Nearly for a whole year we are travelling through Australia. Not long now and we will have covered 20,000 kilometres with our van. An immense distance, which, however, only revealed a fraction of Australia’s beauty. Nevertheless, the adventures are versatile and often unforgettable. But what impressed us over and over again, is how easy Australia makes it for families to travel. Therefore this blog will pay tribute to Australia’s “outdoor culture”.
“Do you actually take showers?” “Where are you going for the toilet?” “Do you always sleep at official campsites?” “What about cooking?” “How do you charge the laptop and other things?” These and other questions have been asked by some of our readers. To clarify these mysteries and thus prevent the image of unwashed, smelly Weltengugger, who secretly relieve themselves at the roadside, we will describe to you one week on the road in fast forward mode.
Today we head back on the road. The starting point is one of our many “bases” in Australia. These are houses of great friends who welcome us for a few days to their houses. Or house sits where we take care of people’s homes and animals for one to two weeks. Here we can take showers, wash clothes, save images, work for Germany, maintain Kifaru and gather new strength. We are incredibly happy about these oases, because without them such a long trip would be unlikely to work, especially with a child.
But now it is high time to leave this comfortable base. Franka has done some “pre-working” so she just has to check in the next days, if there are urgent new requests. Our destination of the day is a national park in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. Distance: about two hours drive. Since after breakfast, morning hygiene, making beds, cleaning and packing the van we are already quite late, we are planning a stopover on the way. And here one of our key tools comes into play: Wikicamps. This is an app that displays on a map Australia wide almost all campsites, caravan parks, backpacker hostels and free accommodations. Most posts include pictures, contact information and, most importantly, useful comments by users.
However, that’s not the only thing the app shows. So you will also find all the important sights and the thousands upon thousands of unique picnic areas of Australia. These are rest stops on streets, in parks or on beaches in and outside of cities. At the same time we get information about the “equipment” of these resting places. In most cases they provide public toilets (which are normally clean and no comparison to German public toilets), tables and benches, barbecues, sometimes power and partly also showers and playgrounds. And all for free. The toilet situation in Australia is actually so good that so far we had had a toilet available when it was needed in about 99% of all cases.
For today’s stopover along the route we have chosen a small park in a village where we grill tasty zucchini with roasted onions and sizzling cheese sandwiches as lunch on the BBQ. Incidentally, almost all public toilets and BBQs are cleaned every morning by cleaning companies payed by the communities! And yes, again, it’s FREE. Even after nearly a year, for us this phenomenon is still hard to believe. In addition, Australians appreciate this common property and are very careful to keep the BBQs and toilets in order after use.
After we ate our fill and India let off some steam, we continue to the National Park. And here Wikicamps helps us again with notes and comments to interesting places or walks in the park. But since it is already too late for walking, we decide to drive to a free overnight spot in the park. In this case, there is a small parking lot with a simple but clean outhouse on a river. Here India can play a bit while we cook dinner (pasta with tomato sauce) and plan the day ahead. Because there is no high fire danger level in the national park, after sunset there is a story book around the campfire for India before all crawl into the van and drift off into dreamland.
The day begins with a sunrise bird concert which acts as our alarm clock. After we enjoyed some more time under the warm duvet, it is time for a short “cat wash” in the river. Since we have 25 litres of jerry cans with us, simple personal hygiene and tooth brushing is always available even if there is no tap or river near our camp site. After this refreshing “bath” it’s time to dress and make breakfast (usually porridge, sometimes muesli with hot drinks). Then we have to put everything back in the van and secure it and everyone goes one more time to the toilet. Afterwards we take the van to the starting point of a hike that will occupy us for the next three hours. Returning from the jungle, there is a late lunch (cheese and tomato sandwiches and India gets the pasta leftovers from the day before) and we get some rest. Since we are all quite exhausted and really liked yesterday’s campsite, we spend another night there and even are lucky enough to see kangaroos in the twilight.
Because after our yesterday’s hiking a quick wash in the river would no longer suffice. So after breakfast we head to a nearby swimming pool, where we should be allowed to use the hot showers for a few dollars, according to Wikicamps. The app stays true and the nice lady at the entry even lets India jump under the shower for free. Family friendly Australia.
So that India is not only alone with her parents all the time and also gets some English input, we drive, smelling fresh again, to the library of the town. Because in the mornings there are, as everywhere in Australia, half-hour kids sessions, filled with nursery rhymes, reading, dancing and crafts. And while Franka sings “Twinkle, twinkle little star” with India, I sit on the computer to go through photos, use the free Wifi for researching our next targets, send applications for future House Sits and recharge our phones and laptop.
During our subsequent supermarket shopping trip we are lucky and find a discounted steak pack in the refrigerated section. MEAT!!! But since we do want to drive a bit further, the hot meal is moved to the evening and instead we enjoy avocado and tomato sandwiches. As highlight of the day we visit a superb waterfall, while at the car park, we again find toilets. Unfortunately, staying overnight here is in this case forbidden, but luckily we find an official rest area just around the corner on Wikicamps, where we finally enjoy the steaks together with salad and fresh baguette.
