After twenty one days of living in a sticky sweaty camper van, with nothing but hand held fans as air conditioning, I am exhausted. With temperature highs of FORTY THREE degrees, no fridge, and two towing incidents I am surprised we survived at all. But we did survive, and we had a bloody magnificent time.
Myself and my friend Rebs started our adventure in Perth, and slowly made our way all the way up to Darwin, driving about 5,000 km in just three weeks! Our camper van, Hugo, was cozy and we soon got used to #vanlife; illegally sleeping on the beach, cooking pasta on our stove and playing card games all night. Our first stop was Rottnest Island where we cycled up and down the winding roads and tried to cuddle quokka’s!
Then it was time to say goodbye to the comforts of city life, and start the road trip properly. We drove from Perth to the pinnacles, and then the Pinnacles to Kalbarri and had our first night in a rundown campsite besides some stables in the middle of nowhere. After another morning cooped up in the van we drove to Kalbarri National Park and did a short hike to Nature’s Window, before getting back on the road and driving to Coral Bay. We found a free campsite on the side of the highway (literally a dirt patch on the side of the road, complete with a drop toilet!), so spent another night in cozy Hugo. After a chilled morning with our new trucker mates we bid them farewell, had a quick sunbathing/magnum stop in the town of Coral Bay and then headed to our next stop, Exmouth.
Once settled in Exmouth we tired our luck sleeping in the beach car park, and luckily weren’t discovered and had a sound night sleep! A beautiful sunrise seeped it’s way into the van and we woke in a glorious pattern of light. After a instagramable stop at the cutest coffee truck we stopped at a gas station to discover #Vanproblems no.1: We were leaking coolant. After a quick stop at a mechanics, and a new hose, we were back on the road, this time headed for Karijini. With close to a nine hour drive, it was time for me to get back behind the wheel after six years of having not driven. (Not counting the few times driving down the Great Ocean Road in an automatic…) Shortly before dusk, whilst we were enjoying the beginning of another glorious sunset, #Vanproblems no.2 occured; a huge bird made a poor decision and flew straight into our windscreen, totally smashing it. To top it off we later found out it was actually an ‘Australian treasure, rare white eagle.’ As well as feeling totally overwhelmed we were devastated that we had possibly killed a bird, especially such an important one, but after extensive searching the next morning, we are hopeful that it was fine.
Aside from having to get an entire new windscreen, and having to wave goodbye to Hugo being carried away in a tow truck, we had an absolutely amazing time in Karijini. We took a beautiful walk down into Jeoffrey’s Gorge and swam in the remote pools while the sun set. We came back to the Eco Resort and cooked veggie sausages and mash on the BBQ, drank some ciders, and played cards with some friends we had made. All of the staff at the resort were really cool and spent the night telling us stories and teaching us about different star constellations. We laughed a lot and had exactly the sort of evening we had been hoping that the West Coast would give us.
It was the following morning when everything really started to go downhill… We had a six hour drive ahead of us, and already our spirits were low. Inside the van was unbearably hot and we were sad to say goodbye to all of our new friends in Karajini. After about three and a half hours of sulkily driving we both witnessed the start of #Vanproblems no.3, as our normally nice and cool temperature gauge went from cold to hot, concluding with a big bang and lots of smoke coming from the engine. We immediately pulled over and tried to haul somebody to stop and help. Neither of us had any signal and it’s pretty common to go long time periods without seeing another car. We did see plenty of road trains, but as they are too long to stop we had to wait until a smaller truck pulled over and let us use his phone. After two hours of sitting and waiting in the blistering heat, with nothing but two ciders and my ukulele to keep us entertained, the tow truck arrived. We got dumped in a sleepy town called Port Headland and had to check ourselves into a very basic, overly priced motel.
We ended up having to spend four nights stranded in Port Headland. We lay by the pool, ate an unholy amount of biscuits and watched a LOT of the Block. Finally we got back on the road and made it to Broome. Our time in Broome was spent watching more beautiful sunsets and camels on the beach, drinking ciders with our friends and sweating, a lot. As a result of our lost time, we had to make a speedier, alternate route to get us all the way to Darwin in just five days. We made our first pit stop in Fitzroy Crossing and had a lovely afternoon doing yoga with the wallabies and eating magnums. It was another early morning and a day filled with eight hours of driving, before we arrived at our home for the next three days; Lake Argyle. I had no real expectations so was amazed at how utterly magnificent this place was. We stayed at the Kimberly’s caravan park, which had it’s own incredible infinity pool looking out onto the lake. This was followed with one of the sweatiest nights yet, with nothing but wet towels to try and cool us down whilst we slept.
After our nutritious breakfast of banana pancakes and strawberry jam, we crossed the border into the Northern Territory and arrived in Katherine. After spending time in Katherine on my previous Outback trip, I was absolutely elated to return and had very high expectations. However I had not properly thought through the fact that I had previously been here at the end of wet season, and was now returning at the end of a very very dry season. All of the beautiful walks and gorges I remembered no longer existed, but we made the most of it, relaxing in some natural hot pools and immersing ourselves in the cultural centre.
After one final sweaty drive we were back among the city lights, this time of Darwin. The heat had literally become too much for us to handle so we treated ourselves (with all of our non existent money…) to an air conditioned private room in the YHA. As I had already experienced Darwin, and am a very lazy person, I basically spent an entire day in bed binge watching Netflix and eating dominoes. (It was a good day…) We dropped back the camper van today and now I have one final day in this unbearable heat before I fly back to Melbourne for my LAST WEEK IN AUSTRALIA!! I am indescribably devastated that my two years here has come to an end, and my emotions are so unpredictable right now, I think I am in for a good week of crying. Obviously a huge post reiterating my absolutely obsessive adoration for Melbourne is to come. But for now, see ya later West Coast. You’ve been rad, but way too hot for my liking. Melbourne, please let me back into your cloudy rainy arms for one more week?