I forget; In my last entry I forgot to mention that also one of the reasons we stayed a bit longer than planned was because my uncle Hans came to visit to attend a business meeting with Rach and the new manager. So yeah, we stayed a few days extra to surprise him and spend some time with him. Even though we would meet him and Audrey for Christmas.
So now over to the current entry; Roadtrip! The car was packed, and we were ready for our first rodeo with Miranda! We didn't know how long we would spend on the road though! Because as I mentioned earlier, Margaret had helped us get a job. This job turned out to be wheat harvesting in southern Queensland, and the timeframe turned out to be somewhere in the near future. So seeing as we were already south of where we needed to be in the near future, and wanting to do nothing more than to head south for our roadtrip, we couldn't go very far... But to hell with that. We would just spend a little extra time and fuel backtracking. No biggie! So off we went!
Our first stop would be Byron Bay. I know; I didn't think we'd go back there either, but there were actually 2 reasons for this. The first being that we wanted to test out the waters. This would be our first time camping in Miranda, and driving her for a longer period of time. So staying close to friends and family made sense in case we needed some assistance. The second reason being we craved to go for a swim, or at least relax on a beach. We'd already spent a month in Australia, and we still hadn't taken a single bath in the ocean, or spent a day at the beach. So since the beach was the "only" thing we liked about Byron, and it was really close, it felt like a natural choice.
Anyways; Miranda wasn't, and still isn't, a speed devil. She has a lot of junk in the trunk. All of her interior is hard wood. She's got a 64 ltr gas tank, a 50 ltr petrol tank, 20 ltr water tank, and a 5 ltr gas tank for cooking. In addition we usually drag around food for about 1 week, and about 50 kg worth of luggage and equipment. Last but not least, she's dragging our asses around as well. Oh, and a bloody fridge! All this on a 30 year old engine in the body of a Mazda E2000. So yeah, we were rocking a steady 70-80 km/h, and even less going up hill. Down hill we'd do a bit more, but Miranda didn't like that, and would start shaking. At the time I thought it was just the engine being old, but it wasn't. But that is part of another story.
Buuut after a solid hour or so we reached Byron! We were ever so green when it came to camping, so we found the best campsite available. This probably also meant the most expensive. I think we ended up paying A$44 for each night with power. Yikes! Present me is cringing! We used our time here going to the beach, working out a few kinks, and starting to build some routines in regards to our new way of living.
Key take-aways; We probably have a tiny gas leak somewhere. Don’t leave a bag of rubbish out during the night. We have too much stuff. The 230V system works fine. The 12V system is a bit iffy. Making and un-making the bed every day is a bitch.
Having had 3 days in the safety of an expensive caravan park we were eager to experience some free camping. After all we bought the car first of all for freedom, but secondly to save money on accommodation and a travel. So we decided to try and find someplace to camp for free around Ballina. We knew our way around town pretty well after having spent quite a few afternoons and evenings there. But we still hadn't gotten too familliar with WikiCamps, so we just winged it by looking for parking lots, parks, beaches etc. on Google Maps. We ended up spending waaay too much time looking for a spot, but we did find one! In south ballina on the river bank overlooking the city and the river mouth. It. Was. Perfect. We were just on the waters edge, and there wasn't a soul around. So we pitched our tarp, pulled out the chairs, and poured ourselves some goon. The sun was about to set, and some dolphins even came over and said hello. It was just pure magic. I remember how good it felt that this was free! And how excited I felt that this would be our lives for a year or so. Mmmh!
Key take-aways; Free camping might be a little bit more work, but it's awesome! The 3-way fridge does not work on gas. There's still a few tools that we need.
The next day we went back into Ballina CBD and had the fridge fixed. Being self-sufficient power-wise was getting closer! We also went into probably all of Ballina's op-shops to look for the tools and cuttlery that we were missing (can't remember what it was). After that, we realised that we'd actually spent a whole lot of time doing the few things we'd been doing, so we decided not to move on and just camp in the same spot again. This time not as magical, but atleast the fridge was running, so the goon was cold! Yay!
So, having worked out some kinks, and put v1.0 of our camping routines in production, we decided that it was time to move on and away from the comfort of having friends and family within earshot. We headed south along the coastal highway towards Grafton. This would be the first time driving on a highway with just 1 lane going each way. So let's just say that we usually had a pretty long tail. Doing 80 when the speed limit is a 100 is not fun. But with frequent use of overtaking lanes and rest areas, I think we managed to keep the road rage of the cars following us to a minimum!
So yeah, next up was Grafton! We didn't know much about it, and to be honest we only stopped there because it fit our schedule in regards to when we wanted to make camp. We'd heard that you shouldn't drive after kanga'o'clock - the time of the day when wildlife starts moving around. AKA around dusk. By now we'd learnt to trust WikiCamps, so we didn't bother trying to find a free camp that was not marked on the app. Therefore we just found our way to the showgrounds and paid the fella at the gate A$20 for a spot with some power. The facilities were pretty horrible, but atleast it was cheap compared to what we paid in Byron. We soon realised there wasn't much to do in Grafton, so Ida just relaxed in the car, while I went for a walk and had a look around.
Key take-aways; Steady wins the race. Showgrounds seems to be a cheap, if not free, way to spend the night in smaller towns.
Needless to say we didn't spend more that one night in Grafton. So after taking our time (and a shower?), we hit the road again! Still heading south. The goal was to reach Coffs Harbour by the end of the day. And spoiler alert; we did! When we got there we headed straight into town to try and find some WiFi. Reason being we needed to find someplace to stay. It seemed that finding free camps on the east coast of Australia is really hard. Impossible even near the big cities and towns... So we got on the internet to send out some couch surfing requests. We'd hosted a lot of people when we lived in Norway, and thought this was a good time to reap what we had sowed. We soon remembered though, that we rarely accepted same-day requests when we were hosting. And it seemed that everyone else were pretty much the same... So, desperate we headed for the information desk to hear if they could give us some input. They could not. But, the lady was kind enough to let us stay in their parking lot for the night. As long as we were gone by opening hours the next day. Horay!
