It has taken a long time to get around to this latest instalment of the Australian odyssey. I could blame a lot of things. But where would that get me? It would just reinforce the tired, lazy stereotype of the "whingeing pom".
So, here I am, in Max Brenner, the self proclaimed bald expert on chocolate, as I sip an Italian hot chocolate, which is so luxurious, I am half inclined to further procrastinate.
But let's cut to the chase. Bucket list. What springs to mind when I say bucket list? A film starring Jack Nicholas? (not his best btw). A rather morbid checklist of all the things you want to do as you count down your final days? Or just a list of items that are more a wish list than something you are actively working towards completing? An "aspirational list"?
For me, it's possibly an amalgam of all these. But without doubt, the overriding factor is a list of things that I am determined I will do. In my lifetime. Whilst I am still young. Yes, I know this is patently up for debate, but it is my bucket list. My rules. Ergo, I AM still young. For now. And my bucket list is something I am actively tackling with much gusto. Hopefully well before the bell goes on my time here and I shuffle off this mortal coil.
And for this reason, all the items I have on said list are eminently doable. As is being proven by my working through the list. The most recent achievement being the camper van trip.
What started as a germ of an idea over 20 years ago, on a walk through the salubrious surroundings of Halifax town centre, finally came to fruition, almost a lifetime later, at the other side of the world. Where I now currently call home. Australia.
I suppose there are many places where you could have the quintessential road trip. Across Route 66, following in Kerouac"s footsteps from Chicago to California. There is also the Pacific Coast drive, on the west coast of the US. Taking in the Big Sur, beloved of Steinbeck, up past Portland, Oregon, onto Washington state.
But for me, in my adopted home country, the east coast was the place to embark on my first camper van trip. The romantic, idealist that resides in me would have wanted to do this trip in a grandly restored VW Kombi van. With split windscreen etc etc etc. But, a good friend of mine would have no doubt warned me how unreliable these Teutonic beasts could be. And would question whether I would want to be worried about breaking down at any moment, being chase by kangaroos, or mad killers of the Wolf Creek variety. No, you are right.
|Palm Cove - the hidden secret of FNQ|
We went for the rather more modern, if less stylistic, mode of campervan transport. Which these days is a Toyota Hiace. But, as you will have seen from my last blog, it ticked all the boxes. And over the next 4 weeks we were lucky enough to have experienced such highlights as:
Palm Cove - one of far north Queensland's best kept secrets. We ARE going back
Kuranda - via the worlds longest cable car (or gondola as they are known in Oz) -
Port Douglas - my new "would love to live here" place
Daintree - the place for crocodile spotting. Well, only if you have "crocodile girl" with you it seems. I did. She was travelling with me.
|Tiny Daintree village|
Cape Tribulation - quite splendid isolation. Idyllic. And at Cape Tribulation camp site...awesome wood fired pizzas served onsite, with cold beers to wash them down.
Mission Beach - as it says on the tin, on the beach. With a cold XXXX. Does it get more Australian? Fair dinkum.
Yeppoon - emergency stop having disciovered we would have had a 10 hour drive without it. My bad.
Halifax - admittedly not really a highlight, more of a 1 pub, 1 street, town. But on the list due to its name
Hervey Bay - one of the best coffees of the trip. Believe, I tried a few. And have you ever seen SO many mobility scooters?
Bundaberg - does it need saying? Rum...
Airlie Beach - where we spent Xmas, and had Xmas Eve sailing and snorkelling on the Great Barrier reef.
Noosa - now famous for having no camp sites with vacancies, prompting a frantic day of driving to find our home for the night. (with a bit of schmoozing, we managed to get into a site in Mudjimba).
Coolum beach - just beautiful. And worth repeating. Beautiful. Oh yeah, and a damn good latte.
Having dropped the van in Brisbane, via a few toll roads (which would come back to haunt us), the trip continued by good old buses, with us having the relative luxury of real rooms at night, with a real bed.
Brisbane - New Years Eve fireworks, and very good change from Sydney, albeit on a much smaller scale
Surfers Paradise – for just being Surfers.
Byron Bay - notable for being awesome, as Byron always is, and for the magic powers of the alcohol that doesn’t manage to get you drunk. Until you wake up in bed with a kebab, and wonder how you, and it, got there. You know who you are.
|Selling "magic" beer|
And how better to end the travelling experience than to take the overnight, 13 hour, bus journey back into Sydney. There weren't many smiles in my travelling party of two, when the driver announced the 3.30am meal stop at a road house. At which everybody would have to be off the bus so the driver could secure it.
Maybe chugging into Sydney, over the Harbour Bridge, on a glorious morning, at 7.30am, was not the best time to reflect on the whole journey. But with the benefit of a good rest, a proper nights sleep, I think it was unanimously declared a success. And something that has to be repeated.
So now, camper van trip remains on the bucket list. Next venue? New Zealand perhaps.