Memoires of a tour of Australia
Latest highlight of the trip
Got up bright and early again, well about half eight to be honest. I called around all the campsites that we wanted to stay on for the trip back down to Brisbane, to make sure we could get a space. With that done we set off to the beach to catch some rays again. It was another glorious day, except that we had a few clouds today, which is quite unusual, but very welcome as the sun is very intense.
Had lunch in the motorhome, did a bit more on the website and then walked into town. Loads of people have told us to go and see the ‘Groper feeding’ at a restaurant near the marina, so we thought we would have a look and see what the fuss was about. We had been told to get there early, about four, as the feeding starts at five. We did, and it was already busy. We had a couple of drinks, found a good spot to see the action, and waited for it to begin.
We were expecting something of the size of the Moiri Rass we had seen on the reef last week. My how we were wrong. A chap next to me shouted ‘there it is under the water’ and we looked down; it was massive. I thought it was a shark. Apparently it was over 300kg and I am not joking, it could have eaten us it was that big. A waiter from the restaurant then proceeded to put half a fish, and I am talking a big fish, on a rope and dangle it in. The Groper grabbed it and nearly pulled him in. He tried to pull the fish out a bit so we could all get photos, but to no avail. This went on for about twenty minutes, and we got some of it on the camcorder. In the end there were three of them swimming about. It was like a scene from ‘Jaws’.
Left; the waiters hanging a fish on a rope for the groper.
Right; The Groper trying to get it.
I spent the morning working on the website again, to try to get it finished. It is coming on but still more work is needed to get it onto the web. Hannah cleared out the cupboards in the motorhome to get things organised a little better, and make things a bit more accessible. This afternoon we took a bike ride along four-mile beach. It was amazing. Palm trees down one side and the sea down the other, a breeze in our faces and the sun on our backs. We stopped to take photos and to capture it on video as much as we could. This evening we went into town for a meal at Bistro 3 again, as it was our last night in Port Douglas. We were late setting off as we got chatting to some of the neighbours, so I had to run ahead to get the videos taken back before the deadline, otherwise we would have been fined. We got to the restaurant and sat in the bar having pre-dinner drinks for an hour before taking our table. They had bottles of Kroenenbourg, the first bar I have been to yet that has. The meal again was very good, although Hannah’s duck did come out cold – she doesn’t have a lot of luck with duck! They sorted it out very quickly though and she was satisfied. A very well chosen, full-bodied red went down a treat.
We awoke at six thirty today, as we had a lot to do. We had planned to go up to Mossman Gorge, get some shopping in Cairns, and make it right down to Mission Beach before dark, so we had to get moving. We said our goodbyes to John, who has been a real help to us since we arrived in PD, and headed off about seven thirty. He gave us his address and phone number so that we can pop in if we get time when we get to Melbourne.
Mossman gorge was incredible with a river running though it and massive granite boulders everywhere. Both banks covered with rainforest, which we had to walk through to get to the lookout point. We couldn’t stay long but we managed to capture it on video.
We made it to Mission Beach for about half three and pulled onto the campsite. We are again very impressed; good facilities, friendly staff, huge pitches and right on the beach. The owner suggested some nearby restaurants which we had a walk to, to see what they were like. We are favouring the Thai and have booked a table for tonight. It is a BYO, or bring your own, so should be cheap. It doesn’t look much from outside, but the campsite owner said it was the Thai we would get anywhere, so we will see. On the walk back to the park we had a quick look at the beach and just off-shore there is an island, Dunk Island, which looks close enough to swim to, although is probably further away than it looks so we wont be trying. As we left the beach there was a loud roaring noise above, which I thought was an aircraft of some sort, but when we looked up, it was a skydiver coming in to land on the beach. There were seven or eight of them in total and we watched in aw as they flew down at incredible speed, circled around 180 degrees, and landed right in the middle of the beach, which is only about 20 metres wide at most. What an amazing sight, and it looks like good fun; I might have to look into that.
Well what a change in overnight temperature, from Port Douglas to here. It is a distance roughly the same as Barnsley to Birmingham, and yet it has gone from being too hot to sleep, to us needing the duvet cover as it was so cold! The daytime temperature is the same, but overnight is that much colder. And it makes a big difference to our sleeping patterns; we didn’t wake up once in the night, and slept right through for probably only the third time since we got to OZ.
Last nights meal at the Thai restaurant, called Nana Thai Café, was delicious. And was definitely the best Thai food we have ever had, even better than the Thai place we went to in Cairns. On the walk over Hannah said ‘if its empty we will just come back to the van’, well how wrong can you be. It was absolutely packed out, and just to help the imagination, the place had maybe twenty-five covers outside in what looks like someone’s garden, and two tables inside, in what looks like a front room.
We went for a cycle along the coast to north Mission Beach this morning and scouted out a council run campsite that only costs $18 per night, but you cant book and there is no phone number so you cant call to check availability. So we have to turn up in the morning, and hope to find a space. The chap that runs the site was wielding a hatchet too, and kept joking that he sorts out unruly guests with it, so that should be fun.
