Marc van Yperen and Anja Krijnberg send in the Australian chapter of their global truck camping expedition with their two young children.
From July 20, 2010 to June 8, 2011, Marc, our two kids, Youri and Michelle, and myself traveled around the world. As you can read in Part 1 of our story, “Around the World from the Netherlands: Part 1” we started in Vancouver where we bought our truck camper. From there we traveled through Canada and the United States. In Los Angeles we prepared our truck camper for shipment to Australia. After delivering the truck and camper unit to the shipping agent, we spent a few more days in California. Then it was time for us to leave the continent of North America. At that moment we thought it would take a month before our camper would arrive in Australia.
Waiting for the Truck Camper
After we took our camper to the shipping agent in Los Angeles, we flew to Hawaii and then to Fiji. We had a great time in the Pacific Islands. In Hawaii we drove around the island in a small 4×4, we snorkeled with sea turtles, shopped for cheap tropical fruit in the Hilo market, and saw an active volcano at night. In Fiji we stayed at two different resorts on the Yasawa Islands. We had a cabin right on the beach like the ones you see in pictures; clear blue sky, crystal clear sea with a snorkel reef a few meters from shore, white beaches, and coconut trees with hammocks. Marc went diving with sharks and saw some impressive species.
On December 8th we flew to Sydney, Australia. The ship with our truck camper on it was originally due to arrive in Sydney on December 11th. A few days after turning our truck camper over to the shipping agent, we heard that the shipping agent was not able to get our truck camper on the ship as planned and there would be a delay. The vessel with our truck camper was now supposed to arrive in Sydney on December 25th. After that, they would need a couple of days to get it through customs and quarantine. So we thought it would take at least three weeks before we would get our vehicle back.
We decided to rent a camper van in Australia during the time we had to wait for our truck camper to arrive. At least we could travel around. Besides, all the accommodations in and around Sydney were full or very expensive. It was summer there and the holiday season had started.
With our rented camper van we traveled south and zigzagged a little bit between the coast and inland into the Snowy Mountains and Canberra. We saw lots of beautiful scenery and kangaroos, of course! We also took some time to find out where we could insure the truck camper. We wanted to be prepared to arrange it in one phone call when it arrived in Australia. After two weeks, we slowly drove back north to Sydney. We wanted to be close to the harbor when our truck camper landed. When we checked the tracking site from the shipping agent, we suddenly saw that the vessel was delayed. It was due to arrive on January 4th! This was a big disappointment. Despite that, we had a great Christmas day. Santa didn’t forget us on the other side of the world and we cooked ourselves a fancy Christmas dinner.
It’s a bit strange to celebrate Christmas on a very warm summer day, especially because at home they had a very severe winter with more snow than average. Everybody sent us pictures from home with heaps of snow. It felt like we were in a different world.
ABOVE: Youri playing in the Kangaroo River on a warm day, Kangaroo Valley
The day after Christmas we drove to Kangaroo Valley. It was a nice, small town in a very picturesque valley that was a two hour drive from Sydney. We decided to stay in Kangaroo Valley until our truck camper arrived. We turned in the camper van and rented a cabin in the campground where we were staying.
ABOVE: New Year’s Eve in Kangaroo Valley
There we celebrated New Year’s Eve with a couple of nice people who stayed in the campground. We sat outside the whole time as it was a very warm day. We had a nice evening, but we missed the fireworks. It was not allowed because of the risk of forest fires and the wild animals in the neighborhood.
Truck Camper Arrives
ABOVE: Picking up the truck camper in Sydney, Australia
The vessel with our truck camper arrived late on January 5th. An agent in Brisbane took care of everything that needed to be done to get it through customs and quarantine. They informed us about every step that was taken. After the inspections, it turned out that the truck camper was not clean enough. We cleaned it for two days, but that was obviously not enough. They are very strict about that in Australia. They also found some wood that they didn’t agree on and the whole container needed to get a fumigation treatment. Every time we thought that we could pick up the truck camper the next day, there was something that took extra time.
