When people go out to live life on the road they are often referred to as “dirt bags”. So this is the story of Carl and my pursuit of the dirt bag life here in Australia. In our last post we had just finished our time in Brisbane and the Gold Coast with a celebratory climb to the top of Mt. Warning for Carl’s 30th birthday. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should scroll down to the end of our last post “A Community From Strangers” and watch the awesome video Jon put together of the climb. Our celebration of the achievement however, was short lived as Carl and I had a flight to catch early the next morning. Our flight brought us to Melbourne which was the beginning point of our month long road trip. This road trip will be the first leg of several more potential months of the dirt bag life.
Our goal in Melbourne was to find a van. We had been spending a lot of time online the past few weeks looking at different options for buying campervans, or outfitting a van ourselves converting it into a campervan. My lazy side along with our time constraints left us looking for vans which had already been modified to suit the journey. After a week of Facebook messages, texts, emails, phone calls, and inspections we found our van! She was an ’83 Toyota Hiace, Pop Top van that was set up as a camper van with a built in gas stove, second battery and inverter for charging devices, and a back bench that could be converted into a bed, along with plenty of storage space. She was perfect! Not only was it great to find a van that would be perfect for our travels, but her previous owners were awesome to talk to and a pleasure to get to know. Our shout out of the week goes to Bec and Joey two awesome people who were willing to pass on their loved van for her next round of adventures.
Our new baby also came with the name, “Rainey”. This name is symbolic of the fact that there will be hard times and there will be frustrations in life, but without the rain you will never see the rainbows. In the same way throughout our travels with Rainey we will inevitably experience difficulties and challenges, but if we weren’t willing to accept the challenges we would never be able to see the beauty that lies on the other side. We have also been told that “Rainey” is a name with the Latin roots meaning Queen. And so, with a quick refresher from Joey on how to drive a manual (something I had only done once before, thank God for Paula who had bravely given me my first lesson) this band of bachelors was off with our traveling Queen!
During our two week stay in Melbourne, while searching for the van, word was spreading of the Mt. Warning Climb and the amazing group of people who had made it possible. The first to contact us was a journalist for the Gold Coast Bulletin. He was excited about Carl and my story, the way we met Paula, as well as the climb itself, but most of all he loved the Aussie Spirit of camaraderie which was so clearly on display throughout the experience. You should check out the article that he wrote through the link below.
Next was a call from Channel 9 News they had seen Jon’s video that he had made and they wanted to do their own story on the climb. Check out the News story at the link below.
There was a sense of excitement from the attention, however the real joy that came from these articles and stories was seeing the encouragement and excitement that people expressed from being a part of our story and joining us for a portion of our journey. It has been our joy to get to know so many people along the way, and knowing that they have experienced a bit of that same joy has encouraged us to continue opening ourselves up to strangers and inviting them to be a part of our story.
In our respective roles, I being the designated driver and the master chef, while Carl was expert navigator and route and destination planner, it was time for our next journey to begin. We set out on the road on Friday, February 2nd heading from Melbourne down to the Great Ocean Road. This drive down the Great Ocean Road came highly recommended and was no disappointment.
The views were stunning, and like a father with his new born baby, it allowed for plenty of pictures of Rainey and her first miles with her new traveling companions.
Our goal while traveling is to keep expenses to a minimum. This includes cooking all of our own meals and not eating out (which is very tempting at times while spending so much time on the road). While both of us enjoy cereal for breakfast and sandwiches and fruit for lunch, the dinner menu has been, and will surely continue to be, a point of learning between Carl and myself. While I would be perfectly content with sweet potato chili or “SPC” every day for the rest of my life, Carl seems to prefer some sort of variety. So far this has led to the compromise of only having SPC for half of our dinners and curry sausages and stir fried veggies for the other half. However some recent off topic food “thoughts” from Carl indicate that the current menu might still need some expansion.
Another way we are saving money is by the use of a phone app called WikiCamps which you can use to find all of the free places to park the van to camp overnight along the route. Carl has spent many hours during our traveling searching for the next stops, reading reviews and comparing possible sites. Many times these have been beautiful national parks or beach front sites while at other times the best options available have been truck stops on the side of the highway. But so far we have been successful in finding free accommodation at each stop along the way.
