We were really looking forward to staying a week at Marieke and Nick’s, spending time in Sydney and have a ‘home’ with fridge and sofa for a while. We’ll write about our great time here at a later point. What would come after Sydney we didn’t know yet. We were however sure of one thing: it would involve driving around for a few weeks in a campervan! During our week in Sydney we needed to get two main issues sorted: Where would we go and how would we arrange a campervan. This post will be slightly ‘technical’ and explain how we decided on these two points, our experiences and adventures will follow in next posts.
Let’s start with a bit of an understatement: Australia is a big country. This image (Mapcollection) gives a good idea of its size.
To be honest we didn’t really realise how big it is and there was no plan either. Where would we go from Sydney? West via Adelaide to Perth? Make up or way up through the Northern Territory to Darwin? Follow the East coast to Cairns? Again, it’s such a big country so it’s hard to choose, not only because of the distances, but also you have to take into account the time of year and the different climates. North Australia has a tropical climate, central more dessert-like, the south gets more rain. April means autumn in Australia with it’s different effects on the various parts of this country.
We read and heard great things about the Great Ocean Road west of Sydney, the route to Perth seemed to be a less-travelled thus interesting option and the rough dry and desolated Northern Territory (central Australia) sounded like an adventure as well. We choose the popular 3000km long eastern coastal route between Sydney and Cairns. We were looking forward to tropics in the North, lots of ocean/beach on the way, beautiful national parks and very importantly now that Lucia got her PADI (Scuba in Sipadan): a chance to dive the Great Barrier Reef. Having decided on our route, we could turn our attention to our mobile home for the next 3 weeks
We knew there were three main options for getting a campervan: 1) buy (and later sell) ; 2) get a relocation deal; 3) rent . Here are our findings on the three:
1) Buying: The big advantage here is of course that you potentially keep your costs very low by selling the car for not much less than you bought. However it takes some time to buy and sell a car (registration, insurance, checkup etc) and quite a few people we spoke to recommended not to buy a car if you plan to travel for less than 2 months. There are lots of backpackers that do go this route and we decided to have a look what would be on offer. Via one of the rental agencies we found an underground carpark in King’s Cross in Sydney where people can ‘display’ their vehicles for potential buyers. After we had a look here, we made up our mind: buying a car would not be the way to go.
2) Relocation: Campervan relocation deals are a great way of getting around Australia for little money and we were very serious about this option. Lots of people will rent a van from point A to B without coming back to A. So a campervan rental company ends up with its vehicles in one location while it needs them in another. They then offer a deal for bringing these cars back which usually includes very low rent (down to $1 per day), claiming back petrol expenses and sometimes even a relocation allowance. The big disadvantage of these relocation deals is the limited time you get to bring it back. Typically you’ll get about a week for the Eastern coast route from Sydney to Cairns which means 400-500km per day. Doable of course, but we agreed that this is not what we had in mind when coming to Australia. So although we still think relocation is great low-budget way of seeing Australia, for us it was too rushed.
3) Renting: So that left us with option 3, renting a campervan. Next question: what kind of campervan? Big American full option RV? Cheaper low-top van? Relatively comfortable high-top van? Or even a larger car with mattress in the back or a tent for outside? We eventually found out that we could get much better deals if starting our journey in Cairns and drive back to Sydney. Apparently backpacker season was coming to an end which meant a lot of cars were in Cairns now and needed to be brought back to Sydney. So after confirming that flights from Sydney to Cairns were pretty cheap we narrowed our options down to two: a cheap low-top version from ‘Hippie campers’ and our preferred, but more expensive high-top option from ‘Travelwheels’. We were about to go for the Hippie offer and sent Travelwheels a mail to let them know their offer was too expensive. This is where our lucky run started in three steps:
Travelwheels offered us a ‘price-match’ on Hippies’ offer, would have to change the high-top to a low-top but would include a full ‘everything-covered-no-excess’ insurance. We agreed as their cars got better reviews online and we would get full insurance coverage for the same price. We were satisfied.
The next day we went to the Travelwheels office to sign the contract and were told our low-top actually wasn’t available for our dates. Would we mind to get a free upgrade to a (normally 50% more expensive) high-top? No, we wouldn’t mind. Only thing to watch out for was that the fuel-gauge didn’t work and needed to be fixed. This meant that in the worst case we would just have to make sure to put petrol in every 500km. We were happy.
After flying to Cairns and having arrived to Travelwheels’ local agent we were asked to wait for an hour as they still needed to fix the petrol-gauge. Not a big problem. We came back an hour later, were kept waiting longer and then got told the petrol-gauge couldn’t be fixed… would we mind being upgraded for free to the newer high-top version with better beds, better kitchen and free GPS? No we didn’t mind. We drove off high-fiving.
