The long and winding road....

Trip Start Jul 16, 2010
Trip End Jan 20, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Where to begin? I will have to backtrack quite a bit I think to fill in so many blank spots, but, like anything you put off, it only gets more daunting the longer you wait. So...

'Relocation Rental' is the term for cost effectively moving / traveling from one point on a map to another - your next destination. Researching thoroughly, anything unknown, is the best way to make the unknown into common knowledge - or as next best thing to it.

Well known companies, Hertz, Budget, Backpackers, and so on, due to one-way rentals, can get a cluster of vehicles in one state/town and be unable to meet the demands of customers in a different area. Campers of all sizes, 6 / 8 berth right down to 2 berth or cars, are offered at a drastically reduced rate. Some go for as little as $1/day, all you have to do is deliver it to a different 'start' point by the set date.

For several weeks I watched the online, relocation (vehicle) rental companies bulletin boards. These boards change daily. Most sizeable towns are listed - and if not sizeable then it is their location and it's desirability that then procures itself on the bulletins.

For us, trying to find a vehicle in October, needing to go south, Cairns to Brisbane, or to Sydney or further on to Melbourne or Adelaide, is not as common as north-bound routes.
It is still cold here in the south, and most people are still heading to the warmer tropics in the state of Queensland.
But, the girls and I were very much ready to move on after being in Cairns area for almost 3 months - so, notice given to the landlord, October 2nd we were going south one way or another and that was that. Around 48 hours before move-day, a small camper came up for relocation of Cairns to Brisbane.

"That'll do!"

So now for sure I knew where Brian was going to be returning from work to; Brisbane. Had we had a vehicle that was to go further like Sydney, then we would have met him there instead.
The camper was a 2-berth Toyota van; fitted out with a 2-person bed, and various cooking equipment. The contract was: $5/day, and $210 gas allowance (reimbursed).

Now, where will our stops be? Googling the vehicle type (after paying the $95-yes-for-sure-we'll-take-it-fee) I find out it is a standard transmission vehicle. Oh good gravy. - why didn't I ask??? - what's with all the 'Research' now? hmmm...? I'm so clever :-/

I was taught how to drive standard, 13 years ago - drove for a whole 2 months - on absolute necessity only, and swore never again would I own such a antiquated goings on in a vehicle.

Did you know that 'You Tube' has instructional videos on "how to drive manual/standard transmission" ??! ! .... They do.
I watched as many as our failing and slow 'net reception would let me!

At this point I think I was so nervous that I was finding the whole situation either comical, or it was going to make me sick!
Now, where to (safely) stop on route? ...and how easy would internet be found along the way? - our only communication.
Through Travelpod I've watched another couple traveling this enormous and beautiful continent. I read & read, then made notes from their blogs, but still felt I needed to contact them - nerves getting the best of me. Around 24 hrs or less from our departure from Cairns I wrote to them, and low and behold they wrote back! ...not just with tips, but information on stops, addresses, and phone numbers to use to book ahead with. This couple, Mike and Margaret, from Perth, I'll probably never meet, yet we'll never forget them, or be able to thank them for all the peace of mind they gave me.

Words on a T-shirt; "Never Give Up" we've seen many a time in our first months here. An Australian clothing sportswear company sells what they call inspirational T's. Believe me I never thought of a T-shirt so many times in my life as I did on that 1,889 km drive!