Although we were having a good time in Kangaroo Valley, we were very anxious to get our truck camper back because we wanted to start our real journey through Australia. Then we got a phone call from Brisbane that our truck camper was ready to be picked up. We were very happy, but there was one small problem.
In Brisbane, they were having a severe flood. The streets were full of water. Fortunately this was not a problem where we were staying, because we were over 1,000 kilometers away. But the flood was affecting the agency that was handling our shipment in Brisbane. Now that everything with quarantine and customs was arranged, the only thing we had to do was to pay the bill. Unfortunately, they were not able to send it to us, because the email had gone down due of the flood.
The next day they sent the bill and we drove to the bank and paid it. As luck would have it, they were not able to see the payment because the servers at the bank were down. It was Friday afternoon and it was too late to go to Sydney anyway, so we let it rest for the weekend.
On Monday morning things were still not working. We decided to take some action ourselves. Marc talked on the phone to everybody we could think of that might help. I prepared everything for the trip to Sydney so we could leave instantly. Eventually, after a lot of phone calls and emails, we got the green light to pick up our truck camper. We were just in time to be able to drive to Sydney before closing time. We were so happy! For the record, it was January 17th.
We were so excited when we arrived at the depot where our truck camper was stored. They drove the truck out of the warehouse for us. Then they brought the camper unit out with a forklift. Only one of us was allowed on the premises of the warehouse so Marc was working with the guys from the warehouse to make sure everything was alright. I stayed with the kids in the car.
I tried to take pictures from far away. Somebody in the warehouse saw this and came to talk to me. They gave me permission to drive closer to the camper to take some pictures as long as I stayed in the car. So that’s what I did. We checked the camper on the inside and the outside. It looked perfect! No damage, and nothing is missing. Everything went perfectly!
Back to Kangaroo Valley
We dropped off our rental car and then drove back to Kangaroo Valley. We stayed there for a couple of days to prepare everything for our trip through Australia. We had to drive on the left side of the road with a right hand drive vehicle. Driving on the left side didn’t bother us. After being in Australia for over a month, we were already used to driving on the left side of the road. Doing this with a right hand drive was new, but turned out to be no problem at all.
Around Sydney, there was lots of traffic. As soon as we left the city, there was a lot of space on the Australian roads. Sometimes it was a bit hard to pass another car because it was harder to see everything from behind the steering wheel. Usually we were not in a hurry and, if necessary, just took a bit more time. Sometimes the person on the passenger seat had to look on the road, too.
We loved having our truck camper back. It is so much nicer than the camper van we rented. We sleep better in the bed, we have more space (even though it is not that much bigger), and we like the fact that the driving is separate from the living. With the truck camper, there is not as much noise when we are driving and we sit closer to the kids in the back. And Youri and Michelle loved the fact that they had their toys back!
On the Road Again
After Kangaroo Valley, we headed to Tasmania. It took us about a week to travel the coast to Melbourne.
Youri loved that he could ride his bike again. We took off the training wheels so that he could start to learn to ride his bike without them. To our surprise he just rode away by himself and he never needed the training wheels again.
Michelle took her first steps on Fiji, but still didn’t feel really secure. In Kangaroo Valley, she really got the hang of it and was walking around as if she walked her whole life. In Melbourne, we bought a back carrier for her as she had grown out of the belly carrier. Melbourne is a nice city to visit and we stayed there a few days.
Then we took the ferry to Tasmania. Once again, the Australians took quarantine matters seriously. We were not allowed to take any fruit or vegetables with us. We ate our last apples before we entered the boat.
ABOVE: Visiting Narawntapu National Park, Tasmania
On the map, Tasmania looks like a small island. It is small, compared to the Australian continent, but it seemed to be pretty big when we were there. It took a whole day on the ferry to get there. We arrived early in the evening and went to a campground close to Devonport, which was a few minutes from the ferry. The next morning, we started exploring the island. It was really a beautiful place with a very nice atmosphere. The nature was absolutely stunning and there was a lot of wildlife to be seen. The first couple of days we drove along the north shore, going west.
