Walkabout Straya #6: Turn around...
My drone following me at Potato Point
I wake up pretty nervous. This is the day that I'll be picking up my motorhome and I'll be driving that thing around the east coast of Australia for almost a month! I have never been in a motorhome, let alone driven one! I have had many small panic moments the past few days over this. Did I tell you that I'm not used to driving on the left?
The motorhome is parked outside the pickup office. 30 cms to the left of it and 30 cms to the right of it are free for me to move around it. No way for me to put my bag inside... or check out the features of this mobile home. The grill of the bbq was missing... and I thought that I ordered an awning with that? I could totally imagine myself sitting in front of the van in the shade of the awning, with some tasty meat on the barbie and a cold drink, watching the waves until the sunset... The lady brings me a piece of dirty tent cloth with holes in it and explains that every other day I need to empty and refill/recharge the water/toilet/gas/electricity. I scratched the romantic idea of a month of camping in the wild then and there.
My motorhome for the month is 7 meters long. There is room for 3 people to sleep but I am not planning on having company (except for @rustle). The seated area in the back can easily be turned into a super size bed for one. I decide to keep it a bed and use the seat in front or outside. I don't feel like making the bed every night. It has a kitchen, fridge, microwave, shower, toilet and tv. Little did I know that I wouldn't use them as much as I expected.
With the size of this van just for myself, you would expect there to be way too much space for all my stuff. But a suitcase won't fit anywhere. Since my suitcase sort of died on the flight to Perth anyway, I bought the cheapest possible duffle bag for the trip. It fit perfectly under the bed.
Now that I was all settled in, it was time for me to go.
First stop: Blue Mountains! I had to pick up @rustle and wanted to check if I could see the Three Sisters this time.
But while driving around the Blue Mountains, it was already clear that there was no way I would see the Three Sisters this time. It was still foggy. This was very good news for the with drought suffering mountains, but not so much for me. That evening I picked up @rustle and tried figuring out my next move...
@rustle is ready for the ride of his life!
Since it was all a very last minute trip, I didn't do much planning. And I really had no clue where to go and where to stop... All I knew is that almost a month later, I had to be in Cairns to drop off the motorhome again.
I moved to Facebook for help (sorry). I am part of a travel group and asked suggestions on what to see on the coast. I shared that I wanted to quickly drive to Melbourne (via the coastal road) to see the 12 Apostles and then drive back North via Canberra, stop in Byron Bay to meet with @anarcist69 and then drive all the way to Cape Tribulation... why finish in Cairns when you can drive a little further north and have an amazing time? The responses? I was crazy for even wanting to drive to Melbourne and back... it was too much! I was stubborn enough to try it anyway. I'd rather drive a little more and see Melbourne while I'm in Australia than miss it and never see it. It's not that I'll visit Australia next year again anyway!
So I headed south and kept an eye on the suggestions that kept coming in on Facebook. I installed the WikiCamps AU app so I could easily find nice spots where I could camp for not too expensive 😉. This was going to be easy, right?
RV day 1: Getting used to the size of the thing while heading for Jervis Bay
Would you do it? (screenshot from Google streetview)
Timing is everything near the blowhole
My first stop for the night was going to be near Jervis Bay. It was a 250 km drive so that made sense to me to get used to it all a little. I read that it was an amazing spot with wild seals swimming around, and since I missed the dolphins in Monkey Mia, this was a bit of an alternative. I told Google maps to ignore all the highways and bring me to my campsite for the night: Bushy Tail Caravan Park. I added one important stop halfway.
Everything seemed to go well enough. It sure was a big van, but I was getting used to driving on the other side of the road. The roads were long and boring and luckily I didn't encounter many kangaroos that tried crossing the road. I ran into the first issue when Google told me to cross a bridge on Douglas Park Drive that seemed strong enough for me, but the sign said otherwise. At that point, I didn't yet know what the gross weight of my van was or where to find it in the van. But I knew it must have been near 3,5t. This was the first time I had to do a u-turn with a massive 7 meter van on a pretty narrow road. And I bet I hadn't been the first. I told myself to figure out the weight, height and all other relevant stuff of this van for the coming days.