Today we hit the coast. Along the way we refill our avocado supply at a small private stall by the roadside. Arriving at the beach, we find a great playground and showers. Since it is a warm day, it does not bother us that these are only cold, because after a day at the sea we are happy (India less) to be able to free ourselves from sand and salt water. As at the parking lot there is no “overnight-stay-prohibited-sign” and according to Wikicamps already other backpackers stayed here in their vans, we decide to spend the night at this beautiful place. For dinner we cook another classic: sardines in garlic and onions with rice. After a final digestive walk on the beach we are back in our Kifaru. We have (as usual) luck and there are no loud teenagers to hang out or make out after sunset, so that we can peacefully fall asleep, with the sound of the sea in our ears.
We wake up to the splashing of the waves and the sunrise over the sea. And we find ourselves thinking again that we are damn lucky to be able to lead such a life. And Franka thanks the world with a yoga sun salutation on the beach. As the weather continues to stay hot, we decide to spend a little more time on the coast. In the next town there should even be a great water playground and good surfing waves. Both come true, and given the beautiful day we decide to go beyond our budget today and get the classic “fish and chips” for lunch. To escape the afternoon heat, we go to the free maritime museum of the city where we learn new things about the maritime history of Australia.
Then it’s time to break camp, because we have to leave the city in order to spend the night economically and legally. Because when one looks at Wikicamps, you can see, that along the East Coast, which is very popular among backpackers, free or inexpensive accommodations are rare. So you either need to pay a very expensive caravan park (about 30 euros / night) or stay illegally and risk being punished by the ranchers with a high fine. Or you drive like us into the hinterland of the coast. Because here you will find inexpensive overnight stays (about 10-15 euros / night) with toilets at pubs, at communal sports fields or at private properties. In our case, even with hot showers.
If this is not available, we often make use of the offer of the campsite chain “Big5”, where you can enjoy the beautiful showers for about three Euros. Or we find a large shopping centre or a library, some of which also have free showers. But not only that. So you can find in the latter institutions often rooms for mothers with small children. These are colourfully decorated, with sitting areas for breastfeeding and microwave for heating baby food or the vial. But India is now already too old for that.
During dinner we start talking with other campers. The friendly retired couple gives us not only valuable tips for nearby destinations, but even invites us to their farm in South Australia, should we be in the area. As we are actually planning to go there next month we hereby gained a new base. After we have eaten our couscous with vegetables and coconut milk, it is again bed time and because India was particularly sweet today, she is allowed to watch some Peppa Pig cartoons on the phone before the LED lights are turned off.
Since we do not intend to do much today and it is weekend, we have delicious pancakes for breakfast before heading to a nearby farmers market. Accompanied by live music and children’s program you can buy local products here, or just relax and watch people. No sooner said than done and before we know, it is already early afternoon and time again to try a new sandwich variation (humus with cucumber). Then we sit down in front of the municipal library, where, although it is already closed, the Wifi is still available. Here Franka works a little and we check the emails. We note with pleasure that we have an appointment for a short term house sit close by. Calling immediately we agree to a meeting the next day and then drive towards our next “oasis”.
Since along the way there is no nice beach or park, as an exception we decide to use a rest area on the highway. So we have to go no large detours. Actually meant for the many truck drivers in Australia campervans and motorhomes can stay here as well and use the well-maintained coin shower at the gas station. The only downside: instead of the sound of the sea or bird concerts we hear the humming of the trucks on the nearby highway. But you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and so we are happy once more about the great and inexpensive possibilities offered by Australia for individual travellers. And on our tonight’s dinner plate: potato and quark (the quark must be replaced with yogurt and linseed oil with olive oil).
Since our meeting with the owner of the house is at midday, after the breakfast omelette we visit with India again one of the many playgrounds that exist in Australia’s cities and communities on every corner. Some of them are really awesome and in warmer climates the classic playgrounds are even supplemented by splash parks (water playground). After India has had her fun, we drive to our house sit.
A week on the road is exciting, eventful, but also exhausting. Again and again, new situations, places and challenges are taking their toll. Especially with children, because whereas three years ago one simply could lay back for a day or two, there is rarely a free minute with India. Accordingly, we plan our trip segments so that we don’t spend more than two weeks at a time “on the road”. Then the laundry bag is full, the body longs for a full size bed and more exclusive food. In addition, the memory card must be emptied and again a blog be sent home. And also some work is waiting for Franka because she could not do everything while travelling. That is why we are glad that our “interview” with the house and dog owner went great, and we now have a permanent home for the next nine days. But we know already that at the end of this week we will look forward again to the next adventure in our beloved yellow van. But more about that in upcoming reports.