What I have learned so far
Yes it finally happened, my big lap around Australia has started! Ultimate freedom! Just the car, kayak, mountainbike, crate of whisky, kilo of coffee and myself. There is something about not having a planning, not thinking about which day it is and getting lost on the road without worries because there is nowhere you have to be. Also I felt glad it was finally happening. The last 4 years I have been living on the cheap so I could save as much money as I could. With the first car being a failure, I really thought the trip wouldn’t happen. But I put through, saved more money and saved enough that I can get started and will earn some money on the road. Time flies and it has now been a month already since I have started. In this Big Lap Progress post, I will shortly reflect on what I have learned so far.
Packing too much stuff
As most people do, I also encountered the packing too much situation. When you are planning a trip of 12 months, it is difficult to know what you need. You need cloths for all climates, cooking gear for gas and campfire. I have gear for my mountainbike, fishing and kayak. Over time I will see what I really use and get rid of what I don’t. I already reduced a bit by use of this approach but still not enough.
As most people do, I also encountered the packing too much situation.
Flexibility in camp setup
I stay on average 2-3 days at a place to minimize packing time but still have enough opportunity to explore the surroundings. I have an awning tent which I use when I know I will not be using the car and a hikers tent for when I want to use the car. Soon, I hope to have the stuff in the car sufficiently reduced to be able to sleep occasionally in the car, what will be handy for rest stops or when it rains heavenly. I already encountered instances where everything was wet and had to pack everything wet up, what is not great for the durability of the materials. To minimize packing and setup time, I try to keep things simple, like a plastic crate for food, cooking materials and bag for frequently used cloths.
Planning of the trip
Playing it by ear works well, though I encounter sometime the dilemma that there is too much to see. For example, the north of NSW contains so many beautiful national parks and mountains, too many to all explore. This is kind of expected as 1 year to do this trip is already short. My decision on where to go is based on talking with locals, weather and doing a bit of research. It also depends on if I feel for bushwalking, 4wd, mountainbiking or kayaking. One thing I have noticed is that some of the most beautiful places are free to stay. I have not stayed at many of these places because they were mostly full due to the holiday season, but the availability is great. Trying to take a more scenic route to the next campground by 4wd, I also encountered locked gates on my travels what changes my plans as well.
Food and water
Not every campsite has water so it is good to make sure you carry more water then you expect you need. I carry on average 30 liter water which lasts me 9-10 days (without showering). Similarly for food, you will pass towns where you are unable to buy food and to not restrict myself too much, I always carry some extra (canned/dry) food in case I am in that situation. This is also good for in the case you are unable to run the fridge any longer and no ice is available.
Connecting with people
Rarely am I completely by myself on a campsite and it is wonderful how you connect with people who love camping as well. You meet locals and internationals and hear the most amazing stories. Also because I am travelling by myself, you quicker have a chat with people. Not being born in Australia, it is also great to hear about historic towns, mining and thoughts on the future of Australia. For example, the last 4 years have been a very dry period in NSW with as consequence that farmers are leaving the area, pubs close down (like in Nymboida) etc. It is good, however, that some towns are able to increase tourism as a mean of improving the job market.
What is next?
Soon, I will post some posts on getting the car mechanically and electronically ready, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, share your favorite spots on the google map. See you on the road less travelled!