We awoke at seven, as we are now trying to get up nice and early to make the most of each day.
We packed up the motorhome and made our way to North Mission Beach, to a site that we had scouted out yesterday on the bike ride. We arrived and I went into the office (which is no more than a tarpaulin hanging in the trees) to see the man with the hatchet, who yesterday seemed very on edge and a little scary. Well today he was very helpful, and approachable, and to be honest a rather nice chap. He didn’t think there was a pitch available, but walked me round the whole site until he found one for us. It was unpowered but for $15 we can manage. Just after we got set up he knocked on the door to say that he had found us a powered site, so we promptly moved. The facilities leave a little to be desired, but we have very good ones in the van so we are fine.
We decided to go out for dinner to a bar near the beach that was advertising live music. Although it did say on the sign that bookings were advisable, so we were not sure we would get a table. When we arrived it was heaving and all of the tables had reserved signs on them! I spotted a waitress and asked if we could squeeze in – the look on her face said not likely, but she went off to check anyway. Someone must have been smiling down on us, because she came back and said we could have the small table next to the DJ stand, which incidentally was the nearest to the band when they set up later on. And my god they were good; the main act was a duo consisting of a singer with a truly amazing voice and a one-man band that could play just about anything. He had a keyboard, a bass drum, a snare drum like seat box, a violin, and something he had learned to play on an 18 month trip to Thailand that I think was called a Malodie (it was series of bamboo pipes of varying lengths, played by blowing across them midway along the length – quite amazing). Another act was a seventeen-year-old girl, who we think was making her debut, and who had a very soft, very smooth, and very talented voice. Keep a look out for ‘Just Lizi’; she may be in the charts soon.
A nice slow day for us today. Awoke at seven again, even though we were out last night and we had a few drinks; our heads were rough but we soldiered on regardless. We had planned to go for a bike ride this morning, but as we had the ‘rough heads’, we settled on a couple of hours on the beach. Another glorious blue-sky day and the beach was almost empty, so our time on it was very peaceful. We popped back for lunch and then went off for a walk up to ‘Clump Point’, a lookout point that we had ridden to on the bikes on Saturday when we scouted on the site. A milkshake each in a little café in town on the walk back cooled us down, as the sun was very hot again. The afternoon was spent in the van, planning the next leg of the trip to Brisbane, and sorting a site for tomorrow at ‘Airlie Beach’. After about half an hour of looking we managed to secure a site within walking distance of the main town. It will be about a six-hour drive tomorrow so we will up early and off for about 8.
Looking out from 'Clump Point' at Mission Beach
Up at 7 and off for 8 as planned; destination Airlie Beach. We were aiming to stop in Townsville to try to get some sun loungers, as Han is struggling to lie on the beach all day without one. This 5* camping is hard! On the way up we missed it completely as there was a by-pass around the town, which we weren’t aware of. So we were prepared this time, and avoided the by-pass following signs for town. Little did we know just how big and spread out it was. Our chances of stumbling across a camping shop suddenly dwindled to nothing. We got stuck right on the edge of the CBD (Central Business District), which is what we would call the town/city centre, and had to turn around and head back to the main road. We were defeated. But, as luck would have it, we ended up right on the road that was being set up as a race track for the Townsville motor racing, so we drove right along the pit straight and over the finish line! I felt like Jenson, winning again!
On the drive we saw our first Kangaroo, although not in the best way. It ran across the road right in front of the motorhome whilst Han was driving, and we thought we were going to hit it. They don’t run straight across the road, they zigzag and thus it takes them a lot longer. Even so, it was nice to finally see one.
We arrived at the ‘SeaBreeze’ caravan park about half four and got set up. The owner told us of some sailing trips that were on special offer, but sadly we cant afford it, as it is a choice between that and whale watching at Hervey Bay, which we both really want to do. We cant do everything, so we have to pick and choose, and we have already been sailing twice, seen the reef and been to loads of nice beaches.
We slept in today ‘til about 8, after yesterdays drive. I hunted out the showers and was planning to go for a walk to ‘Airlie Beach’ itself, as the van park was actually about 3km away. The showers were, for want of a better word, crap; the water was cold, they weren’t very clean, and they were very old and in poor condition. But I managed; I must be a hardened camper!
The walk into Airlie was amazing; paved walkways along the coast, boardwalks along the marina, massive boats, amazing apartments and all so clean and tidy again. The marina is very new and has some of the biggest yachts we have ever seen in it. Also, as we were walking along the esplanade, Hannah suddenly stopped and looked up, and there was a stunt aircraft doing loops in the sky above us, with blue smoke coming out of the back. I tried to catch it on the camcorder but the sun was so bright that it didn’t come out very well. Airlie Beach itself is very nice, but very touristy, maybe even more so than Cairns. There are loads of shops and café’s, all along one main road, but there is loads of backpacker’s accommodation, and the place seems more tailored to them than to other tourists.
A BBQ for dinner with a glass or two of wine went down well, and we are now sat inside waiting for the Michael Jackson memorial concert to be on.
Left; View from the boardwalk on the way to Airlie Beach from the campsite.
