We’re LJ and Dan the man,
We live in a campervan,
Our van is a heap, but at least it was cheap,
We’re LJ and Dan the man!!!!!
Arriving in Cairns exhausted and weak from our Ayers Rock antics, the only thing we wanted/needed to do was sleep. Our lull didn’t last long, however, because as all you avid journal readers know, Cairns was the pick up point for our campervan, the budget pop-top, the campette, our home on wheels, the souped up modified Ford Econovan, or as it has become more fondly known to us: ‘The Clatterbus’.
Bright and early on Monday (30/10) morning, we headed on foot to the depot. As we approached, the beast slowly appeared like a rainbow from behind a cloud.
“That ones got to be ours.” Said lj in a sullen tone.
“What makes you so sure?” Replied Raw.
“Because that my friend, is a budget van if ever I saw one!”
So after the formalities we boarded our bus, maps in hand and eagerly headed north to the tropics – How difficult can this be, we thought…
NORTH TO CAPE TRIBULATION
After a brief stop off in Port Douglas, which was pleasant, but out of our price range, we continued north passing through Mossman and a couple of other small towns. After only an hour or so behind the wheel, the first mishap of the day occurred in the form of a rogue stone which hurtled, single mindedly, towards our windscreen depositing a large crack on the drivers side – bloody marvelous, what a start, but little did we know what the rest of the day had in store for us.
As darkness descended (at the surprisingly ridiculous time of 6pm) we decided that the spot for our first night would be the tiny village of Daintree. New to the game and feeling unsure of the unwritten rules of ‘vanning’, we enquired in the general store as to the feasibility of ‘illegally’ camping in the village. The shopkeeper was more than helpful and we headed out to investigate his suggestions. The first of his recommendations he warned would be infested with crocs after dark, so not to park too close to the creek or we would die, the second spot clearly indicated that over night campers would be fined and the third was an unused bus stop on the main road. Thanks for your help mate!
“We don’t need him” we thought, “We’ll find our own site”….and what a perfect spot we found, a small area of grass land just out of the village, surrounded by enough trees to suitably hide our presence.
“I’ll just back it in there” Dan said, positioning for the manoeuvre.
Darkness can play tricks with your eyes and the ‘small area of grass land’ previously described as ‘perfect’, was in actual fact a swamp. We were stuck in every sense of the word and every attempt to escape the bog’s clutches was in vain as the poor van, steam rising from its over heating bonnet, simply refused to come out.
Pride swallowing was required as we waded out back into the town, tails between our legs, to ask for help. Typically & embarrassingly our rescue came in the form of a large 4x4 driven by none other than the owner of the local caravan park, who winched us out of the ditch and with a rye smile told us it was $18/night over at his place and he’d expect us there shortly. What choice did we have but to fork out the cash, at least we got electric!
Our first day was not what you’d call a total success, but we toasted it regardless with an ice-cold beer. One day down, 28 to go until Sydney – what more could possibly go wrong???
The next day passed surprisingly without incident and we spent a great & relaxing day on the beach up in The Cape, followed by more beer, a cracking steak on the barbie and a decent nights kip in a National Trust car park. It was now clear that the ‘vanning’ lark was easy after all and our previous nights fun and games could be put down to teething problems…..or so we thought.
We began to head south again, taking in a couple of beaches before getting back to Cairns and staying the night at one of them. Unfortunately, at the beach we selected, certain residents took exception to our presence and within an hour or two the local constabulary were moving us along and we headed off in our pyjama’s in search of some solitude, which was to be found in a field opposite the local life boat station on the recommendation of its staff – result.
Much of the remainder of the week was spent in similar fashion, relaxing & exploring through the day, but endlessly (it seems) searching for suitable sleeping spots on an evening. It’s fair to say though that it gets easier as confidence builds and you realise that nobody really minds where you sleep, as long as your not kipping on their doorstep or leaving a mess and of course, the obvious bonus of having a bed on wheels is the breathtaking places you find yourself waking up; natural waterfalls & lagoons, seafront spots on the beach & if your really lucky, an adjacent toilet block.
HEADING SOUTH - THE BRUCE HIGHWAY
Our first 2weeks in the van have been fantastic, we love the life & the freedom that the bus provides, and since our initial set backs, everything has gone well for us. We were discussing the very same on Friday (10/11) on route south, when “BANG” – the poptop had a blowout. Although quite a bad one, at the end of the day, it was just a flat tyre and we ‘thought’ we’d be back on the road in no time. How presumptuous of us! The wheel would not move an inch, it appeared that the nuts had been welded on and even the help of 2 roadside workmen wouldn’t budge them. To cut a long story short (and it is a long one), the RAC were called and we were transported to the nearby one horse (and street) town of Marlborough to assess the damage. On examination we were told that all 4 wheel nuts were kaput, our spare tyre had a hole in it and the remaining 3 tyres were illegal. Great, nothing like feeling safe on the road! OK we thought, the problem still isn’t a huge one, new tyres, new bolts and we’re off.
“Do you want the good news or the bad news?” asked the mechanic.
“The good news please” we reply.
“Well there isn’t any mate, your wheel nuts won’t be here till Wednesday”.
WEDNESDAY!!!!!!!!! Small-town Australia must work in a different way to the rest of the world and it appears that the town of Marlborough was a geographic oddity and 5days from anywhere. The town consisted of - the garage, a shop, a pub & a post office…...what do we do in Marlborough for 5days????
So we resolved ourselves to the fact that we’d be stuck on a garage forecourt for the best part of a week, reliant on our spirit, 2 books & the 3litres of cheap wine we had in our fridge, so all was not lost.
We made the most of our Saturday morning by exploring the street and amazingly found an unused van of the exact same model as ours, idly sitting in a field. We immediately knocked on the nearest door and ascertained that it belonged to a bloke named Gary, who willingly allowed us to pilfer 4 of his nuts!
Salvation we thought…let’s get outta dodge. Further setback arose as we presented the wheel nuts to the garage owner like wise men offering gifts to Jesus – our new tyres were 100km away and wouldn’t arrive until later that day. Oh well, another night on the forecourt and a litre and a half of wine left to get through.
So 5 nights turned into 2 and we have since moved on, but not before receiving a personal send off from the entire population of the town. We are now in the delightful seaside town of Yeppoon and as an extra special treat for our toils we will be dining on fish and chips in approximately 2 hours time – Mmmmmmm.
Will update again as soon as we can.
Still having a whale of a time, lots of love, us xxx