I did the smart thing and stopped for a bit to test my bed in the back before I headed to my first serious stop: The Kiama Blowhole. Isn't that an amazing name? Kiama means "where the sea makes a noise" and that for sure is true...
It was a major tourist attraction and was super busy. I could easily park my RV between plenty of other oversized cars and motorhomes. Families and backpackers were filling the space and it was pretty clear how to get to the blowhole. Just follow the stream of people....
I honestly didn't do much research about this place so I walked to where people were standing when I suddenly heard a weird rumbling sound and a following "Wow" by the crowd. I had obviously missed the thing but the second time it happened I looked in the right direction. The waves were just slowly building pressure in an underground cave and when the next wave would just enter the cave at the right time, a massive water fountain would shoot in the air through the hole in front of our eyes.
When I finally managed to snap a picture at the right time, I went back to my RV to head to Jervis Bay. Time to see some seals!!
By the time I arrived at Bushy Tail, it was already dark. It looked like the caravan park was already closed, but some people helped me out where to find the reception. I was offered a spot with electricity, checked it out and drove off again to finally do some shopping. I had a fridge and a small freezer, and I was planning on using it!
This was the point where I first realised an RV was pretty inconvenient. You always have to bring your complete "house" to a shop. On one hand, it's easy that you can just put your groceries straight into the fridge when you get to your car, but you can't just spontaneously get some ice cream when you are on a caravan park, all settled in.
The caravan park was a bit boring and had a lot of regulars. It didn't have an amazing view but all the amenities that I needed. I plugged in my power for the night and had a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I'd go for the seals, for sure!
RV day 2 & 3: Something with potatoes...And kangaroos
Jervis Bay Marine Park
Most of the times, you have to leave a caravan park around 10 AM. Since I am not much of a morning person, this doesn't make me super happy. But if I wanted to be in my next location before dark, maybe it was for the best.
I found this promising caravan park on my app with very good reviews: Beachcomber Holiday Park. It was going to be an almost 200km drive so nothing too intense. I made my way to Jervis Bay first to realise that I was too impatient to actually go look for some seals. It was a beautiful bay, but I wanted to go drive a little...
This drive was the first one where I noticed how hard it can be to stay awake on Australian road. I had to stop twice for a quick power-nap or to at least get my eyes off the road for a bit. Unfortunately, there aren't that many resting places and when you notice your eyes wanting to close and you see a sign telling you the next "official" resting place is about 50km further, you kinda freak out. At some point, the road turned into dirt and I wondered if it was okay to drive my RV further... But the caravan park was RV ready, so it must be, right? I continued until I saw an amazing valley where the caravan park was. OMG! This looked so good!!! I didn't have a reservation so I kept my fingers crossed there was still room for me!
When I entered the reception, the owner was distracted. She looked out the window and didn't see me coming. She apologized and explained to me that she was looking at the jumping whales in the distance. They were so active that I could see them jump within seconds after she told me where to look. That was impressive!
In her excitement, she gave me a powered spot all the way at the front. I was very lucky that other guests hadn't shown up yet. I decided there and then that I was going to stay 2 nights. This was going to be awesome!
I parked my RV on the most beautiful spot of the park and put @rustle on the dashboard so that he could enjoy the view. I was going to Instagram this so much!! I opened the door and wanted to put my awning on the RV, which was a bit of a disaster. My neighbour asked me if it was okay if he started a fire in the fireplace near my van that evening and although everything in me wanted to say no... I decided not to be a bitch and agreed. Not knowing it would become a very nice evening!
That evening we learned that the kangaroos of Potato Point were far from shy. They came to check us out when we were sitting around the fire.
The next day was work and photo day! I grabbed my drone to try and capture the beauty of this place. Photos would not be able to reflect it well, I thought. But it was a little windy, so the drone didn't like it that much either. To give you a small impression of it, check out this video...
During my long lunch, I did some work for @steempeak while getting distracted by the view... After I was finished, I walked around on the beach, photographing my footsteps, the sea, waves, sand and some amazing rocks.
There was hardly anyone around so it just felt like my private beach. In the distance, I would see a whale jump out of the water once or twice. I could totally see myself living here for the rest of my life. Maybe not in this RV, but they also had these amazing cute bungalows up the hill.