Right; A luxury yacht in Airlie Beach Marina
Up at 7 and on the road for 8, destination Hervey Bay, the whale watching capital of the world. Although it is almost 1000km so we will be staying at a rest stop tonight about half way. We are really noticing the drop in temperature now the further south we go. In Port Douglas it was easily twenty degrees overnight, whereas now I bet it as low as ten. And that makes a big difference to how well we can sleep; it is much easier at ten than it is at twenty.
The trip down today was OK but very long. We managed to get to a rest stop about 100km south of Rockhampton, which was about 600km of driving, and was plenty enough for one day. But it makes tomorrow’s drive shorter and means that we can make more of our stay in Hervey Bay. On the way down we were almost taken out by a huge lorry that was trying to overtake us. It went flying past us, as we approached the crest of a hill and then had to swerve in front of us to get in, as there was a car coming the other way. Then, once over the crest, it proceeded to overtake two cars and a caravan, into the path of more oncoming traffic. It was definitely a bottom clencher that one.
Anyway, we are at the rest stop now, parked up and beer in hand, about to start dinner. It is absolutely packed out with caravans and motorhomes, so must be a good site.
Up at 7 again and on the road for 8, again, singing along to the soundtrack to ‘The Boat that Rocked’, and imagining we were in a VW campervan, belting along in the sixties. Not far to go today, so we were expecting to be at Hervey Bay for about lunchtime and would have our lunch there.
Last night was definitely the coldest we have experienced since we got here. I had to get up in the middle of the night and get the extra duvet out for Hannah, who was apparently freezing her bits off! When we got up we had to put full clothes on, such as jeans and body warmers, instead of just shorts and a t-short as we usually do.
And today we were passed by a trucker in worse fashion than yesterday; he went past us after overtaking four other cars, and forced a car on the other side to pull over onto the dirt to get out of his way. I thought we were heading for Armageddon! Anyway, we made it to Hervey Bay and got set up on our caravan site. And this time we are impressed – very well kept, good sized pitches, very friendly and helpful staff, and excellent facilities. However, we are disappointed, as we have apparently arrived too early; the whales are not here yet so there are no trips running just yet. We will have to come back up one weekend whilst we are working in Brisbane. We had a walk into town to get some lunch, which was further than we thought it would be. On route we saw a house that had been completely painted yellow, and the owner was demanding $5m for it. Some sort of protest I think – I got some photos.
Left; The yellow house.
Right; The sign outside it.
A nice quiet day for us today. Got up at seven, even though we wanted a lay in – I left the alarm on by mistake! Won’t be doing that again.
We had only been up an hour or two when we heard what must have been hundreds of wagons sounding their horns in unison not more than a few metres away – it was deafening and it went on for about half an hour! We found out from the campsite owner that it was truckers from down the road that have a parade through Hervey Bay every year to raise money for a local children’s charity. They have a jet powered truck too apparently. Sadly we missed seeing them, as by the time we knew what it was, they had gone.
We got all the washing done and spent the rest of the morning looking for jobs on the internet again. There are plenty of full time jobs out there, just don’t seem to be many temp jobs, but we will keep looking.
We have decided not to bother going out to Fraser Island until we get on one of the whale watching trips and we will do the two together, which works out better cost wise. And we will have to come back for the whales anyway, so might as well do the two together one weekend.
After lunch we went for a bike ride around the cycle track that runs all the way around the bay along the sea front. It was a very enjoyable ride and we saw most of the town too, which means we can be happy to stay around the van tomorrow sunbathing, knowing that we aren’t missing much.
A simple dinner, a few glasses of wine and a movie in the van saw the night out.
We decided that we would leave Hervey Bay today, one day early, and head down to Brisbane to find work. We are too early for the whales anyway, so might as well get to Brisbane and get finding work. We were only 300km’s away so the drive was nice and short for a change, but the traffic getting into Brisbane was bad again, as we hit roadwork's on the Bruce Highway.
Brisbane is much more hilly than we remember too – it is like I imagine San Francisco to be from what you see on the telly. Also there is a McDonalds on every corner, and come to think of it, in just about every town of a decent size that we have been through so far. Another thing to mention is the number plates in OZ. They can be of any colour in any of the states and you can pretty much have whatever you want on them as far as we can see. They have to be bought through the government though, you cant just walk into a shop and buy one. And the ones in Queensland tend to say ‘Queensland – The Sunshine State’ on them, which is very accurate.
We needed some fuel so we found a station when we got to Brisbane and I filled the beast up. Off I went to pay, and then disaster – my card was declined! I had forgotten to transfer money from our savings account to our current account and it had dried up! To say it was embarrassing is an understatement but the lady serving was very understanding. I went back to the van and transferred the funds on the laptop, then went back in and paid. What a berk!
Got into the caravan park in Brisbane around five, got set up and had a BBQ on the sites own gas barbie's that are free to use. They are excellent and certainly better than waiting for coals to get hot when you are tired and running out of daylight. We cooked the ‘T’ bone steaks that we bought at a butcher yesterday and they were delicious. We spoke to Hans parents on Skype, which kept breaking up so wasn’t brilliant, but we managed and it was nice to see them. Tried to call my mum but no response so she must be out. Will try again another day.