From then on, we traveled through areas where hardly anybody lived and the roads were not always sealed. Our truck camper was perfect for that kind of travel. Our pick-up truck is four-wheel drive. On most roads in Tasmania, you could go with a two-wheel drive, but a four-wheel drive is a bit more comfortable. Plus, the higher ground clearance was very convenient.
There are a lot of camp areas in Australia that are free or cost only a few dollars. The camp areas don’t offer many facilities but, when you have a self contained camper, you don’t really need them. We are not 100% self contained in our truck camper, but we do have a water tank with enough water for a few days and we have electricity from the battery so we can do without hook-ups for a few days. The camp areas often had toilets and we carried a small camping toilet for the kids.
In Tasmania, we used the campgrounds a lot. They were usually in very beautiful, remote areas with not too many people. And they were easy to find. You can buy a book in Australia that is called, “Camps 4 Budget Camping” that lists all the free and budget campgrounds.
ABOVE: The Adventurer 80SK on the Western Explorer; a 110 kilometer unsealed road
One of the highlights on the west side of Tasmania was driving the Western Explorer. This is a 110 kilometer long unsealed road that goes through beautiful scenery. The road conditions were good. Only a few cars drive this road every day so it felt like we were the only ones there. The road ended in a small town called Corinna, where we had to take a ferry to cross the river.
ABOVE: Taking the ferry at Corinna to cross the Pieman River at the end of the Western Explorer
From there we drove further south to the point where the road ended. Further south from there, there was only wilderness, so we had to travel east again.
ABOVE: Hiking at Cataract Gorge, Launceston in Tasmania
Tasmania was really great for hiking. There were some very beautiful national parks and great places to camp. The climate was not as harsh as some parts of Australia. Temperatures were more moderate and it rained more often. Even though we were there in summer, we had some cold and wet days. In the mountains, we even had some snow, which is rare that time of the year. The good thing about the weather in Tasmania is that changes it a lot, so it quickly changed back to good weather.
ABOVE: View of Hobart from Mount Wellington
We came back into civilization when we reached Hobart, which is a very nice small city where they serve the best fish ‘n chips in the world, as we were told. It indeed tasted very good and this was one of the nicest places in the world to eat it. We stayed there a few days because Marc had a tooth ache and had to visit a dentist. Fortunately the dentist was able to help him, so the pain disappeared in a few days and we could move on again.
We camped at the most southern place in Tasmania that we could reach with a car and then we took a short ferry ride to Bruny Island. This was one of our favorite places of Tasmania. It was really secluded, had great beaches, and great scenery. We found an eco style campground there that was just behind the beach. Around our camper, albino wallabies jumped, which is a rare phenomenon. Bruny Island is one of the few places where they can survive because they don’t have any natural enemies there. They came so close that we could easily observe them. We even saw a mother feeding her joey (baby kangaroo).
Another nice thing about Bruny Island was the food. They have a cheese factory, a chocolate factory, and a berry farm which served all kinds of cakes and ice cream with berries. Yum!
Then we visited Port Arthur, a very important historic site. Port Arthur is where the convicts from England went when they didn’t behave. After visiting Port Arthur, we traveled north along the east coast. Here the coastline was even more beautiful then on the western side. The views were some of the best we had ever seen.
Wine Glass Bay is very famous and indeed beautiful, but a bit touristy. We preferred the Bay of Fire, a bit more to the north. The sand was as white as snow and the water was blue as sapphire. There was a range of free campgrounds along the coast there. It’s a shame that the water was a bit cold for swimming.
ABOVE: Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
We finished our trip in Tasmania at Cradle Mountain National Park, a well known park with a beautiful hiking trail around Dove Lake. A few days later, we took the ferry back to the mainland. We spent five weeks in Tasmania and it was absolutely great!