Some road trip fairy tales. And nightmares.
31.01.2013 40 °C
So Jess and me bought this 26 years old turquoise Toyota van called Clive as the cheapest option to travel around Australia. With that we finally fulfilled EVERY backpacker cliché you could ever think of (just happenend) and despites everyone's doubts, we were so happy and content that Clive was our mate for the big tour. Were. Was.
A lot happened:
It started harmless with me being sick of work and staying in the same place for months and so Jess (who still wanted to work another week) and me split up for the first time in 4 months(!). My plan was to drive 1500km up north to Exmouth to dive the world famous Ningaloo Reef. I put an ad on Gumtree.com for a rideshare and found two other nice girls that came along with me. It was a long ride along the western Australian coast through remote and lonely areas but with heaps of nice things to discover on the way. So i started the trip with this two girls i never met and without Jess(which was very hard, i missed her so much!!!). Our first stop was Cervantes, then Geraldton. We camped "illegally" on public parking spots and used the public toilets and showers provided on the beach. Sometimes there were even BBQ areas that we could use. Actually it is forbidden to camp in public places, because the government wants you to go to an official camping site and spend your money on the tourism sector. But we were too penny-pinching to pay 10$ a night each. Especially when we got the same facilities everywhere for free. And good old Clive. When we got busted by a ranger one day who told us that we were not supposed to camp here and it would cost us a 500$ fee normally, we just pretended to be dumb and explained in broken English that we cant understand why we were not supposed to camp at this old airport. After a while, he let us go and suggested to hide behind a bush. We did so. This I-dont-speak-English-please-dont-hit-me-expression just always works!
Then we arrived in Monkey Mia (800km away from perth) which was an exceptional experience. There were bottlenose dolphins everywhere and they came so close to the beach we could touch them. And we didn't even have to pay anything for that experience, because it was the dolphin's natural habitat (and they wanted to get some breakfast from the rangers).
We continued our way up north, because we still had a long way to cover (another 800km to Exmouth). Western Australia is the complete opposite of how i picture the Eastcoast. Cities dont really exist (except of Perth and Geraldton) and sometimes it took us hours of driving to find some signs of civilization (even petrol stations). There was ABSOLUTELY nothing for hundreds of ks except bush and outback and some dead kangaroohs along the road. It was exhausting to drive the Van, because Clive of course doesnt have any airconditioning. It got SOO hot! (Felt air temperature at least 50 °C) We drove with all the windows open, which wasn't much of a help apparently, because the wind was dry and hot and it just felt like a hairdryer on highest level, pointed at your face. Not to mention all the flies and the bad smell that streamed into the car whenever we passed a dead animal (roughly every 500m). We persuaded ourselves that THIS actually was the "real" Australian experience. That we at least experience the outback with our own senses. (Haha)
I mean, whats the sense of driving your super luxurious campervan with airconditioning across the outback?
...Avoiding nervous breakdowns and heat exhaustion, maybe. At the end of the day we couldnt convince ourselves and had to admit that we envied all those "comfort backpackers" who overtook us on the road. They relaxed and smiled and we were drenched in sweat and exhausted, busy with getting those flies out of our ears...An experience indeed.
Clive was doing well and i took good care of him. I felt so professional, checking the tire pressure everyday, always filling up the oil level when it got low and filling up the radiator with water in the morning to prevent overheating. I gave him so much love. Also we met heaps of mechanics on our way who all checked on him, surprised of his good condition hence his age.
Speaking about nice people we met: it was incredible how nice and friendly and helpful some people are. For example these mine workers we met in Kalbarri who felt sorry for our poor breakfast (instant milk, oats and disgusting salt water coffee) and who then went shopping with us and paid for everything! Cheese, salami, espresso, fresh baked bread...it felt like heaven! And they didn't even...wanted anything in return.
Or this fishermen in Exmouth who felt sorry for our dinner (spaghetti in not-really-boiling water) and who then invited us to eat his fish and chips and sleep in his spare room (Air Condition! Shower! Power!). We must have looked so pitiable to all of them.
Okay reading through these lines it all sounds creepy and weird, like the beginning of a horror movie but it was alright. We're not naive after all. Just hungry.
In Exmouth we spent literally all the time in the water. It was beautiful, the beaches, wild camping and wild animals everywhere. We went snorkeling for hours and i went diving twice at the Navy Peer in Ningaloo reef and i have to say it's been the best dives i ever had (and the most expensive ones as well.) We saw sharks, sea turtles, sting rays and an amazingly intact reef. I'm excited to dive the Great Barrier Reef but all the instructors there told me that they reckon ill be disappointed, because its been so commercialized over there and too many people on one boat and just not the same atmosphere at Ningaloo Reef. Well. I'll see.
After a short stopover in coral bay and another few hours spent in the water snorkeling, we started our long way back.
As i mentioned before, clive was so patient and brave all the way. But between Geraldton and Perth (just 400ks left!!) the nightmare started. We couldn't exhilarate anymore and therefore couldn't go faster than 40 on the highway. We all didnt know what was wrong so we decided to pull over and then nothing worked and the car simply broke down. In the middle of nowhere. In the afternoon heat and no people in sight! It was terrible. The car stank and since it happened so abruptly we were a bit overwhelmed with the whole situation and didnt know what to do next except of laughing ( a bit hysterically, admittedly.) I was just about to damn our Karma when two cars pulled over, one was a mechanic and the other two rangers. They towed us away from the highway 50km to the next service station. The mechanic explained us that the clutch was fucked and the breaks and just everything since it was such an old car and we were very lucky that this happened here were there are still people passing daily and not up north between Exmouth and Carnavon, where we probably would have waited for days...He explained politely that to get all that stuff fixed would roughly cost us around 1500$.
Well and then this other bushman who pulled over earlier felt so sorry for us, because we were stuck in the middle of nothing without wheels and not enough money to get that car fixed and he gave us his car for free. He said he bought a new one anyways and wouldnt need his car called Bobby. We got the paperwork done and now we own a new old car called Bobby. Its old and shit as well but least we have something. Clive is dead. For ever. That's so sad but on the other hand: it could have turned out differently. I mean, it's not normal to get a new car for free straight away when yours is breaking down in the outback. I apologized to Karma for my nasty insults earlier. It all went out well, I'm back in Perth now, back with Jess finally and on sunday we are going to leave for Melbourne. We're not sure yet if we're going to take the car across Australia now, because i definitely don't want to be stuck in the middle of the nullarbor plain, with no friendly bushman offering us another car. We stopped making plans, because it always turns out to be different anyway. We want to end up at the Eastcoast, somehow, at some stage. But after watching Wolf Creek yesterday, we may rethink the option of hitchhiking (for you mum).
We're going to keep you updated! At least we're experiencing some new adventures again, we missed that so much. Although it didnt have to come down at us all at once. But you cant choose, can you
R.I.P Clive old mate.