Watched the GP and went to bed – well done Mark Webber!
Got up, had a quick cup of tea and some breakfast and headed out to look at what caravans are available in OZ, and what the costs are. We have had a quick look on the web and they seem very expensive, but the only way to get a real feel for it is to go and have a look.
We are thinking that if we want to go off-road and see some of the more remote areas of Australia, we will need a 4x4 and suitable caravan, rather than the motorhome. It is only a thought at the moment but we need figures etc to be able to make a decision when the time comes.
We went to three caravan dealers to start with, all of which had hugely varied caravans, in terms of size, layout, style, fit-out, off-road capability, colour scheme, and general appeal. But in all of them the vans seemed to be very expensive for what you got, and anyway way over our price range, even for the old ones. We were getting more and more fed up and starting to think that we just wouldn’t bother and would stick to the main roads in the motorhome. Then we stumbled upon a small dealer, who designs and makes his own caravans. They are amazing and good value too. So if we do decide to change we will be going there.
More job searching and more frustration this evening, before dinner, TV and bed.
Today was major job search day. We caught the bus into Brisbane, which by the way was an incredibly enjoyable experience, and sought out the employment agencies to get signed up. We arrived into Brisbane to an underground bus station. I kid you not. It was amazing; same sort of idea as the London underground, just on a smaller scale and it keeps the buses of the city streets.
We had to go to the library first to print out our CV’s etc and that was incredible too. Very new, very clean, very organised. We were told we couldn’t use the computers though as we weren’t members of the library, we thought we were scuppered. However, they joined us up as full members when we said we were in Brisbane for a while, and gave us free internet access and use of the printers. What a great service.
We were not so lucky with the recruiters though. They were all very difficult to find, and when we did find them, they told us to apply via the internet – what a waste of time.
We had lunch and got back to the CP about half two slightly dejected. However we found some jobs to apply for on the net again and got signed up with every agency we could find, so fingers crossed.
We are planning to go to Australia Zoo either tomorrow or Thursday, which is about an hour and a half away. It was Steve Irwin’s Zoo, the chap they called the ‘Crocodile Hunter’. Cant wait.
Had breakfast out today at a little café up the road – beautiful. I had French toast with bacon and maple syrup, a funny concoction but very tasty nonetheless. Han had a bacon and egg panini, but with a twist; it had BBQ sauce on it!
Spent the rest of the morning looking for car hire deals on the internet, and ended up ringing them because the internet didn’t seem to allow for pick-ups today, only in two days time, which was no good to us. Got one eventually after much calling around and picked it up at 3 o’clock just up the road (ten minutes in a taxi). It is a little Hyundai Getz, and we have it for eight days, so that we can get out to all the local attractions and see the sights without moving the van about all the time. And I can definitely say that it is a fab little car; easy to drive, easy to park, sturdy, responsive, perky and fun.
We are going out for dinner to the little café that we had breakfast at, as they are showing the ‘State of Origin’ rugby league match on their big screen. We have missed the last two so are determined to watch this one as it the last in a three game series, which Queensland have dominated.
Tomorrow we head to Australia Zoo and we cant wait.
Well last night didn’t go too well. The meal was good, they were showing the match, and we took out own wine, which was also good, but then it went down hill. They started packing up the restaurant around us! It was empty other than us and they must have wanted to get done early. So we finished up and left, and watched the rest of the match in the van.
Today we visited Australia Zoo, and what a highlight! Hannah was skeptical as it was a Zoo, however she didn’t need to be as it was brill. It was set up by Steve Irwin (crocodile hunter) in 1991. Han didn’t realise that he had such a passion for the protection of the planet and the animals that live on it. We watched some fantastic bird shows, show is the wrong word really it gives the wrong impression but it gets the message across.
We both got to hand feed, stroke and walk in fields with Kangaroos, even those with joey's in their pouches, they are the most amazing animals close up and so friendly. We got to touch Koalas, whom Hannah says are far more cute in real life, I am inclined to agree. We even saw a woman walking a possum around on a lead!
We saw elephants at play and exercise, one of which is a national film star appearing on RSPCA adverts and children’s programmes. The tigers are something else so majestic and truly beautiful, some of the information though on the tiger population and its decline is quite distressing, Han got quite emotional actually.
Lastly the crocs, wow!! Huge, and very frightening. I really can’t imagine meeting one, which is very common here in parts, especially in the middle of the road. They are so ugly, but there are many interesting facts about them and I can understand Steve’s love for them, however I can’t see us ever feeling that way, we’ll stick to the Koalas. Today though was fantastic. Australia Zoo is a must see attraction for anyone visiting Queensland. It is absolutely huge, has just about every Australian animal there is, and even some elephants and tigers. The exhibits are spacious for the animals, there is information everywhere, and plenty of staff.
We saw a wildlife show at the ‘Crocoseum’ including a variety of birds, the elephants, snakes and of course the saltwater crocs. And it was amazing, very entertaining and well put together.
