From Perth to Sydney in four months|
On a sunny day, we, Jaleh and Andy, were lying in the deep grass of the Jahnwiese in Cologne and dreamt of being free for a year, far away, at the end of the world - without appointments and responsibilities, without mobile reception and Outlook, without television, reality shows and advertising - simply away and free. With two children going through expensive education and employers that ensure you of your indispensability even when asking for a short break, such an anti-burn-out-life-balance-sabbatical seemed like a mere illusion. But then it dawned on us: if we scale down our plans and take a four months holiday, we could arrange it with our employers and wouldn't break the bank - yet it would still be de longest break we've had since our student days.
For our destination, we settled pretty quickly on Western Australia. Wide open spaces, untouched nature, spectacular kite surf locations with steady winds, deserted beaches - simply nature at its very best; and like made for outdoor enthusiasts such as us. And we wanted to be completely independent - staying wherever it would please us. We didn't even waste time thinking about hotels or motels, because where we wanted to go, there wouldn't be any - and at the popular tourist destinations, the prices would be prohibitively high (with accommodation starting from a whopping A$120 for a double room).
So how would we go about solving the transportation and accommodation questions? Most travel journals and recommendations suggested that a 4WD vehicle is required. Hiring a camper van seemed too expensive and on a more subjective level, we deemed it to be pretty uncool. Being on the road for 120 days, it is more cost-efficient to purchase a vehicle anyway and then sell it at the end of the journey. We decided on a SUV, in particular a Honda CRV, which was a bit of a compromise, because Western Australia really calls for a Toyota Landcruiser. Nevertheless, the Honda was more than capable with its raised ground clearance and the automatically engaging four wheel drive. It turned out to be a good choice on the neverending tracks.
The next point was: where would we sleep? Inside the car was not an option, it was piled up to the roof line with gear that we would need in the Outback. Besides, we prefer to sleep 'outside'. Friends suggested we should look into car roof tents. Admittedly, we were a bit sceptical in the beginning whether or not it would be the right choice for us; after all, we had no experience with anything like it. To cut a long story short, it was the best decision we could have made. While still on German soil, we decided to get a Gordigear roof tent, which are sold not only in Australia but also in Germany (check out their YouTube videos to wet your appetite). A deciding factor was the excellent support and guidance from the company's owner in Australia. Once again thanks for all the help! We arranged for the 50kg weighing tent to be shipped to friends in Perth, just to make sure it was there when we would finally arrive.
The first week after our arrival was spent looking for a suitable car (there are basically two reasonable options: the websites www.gumtree.com.au and www.carsales.com.au) and other equipment (gas cooker, jerry cans, tools, chairs and so forth). The installation of our tent onto the vehicle was done in no time at all. We had also ordered a Gordigear awning which was attached to the side of the car. This awning allowed for a mosquito mesh room to be attached underneath, which created a 2.50 x 2.10 x 2.10m (w x h x l) room. Fully concealed, easy to use, simply ingenious - and most importantly protected from annoying guests such as midgees and sandflies.
The roof tent is ready to go in under ten minutes and packing it up again takes even less time. The 140cm wide and very comfortable foam mattress appears to be a lot wider than the actual 140cm, because you can't roll off the side - courtesy of the tent walls. We enjoyed sleeping in it from the first night right up to our very last one and were always well rested. Another big advantage of the roof tent: due to its elevation, it is safe from wet or stony ground, little critters as well as sand and dust, which are often moved across the plains at knee-height by heavy winds. Not to mention the view one gets from within a roof tent - just amazing!
Another feat is that the sleeping gear can remain within the tent, thus freeing up space inside the car. Using a roof tent gave us the freedom to camp at the most beautiful and remote locations, surrounded by incredible wilderness and underneath breathtakingly spectacular starry skies. Only in metropolitan areas such as Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney would we swap our roof top camper for a bed at friends' places - just to look forward to our next nights in the tent again. At the end of the journey we had grown so attached to our hotel-on-wheels that it was hard to part with it - we jokingly toyed with the idea to set it up in our bedroom back in Cologne.
The Gordigear roof tent travelled with us from early January to the end of April 2012 over a distance of 22,000km: from Perth all the way up the west coast to Karijini Nationalpark, back to Perth and the most outer reaches of south-western Australia, followed by a trip into the red centre via the Nullarbor Plains, then Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, Melbourne, Tasmania and finally Sydney. A highly recommended travel companion is the Camp 6 Campingatlas, which lists unspoilt camp sites, mainly in national parks, for free or next to no money. For those that value independence from big caravan parks, camp site facilities and crowded places, Camp 6 is definitely a good choice. It contains many fantastic spots in all states, where no camping restrictions are in place.
After four terrific months of adventure and touring downunder, we settled back into our daily routines and often think back to our sabbatical. Of course we are already planning our next trip. Australia's north allures us, unfortunately it wasn't accessible this time, because of the season we travelled in. But one thing is for certain: we will be back!
Artwork and/or text courtesy of Jaleh Nayyeri & Andy Ziesmann.