So, we did exactly that. We spent the night in the parking lot, got up really early, and went into town. We'd heard that the annual baskers festival was on, and that it was free entry! And by the way; a basker is a street performer. When we got there the show hadn't started just yet, so we just went for a walk on the jetty and the beach to pass the time. We didn't miss any of the performances that day, and we even bought some local food and two body boards! Also I got picked out to be the helper for the finishing guy's final act. Which was good fun! All in all we had a pretty good day, and we didn't spend too much money either. Afterwards we decided to leave Coffs Harbour that same evening. We really liked the town (city?), but there wasn't a free camp in sight, and trying couch surfing again was just a waste of time. So we decided to head west, actually! Towards a free camp that we spotted on WikiCamps called Rose's Park!
Key take-aways; We should plan ahead where we are going to actually sleep, not just where we want to go. Keep an eye out for festivals, a lot of them are free. So-called "stealth camping" in parking lots etc. will be a last resort (not much fun).
Rose's Park was a small camp ground 2 hours west of Coffs Harbour. It is run soley on the kindness of the locals, and on donations from campers, and therefore things weren't tip top. Most facilities was pretty run down, but they were in working order! But the spot was just fantastic! Located just on the river bank, and at the foot of MOUNTAIN, with plenty of shade from big trees surrounding the park. We ended up spending 3 days there. On the first day we just relaxed. On the second day we went for a rainforest walk in NATIONAL PARK. And on the last day we also just relaxed and chatted with out new neighbours that we met the day before; a spanish couple who were also backpacking.
Key take-aways; Camping longish periods of time without power is do-able, but some way to charge our devices from the secondary battery would be nice. Doing laundry by hand sucks.
Next up was Port Macquarie! We got there like we always did; slow and steady! Here we also knew that there wasn't a free camp within 100 km of town, so we just headed straight for the cheapest caravan park in town that didn't seem to suck. We ended up staying near the coast. And while we were here we ended up doing quite a lot of stuff; We had our first meating with WiFry (WiFi at Macca's). Had some amazing fish'n'chips at the harbour. Dropped by two micro breweries and got slightly tipsy. And lastly we visited the Koala Sanctuary and got some knowledge about local wildlife. I can't recall how many days we spent in Port Macquarie, but at some point we did get a call from Donald; our employer. He told us that we should start making our way north again, because harvest wasn't too far off! Whoppi, time to make some money!
Key take-aways (is this getting old?); WiFi at Macca's is acceptable, and is a good 2nd to Telstra Air. It's probably enough to buy one portion of fish'n'chips and then share (burp). There's a lot of micro breweries around. Cheers!
Since we'd come down south on the coastal highway, we decided that we would travel north via the highways on the inland. Just to mix (and speed?) things up a bit. Donald was located just north of Bungunya, a really small village about an hour west of Goondiwindi. So yeah we plotted a route and set off as soon as our last day in Port Macquarie was over.
The first memorable part was actually during our first day of northbound travel; Mount Seaview. Both Google Maps and Miranda (our GPS) is really bad at telling you how the route is in regards to elevation and such. Therefore we failed to notice that our planned route went straight accross Mount Seaview. I believe it is part of the Great Dividing Range. And it really is truly dividing! Miranda kept a steady 30 km/h going up, and therefore we ended up heavily behind schedule. By the time we had reached the top ish, it was already kanga'o'clock and that meant it was time to make camp. So yeah, we ended up spending the night just short of 1000 meters above sea level. I won't lie; it was pretty damn cold. But then again sort of fun. It felt like an adventure!
The next day or two didn't make the biggest dent in my memory, but I think we mostly went from town to town, lookout point to lookout point, and just trying not to grow too tired of driving constantly. We did visit a immensly deep gorge, and some place called Cranky Rock along the way though. Two very beautiful spots!
On our last night before arriving in Goondiwindi, we decided to have a bit of fun! WikiCamps told us that a pub just a few hours south of Goondiwindi offered free camping in their backyard. The pub was located in Delungra. A village even smaller and less know of(?) than Bungunya! Perfect we thought! So upon arrival the bartender/receptionist told us to just park in the back where ever we wanted, and just let her know if we wanted to use the showers. Sweet! She also told us that there would be live music that night! Awesome! So after a bit of relaxation, a dinner, and a shower, we joined in on the fun at the bar. There was plenty of locals to get to know, and the live music was actually quite entertaining. I even bought a couple of CDs from the guy!
Key take-aways; Small village pubs are awesome! We should visit them more often.
Slightly hungover, we got going after thanking the staff for last night, and the free camping! It actually didn't take us long to reach Goondiwindi, and here we first had an appointment with a auto electrician. As mentioned the 12V system was iffy, and I could not figure it out. So 2 hours and A$300 later, we had a working 12V system, and two USB-ports for charging our shit! Sweet. Even though Bungunya was just an hour or so away, we decided to spend the night in Goondiwindi. We still had som shopping to do, and Donald ensured us that there wasn't any rush still for us to come to Bungunya. So we found a caravan park with a pool and didn't do much for the rest of that day!
Alas, the last day before we started working for the man! We went shopping for about 2-3 weeks worth of food, and some hobby supplies. Next we got some fuel and a last bit of WiFi before heading for Bungunya, AKA the bush!
Next up; Farm Work for the Prickles in Bungunya!
Linkage to pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/FYtAJYEFZeDM1Rdi8