We didn’t know it at this point yet, but throughout our 23 days of driving along the east coast we were so happy with the high-top option. We saw and spoke to people in a low-top; t would (normally) be cheaper, you could still easily get around, but the limited space, lack of seating area inside and cooking outside makes it all a bit … well … less comfortable. This is what our Toyota Hiace High-top campervan looked like:
For outside seating it included a removable outside table and camping chairs (with beer-cooler:-)). On the inside it had a small 2-burner gas-stove, running water (40l tank), a decent-sized fridge and lights, all powered by a second battery which would be re-charged by driving or plugging in on campsites. This meant that for the entire trip we could do our own cooking. Two long seats and a table would turn into a double bed at night.
As you can see on this map (for more details click here), most of our journey was along the coast, with the last week being more inland. We slept in a variety of place, ranging from well set-up campsites to natural parks to grass behind a backpacker hostel to rest areas along the motorway. We didn’t do our research beforehand and were a bit disappointed by the low amount of free spots where you could easily and legally park you campervan for the night. A great help was an app we downloaded beforehand called ‘WikiCamps‘. People add their review to various places where you can camp. We completely relied on this for finding spots to stay and would recommend it to anyone doing a similar trip in Australia.
In the next few blogs we’ll go into a bit more detail by grouping our experiences in several Ausome Australia categories.
Uz sme sa naozaj tesili na tyzden v Sydney a aspon ako-taky pocit domova u Marieke a Nicka s ich gaucom a chladnickou mimo ine. Za chvilu napiseme aj o tomto tyzdni v najvacsom meste Australie, no teraz vam povieme o tom, co bolo potom. Kam pojdeme po Syndey sma najprv ani netusili. Jedna vec ale bola jasna: nas buduci plan sa bude tocit okolo karavanu! Pocas prveho tyzdna sme teda museli vymysliet vsetko a hlavne to, kam pojdeme a odkial ten karavan zozenieme. Tento prispevok bude teda trosku viac prakticky kedze sme sa rozhodli nase pripravy popisat dopodrobna a snad tak pomoct inym cestovatelom.
Zacnime s jasnym faktom: Australia je velka krajina. Uprimne, predtym, nez sme prisli, sme si tento fakt uplne neuvedomovali a nepomahalo nam ani to, ze sme nemali ziadny plan. Kam pojdeme po Syndey? Na zapad cez Adelaide do Perthu? Alebo radsej na sever cez Severne Teritorium do Darwinu? Alebo po vychodnom pobrezi do Cairnsu? Vdaka velkosti krajiny je tazke si vybrat. Navyse v roznych smeroch nas caka rozne podnebie. Sever je tropicky, stred sama pust a smerom na juh prichadza s jesenou viac dazda.
Poculi sme same dobre veci o tzv. Great Ocean Road nazapad od Sydney, cesta do Perth by bola zaujimava, kedze je menej ‘turisticka’ a vyprava na sever cez drsnu pust by bola tiez dobrodruzstvo. Nakoniec sme si ale vybrali popularnych 3000km po vychodnom pobrezi rozprestierajucim sa medzi Sydney a Cairnsom. Tesili sme sa na tropy severu, ocean a plaze, nadherne narodne parky a hlavne, teraz, ked Lucia uz ma PADI, sancu potapat sa k Velkemu Barierovemu Utesu. S jasnym cielom cesty sme sa teraz mohli naplno venovat honbe za nasim mobilnym domovom na dalsie 3 tyzdne.
Uz sme vedeli, ze mame tri moznosti: 1) auto kupit a potom predat, 2) relokovat, 3) pozicat / prenajat si. Tu su nase uvahy, ktore nas viedli k rozhodnutiu:
1) Kupa: hlavnou vyhodou je cena v pripade, ze sa podari auto predat za cenu nie moc nizsiu mez pri kupe. Avsak, ako si viete predstavit, kupit a predat auto si vyzaduje cas (registracia, poistenie, technicka kontrola atd) a tak nase 3 tyzdne cesty nevyzeralo ako dostatocne dlha doba na to, aby sa nam to oplatilo. No bola to moznost, a tak sme ju preskumali. Isli sme teda na navstevu do podzemneho parkoviska blizko King’s Cross v Syndey, v ktorom, ako sme sa dozvedeli, cestovatelia predavaju svoje ojazdene obytne vozy. Presvedceni o tom, ze tu nechceme sediet a predavat nase auto o 3 tyzdne, sme sa tohoto napadu vzdali.