As I may or may not have described in previous blogs, while in Cairns, we lived in a 'sharehouse' situation. A very good one really. The house had 2 levels, owners upstairs, a young couple - whom I will not describe because it is not nice to speak ill of others. The lower level, - street level, we shared. It is a 3 bedroom full-apartment type set-up. We had 2 bedrooms, and the third bedroom belonged to the other tenant, a young 18 yr. old girl studying English in the University, whose home residency is Columbia, South America. Spanish being her very-much first language.
She has been a good companion to all of us and our experiences only that much the better because of her. She accompanied us on day outings, and informed us on the practices of food storage, spiders, geckos, bugs and customs - don't laugh, it's whole new ball game in northern Queensland!
We always included her in our evening meals, she was always trying to learn better English speaking terminology. It made for some fun entertainment and laughter on all sides of the table!
'Angie' was quite sad to see us move on, she herself counting every day down to when she too would leave to go back home; not until mid - November. She and her family have invited us to visit and stay anytime in Columbia, and we the same for them to visit Canada.
Our last night Angie wanted to cook us something, to show thanks.
Well, that didn't quite come to be, but......driving lessons did! Angie can drive standards!

The morning, of picking up the vehicle and somehow driving that awful tin-can off the lot without letting the world know I was clueless, came too soon. Angie came with me, I stalled it before getting out of the parking lot, then hastilly drove it into a quiet residential neighbourhood where she patiently spent an hour & a half teaching me stops, starts, corners, gear up, gear down, "don't stall"......"at least as much!", and so on and so on. All this, on the other side of the road to our norm. The fact that the gear stick was in my left hand didn't feel that odd at all! ..... to a Canadian that doesn't know what they're doing anyhow.

Back at the house, we pack up,...."where did we get all this stuff?!"

Mike and Margaret in one hand, Angie in the other, and that bloomin' T-shirt moto imprinted on my brain......and we were off.

The highway south of Cairns needs an entire re-do. Bumpy, patchy and just 2 going each way, and that's the state highway, at that end of it anyway.
It rained like mad, as it always tends to do in tropical climates. The sky opens up, dumps true torrential downpours and can then just as quickly stop. Thank goodness.

If you've driven with wipers on full speed and still only carried on blindly because you were too afraid to stop in fear of being rear-ended, that would be about right.
Several times, in fact many many times, water-measuring meter sticks are seen at the side of the highway - measures stop at 2 meter mark. (!)

The roads can and do flood to literally 1m and more. So I can not possibly describe well enough the down pours that happen here. We just about experienced that in our first 4 hours drive. I don't recall now, but on the radio, - when we did get signal, reported a family washed out and rescued during their drive south. This was a few days into our drive, and that family were about 24 to 36 hours behind us.

Along the 4 days we took to drive to Brisbane we saw several points Mike and Margaret had written about. It was extremely comforting, made me smile to be progressing along a lot of the same route they had taken just a couple months before.

Sam and Sidni ever so kindly made some signs for the other motorists; "We stall!", "SORRY!", "We roll back, stay clear!" Little darlings.

Red stop lights at top of hills are something else that should be avoided at all costs....or at least abolished!
We got one. I can't remember which town it was now, as the last almost 2 wks and 9 stops some are not as easily recalled as others...but I'll go on about that later....
I missed the green set twice, frustrated the cars behind me, but by the 3rd green light, word was out, and no one was behind us.

Rolling back just a bit, but getting to a jumpy start (standards _do_ jump) we pushed on.
'Round-a-bouts' in place of 4-way stops, or traffic light controlled intersections, provide much humour to us. When approaching one I'd be whispering, well not always whispering, to the gods around, to please please let me glide in and out of the roundabout without having to stop, or go around a few times trying to get off! The van, if not stopped for very long, would start off easier in 2nd gear than in 1st gear. Is that normal? Not a clue, I'll never drive another one as long as I hold a driver's license.

One town worthy of mention is Yeppoon. Probably the very most beautiful town I've seen. Only the incredibly, incredibly, steep roads made it, well interesting in a not-so-good-way, but that was only because of the tin can! - and oh what a mess I got into .....

I wonder, are most vehicles while in 5th gear, foot the floor, this slow to accelerate? If I have to pass a vehicle traveling slower than I, which would be rare in itself, ....there had better be nothing coming for at least 1 1/2 to 2 km!