We were at the zoo for over five hours and had a fabulous time., not feeling bored once and we didn’t really want to leave.
We spoke to KEA this morning and they are going to fix the other bits and bats that are wrong with the van tomorrow morning, so a good result there.
Left; A Koala hugs his tree.
Right; That Croc looks hungry!
Feeding the Kangaroo's.
Up at seven as is usual now and off to KEA for nine. I drove the van and Han drove the hire car for the first time and did an excellent job in rush hour traffic. Met Steve again when we arrived and he vowed to sort everything out for us, just as he had done the fist time we met him. We chatted for a while and left in the hire car to see some more of Brisbane.
We went out to Redcliffe, which Steve had suggested. It was a nice short drive and only took about half an hour. It is a lovely place and whilst there we came across a small town called Scarborough, which was truly amazing, and not at all like the Scarborough in blighty We had lunch, a chicken salad that I had prepared last night, on a picnic bench overlooking the sea, and it was wonderful. As we drove out we saw hundreds of houses that had their own yacht berthing on waterways that passed from neighbourhood to neighbourhood – must have been worth a fortune – one day maybe!
Got back to KEA and Steve had fixed everything and had even washed the van for us; the man is a gem. Chatted a bit more and fixed up a dinner date with him and his wife for next weekend.
We went out into Brisbane centre for dinner tonight, to the South Bank, as had been suggested by Steve. We took the bus which cost us less than £3 for the two of us. And the service is amazing, much better than the UK, and no-one seemed to be swearing or jeering either. The underground city bus terminal is much bigger than we first thought too, and seems to stretch under the entire city.
Had a lovely meal in a Thai/Malaysian restaurant and a few drinks in a great bar on the main street. Watched a street dance class, that anyone could join in with, and had a really good night. Han bought a handbag at the night market and I got some sweets – I am worse than a five year old! And we saw a man on a stall that was high as a kite – his eyes were massive and googly, no wonder he didn’t have any customers! And we got our photo taken by a drunk chap on a stag do outside the stretch hummer him and his friends had hired.
Got the bus back too, as we felt so safe on it. Walking back through the caravan park we couldn’t help but notice how much brighter the stars seem to be here – they are truly astonishing.
Left; Brisbane by Night. Middle; Han and I with the Stretch Hummer. Right; Happy chappy on Stag Do.
Up late after the great night out we had. Did a lovely bacon, egg and beef patty breakfast sandwich – the beef patty is something of a breakfast star here.
After yet another fruitless job hunt on the net, we decided to make the most of what was turning out to be a beautiful day and took off in the hire car. Packed up a lunch and set off for a Koala sanctuary that we had found on the net, about half an hour south of Brisbane. Got there to find that the Koala sanctuary was shut. We were approached by a man with a video camera on a tri-pod who proceeded to tell us that they were almost extinct in the area, and numbers had dwindled from thousands to just 84 due to them being killed by local wild dogs and cats. So not a great start.
We put on our walking shoes and set off along one of the many trails through the forest, sun shining and birds singing. The walk was serine and we saw all sorts of birds, a few ant hills (some as big as a man), but no Koala’s or Kangaroo’s. Had our lunch at a picnic table when we had finished the walk and then set off back.
As we drove back we spotted some show homes and couldn’t resist a look in. We were blown away! And the whole site, which was like a small housing estate, was dedicated to show homes by all sorts of different builders and developers – amazing. One day maybe!
We decided today that we will head back north into the sun and find some casual work as we go, instead of relying on the cities. We are heading into the northern territory and then doing the trip the opposite way around to what we first planned. As ever we have changed our minds again!
We have also decided to definitely change the outfit for a 4x4 and caravan, if at all possible before we leave Brisbane. We have been contacted by a chap who is interested in buying the van and hopefully he is coming to see it tomorrow.
Up for seven again to clean the motorhome throughout, just in case the chap comes to view it. Got done, had some breakfast and got a call saying that he would be with us within half an hour.
The chap came with his wife and they had a good look around, asked plenty of questions and seemed very interested. But, crucially, they didn’t make an offer. Instead they said they would be back to us tomorrow, so we will wait and see.
Sat outside in the sunshine reading for an hour or two and then decided we would get the shopping done, so went up to a shopping centre up the road. What an experience; there were two supermarkets which is pretty normal, but then outside one of them, were a butcher, a poultry stall (selling all sorts or chicken and duck products), a fruit and veg shop and loads of other fresh food shops. Once again we were blown away with the freshness and variety on offer.
Watched ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ tonight in the van and what a great film that was. We were enthralled from start to finish – we would recommend it for anyone.
Couldn’t decide what to do at all today. We didn’t want to spend any money so had to find something to do for free, like we did on Saturday. Scoured the internet and found a national park with plenty of picnic areas and a few rock pools not far from Brisbane, so decided to head there.
We hadn’t heard anything from the chap who looked at the van yesterday, so left with a salad box for lunch, about eleven. We didn’t know exactly where to go, so just headed for the nearest town to it and figured we would pick up signs when we get near. How wrong we were! Couldn’t find a sign anywhere, and ended up near the caravan place we visited last week, so we decided to pop in for another look.
