Jess and Ben – an awesome couple from the UK – currently backpacking around the world – hired a campervan from Travellers Autobarn to drive up the East Coast from Sydney and back again: they share their epic adventure with us this week.
”The flight to Sydney had been pretty terrible, to be honest. The 8 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney, overnight, had no in-flight entertainment, no food, no free drinks (including water) and no blankets to provide respite from the air conditioning which I assumed had been set to “English winter”, and my attire was suited to the hot Bangkok afternoon that we had set off in. I must also add, it’s very surreal walking around the airport and city in 30 degree weather seeing Christmas decorations everywhere whilst locals are dressed in their summer clothes.
The next morning we got to the train station at Point Clare to get us back into Sydney. We made our way to the bus stop after and rode it for a long time before we arrived at the van pick up point.
We stopped at a big mall to get food and supplies for the road, which included a stop at the bottle shop (off licence) for a box of wine. The journey out of Sydney was, shall we say, stressful. I’d fallen asleep, presumably still catching up from the plane journey and weary from the difficulty of navigating through Sydney. I woke up in a rest stop on the motorway, poor Jess had been through it all with the added stress of having to drive a van the whole time, I have no right to complain really. We looked at our maps and campsite apps for a place to sleep that night, and saw that there were a few sites nearby to choose from. On arrival to our first choice we found the reception closed for the night, so we headed to the next site and we’re relieved to find the gates open as it was getting dark and late. We pulled in and found a member of staff driving around in a golf buggy. We flagged her down and asked what the deal was in terms of camping. She explained that the gates were only up because of a fault in the computer system, which had also kept her at the park longer than usual. So normally we’d have been shut out, but the lady kindly took pity on us clueless foreigners and checked us in and gave us a site. What a legend! The allocated space was right on the seafront, the sound of the ocean a constant the whole night. I cooked dinner on the stove, but a lack of salt pepper and herbs made for a bland tomato and veg pasta dinner. The boxed wine, however, was amazing. I don’t know if anyone know this, but if you have no wine glasses, don’t use a tumbler or pint glass or anything else. Mugs are the way to go in case of a lack of proper glass ware, it seems to enhance the flavour and has worked for me many times back in England. It could also be the case that the wine tasted better due to circumstances, being able to enjoy a bit of luxury in a relatively spartan environment. I use the word relatively because otherwise I’m being unfair to the van. It’s comfy, with its double bed and is equipped with a double gas stove, sink, fridge and microwave, as well as air con in the drivers cab, plenty of storage room and space to set up a table inside (or outside if you’d prefer). It’s really cute, I love the cosyness of it and all of the little cubby holes. We fell asleep to the sound of the ocean and got some much needed rest.
The next morning we had coffee and cereal with the back door open to enjoy the sea view before we resumed our drive northwards. Our plan is to see how far north we can get following the east coast, stopping wherever we feel like. The destination we’d settled on being Nelsons bay we got back on the road. It’s starting to feel more like the Australia we’d imagined, long straight roads, tiny hamlets and rural scenery. On our way to Nelsons we got sidetracked by a sign advertising shark and ray encountered and came off the highway to investigate. The centre, called the “Irukunji shark and ray encounters” was a big aquarium with several tanks housing many species of shark and ray. You’re given the option to don a wetsuit and get in the tanks with the animals to feed and pet them so we chose that option and got involved. I thought I’d try to impress the staff with my knowledge, I remember as a child I used to show off my knowledge in the zoos and museums to the delight of my proud mother who encouraged my passion for animals and fish from a young age.
On our way out we asked the staff for places to camp for the night. After failing to find anywhere and driving around we stopped at a winery for some tasting and stress relief. After more aimless stressful driving we settled on a camp (anywhere will do was the mindset) and had a quinoa salad dinner and listened to the exotic bird calls as the soundtrack to our slumber. We decided that our trip was going to need some planning, some early starts and organisation to avoid stress and the panic of not knowing where to sleep. With that in mind, we planned to go to a place called seal rocks the next day.
The drive was only a couple of hours and a good portion of that was a scenic mountain drive. We took the van to a site called Treachery camp and parked up. This site was obviously more geared towards people our age, previously we’d been rocking up to sites that were clearly more retiree/young family type places, which isn’t an issue but Treachery camp felt more like us. Surfer types, people in their twenties playing guitar by campfires gave the site an almost festival feel. We found a spot, and I immediately made preparations for the beach, donning my swimwear and hurrying Jess out the door. Getting to the beach however, proved a bit more difficult than I had thought. It was only 200m from the campground, but to get there involved navigating a maze of bush and sand dunes. I could hear the sea, agonisingly close but kept coming to dead ends of thick bush. Climbing the peaks and troughs of the dunes in the heat with the added annoyance of the flies was a bit much for Jess, I looked back and saw she had disappeared. I decided to stay the course and was rewarded by the best beach I’d ever seen.
A good mile or three of pristine golden beach greeted me. The sky was blue, the ocean lapped the shore providing a cool breeze. What’s more, I spotted a pod of dolphins in the distance to put the icing on the cake. I thought of Mum, she loved the beach and being in the sea and I have many fond memories of spending time by the water with her. I took turns juggling and swimming, and after a while Jess appeared with some much needed water and a picnic. We messed about for a while, hooping and juggling and Jess let me bury her in the sand. It was all part of my plan to get her in the sea as she’s going have to wash the sand off somehow.
As far as I was concerned, we had to make up for our lack of beach time thus far by heading to another beach a bit further away from our site. On the way we stopped at the post office/corner shop for some salt, pepper and other supplies. I asked the lady if she stocked mixed herbs as I couldn’t see any on the shelf. She popped out the back, I assumed to check the stock but then she came back with a load of fresh herbs plucked from her garden, how lovely of her. We then set up at the beach, creating a shaded den from the driftwood and our clothes. This beach was less turbulent than the previous, and even Jess was dying to get in. The hours flew past, sunbathing swimming and reading all day had really worked up an appetite. Thankfully dinner that night was much better than the previous attempt, utilising the salt, pepper and fresh herbs. There was even some mint that I chopped up and added to our watermelon for pudding. More wine was had, we played cards and settled for the night before our ride to port Macquarie the next day.
Our main objective in port Macquarie was the famous koala hospital. We made a beeline for it and arrived at lunchtime. I made some sandwiches for lunch in the camper and then we went in. The hospital was set up in the 70s to care for various koala ailments and injuries. Sadly, a lot of koalas are injured on the roads, by dog attacks or bushfires and the koala population is rife with chlamydia. The hospital was free, and you’re allowed to wander the sites will. They do great work there, making every effort to heal and rehabilitate the koalas with the aim to release them into the wild. The koalas on show were residents, to injured or old to be released and so are kept happy with an endless supply of care and food. We left a donation and headed to our next camp site. We parked up, set up and explored the town.”
You can check out the continuation of Jess and Bens adventure next week where they continue up to Byron Bay and Nimbin! You should also check out Ben’s blog Jammin Journey, sharing their stories as they travel the world. All photos belong to Ben and are not to be used without permission and/or photo credit.
Planning your Australian Road Trip – head over to the Travellers Autobarn website for rental and sales enquiries.