We bought a GPS the day before leaving. Now that is a wonderful device. Sam was awarded the instruction book to digest, I truly didn't have the brain space left to learn how to use another new gizmo, the wheeled tin can was sapping it out of me. GPS's have a variety of 'voices' to choose from, 'Karen' became our guide.

But oh brother, when Karen, the GPS, directed us up a 45 degree hill....... So steep, think of San-Francisco. I have never in real life seen such a hill, my pictures can't do it justice.
The van wasn't going to go up that in 3rd gear, so trying to get in into 2nd - don't know how, but just couldn't - and I don't think the van would make it up in any gear.
I pulled into a diagonal parking spot, to my left, next to another vehicle. First mistake, no, second,....Karen-the-GPS made the first. Still pointing uphill.

So how do I get this van backed up and turned around to go back down the hill that we are 1/4 the way up? Straight backing out would put me in direct line of traffic and because of the hill's degree, starting forward on an incline - well that's like a stop light at the top of a hill - darn difficult. This van was not going 'up' anything. The girls asked if the van could topple over sideways.
Sidni came up with the great idea; once we had managed to back it up a few feet, to put it in neutral, steer hard to the right and let that bloomin gravity do it's thing and swing the vehicle back facing down hill.

At this point I just wanted to fine someone else, that Sunday evening, to turn the darn van around for us.
Deep breath, "Never Give Up", back to Sidni's idea, there's no vehicle beside us now! Into Neutral, hand on E. brake ready to pull, foot hovering over brake pedal, crank steering wheel to hard right....."swiiiiiinnng batter batter....." And it did.

Away we went, 1st gear, 2nd gear....we were off...going down the hill. Yay! Blood pressure sky high.....Karen-the-GPS risks being murdered this night. A long day, up at 5:20 a.m. due to birds again, on the road at 7 a.m. - 8 1/2 hrs driving.
I just hoped when we left town we could do so without having to navigate anymore hills. Yeppoon _is_ a mini San-Francisco in terrain. But what a truly beautiful town, ...could have stayed there a several days if time had permitted.
Back on to our given schedule though the next day.

Brisbane, the River City will probably always be, in my mind, the city that impressed me the most. A lovely city. Busy, as cities always are, yet not a harried feel to it like most. A peaceful city, and very beautiful. The Brisbane River, found December 4th, 1823, relied on for agriculture, urban water use, industry, transport, tourism and recreation, worms its way through the heart of "Brizzy". The common name for the city.
Sam looked up which hotels where near where the van was to be dropped off the following morning. I had hoped it would be within walking distance. We parked and walked into the first of 7 hotels, trying to find an affordable vacancy. Most people would have driven from hotel to hotel. Not a chance, once that thing was parked we were walking! I couldn't imagine going in and out of several city streets.
Booking in at the last one - of course it would be the last one ;-) ....saw the room, leaving the girls there while I walked back for the van. Not all that far, just under a km. Drop off just around the corner, perfect!
Supper, cleaning, and unpacking the van done, we then looked for internet coverage, to be able to make 'phone calls. It was not available through the hotel, but with our Yagi, a type of aerial we picked out a pretty strong signal to a server, paid an over-priced fee for the 4 days and checked email. The van relocation company had sent a letter; the return site for the van had been moved! Their new office was ready a week ahead of schedule, could I please bring it the following day to the new address?

Google-Earth it......Ah, instead of around the corner, it was now just under 4 km away. Not so bad, and not too far to walk either.

Not about to drive through early morning rush-hour traffic to return the van, I set the alarm for 4:30 a.m.
It got to 3:45 a.m. - phooy, got up, it's going back now....1889 km done, 3.7 to go!
There wasn't a soul on the road, good thing too as the road construction and detours in the area were horrendous.
Being thoroughly tired now, a good nap was easy to have in the front seat, parked in the Hertz parking lot. They opened at 7:30 a.m. with big smiles to have their van back 7 hrs early. They weren't the only ones!
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the mother on

Great pictures, all the town's look so clean and tidy. Wish I could have been there.

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