“The grass is always greener on the other side.”
Of all the nature that I’ve seen, still only Australia and Corsica got me go like “WoW” out loud.
A Relocation Deal From Brisbane To Melbourne
By pure coincidence, we found a chance to do a relocation deal from Brisbane to Melbourne with a time frame of 3 nights. A relocation deal is an offer by car rental companies for you to drive their car back to its license plate issuing state for free. If the car is registered in Victoria (the State where Melbourne is), and the person returns it in Queensland (where Brisbane is), the car rental company can’t rent it out in Queensland due to licensing issues. That’s when they need someone to drive the car back to Victoria for free, a so-called relocation deal. Fuel is not included and you are usually given a tight time frame.
For us, we got a lucky last-minute deal with Hertz and flew off to Brisbane the next day to pick up our campervan for the next 4 days. Between the desert road to see Uluru and the coastal side to hit a few national parks, I chose the later. Oceans have this magical call to me that I can never resist, not even to a famous rock in the desert.
Driving through Brisbane – the 24C winter
Middle of August was winter in Australia, but I guess winter never really existed in Brisbane. 24C with the sun, taking off the jacket was nearly not enough to cool me off.
“Buz” was the first peculiar thing I noticed about the city. What was that? Bus. I never found out if it’s a joke or what, but I saw a “buz” driving past with the sign “buz 264”. I may be wrong about the number as “buz” was the only thing that stayed in my mind.
The second thing was the tap water quality in Brisbane is noticeable more unsavoury than Melbourne. Not sure if it tasted like metal or just murky, it was not an appealing taste. Having lived in Scandinavia for two years, I have to admit I was spoiled with the water quality there, which is by far unmatched. Melbourne was okay but Brisbane just kicked it out of the court. One sip was more than enough for me.
Cruising along the coast
Got out of the city as fast as we could. None of us enjoyed the urban landscape too much. Quickly headed to Gold Coast on the way to the legendary Byron Bay. A hippie surfer paradise Byron Bay is. Graffiti on mail boxes, hipster local cafes, not a shred of worry in here. Dancing under the sun and surfing with strangers is what this place is about.
Continuing our journey, we made it to Coffs Harbour, a coastal town in New South Wales, for the night.
Caravan parks in Australia
An important note to all caravan/campervan adventurers. It is illegal to park your campervan in public placse in Australia overnight, meaning you cannot simply drive up to the mountain for a good spot and camp for the night.
Every caravan park closed at 8pm. We couldn’t locate anywhere in the city to let us check in at 10pm. Driving up towards the mountains, we were lucky to find a place that closes at 11pm and we were able to do our check-in.
Most caravan parks in Australia run like this, a huge parking lot for caravans and campervans with electricity generators, a section divided for backpackers to camp under the stars, shared bathrooms and communal areas such as kitchens. We paid $66 for the night.
The heavenly coastal town – Forster
The next morning we hurried to city for a quick breakfast before hitting the road again. Coffs Harbour was charming. A peaceful town with clear coast. Debating whether to stay longer or not here, eventually we decided it’s best to get closer to the base. It was the right decision as I was about to discover my favourite place in Australia – Forster.
Forster is a coastal town 306km north of Sydney, famous for its stunning waters and Manning Valley beauty. It’s no exaggeration. Different shades of blue were clearly defined at the sea. Pelicans half of my size were everywhere along the beach. I had never seen pelicans that big before. Quite a shocking scene at first.
Families were out with kids to enjoy the sun, the winter breeze can be quite daunting down here, although it didn’t seem to diminish anyone’s interest in being around clear waters. Our time with the best town of the trip had to end due to the tight time frame.
Spending the night just outside of Sydney was no easy task either. Driving through Sydney was an adrenaline kick. Taxis driving on bus lanes, people honking for no apparent reasons, hideous traffic jam. Having the experience to drive in the friendly Melbourne streets set my expectations high for Sydney. Didn’t even stay to explore, we just wanted to leave as soon as we came.
The empty capital
Going along the coast has been enjoyable. However, road maintenance was going on in some parts of Princess Highway, as they always were in Australia. Sticking to the coast may delay our trip. So we decided to go through Canberra to get back.
The roads to Canberra were amusing. Australian mountains are sneaky like that. You think you are driving on a flatland since there’s no visible tall mountains in sight. An hour later you’re suddenly 1,000 metres above sea level. Imagine how big this land is for you to not notice you’re driving up a mountain. I was truly amazed hitting every stop to look at this gift from nature. Australia is blessed with nature that can’t be found anywhere in the world. With a population of 24 millions, nature is still guarded with utmost respect (the one with Uluru is another story).
Despite the breath-taking journey, Canberra itself was one of the most bizarre capitals I have ever visited. It was a Sunday and everything was closed although it’s the middle of the day. Empty streets with rarely any pedestrians. Was that really the capital? Apparently a history lesson to take from is that when they united different states of Australia to one, they couldn’t decide whether to make Melbourne or Sydney the capital so they compromised to a pick a spot in between, and that’s Canberra, probably the least significant capital-picking in history.
Lots of workers only come to Canberra for work during weekdays and drive home during weekends. Hence, most of Canberra was empty when we visited. Not so impressed by the city, we drove across the countryside to take in all the beauty nature had to offer.
The incredible nature
Seeing the Australian nature was one of the best in the world, I couldn’t help but to think how our cities would be if humans hadn’t urbanised it. I remember saying I hope Australia will manage to keep its beauty like this even with the years to come with population boom and the influx of tourists.
Staying the last night in a caravan park close to the national park and just staring at the stars all night. Tens of thousands of stars shining above us, mesmerising us with the power of nature. Just how small we were under the milky way. Being close to nature and thinking how insignificant our problems were. It was one of the best sleep ever. Nature is the best medicine for the soul.
Appreciating what Australia has to offer
All good trips come to an end. Unfortunately we got into an argument with Hertz when returned the car as when we picked up the car, the oil tank indicator was not functioning properly so it’s showing that the oil tank isn’t full despite it being full. When we returned it they made it a problem saying our oil tank isn’t full although there’s really no way for the indicator to go up any further than it was. They wanted us to pay more. No use in arguing with a multinational company as they will always make it your fault. We had to pay the extra although they couldn’t prove that the indicator could even go up any further.
Australia has been crowned the heart of nature, an island of treasures. Maybe I fancied it more because of the exotic foreign country vibe. Somehow we all appreciate beauty from foreign countries more than we do in our homeland. The grass is always greener on the other side. In this case, the grass was indeed greener on the side. Australia gave me the best experience with nature. The relocation deal was a unique experience. I was a broke university student back then, the perfect way for me to travel at a low cost. There’s always a way to travel cheap. You just have to look for it.