Au Revoir, Australia

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
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Trip End Feb 26, 2011


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Where I stayed
World Square Hostel

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Thursday, September 30, 2010

We woke up to bright sunshine at about 6am feeling utterly wretched. Erica couldn't get up but I got showered and started to get myself pulled together. Erica soon joined and after thoroughly washing everything the inside of the van was spotless (mainly thanks to Lady E). We were really pleased with the look of her. The outside was still to be done and was in a proper state but we knew we would be able to hit a car wash place on the way to drop off the van. After giving away all the things we didn’t need any more like washing up liquid, cooking oil etc and sharing a tin of pineapple rings we set off to try and find our way back to the campervan hire place. When returning the van we were asked to leave it empty of fuel so it looked like a bit of close call as to whether we would make it considering my refusal to add any more. We had to stop at about 6 car washes and the first four were quoting $45 just for an outside wash, we ended up paying about $20 and the van looked immaculate, we hardly recognised it. We got back and handed the van back over before collecting all our camping stuff rucksacks, camping chairs, duvet, camping stoves, cool bags, new pans etc. We staggered to the train station looking like proper nomads, and got into the city centre by about 11am. We found our hostel eventually and it was right in the centre and good value at about 9 a night, including wifi and electricity. With about 60 power sockets we were spoilt for choice and our 18 room dorm turned out to only have 6 beds and had a huge picture window looking out over George Street and Liverpool Street Junction so that was pretty good.

We had another good walk around Sydney and spent more time in the Royal Botanical Gardens. We even had time to ring up and try and clear our names for the toll roads, we rang up Sydney and after ages managed to pay for using the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We rang up Melbourne and suggested we thought we may have used a toll road or two but we were not sure, the guy asked us where we had been "Melbourne" was my response, he asked for the reg plate “M for Mother, V for..... for.......” (my mind had gone blank and there was only word I could think of that began with V. The man was rather amused by this stage, and explained there was no way to check if I had or hadn’t used a toll road, and as I was leaving the country the next day to just forget about it”. No doubt that probably means a court case or refused visa at some stage.

We were feeling tired so we ended up queuing up outside a Thai restaurant called Chat Thai, which apparently serves some of the best Thai food in the city, but with over an hours queue to get a table we headed off for a Chinese to celebrate the end of another excellent month. It wasn’t too expensive and now that the shock of initial Sydney prices has gone we find there a lot of bargains to be had in Australia if you know where to look. We were offered a steak, and a pint of lager for $5 but decided that a bit of Asian food would be a nice lighter way to finish off a month where we have almost exclusively lived on sausages and chicken thighs with pasta. To quote Matt who we met in Melbourne he repeated a fellow travellers mantra “all you need to get around Australia are the two p’s: pasta and petrol”.

We sat in a window drinking loads of Chinese tea, with dumplings, soup and a main dish and decided that at 8pm it was time for bed. We are not sure how late we will wake up in a hostel and we are hoping to leave for the airport at 8am.

We really have grown to love Australia and the Aussies, such a friendly and generous bunch who have such a dramatic mix of regions and landscapes it really is no wonder they are great travellers and have so much quality time outdoors. For anyone looking to do Oz -  hire a van with someone like Wicked, but try and calculate just how much petrol you will use. We have travelled over 6000km in about 3.5 weeks and the fuel has completely crippled our budget, as for food and drink if you are happy sat drinking wine by candlelight eating whatever is going off date in the supermarket (although mainly chicken thighs and sausages with pasta) you can actually live very cheaply. I guess our food bill for the day was about $5 each and our Bowlers Run wine at $2.50 a bottle (from Dan Murphy) was a bargain. With cheap bread for lunch and breako and only a couple of paid for trips the only thing I would have changed was looking harder for people to split the fuel with.

Erica edit:  Also as we have already mentioned McDonalds will invariably have at least one power socket near a table so charge whatever you can there, then you don’t need to stop at as many, if any, powered campsites – buying and savouring a 50 cent soft serve ice cream stops you being kicked out whilst your appliances are charging (also great for salt, pepper and sugar sachets that you can use later).  Buy the 'Camps 5’ free camping guide available from bookshops or petrol stations – it is invaluable, has all the road maps you will need and tells you where all the sites are that are free, have toilets, showers and free barbecues etc.  Also Kmart and Big W are good for camping chairs and other items you might need to buy especially if you are travelling for a prolonged time and can’t cope with the basic stuff that comes with the van.  A friend also told us that most BP petrol stations also have trucker lounges with toilets and showers which can also come in handy.  Basically arriving in Australia from Asia was a big shock money wise, but you can manage to do most stuff on the cheap – whether you beg, steal or borrow most of the time if you ask with a great big cheeky smile you can get away with anything.

Anyone doing this trip from Cairns to Melbourne check on sites like www.gumtree.au.com to pick up fellow travellers, it was just about the only thing we could have done to make it any cheaper. With free camping perhaps the other big cost was setting ourselves up with decent chairs, a decent camp stove, a decent pan, knife etc and then the continual filling of the fuel tank. Keep your eyes peeled for cheap fuel as much as you can, United are generally the cheapest outside of the cities, but always use a Woolworths loyalty card when you shop, showing this at Caltex petrol stations gets you $0.04 per litre off your fuel and if you spend over $5 in the shop another extra $0.04 off. This essentially means whatever you get in the shop for $5 is free.

We will really miss Oz and have both enjoyed it more than we expected. Well another month tomorrow another country. We go to New Zealand and look forward to shorter drives, less fuel but colder weather.
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