One month in Oz – 11. The open road

Post 11 of a series detailing our Australian adventure. Access the full series here.

Today was the day our trip to Australia would truly become an adventure – the day we would pick up our campervan and begin driving up Australia’s East Coast.

Finding the pick-up building for the campervan we’d hired – called a ‘spaceship‘ – was an adventure in itself. After unsuccessfully attempting to pick up our lost fudge and chocolates, we had to find the right bus to take us there and it wasn’t straightforward – especially as we were running behind schedule. We took a punt on a bus that looked likely and fortunately some other passengers, apparently also on their way to hire a car, confirmed we were heading in the right direction. The bus drove further and further out of the city and soon we were anxiously examining every warehouse for sign of ‘spaceship’ imagery. We eventually spotted it and jumped off.

Preparing for launch

We had to wait a considerable time for another couple’s induction to their spaceship to finish. Our induction consisted of a quick sit-down talk in the office followed by a long ‘show and tell’ of the various parts of the spaceship. I couldn’t believe how many components there were and how much we were supposed to remember! What looked like a normal car in the front was a mad ramshackle of wood, metal and rattling accessories in the back. I wondered how on earth this cramped rust bucket would suffice as our home over the next week.

Explanation over and myself none the wiser, Steve was finally handed the keys and we climbed into our new home. Steve said he wanted to drive around town for a bit first while he familiarised himself with the automatic controls. I sat back nervously as we rattled along a maze of roads in Sydney’s surburbs. We eventually stopped at a petrol station to eat lunch and buy some snacks, after which Steve announced he was ready to leave town and our road trip began.

Leaving Sydney

It took us a while to find our way out of town and somehow we went over Harbour Bridge in the same direction twice, Franz Ferdinand playing on the stereo both times (we’d jointly filled an mp3 player with our favourite songs to listen to while we drove). But eventually we were out and driving through other coastal towns, the tension lifting as we drove further. The roads changed from highways through business parks to single roads carved into dense forest and rock and, singing along to our self-made soundtrack, we began to really enjoy ourselves.

The hours slipped by pleasantly after that and we reached our pre-booked caravan park in Port Stephens just as night began to fall. Whereas Steve was in familiar territory here, it was completely new to me. We walked the circumference of the small, simplistic park, circling the laundry room and the empty children’s play pool, and decided that neither of us could be bothered to drive off again in search of a restaurant.

The Bowls Club

Instead we walked across to the Bowls Club next door, as it appeared everyone else had. This ‘family holiday staple’ was another completely new concept to me, leaving me very confused as to why I had to make a temporary ID card just so that I could eat some dinner! However, despite the low sophistication of the large, high-celinged room with its long plastic-topped tables and laminated menus, the meal was nice. A cheap glass of wine, a plate of chicken pie, chips and peas and a slice of pre-made ‘Mars bar’ cheesecake filled the hole in my stomach nicely; and the short walk back was nice too.

DSC01357

If only going to bed could have been as simple! Instead we had the task of building a bed inside the boot of a car for the first time, which in a tipsy, dozy and full-bellied state – not to mention in near darkness – seemed to require an inordinate amount of effort. The benefit of this was that by the time we’d finished assembling the bed we were more than ready to sleep in it, regardless of the strangeness of our new sleeping quarters!

Tomorrow our road trip up Australia’s East Coast would begin in earnest, with a whale-watching cruise in Nelson Bay.

All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2016.

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