For sixteen days in June, we roadtripped in a Wicked van across the east coast of Australia from Sydney to Brisbane. Hannah and I teamed up with her old roommate from university in Leeds, Tom, for two and half weeks full of debauchery, dick jokes, beans on toast, if anything TOO many perfect beaches, fighting over who had to sit in the middle seat, perfect weather half the time and torrential rains and epic storms the other half, crazy Darwinian animal life, showering in public places, and couchsurfing and interviewing some of the most unforgettable, inspiring folks.
You’ve already read about a lot of the people we met along the way, including a night of wine and parrots with Mamabake, tasting sweet and spicy homemade chilli sauces with John at the Byron Bay Chilli Company, admiring the beauty of collected oddities with Maria at Real Creative Design, chatting entrepreneurship and giving design students a platform in the real world with Frankie Ratford and The Design Kids, dreamy surfer seascapes with Christie Rigby, eating our hare krishna hearts out at Heart & Halo , ogling all the local goodies at the Byron Bay Farmers Market and meeting and being interviewed ourselves by food writer Victoria Cosford.
So there’s the meat of the matter. But what tied all these incredible stories together was the fact that we had our own set of wheels for the first time on the entire trip. And the van was unforgettable for numerous reasons..
Let’s start at the beginning.
We visited Tom who was living in Sydney and tore up the city for a week while planning out our next moves. We knew we wanted to see the coast, and we also knew we wanted to do it as cheaply as possible since none of us were rolling in the dough.
We decided to go with Wicked Campers because they were young and vulgar like us, and because they gave The Eat Team a sweet discount (thanks John!). Wicked has a special where if you show up to pick up your van naked, they give you an extra day for free. Try as we might, Hannah and I couldn’t convince Tom to join us in clothes-free savings, much to the dismay of the Wicked employee who helped us with our paperwork that day. Marcus told us that not enough people came in naked. We comiserated. Then we hopped in the van and headed straight to the Blue Mountains.
We don’t know if Wicked chose our specific van because of The Eat Team’s foodie project, but it really couldn’t have suited us any better. One side read “FORK YEH!” with a graffiti mural of a fork and spoon. We soon discovered the fork and spoon were actually depicted copulating, which although may have embarrassed us at times when passing by schoolchildren, primarily added to our enjoyment of it because we love dirty jokes almost as much as we love food. So, a perfect fit.
Australia is MASSIVE and so a lot of our trip was driving through empty stretches of nature, not passing a single car. And the route we took was only a tiny portion of one coast. It continually blows my mind how massive the country is.
So that was our trip. It was wild, beautiful, sleep-deprived, smelly, intense, and unforgettable. Should you do it? Most certainly without a doubt motherfuckin’ YES.
It would be hard (read “boring”) to try and recap every day’s details for you, so I’ll give you a short and sweet list of my favorite memories from Roadtrip Australia:
1. Seeing Koala and Kangaroo signs along the roads
2. Stopping at 7-Eleven every day for $1 coffees. Getting angry when we were in the boonies without any 7-Eleven’s about to sustain our addiction.
3. Spotting crazy Darwinian wildlife all over the place–giant sea birds, small fat sea stars, flying foxes hanging from the trees in obscene numbers, and yes, wild Kangaroos!
4. Learning about why so many koalas have chlamydia at the Koala Hospital. Oh and seeing insanely cute koalas up close and personal.
5. Watching our tour guide at said Koala Hospital, who I swear was actually Betty White
6. Not getting bitten by sandflies and mosquitos since we were there during winter (was fucking cold though, you probably wouldn’t imagine!)
7. Getting my nickname “Fat Mel” because I was always a mile behind Tom and Hannah on hikes. “It’s like having a fat friend!”
8. Too many perfect beaches to count. It was literally boring selecting photos for this section because I just took 400 pictures of the same landscapes, trying and failing miserably at getting across the real beauty of Australia. It’s pretty much exactly like California’s coast, only on steroids times 100 and for much longer stretches at a time.
9. Couchsurfing: with our friends of friends Shorty, Sam and Paleo Pete, the cameraderie of good people and tasty cooking. With Ella in Bellingen, roasting marshmallows with her granddaughter and warming up with soup by the fire; with Hamish, making homemade sushi; wining and dining with Chris and his kitty in Port Macquarie;
10. Dipping our toes in Never Never Land (no seriously that’s what its called), the most pristine hidden lake I’ve ever seen, chatting about how traveling has evolved with Ella, how couchsurfing shapes our experiences and how hitchhiking shaped hers when she was our age.
11. Dragging Tom to artsy things and interviews, and just annoying him in general all day every day.
12. Van cooking. There’s going to be a whole segment with our van recipes in the book. I’m excited. You should be too. Basically we ate a lot of beans and eggs and toast. Be prepared for resourcefulness.
13. Coming back to civilization after 16 days on the road.. surreal and disorientating to say the least.
Lessons learned: A group that travels together is like family–you’ve gotta stop thinking “me” and start thinking about the big picture of “us”. What’s good for the whole? I also learned that a hot shower, a warm meal, and a friendly conversation go a long, long way when you’ve gone a couple days without. I do solemnly swear to pay it forward to couchsurfers!
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