And again we were blown away with the small caravan out the back of the showroom. It is exactly what we want, has a fully off-road set-up and is within our price range. And whilst we were there we got two calls; one from the chap from yesterday, and one from another woman that wants to see the van. She is coming later, and the chap from yesterday made a silly offer, which we kindly declined, so we will wait and see.
We explained the situation to the owner of the caravan place, and he let us reserve it with a very small deposit pending the sale of ours. So we are ready to go as soon as we sell. He also has some friends at a car auction and will help us find a suitable tow vehicle when the time comes.
Got a call from the lady tonight and she is coming tomorrow morning instead now so the wait goes on.
Got up nice and early, had breakfast and tidied the van ready for today's viewing. Got everything looking well and sat outside reading waiting for her to arrive. She was due at ten. It got to quarter to and we were nervous. Then at quarter past we were worried. Then at quarter to eleven we were annoyed. No call to say she wasn’t coming, she just didn’t show. I tried to call her but no answer. Then, about ten minutes later we got a text message saying sorry but she couldn’t make it as she had to catch her flight to Darwin! We were gutted! And how cowardly and just plain ignorant was that! I called Mike, the guy who came to see it first, and offered it him again but for more than what he first offered. He went off to think about it.
So we decided to just go out for the day, after getting some washing done, and went out to scout out 4x4’s. We found out what to get but it took a while to get from dealership to dealership as Brisbane sprawls out massively in all directions. Then we got a call from Mike again, asking questions about insurance etc; he is clearly interested, its just a matter of the price being right for all of us. No doubt we will talk again.
We now know that a Nissan Patrol or a Toyota Land Cruiser/Prado are the best vehicles to go for, but for our very small budget we will be looking at an old one with plenty of K’s on it. Just have to be sure it has been well looked after.
A simple dinner, a bottle of wine (which Hannah didn’t like at all) and some TV saw the night out for us, as we pondered what to do next.
Well the alarm went off at seven, but we couldn’t wake up, had nothing to get up for, so stayed in bed for another hour.
Spoke to Mike again about the van, and we agreed on a figure finally – not quite what we wanted, but not too bad either, and it allows us to buy the great caravan that we have reserved and get a decent 4x4 – probably old, but decent.
We spoke to Harry at the caravan dealers too, and he is talking to his friends, who are car dealers, to try to get us a good deal for the money we have. He has been a great help and is a lovely guy – an old chap that says it how it is, and doesn’t pressure you into buying anything. He knows his product is a quality one, his prices are right, and leaves the rest up to the customer.
Our emotions have been all over the place this week. Trying to decide what to do, what to buy or not to buy, where to go and where to find work. On top of that, negotiating the sale of the motorhome, thinking we had a sale and then not being offered enough, the woman not turning up for the viewing, going out to 4x4 dealers trying to find something adequate for the purpose for our budget and again, not being able to find work. It has really been tough to get through, but if all goes to plan it will be done and dusted by Friday night.
The plan is to drop the motorhome off with Mike on Friday morning, collect a cheque to give to Harry and the rest of the price in cash, and meet Harry at a caravan site near Brisbane (he is delivering and siting it for us). We will drive to Harry’s tomorrow and swap everything over into the new van, then come back to our site in Brisbane for the night.
Well where do we start with today? We have been out to see a 4x4, been to KEA for a new remote for the TV, been to swap everything into the new caravan, been to Bunnings (The Aussie B&Q) for some plastic plates etc, and had a BBQ. It has been a very busy day.
The 4x4 we saw this morning was very good and we are keen to buy it, but it is a bit over our budget and has a lot of K’s on it (its kilometres not miles here). But it’s a Toyota Prado and everyone here tells us to buy a Toyota, the diesels will apparently do half a million K’s no problem! So we are currently negotiating with the dealer to get it a bit cheaper – he is a lovely and genuine chap who isn’t really much of a salesman and openly admits it too. His salesman is off ill and so he is filling in (he is the owner – a retired beef farmer from the west). And it turns out that Harry, who we are buying the caravan off knows him so he is trying to help us too.
Swapping everything over into the new van took us three hours! It was very hot and I was sweating profusely! But we got it done and cant wait to get cracking in the outback now. And Harry is the spit of my old boss, Dave Hitchings, and he acts just like him too. From the back I would swear it was him!
On the way back to Brisbane, I almost crashed the motorhome! I moved over to the inside lane on the highway and didn’t spot the car that was already in it. But he didn’t even flinch, he just moved over into the hard shoulder to get out of the way and then once I realised what was happening and got back over into the middle lane, he calmly moved back out again and carried on as if nothing had even happened. It must just be a regular occurrence here!
We have our fingers and toes crossed that all goes well tomorrow, and we get the motorhome handed over OK so we can pay for the caravan and 4x4 without any problems. Otherwise I don’t know what we will do. The roller coaster ride of emotions is incredible, but we seem to thrive on doing a hundred things at once and always having something going on!
Well the roller coaster goes on.