After the Great Ocean Road we made our way up to Adelaide. This drive was not as picturesque as the previous few days, but this country side had its own beauty with stretches of impressively flat landscape and occasional salt flats. However as we approached Adelaide we began to enter back into the beautiful green rolling hills. We spent two days in Adelaide exploring the city, spending time on the beaches, and picking up some supplies, but soon we were headed back out into the countryside. It was recommended to us from some friends we had met from Adelaide that we should explore the vineyards in the Barossa valley which is located a few hours North East of the city. It made for an enjoyable day stopping in several wineries, sampling a few wines and learning about the unique wine making climate and culture of the area. The next day we were back on the road beginning our trip back East. The next stop was the Grampians Mountain range.
We decided to take a few days to drive, hike and enjoy the amazing terrain of the Grampian Mountains. Our first stop in the park was an easy 1.5 km hike to Beehive Falls. However a small boulder field at the end of the hike made the bottom of the falls inaccessible for Carl. After running ahead to survey the terrain and looking at a small dry cliff for several seconds and asking myself if “that was supposed to be the falls?” we turned back and decided to pick a new waterfall destination. However, at this point we were suspicious whether our next waterfall would be any better due to the dry season. We decided that the next waterfall we would visit would be McKenzie falls, one of the larger falls in the park. And lucky for us this water fall was only a short 750m hike to the base from the nearest parking lot. However, this 750m included intimidatingly steep stairs which were wet and slippery along with several sharp turns and narrow sections which were too narrow to navigate with the chair. After asking Carl how much he trusted me and with the much needed help of several onlookers we were able to slowly make it to the bottom and enjoy the view of the beautiful falls. Overall the Grampians were stunning. Incredible cliff faces and rock formations set along side deep valleys and mountain lakes all made for an incredible stay in these mountains.
It was now time to start making our way back up to the Gold Coast “GC”. We would take approximately eight days to make it back to the GC with several stops and sites to explore along the way. Carl has been tracking our route and stops with an awesome app called Polar Steps. For those of you who are interested you can see where we have been and the route we have taken from the link below!
This drive back up to the GC was never lacking in beautiful landscape, stunning views of the ocean and nice coastal cities.
In order to make it possible to spend enough time in some specific destinations (Tasmania, Sydney, and the Blue Mountains) we plan on driving back down to that area on our return from New Zealand. However, since we were driving through Sydney, we couldn’t help but make a 30 minute stop just long enough to take a standard Sydney Opera House selfie before heading back on the road!
Our last stop before being back in the Gold Coast was Byron Bay. Byron is a well known coastal city which attracts large crowds of caravaners, backpackers, surfers and tourists, but for obvious reason! It’s beautiful beaches, amazing beach side hills and cliffs along with the mountains and hills not too far inland makes for a fantastic location.
However this ideal location and high backpacker population makes finding a free place to park for the night much more difficult. Having a few free minutes on Saturday, Carl decided to give the local YWAM group a call. YWAM (Youth With A Mission) is a non-profit Christian Missionary Outreach Program. It’s purpose it to train young adults and then send them out to different areas around the world to show people the love of Christ and the good news of the Bible. They usually have ministry sites where they stay during their training period and we thought it would be a perfect place to start in making some connections and finding a place to stay. To make a long story short, not only did they provide us a place to park and give us access to bathrooms and showers, but we also joined the church for a Sunday evening church service and were invited for dinner as well. We spent the evening hanging out with a great group of young adults who had just come back from a month long trip to Kolkata, India. We also joined them Monday morning for some breakfast and a worship service. It was a pleasure to get to spend time with these awesome individuals and we wish them the best as they now go to serve in different indigenous communities over the next few weeks. It is our goal to come back to Byron on our return from New Zealand and stay for several more days in order to reconnect and spend more time with this beautiful group of people.
As we finish writing this blog post we are sitting on the beach in Byron bringing this first part of our road trip to an end. We will now head to the Gold Coast to stay with Paula and Tracey for a few days while we try to finish our planning and then head to New Zealand on the 23rd. This past month has been everything we could have hoped for, from the freedom of having the van, the amazing beaches, the beautiful mountains, and so many opportunities to share our stories and learn the stories of so many along the way.