As you might already know, Patrick and I have made it to the only country in the world that measures its distances in road kill roos, or really the only country with kangaroos both dead and alive – Australia!
Coming to Australia, we were really excited to be in an English speaking country after a month fumbling our way through French. WORDS WE CAN FINALLY UNDERSTAND! And then we heard these words we thought we knew so well spoken out loud in the Queensland Outback accent with some Australian lingo layered on top. “Um. Excuse me? What did you just say? That’s not English, mate.” To give you the full Australian experience while reading this, I will be inserting as much Australian lingo as I know into this post, with hopes that you will be as confused as Patrick and I have been during our five weeks in the Lucky Country.
After a bodgy, cold and rainy week-long stint in the Cook Islands, and a full 24 hours spent traveling, including almost being denied entry due to discrepancies on my original Visa application (I won’t name any names…. Patrick), we made it to the northern city of Cairns in Queensland, Australia. As our plane flew into the city, Patrick and I both looked at each other with a hint of confusion: “Did you know Cairns had mountains?” This confusion and lack of knowledge on Australia’s topography continued to follow us throughout our month long road trip.
We started out our expansive Australian adventure with the most unexpected activity for Patrick and I – diving the Great Barrier Reef. After a day of exploring Cairns, we headed out onto a live-aboard along the outer reef. By the way, for you non-divers out there, a live-aboard is essentially a boat that you well… live aboard. Our days were filled with diving, eating, and lots of sleeping. A typical schedule went something along the lines of wakeup, sunrise dive, breakfast, first morning dive, second morning dive, lunch, afternoon dive, grizzle to Patrick about how this is too much diving, dinner, night dive, bar time, and then finally FINALLY bed. To sum it up – Patrick’s dream schedule.
This was our first live-aboard, and a trip we nearly didn’t make. Years of listening to how bleached the GBR had become due to global warming, ocean acidification, and El Niños painted a mental picture of an underwater graveyard, with white empty coral tombstones covered in algae being patrolled only by stingers. While this may be the case one day and in other parts of the reef, it was not our experience exploring the world’s largest reef. Slipping underwater (or in true walrus fashion, flopping into and exploding the water) erased this graveyard imagery and replaced it with a Great Barrier Reef that lived up to it’s name. It is difficult to do it justice with words, so hear are a few photos to paint a better picture (more on Patrick’s website: http://www.saltyshutterphotography.com/latestdive/) :
Side Note: Above deck, we also met our first Seppo (American) cobber in over five weeks! Fair suck of the sav!
After a ripper of a time exploring Australia underwater for a few days, it was time to start our explorations above sea level. Google ‘Campervanning Australia’, and you’ll come across hundreds of pictures with cute VW vans painted in bright colors with Australia’s beautiful coastline as the background. With this picture in our minds, we hopped into our printer-paper white Mercedes Sprinter Van – not quite as picturesque, but it was a camper van nonetheless! As we sat in the front seats of our mini house, we reflected on our combined large vehicle driving experience of zero hours, and then started the ignition. IMMEDIATELY the alarm started going off full freakin’ force, “HONK HONK HONK HONK”. Twenty minutes later, we were out of the rental parking lot armed with the confidence we needed to drive the cliff-side roads in a vehicle the size of an HGTV tiny home.
Speaking of tiny homes, Patrick and I came to the conclusion within 4.5 seconds of seeing the interior of the campervan to know that tiny home living was not for us… particularly Patrick, who spent most of the trip finding new surfaces to hit his head on and cursing some explicit words under his breath. The thing about campervans is that when living in them, they feel unbearably tiny, but when driving them, they feel like they take up both sides of the road… well when Patrick is driving they actually do.
Another thing to note about campervanning is well… it’s camping – this is a secret I held from Patrick for as long as possible (Patricks HATES camping). The secret held for donkey’s years or essentially until day six, when Patrick finally figured it out and spit the dummy, “Wait?! We’re camping?!?!?”.