The guy with the 4x4 was supposed to be calling us this morning to either accept to reject our offer, but didn’t bother, and with the hectic day we had we didn’t think to call him until lunch time. And guess what, he had sold it someone else, without even so much as a courtesy call, never mind giving us the chance to re-think our offer. We were not pleased!
Anyway, the motorhome sale went very well, Mike was well pleased with it, and we got the cash we needed to buy the caravan and 4x4, when we find one. Although, it took us all morning to get it sorted so was about one when we got to Caboolture to collect the caravan.
We got there to find that the van was still in the same place at the back of the showroom, and still was not ready to go. But that is the relaxed way in which Harry runs the business, and is the way all Australian business seems to be done. Anyway, who are we to complain! We set about scanning the internet for 4x4,s and found a Pajero just up the road for reasonable money. We went to have a look, but even though it drove well and looked good, it was not in great shape. It had three or four chips in the windscreen, the dash was dented and scraped and it was quite worn, plus the owner wouldn’t accept our cash offer (which was well below the asking price, but fair we thought), so we left it.
It took a while to get the caravan ready and to get it to the site that Harry had booked for us, and even longer to get set up when we got there. Fortunately though Harry towed it for us and showed us how to set it up, so we had a very good guide. Got sorted, had a Chinese take-away, that was fabulous, and a nice bottle of sparkling to mark the occasion. We also had another look on the internet and stumbled upon a Landcruiser that looks a great deal. Low mileage, good age, good condition, very basic model though, but the right engine. We rang the dealer and as business is very slow he will take a cash offer so we are going to see it tomorrow – if it is everything we hope, maybe we will be sorted and ready for the off on the trip – we will keep our fingers crossed.
We were woken up at six this morning by a flock of ducks quacking madly outside the caravan, not what you want when you are exhausted, but its nice to be this close to nature.
We drove about an hour north to see the landcruiser and when we got there and saw it we were impressed. It was clean, tidy and spotless on the outside. But then we opened the doors, and it went off a cliff! The inside was battered and bashed about like the previous owner just didn’t care at all – it looked the inside of a toolbox! But the engine was good, the mileage was low, and it was younger than some of the others we had seen for the same price. We had a dilemma – go for this and put up with the damage inside and the fact that it was the base model with windy windows, or go for something older and better looked after. We deliberated for a good half hour, but Hannah was not at all comfortable with it, so we decided to leave it and find something else.
We headed back to Caboolture to see Harry and pick up some bits and bobs that were missing in the caravan. We had fish and chips for lunch and looked through the car trading newspaper to see what was out there. And we managed to find a good one that was located right next to the place we had just been an hour up the motorway! But it sounded good, and Harry had called the guy for us to set up a viewing, so off we went.
And we were very impressed when we got there! It was perfect for us so we had a test drive, checked it over and agreed a price with the owner – we collect it next week once the safety certificate is done. And the chap we are buying it from was very helpful and willing to assist us in any way he could. He has offered to show us how to drive properly off-road when we collect it too. He had a house on a massive plot of land and was renovating it, and he had a cockatoo that kept talking to us, and even swore at us!
After all the rushing about and stress of the last week or so we wanted to have a nice relaxing day today. It started out well, having breakfast outside in the sunshine. But then we decided to go out and get some bits and bats whilst the roads were quite, this being Sunday when everyone gets out in the sunshine and avoids the roads. And we couldn’t find anything we were looking for, so after getting totally fed up and Hannah getting very wound up, we went back to the van. We had about an hour before we got chatting to a couple from down the way that have ordered a new caravan from Harry. They are waiting on delivery and it is late! But anyway, they had lots of advice for us on getting work, fruit picking (which have done lots of), and general caravanning, which was obviously well received. They told us an unusual, and as far as I know, generally unknown fact about apples – when you think they are fresh, they generally aren’t. They are kept in vast warehouses, where they are ‘put to sleep’ for months by removing the oxygen, which means they can be kept in edible condition for up to 12 months! And tomatoes and banana’s are picked green and then gassed to make them ripen and ready for market! Incredible.
Anyway, we are having tea now and waiting for the GP to start – hope Massa is OK after the accident last night.
We had a nice long lay in this morning after the busy few days we have had. With nowhere really to go, we had no need to rush.
After sorting out the van, having breakfast and calling David to check when we could collect the new car, we went for a walk along the beach, and it was empty. It was just Hannah and I and it was bliss, just the sound of the waves crashing.
We did some shopping early afternoon, got some jerry cans sorted to fit the van, got some massive ‘T-Bone’ steaks and tried without success to find an anti-sway bar for the van. We will keep trying to find that though, I don’t fancy towing without it!
We found out that the money we tried to transfer over from the UK last didn’t get sent, HSBC being their usual unhelpful selves, so we are a bit stuck. Sent off some emails to try to get it moving but not holding out much hope.
We got back to the van about four, sorted out a nice salad and headed over to the public BBQ’s to do the steaks. And when we got there we realised they were truly massive and we only needed to cook one (we had ribs as well). And it was fabulous to sit out in the sun, birds singing, children playing all around us (not that Hannah particularly liked that bit), using a free BBQ, and sitting on benches free of graffiti and impeccably clean.