2) Relokacia, alebo ‘premiestnenie’ su velmi vyhodnym sposobom pre mladych cestovatelov, ako sa v Australii pohybovat. Ludia si casto poziciavaju karavany alebo auta z bodu A do bodu B s tym, ze ich vratia v pobocke v bode B. Pozicovne tak niekedy maju auta tam, kde ich mat nechcu a potrebuju ich premiestnit inam. A vtedy pride narad batozkar, ktory pocita peniaze a snazi sa usetrit, kde sa da. Taketo ‘relokacie’ stoja vacsinou 1 dolar za den, niekedy je preplateny aj benzin a dokonca sa stava, ze firma plati cestovatelovi. Pre firmu sa toto oplati ovela viac, nez najmutie profesionalneho vodica. Velkou nevyhodou takychto presunov vsak je limitovana doba, za ktoru je treba vozidlo premiestnit. Tak napriklad na cestu, ktoru sme sa my rozhodli urobit – z mesta Cairns do Sydney – dostanete 400-500km na den a zhruba 6-7 dni. Samozrejme, to sa da, no my sme sa dohodli, ze by sme radi videli co najviac a mali slobodu zastavit kde a na ako dlho chceme.
3) Prenajom: posledna moznost sa stala, akozto najvyhodnejsia, nasou volbou. Otazka uz bola len, aky karavan budeme potrebovat? Na vyber je niekolko druhov, od velkych skoro autobusov s kompletnym zariadenim az po jednoduchsie dodavky prerobene na obytne vozidla. V ponuke su aj obycajne kombiky, ktore namiesto zadnych sedadiel maju matrac az do kufra. Pocas rozhodovania sme sa dozvedeli, ze bude lacnejsie prenajat si auto v Cairns a vratit ho v Sydney, kedze tento smer je menej casty a tak vela aut je treba priviezt do Sydney. Potom, co sme si potvrdili, ze to bude vyhodne i vratane letov, zuzili sme nas vyber na dve moznosti prerobenych dodavok: tzv. low-top, klasicky typ od spolocnosti ‘Hippie campers’ a nas oblubeny tzv. high-top, dodavka so zvysenou strechou, trochu luxusnejsia altrnativa od spolocnosti ‘Travelwheels’. Cena vyhrala a sme poslali email do Travelwheels, ze ich ponuka je drahsia a teda, je nam luto. A tu sa zacalo stastie sypat:
– Travelwheels najprv ponuklo dorovnanie ceny na sice podobny model ako Hippie, ale s plnym poistnym krytim. Boli sme radi. Navyse recenzie na ich auta a servis boli o nieco lepsie.
– Na druhy den sme isli do kancelarie firmy podpisat zmluvu, ked nam bolo povedane, ze low-top na dany termin uz nie je k dispozicii. Vadil by nam zdarma upgrade na vyssi high-top model? Nevadil, prosim, dakujeme. Jedine, co si mame dat pozor je indikator benzinu a radsej sa nan nespoliehat a tankovat kazdych 500km.
– Po prilete do Cairns nas taxik vyhodil v miestnej kancelarii Travelwheels, kde nas nechali cakat hodinku, kym sa pokusaju indikator opravit. Bohuzial, nepodarilo sa. Vadil by nam zdarma uprgade na novsi model high-topu s lepsou postelou, kuchynou a GPS? Nevadil, v pohode.
Boli sme velmi radi, ale v tomto momente sme este netusili, ako velmi ocenime nas high-top karavan pocas celej 23-dnovej cesty. Cestou sme videli a stretli ludi s low-top, klasickou dodavkou a boli sme radi, ze sme nemuseli bojovat s nedostatkom miesta, nemoznostou sediet vovnutri, varenim len vonku atd. Na obrazkoch v anglickom texte si pozrite, ako nas karavan vyzeral.
Na posedenie vonku sme mali skladacie stolicky (s chladiacim vrecuskom na pivko) a skladaci stolik. Kuchynka bola vybavena dvojitym plynovym sporakom, tecucou vodou (zo 40l tanku), slusnou chladnickou a svetlami. Tieto boli pohanane druhou bateriou, ktora sa nabijala pocas jazdy alebo sa priamo napojila na elektrinu v kempe. To znamenalo, ze po celu dobu sme si mohli sami varit. Dve dlhe lavice sa na noc premenili na manzelsku postel.
Ako vidite na mape (klikni sem na detalnejsi pohlad), vacsina nasej cesty smerovala po pobrezi, len s poslednym tyzdnom vo vnutrozemi. Spavali sme rozne, v perfektne vybavenych kempoch, v narodnych parkoch, na trave za hostelom alebo na odpocivadlach pri ceste. Pravdupovediac sme boli trosku sklamani, ze sme nenasli vela miest, kde sa da kempovat zdarma, tak ako sme mozno ocakavali. Velkou pomocou nam ale bola aplikacia WikiCamps. Uzivatelia sem vkladaju kempy a pisu recenzie. Pocas cesty sme sa na tuto aplikaciu spoliehali takmer neustale a doporucujeme ju aj ostatnym pri kempovani Australiou.
V dalsich prispevkoch pojdeme v nasich zazitkoch z kempovania do detailov v niekolkych kategoriach.