti team. Yet another great way to learn some really intriguing facts about aboriginal hunting. If you’re good at the boomerang throwing it is often advisable to duck, they come back fast! It is very enjoyable to watch all other participants climbing over themselves to escape the incoming missile!
Lunch time would be spent at the Kulata Deli where the best sandwiches are made by the resorts indigenous training team. We loved the sandwiches here, my favourite being a turkey and bacon grilled panini stacked with all the salad. This is more than enough to fill this hungry little man!
After lunch it’s a cool down with a swim in the campground’s pool and catch up on my tan. I was looking vaguely like Casper the ghost before I set out in this journey!
After chilling out I would head back into town to take part in the Wakagetti Indigenous dancing. They offer a tutorial taking you through various aboriginal dances. This is then followed up with a fantastic performance from the team exhibiting genuine cultural dancing. I couldn’t resist finding myself up on stage to show my best Kangaroo dance – a great deal of fun.
Then it’s getting time to drive out to the Rock’s viewing point to watch a magnificent sunset over Uluru. This cannot be missed in my opinion – it is a far better sight to behold than a sunrise. If for any reason it’s a cloudy day don’t be down hearted, the most beautiful colours light up the sky and add an array of beauty to an already magnificent view. It can also be a very romantic setting where a cuddle or two can be shared.
Back to camp kitchen for goon (cheap cask wine) and food, typically a barbecue and to converse with the hive of travellers that congregate around the barbecue. Then it’s time for bed. Word of warning – try to hold back on the wine if your planning a sunrise trip because it can be a very early start.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
The most interesting conversation I had was with a local who worked out of the brilliant Uluru Cultural Centre. When I used to imagine an aboriginal person, I would see a tribal black man. The conversation allowed me to learn that Aboriginal or Indigenous people are not this typical stereotype we often see in books, TV etc. What I came to understand is there are a variety of colours amongst mobs and I was asked to understand that to be an aboriginal man is about being close to the culture you were raised in, to understand and love your upbringing and engage and learn the knowledge and stories of your elders.
I am ever inquisitive and we spoke for quite some time on this subject. I realised that I had a misguided representation of just what it means to be aboriginal. This is often overlooked and can still be misinterpreted.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I love the beauty of the surroundings. The desert is fresh and untouched. This is where millions of years of nature continues to thrive. The red sandy plains reflect the years of natural formation of its beautiful vast landscape. I am yet to find a place that has such varying beauty. The changing skylines give various backdrops to fantastic desert views. There are many beautiful sunsets to be experienced watching the skies light up night after night with the most vibrant reds, purples and oranges. In contrast to this is the powerful lightening storms that can occur. Large thunderous clouds sweeping the skies, lighting up the desert for miles around, often silhouetting Uluru on the horizon. The clear nights offer you a chance to gaze upon the starry cosmos. This leaves you with the euphoric feeling that we as humans on this planet really are just floating on a rock in the large nothingness of space.
I would enjoy watching many creatures that live amongst the bush lands. From the suspicious dingoes to a wondering thorny devil. The trees filled with Brolgas and Magpies to the Goannas that plod along on the land below. Moths the size of your hand, to the angry little Praying Mantis who would offer you a fist fight if you came too close. It is fantastic how all the elements here live and breathe together as one, each knowing there own place in the world.
The only thing I would say I disliked is the endless repetitiveness of the journey here. It is a long drive with very little in between and when your van was as rickety as our van was, you often imagine being stranded in the middle of no where. However I would do it all over again for a chance to relive this experience.
Describe a challenge you faced:
the biggest challenge we faced was the distance from anywhere. The van was in good condition for a motor of its age. The driving hours are long whichever route you take.
What new lesson did you learn?
Being here in the red centre allowed me to understand a very significant part of my English history. As an Englishman I felt ashamed by what had been done to the natives of the land. I was able to grasp a true understanding of what culture, friendship and respect really means. The strength of belief and companionship, the pride of knowledge, what it means to be alive and treating the world around you with respect. I learnt to be at peace with the world. I have found out a lot about myself in my time here. These are lessons and understandings that have helped me as an individual understand what is important in life and what we often miss in the modern western world.
It’s off to Sydney!