Just waiting to hear from David now to make sure that we can collect the car tomorrow afternoon. Then we will get it all set up ready to leave for the north again on Friday.
Had another lie in today, not too late but late enough to get the benefit. Had breakfast, tried again to do the bank transfer, and again without success. Then we called OZ Forex and everything was sorted within half an hour, and they say the money will be with us in OZ in a couple of days – fingers crossed.
Took some clothes back to be swapped at ‘Anaconda’, the outdoor specialist – they have everything you could possibly need for outdoor activities. And there are so many shops dedicated to the great outdoors. But then everyone is outdoor mad here, so I am not surprised.
And we got the cruiser too! We are well pleased with it – it is mint condition and drives fabulously. We met David at a caravan park near Bribie Island about half five and picked it up. He even offered to give us fishing and 4x4 driving lessons for free if we get spare time in a couple of weeks. We will certainly take him up on it if we are anywhere near here then.
Another eventful day today. We spent the day sorting out of the rig so that we are ready to set off to Childers at the end of the week in search of fruit picking work. Managed to get the electrical plug on the back of the cruiser changed to suit the one on the caravan, got a set of tools sorted in case I end up having to try to fix anything (god help us if that happens!), got some anti sway bars so that hopefully the rig will be stable under tow, and picked up various other bits and bats.
We also took the hire car back this morning, which is interesting as our sat-nav insisted on taking us the wrong way yet again, and caused us to go over a toll bridge and back again, meaning two tolls per car – that was fun!
And we booked the car in to have its windows tinted as the sun here burns you through them. You can really feel it on your face and arms as you drive, so that is a must have item. It is going in tomorrow and takes three hours, so we have to wait around for it – that should be fun too!
Tried to fix the jerry can holders to the back of the caravan without success – they need some brackets which I don’t have and am not willing to pay for. Harry was supposed to have fitted the holders for us anyway, so I am taking it back in to his place for it to be done on Friday. I did manage to get the load-distributing hitch fitted to the caravan, although we do need to swap the tow bar mount for a smaller one as it doesn’t allow the boot to open!
Yet another busy day – we are going to extend our stay at Beachmere for another day or two so that we can have a rest. It has been none stop since we decided to sell the motorhome!
Anyway, we had to take the jerry cans back as they didn’t fit in the cages that Harry gave us. Only the shop we bought them from didn’t have any others, and when we asked the manager, he said they didn’t make the old ones anymore and he wasn’t aware that the cages didn’t fit the new ones. He called the manufacturer but didn’t get anywhere that could help us in any way, so we got a refund and left. We went to Harry’s place and as he was out at the Toowoomba caravan show we explained the issue to his wife. They didn’t have any alternative other than a one-off holder manufactured by the caravan chassis supplier, so we took that – only one though. And when I got back I found that didn’t work either, so we are abandoning the idea of having the cans on the back of the van. We have a long-range fuel tank in the cruiser so we should be fine. Famous last words maybe!
Whilst we were out today we did manage to get some cheap clothes each that we can do the fruit picking and harvesting work in, so if we can find any we are all set. I also managed to get the toll from yesterday paid, so we should avoid any fines. But then when you pay online it doesn’t actually tell you what you have paid, so who knows, we might be in trouble yet!
It’s the one-year anniversary of my dad passing away tomorrow, so I will be keeping myself busy to avoid thinking too much about it. I am sure he would be happy for us and very proud of what we are doing, and probably a little jealous – in fact anyone that knew him would agree that he would be more than a little jealous and would be talking about it none stop! I think about him a lot, especially how he was cruelly taken from the world at only 54, and it drives me on to keep travelling, to make sure I see something of the world before I pass on myself.
We spent the morning relaxing, having breakfast outside in the sun again, and generally chilling. Although it didn’t go quite as smoothly as it sounds as we were both quite wound up, me because of my dad, and Han because of the stress of it all over the recent weeks, and so we pretty much spent the middle part of the day tearing strips off each other. And the fact that we still could not find definite work, even along the route we are planning to take, did not help. But we managed to get past that, had a walk in the sun to clear the air and got back to re-organise the van ready for towing.
We have resolved to plough on along the route we have chosen, see the sights, enjoy the freedom and just get work wherever and whenever we can, instead of planning to work in certain places at certain times. That way we can be more flexible, enjoy it more, and crucially for Han, worry less.
I have decided to return the single jerry can holder and pick up the two that we returned yesterday, as even if we cant fit them, we have paid for them and I could just mount them in the car and get water jerry cans for them. So round and round we go again – what fun!
And just a quick mention of some more people we have met during our time in Beachmere. Firstly, Les and Marg’ who have provided answers to numerous questions we had on towing etc and provided a friendly ear for us to moan to. Secondly, the park managers Rod and Kate, who have been excellent with tips on where to go and what to see along the way, gave us a fabulous book that is essential for anyone touring Australia apparently, and have even offered to sell our roof rack for us, as we don’t think it is any use to us. They also run an excellent site here, with some of the best facilities we have had yet.