One of the main reasons we came to Australia was to see all the stuff that can kill you – crocs, venomous snakes, dingos, stingers, cassowaries, drop bears, and the most deadly of all: ROAD TRAINS. We found ourselves plenty of crocs, while retracing my childhood trip to Oz, but none of the previously noted animals compare to the scariest creature that lurks in the outback and coast lines: road trains! To set the scene… you’re driving down a dusty narrow outback road; It’s quiet… too quiet. You see the dust cloud form ahead of you before spotting the most terrifying two words of all plastered on what looks like a normal semi-truck from the front: ROAD TRAIN. Fifty meters of pure terror – three semis linked into one single truck of doom. They are so big and terrifying that there are heaps of good oil signs lining the roads of the outback instructing you to pull over when you see one approaching. In other words, traveling through the outback was complete and utter raferty’s rules.
So now that you are fully educated on the dangers of the road train, I think it might be time to give you some real-life stories of our near-death experiences with actual living creatures. We were fortunate enough to see tons of Australian wildlife in the ridgy-didge wild, most of which were completely harmless: roos, wallabies, wallaroos (supposedly this is a real thing), crocs, bats, koalas, platypuses, pythons, bities, and big mobs of ear bashing birds, but every once in a while we came across something that could actually realistically kill us. One day Patrick and I were just dilly dallying along on a bush walk when we stumbled across a small brown snake in the middle of the path. Like most of our Australian knowledge, we were very ill-informed on what snakes were and were not venomous, so we decided to stand there until a proper Aussie came along. Within a few minutes, our wishes came true, and a Crocodile Dundee type strolls on up to let us know that the snake we were waiting to move out of way was “justa Eastern Brown”, also known as the second most venomous land-snake in the world. No biggie, right?
After spending a few nights in the dead dingo’s donger bush (I’ll translate this one for you: outback), we made our way back to the east coast of Australia to take in the beautiful coastline the country has to offer. Honestly, nothing I have ever seen compares to the diversity of Australian beaches: some are lined with cliffs, while others are lined with rainforests. Some have kangaroos scattered along the sand, while others have signs of crocodile warnings. Here are just a few of the incredible beaches we got to discover while driving down the coast (as always, you can find more at Patrick’s website: http://www.saltyshutterphotography.com/where-we-are/):
After a month of driving, you start to ask yourself what are the best parts of Australia? What makes the great Australian road trip great? I think the answer we personally landed on was the Australian Burger, which may be, in fact, the best burger in the whole wide world (America say what???). We tried fifteen burger places along the coast, and all but one featured a ‘this is the best freakin’ burger I’ve ever had!!’ conversation. For our Richmond friends, think Burger Bach but without the hassle of shipping all the ingredients 6,000 miles or however far away we are to Virginia. Maybe it’s the grass feed grown from fertile kangaroo poop. Maybe its the proximity to the coast. Maybe its just a little Aussie magic. Who knows… but what I do know is that even if you don’t want to see animals unique to this massive island, or meet people who have scuba dived with Steve Iwrin, or drive a 4WD vehicle on the largest sand island in the world, the Australian burger is totally worth the trip half way around the Earth… well, probably not if you’re vegetarian.
If you’re interested in following our skid marks of campervanning down the Australian coast, I’ve put together a very VERY rough draft of our trip (at some point, I will create a post with a more in depth itinerary) As always, feel free to ask any questions!
5 Week Australian Road Trip (~5,000 kilometers):
Cairns, Great Barrier Reef live-aboard, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation, Tablelands, Milla Milla Waterfall Circuit, Undara (accessible outback), Townsville, Magnetic Island, Cape Hillsborough, 1770/Agnes Water, Hervey Bay, Fraser Island, Noosa, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Emerald Beach, South West Rocks, Port Macquarie, Hunter Valley, Sydney, fly to Melbourne.
Hooroo, mates! Till next time, forever extending our honeymoon,
Samantha & Patrick