Cairns, May 23
Our New Zealand campervan experience was fantastic, but before leaving NZ we had decided that it was far too expensive to rent another campervan in Australia because of the stronger currency, higher diesel prices, high-season pricing, and the higher costs to stay at campgrounds.
The plan was to rent a cheap economy car for 10-12 days and drive down the eastern coast from Cairns to Sydney. Obviously the term 'was' would lead you to believe that the plan changed, and you would be correct in that assumption! We soon realized that it was going to cost us at least $50 per day for a cheap compact car, plus the costs of fuel and accomodations (which, we learned in NZ, add up very quickly!).
We've become very comfortable with travelling and figured we should spend some time researching other options. We were open to trying something different for a change. Nicole had heard that some rental companies needed vehicles relocated within short periods of time, and that sometimes you could get great deals by delivering these vehicles.
We spent a lazy morning on a McDonald's patio using its free WiFi researching this option, amongst others. We knew that it would be a long shot that someone needed a car relocated from Cairns to Sydney on our tight timelines, but it was worth at least exploring further. After hours of research we found one opportunity but it didn't leave Cairns for another 5 days. This was a stretch for us because we only have 26 days in Australia and we cannot afford lost days waiting around. We spoke to the broker (www.standbycars.com) and put all of the pieces together, and after several phone conversations with a guy named Will we realized that this was a deal that we simply could not refuse.
So what was this killer deal? Instead of a small, cramped compact car, we would get a mid-sized, luxury campervan for only $5 per day for 6 days with a fuel credit of $260! The catch was that the vehicle needed to arrive in Sydney no later than June 1st, we could not pick it up before May 23rd, and we could only use the campervan for 6 days at the $5 per day rate. That meant that we'd need to haul ass to get to Sydney on time!
Initially we thought the dates would not work, but the company allowed us to add 2 extra days for an additional $75 per day. This meant a total of $180 for 8 days of travel - it would have cost us at least $500 for a small car! We wanted to arrive in Sydney a little earlier anyways because we needed to get our Vietnam visas in order (which can take up to a week) so the June 1st arrival was doable with our schedule (our departure from Sydney to Manila is on June 9th).
The only real hang up we had was that we didn't plan on staying in Cairns for that long. But after working through the numbers and dates we just could not pass on this rare opportunity. So we went for it! At a total cost of $180 we booked the campervan leaving May 23rd and arriving May 30th, for a total of 8 days and 2,700 kms! It is estimated that the trip will require $400 of fuel and we would get $260 of that back upon safe and timely arrival.
Everything worked out great because we had more time in Cairns to relax in the sun and hot weather. We took another trip out to the Great Barrier Reef and snorkelled Green Island. We jumped on a massive catamaran and sailed to this tiny island about an hour off the coast. The package included a free glass boat tour which was a great, dry way to see the spectacular reef and all of its unique underworld life. The colourful reefs truly are too remarkable for words.
It was nice being forced to actually relax and slowly stroll the tourist driven streets and tacky souvenier shops. Cameron bought a new book, "The Full Montezuma" written by an Aussie travel writer, which revolves around a couple travelling to Cental America for six months together (how fitting!). So we sat by the pool at our hostel, ate late breakfasts and read the Aussie newspapers while we waited for Saturday to come. We even made it a point to visit a local sports bar during a replay telecast of the NHL Conference Finals which featured the Chicago Blackhawks vs the Detroit Red Wings. It was fun catching the spirit of playoff hockey in Australia, even if only for a couple hours in the afternoon.
Initially when Nicole spoke to the broker, she was lead to believe that we would get the mid-sized Mercedes Two-Berth Campervan, which was a sharp looking, new model that we had seen and admired throughout our travels in New Zealand (Britz and Maui are the big companies that offer this vehicle). We were excited by the thought of actually using one of these luxury vehicles, and were confident that we could both handle the much larger campervan given our recent experience in New Zealand.
Once we had booked the trip it started to actually sink in what a great deal this really was! A campervan for basically free plus the cost of fuel. It seemed too good to be true? After spending five extra days in Cairns we went to pick up our campervan and then learned that with relocation vehicles the company has the right to change the terms at its discretion. But that wouldn't happen to us, would it?
Well, we went to see our vehicle and guess what? It wasn't the same vehicle that was quoted to us. We walked outside expecting our two berth campervan and were greeted by a monster four berth caravan! You know the one I'm talking about. The big one with the extra cabin on top of the driver/passenger seats that is two meters wide and has a shower and toilet in it. Yep, that was our new home 8 days!
Our first reaction was a big gulp. How are we going to drive this monster? But after about 10 seconds the excitement kicked in. We've got a luxurious mobile house on wheels for 8 whole days! We were giddy. It was like we had just been upgraded to first class on an airplane flight!
The employee walked us through how to use our 4 burner gas stove with small oven, how to convert our four person dining space into a double bed, how to set up the ladder to our 'upper loft', and of course how to heat the water for our mobile shower. He also showed us how to discard the toilet waste but somehow the sound of that just doesn't add much sizzle to our description.
So with that, we jumped into our mobile home and set off on our second consecutive road trip in the adventurous South Pacific!