The morning that I left, it became clear that it wasn't just the kangaroos that had balls here... Even the emus came close to the caravans, hoping to get some easy food.
RV day 4: Nope! Canberra and the big oops!
There was one tiny problem though... I noticed that it was getting pretty cold at night in my RV. And I am not easily cold, but this wasn't very comfortable and I thought if I was going to drive further south, it was only going to get colder.
So I gave up on driving to Melbourne. Also, if I wanted to see more amazing spots like I was at now and stay there a few nights, it was better to use my precious days on my way north. And so I had to agree with the Facebook suggestions... Don't tell them though...
It was going to be a long drive. Just over 400km! I wanted to go a bit further south to have the feeling that I saw a bit more coast and then go inland and turn north to check out Canberra. I made stops at Wallaga Lake and Mogareeka, two amazing places where rivers meet the coast. Just so you know: it isn't called Sapphire Coast for nothing...
I tried introducing @rustle to some of his bird friends, but that didn't go too well. And since I was already slightly running out of time, I had to jump back on board to get my ass to Canberra!
Canberra was disappointing. I love symmetry but that was all there was. I wanted to reach my next campground (Gurney) before dark so I decided to leave Canberra for what it was. It took me still some time to get away, with all the one-way streets that they have there. But eventually, I managed to get out of the city.
This was going to be my first night camping "in the wild". I wanted to save some money and I found this spot that was free. One night without power, I could manage. But by the time I reached the Gurney campsite, it was entirely empty and dark. It felt far from save with nobody around. I was in the middle of nowhere and who knows who would come later that night? This was not going to be my place for the night and I went for plan B. Near the Bushranger hotel, it said that if you had a meal in the restaurant, you often could stay at their parking for the night. It was dark and I felt like eating something proper for a change.
When I finally found the restaurant, disaster struck. I blame being tired, still not being used to the massive RV and it being very dark. But I kinda tried parking my house on top of a trailer. "Luckily", the owner was just having a beer on a terrace watching the whole thing happen. While I was considering walking away from the whole RV and taking the first flight home, he was calm and checked the damage with a flashlight. It didn't look too bad and he told me not to worry about it. I couldn't really see much damage on the RV either... so with the adrenaline having a party in my body, I tried having a meal in the restaurant. My hands were shaking while I tried to cut the chicken. I didn't know how I was going to get this RV all the way in Cairns without completely crashing it. "Maybe I can drop it off halfway", I thought.
When I finally calmed down a little, the restaurant owner told me where I could park the RV for the night. Near the oval, there were toilets and plenty of space. It wasn't too dark. Much better than this creepy campsite earlier. That night I did some stargazing while worrying if this accident would bankrupt me. I had insurance... but would it cover this? You can imagine that this was going to be a bit of a restless night...
RV day 5: Third time's a charm
The next morning, I realised the RV was more damaged than I thought the night before. There was a clear scratch all the way along the side of it. But the door would still close so no need to call for a replacement. I would decide later what to do... First I needed to get back to the Blue Mountains!!
It was a 300 km drive to get back to the point that I was at a few days earlier. Somehow Google maps decided to give me plenty of dirt roads on my way. I kept my fingers crossed I wouldn't run into other cars because the roads were often too narrow for 2. I drove past a lot of farms and learned that people would hang dingos on their fences. I wondered what that was all about and later learned that it was to communicate with your neighbours that they killed a few dingos. And if they recognised them, they would know that the dingo killing their sheep got what he deserved... But honestly? I think they are just showing off 😉.
That afternoon, I parked my RV at the Three Sisters viewing point again. This time I put some money in the meter because it was looking promising. I was here for the third time and finally, the clouds were gone. There they were: The Three Sisters. Waiting for me to get photographed (and by many others too). I am happy that I came back a third time. It was definitely worth coming back for!
Also in this series:
- Walkabout Straya #0: What did I get myself into?
- Walkabout Straya #1: A stormy first week at the west coast!
- Walkabout Straya #2: After the storm...
- Walkabout Straya #3: Things I didn't do in Perth
- Walkabout Straya #4: The Indian Pacific (Perth-Sydney)
- Walkabout Straya #5: Sydney