Our Australian friends Kerry and Lyn said that it took them quite a while to get used to living a “normal life” again after such a long period on the road. We also have found the return strange and occasionally difficult.
Over the past 14 weeks we have lived, slept, eaten and travelled in a vehicle whose external dimensions are only 5.3 metres long and just under 2 metres wide (roughly 2 1/2 times the size of a double bed). We have:
- driven 18,522 kms (11,576 miles)
- used 2144 litres of diesel at a cost of $2942 ($1.37 a litre)
- seen the exchange rate sink from $2.06 to around $1.91 to the £ (a decline of 6%)
- stayed at 50 campsites and 5 hotels
- drunk at least 72 cans of beer
- travelled through 11 times zones including a new one that we (and a number of the Australians we have met) had not heard of before – Central West Australian time (GMT plus 8 hrs 45 mins)
- sent 55 postcards (or at least Pat has)
If you superimpose a map of Australia upon Europe, we:
- started just over the the border of northern Russia;
- drove to the west coast of Ireland (via Latvia, Estonia, Sweden and Norway, across the North Sea, along Hadrian's Wall, across the Irish Sea and into Northern Ireland, then down to Shannon);
- ignoring the difficulties of driving on water, we proceeded south through the Bay of Biscay to San Sebastian in Spain; then
- went across France into Switzerland; and
- through Austria into Croatia;
- then we went north, through Czech, and Germany;
- across the Baltic Sea; to
- finish our trip in Sweden at Helsinki.
How much did it cost? We decided before we went that because this was to be one of our “holidays of a lifetime” and we were unlikely to go back to most of the places again, we would not let cost decide if we did something (to hell with the inheritance!) so we spent quite a lot which (excluding van hire) averaged out at a bit under $200 (£100) a day.
Would we do it again? Yes, we have already booked a van for an expedition to New Zealand next year, this time the trip may also include Tasmania and some of the Pacific Islands.
What would we do differently if we did the same thing again? Possibly hire a bigger van and swap to a 4WD on those occasions when 4WD was essential. We might also delay doing the south until summer in the south thus avoiding the rain and cold down there. Reluctantly, we would also book ahead in the more popular areas and therefore sacrifice some of the flexibility that a van gave us.
What was the worse bit of the holiday? Being bitten by mosquitoes and sand flies and going outside at night to the toilet.
What was the best bit of the holiday? Swimming with Manta Rays; Cathedral Gorge in the Bungles, the sunset at 80 mile beach, the giant ocean waves, the …….
What would we not take with us next time? Keeping our clothes clean was easier than we had imagined so we would pack fewer clothes and not take the iron!!
What extra would we take with us? A better mp3 player and some small loudspeakers plus a few clothes hangers (I am told)
What was the most useful items you took? A retractable key chain which fits on my belt to which the van keys were always attached, even when driving, the laptop for email etc and the Compendium holder for numerous essential small things.
What are you looking forward to most when you get back? The Sunday papers, a vegetarian chilli and not having to go outside to the toilet in the middle of the night.
What are you least looking forward to when you get back? The traffic on the roads, problems parking, traffic congestion, large crowds and noise.
What did you miss most when you got back? The noise and natural sounds of the world outside the van. For 3 months, when it rained, it did so just above our heads and we heard it. The birds were outside of our van and woke us up at any hour of the night, when the wind blew in a gentle breeze, the van shook enormously. You get none of that in a house.
Australia is a wonderful, vast and varied country. The hardships endured by the early pioneers, explorers and settlers are difficult to comprehend even when you have seen for yourself, what they had to cope with. Areas of Australia are still very young and that places such as the Bungles were still unknown about 60 years ago is astonishing.
The Aboriginal issue is one which troubles most of the Australians we met and none of them had a solution for the problem or professed to understand it. We heard Australia described (by an aboriginal) as a land of two worlds, that is quite accurate and the problem is that the worlds are so dissimilar that co-existence is very difficult.
We have met many really nice people, some of whom will remain life long friends. We are looking forward to returning in the near future.
This blog has had over 12,000 hits since it started – we do not understand why and have no idea how but we hope you have enjoyed reading it. No more now (perhaps) until we go to America for a short trip at the end of November.
Paul and Pat Harvey