Australian Road Trip: Week 2
Will and I are traveling from Sydney to Perth, and taking the scenic route. We're driving our 2004 Ford Territory, sleeping in a Big Daddy Deluxe swag, making our meals over a portable gas stove, and figuring the rest out as we go. We'll see some of Australia's most beautiful landscapes and surely have a few adventures along the way. The following is a raw, unedited account of our best moments, our antics, the inevitable struggles of living on the road, and our memories that are too good not to share.
Week 2: April 12 - 21
This last week couldn't have been more different than our first week. Week 1 felt safe and familiar. We were visiting old friends in places we had been before. Week 2, on the other hand, was uncharted territory. We made it to a new state (South Australia) and saw tons of new things. We still managed to find people we know and mooch off them for a few nights though! The biggest difference between the two weeks was the emphasis on camping. Since my last post, we've spent a few more nights outside and a lot less time in bathrooms.
Our first epic experience after the debacle that was camping on Night 7, was the Great Ocean Road, specifically the 12 Apostles. I had actually already seen these bad boys with my family last year, but Will hadn't been this far south yet. I wasn't holding my breath for his reaction. When we were in Ireland, I took him to the Cliffs of Moher and he wasn't impressed. He preferred the ancient rock fences in the pastures along the side of the road. So driving along a coast that was all "just cliffs" made me a bit weary. Luckily, these cliffs were enough to impress Will.
It was a beautiful day, albeit VERY windy. Based on our rainy experience the night before, and knowing the weather would turn for the worse the next day, we were thrilled to get to drive the Great Ocean Road on a sunny day.
One of the best things about the Great Ocean Road is that it's free. Unlike the Cliffs of Moher, you don't have to pay to visit this natural wonderland. There are so many turn offs and look out points that it would take all day to stop and visit all of them. We hit up the highlights: the 12 Apostles, Lord Arch Gorge, and the Grotto.
The Great Ocean Road ended up being pretty spectacular. We had our fun, took our pictures, and moved on. We drove to a town called Warrnambool, which was also windy, but very beautiful. We paid (ugh) to pitch our swag in the back yard of a local hostel. It cost us $15 each to sleep out there (half the price of their cheapest bed), but we had full use of all of their facilities. We took long showers, charged every electronic device we have, and cooked a steak dinner with the luxury of electricity. We liked it there. We even asked about the dairy farm work posted on the hostel's job board. But when that fell through, and with the bad weather approaching, we decided to head off early the next morning and drive the 8 hours straight to Adelaide, where we had friends and a spare bed waiting for us.
We spent the weekend enjoying Adelaide with one of Will's friends from New Zealand. We spent the next week following the Murray River and camping around South Australia. We didn't really have a plan or timeline. Will found a free campsite on WikiCamps, so we headed there. Wongulla isn't even really a town. There's a general store and the campsite we stayed at and that's about it. But it was a great first stop, right next to the river. Will spent his afternoon fishing, and I spent my afternoon stalking him with my camera and taking candid photos, which he later told me was kind of creepy. We had dinner and then crawled into the swag with the canvas sides rolled up so we could star gaze until it was time to sleep. And by sleep I mean watch downloaded Netflix. We might be free spirited travelers, but we're still millennials.
Will is the friendliest camper at every campsite we go to. We get to the site, set up our stuff, and just as I sit down to enjoy our new temporary home, Will goes on a walk and inevitably chats up the grey nomads parked next to us. In Wongulla he started talking to a man who used to be a tour guide in the area and told us to check out a place called Swan Reach. He said there was a little free camp just across the river from a local hotel, which in Australian roughly translates to "there's a pub." We drove the 45 minutes up the river and had a schooner at the Swan Reach Hotel, which was indeed across the river from a free campsite. We took the ferry across and set up camp. Again, Will fished and again I took photos. After a couple hours, we took the ferry back across the river to the pub where we paid too much for a couple pints of beer. It was a lovely spot, though, and it was nice not to have to drive all day.
Our last day touring the Murray River took us to Lake Alexandrina. We followed a dirt road until it turned into somewhat decently maintained pastured and parked our car the edge of a cliff overlooking the lake. The reviews of this campsite warned about bugs and wind, but when we got there in the late afternoon, it was lovely. Fast forward a couple hours and as the sun went down, the termites came out. I've never seen so many swarming insects in my life! At first they kept their distance and even though they completely enveloped our swag, we were able to sit outside and watch them from afar. The later it got, and the more we tried to get rid of them with various types of poison, the larger their numbers grew and the "friendlier" they became. Will had them all over his hat and by the time I plucked 3 or 4 out of my hair we decided to seek refuge in the car. I was honestly worried we'd have to spend the night in there, because the swag was covered in thousands of these things. I was also worried about dinner because we didn't have anything to eat that didn't need to be cooked on the gas burner. Luckily, after what seemed like hours but was probably only 45 minutes, the termites slowly but surely went back to wherever they came from and left us in peace.
All in all, week 2 was a great introduction to life on the road and a preview for what's to come. We learned to check the weather, trust the reviews on WikiCamps, and the value of baby wipes.