I sit here now in the Coolangatta Airport, waiting for my flight back to Japan. It makes for a pretty distinct ending to our time in Australia (at least for the immediate future). I’ve had a little bit of time over the last few weeks to contemplate, mentally regurgitate and reminisce over our Australian Odyssey. At the time we were so caught up in our daily travels that we rarely reflected on the trip as a whole.
It took a while to adjust back to reality after six months of a semi-nomadic life – no more days spent in the drivers seat, no more researching what to do today, tomorrow, next week. The strangest adjustment was actually no longer having to keep up our daily journal, and as much as I enjoyed writing and editing the photos every evening, I now felt much like I felt at the end of a university semester – free.
It was a whirlwind few weeks after returning (including that cheeky trip to Moreton Island). Even though we’d returned back to Brisbane, it was only long enough to get comfortable and settled before having to sever all ties again and say more farewells. It was a strange thing seeing friends again, and saying good-bye at the same time. But, that’s the price we have to pay for the non-stop life we choose to live.
I thought that I’d attempt to summarise the trip into a single post, focusing on things like budget, lessons learnt as well as highlights (and forgetting all about any of the lowlights).
The Numbers: The first thing that I was interested in was how far we actually travelled. We left Brisbane at about 181,000km, and returned at about 218,000km, which is about 37,000km! Which broken down is only an average of a touch over 200km/day for 180 days (though, it certainly felt like we were travelling much more than that). To give it a sense of scale, London to Moscow is only 2,700km, and Gold Coast to Tokyo direct is 7,200km. Malaysia to London overland is only a little over 15,000km, and the Earth’s circumference is only 40,000km – yes, we nearly drove around the world!
The next, and probably more important fact was to confirm how much we’d actually spent… I was in two minds about knowing this figure – part of me wanted to know to get a baseline if we were to do something like this again, but part of me would rather not know, as it was probably quite expensive… I knew it was going to be more than I’d anticipated, but I wasn’t prepared for exactly how much more it was. I had a figure in my mind before we left of about $15,000-$20,000. Turns out we spent $30,000! Though, to be honest if we hadn’t had those mechanical problems (fuel pump in Cairns, wheel bearings in Darwin, air-conditioner in Perth and cracked head in Esperance) we would have been much closer to those figures. While it was a little shocking at first (I didn’t know we even had that much money to spend), when I thought about comparable living expenses for six-months, I started to feel a little better…
Fuel… I had a rough estimate of about $6000 for fuel (30,000km @ $100/500km). Obviously that was going to change with us travelling a further 7,000km (an extra 20%) to the original estimation. It was also going to change once I experienced first-hand just how expensive fuel in the outback can be – I had expected it to be prohibitive, but wasn’t prepared for $2.45 at Tobermorey (try and find that on a map). Grand total was around $7,700, which to be honest wasn’t that far off the estimate. We kept all the fuel receipts, with plans to monitor the economy, amongst other things, but as we were getting fuel every other day (91 times) and didn’t get on top of it from the start, it was too mammoth a task.
Fuel economy was generally around the 12L/100km, when driving at 80-90kph. Those figures rose significantly in mountainous areas (Tasmania) or when we drove at 100-110kph. It’s the first time I’ve driven a car under the speed limit in order to save money on fuel, and to be honest, I was surprised at how much of a difference it made.
Repairs… The big unpredictable expense. Sure, to a degree we could have spent more money/time preparing the car for travel and could have avoided some of these expenses, but as far as we were aware, the car was in good mechanical shape when we rolled out of Brisbane. The fuel pump cost $2,000, the wheel bearings cost $800, the air-conditioner cost $1000 (which was actually very cheap) and the head cost a mammoth $4,000! Of course, there were other repairs that we carried out along the way, including a new alternator, a half-price tyre, six oil changes and various other smaller fixes and parts. Having the Ultimate RACQ coverage was probably the smartest decision of the entire trip, as we certainly got our value out of it – in short, you’re crazy if you attempt something like this without premium roadside assistance. Total came to just over $9,700, or about 30% of the total expense.
Tours… This was another unpredictable expense, and I hadn’t really tried to formulate an estimate – it was just going to cost whatever it cost as it was cheaper to see everything we wanted to see (and do all we wanted to do) now, rather than have to come back in the future. We ended up spending just shy of $3,000, which considering that the whale shark diving and the cage dive with the great white sharks were nearly $1000 each, we didn’t actually spend all that much on ‘activities’. I think that a lot of the smaller things we did we may have paid cash (and therefore it is much harder to trace), so it may have been a little more than that.
Entertainment… This was also a bit of a surprise to me. We spent a little over $2,000 on all the meals with friends, drinks, or take-away. Again, this number is a little hard to know for sure, as a lot of that was cash from ATMs, so harder to trace without keeping meticulous paperwork (we didn’t – we were on vacation).
The rest was made up of others, like $1000 worth of ferries (Rottnest, Jardine River, Tasmania), $600 worth of camping fees (some of which were reimbursed by RACQ), $100 worth of public transport and about $20 worth of parking!
Lessons Learnt: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. A popular phrase for project management (among other things), and one that could have been useful for us. Even though I spent five months preparing the car for travels, I probably could have started by ensuring we had a reliable car (mechanically) before I spent time worrying about things like a home theatre… I have my reasons for the order that I attacked things. Hindsight is wonderful.
Highlights: It’s probably the first question that we were asked, “Where was your favourite place”? It was a tough question to answer, to be honest. For me, I was happy anytime we were away from the cities and the people. There was something incredibly satisfying about having a vivid outback sunset to ourselves, and then having it followed by all the stars of the milky way.
I have been asked, “Where would you go if you only had two-weeks”? Which again, is a tough question. Others may disagree, but I would have to say Northern Territory, from Alice Springs, down to Uluru and Kata-Tjuta to Kings Canyon, MacDonnel Ranges, then the huge nothingness to Katherine Gorge and a loop through Kakadu.
With a little more time, I’d start in Adelaide, go through Flinders Range, along the Oodnadatta Track, then up to Uluru as above. As beautiful as the beaches are on the West/East coast, to me it just didn’t compare to the desolation of the outback.
Favourite Beach – Cable Beach, Broome. I was surprised to be saying this, but I think this was my favourite beach. I was expecting Broome to be a tourist trap, much like Byron Bay is, but it wasn’t at all. Cable Beach was exactly what you would expect a beautiful beach to be – perfect white sand that stretched to the horizon and clear turquoise waters.
Biggest Surprise – Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). I can’t believe they play second fiddle to Uluru. Well, I can, but I was much more impressed by Kata Tjuta. Also an unexpected surprise was the Oodnadatta Track.
In conclusion. We were incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity to see Australia like we did. We managed to see friends who were scattered all over the country, as well as make a few new ones along the way. We managed to see natural parts of Australia that few Australians ever see. We gained an appreciation for the ruggedness, the diversity, the vastness of this country. I gained a new sense of pride of Australia. A big thanks to everyone who helped us along the way and to everyone who provided us a bed, a shower or a meal.
Thanks for following our journey. I’m looking forward to our next mini adventure.