Australia, Oz, Down under, or simply the place where Kangaroos hop, we have arrived! What a crazy couple of weeks we’ve had. Only three weeks into our “Oz” adventure and already lots of ups and downs. In a turbulent opening week we bought a van we have since nicknamed “Beasty”. Turned out no matter how well you prepare, there are always things that can go south. Like Antartica south… BUT luckily, like with most things, it tends to have a way of working out in the end.
We were thrilled to arrive at Perth airport around mid-day where we were greeted by an Australian winter sun. The air was crisp and temperature a mild 20 degrees, quite a change coming from a humid 30 degrees in Bali. At the airport we got our hands on a prepaid sim card, which was incredibly necessary for the upcoming busy days. To get to our place, we ordered our first Uber (ever!) a welcome change and much better priced ride compared to a taxi.
We booked a place over Airbnb in Bayswater, a suburb of Perth. Our host and her cute husky Meeka were most welcoming and were invaluable to get everything in order.
We dropped our stuff and were eager to get a head start, we first went to a branch from the NAB bank in the city. But because of an influx in backpackers they could not help us that week, nor did another branch down the road. We made an appointment the day after ANZAC day (local holiday) to get us sorted. We requested our TFN number (tax number), our USI (student number) and lots more administrative things.
In search of the perfect camper van
The next few days we looked at half a dozen camper vans of which none were perfect. Most had too many kilometers, some even over 400.000!, wrong registration, were simply impractical or felt like something was wrong with it.
After quite the head-nudging we opted for a Mazda E2000 from 2004 with 108.000km. The setup was very far from perfect but the car looked like it was in great shape (looks can be deceiving, lesson learned).
As we have little to no mechanical expertise we had it checked out by a mechanic. He took his time and told us it would take a bit of work but shouldn’t be more than 400$ to get it in perfect order. We bargained with the previous owners and negotiated the price down to 5.800$. Far from a bargain, but with low miles, little rust and a good feel we were convinced this was the right van for us.
Next, we had the mechanic fix the previously found problems, including an annoying oil leak, while we paid for the WA registration and transfer of ownership at the Department of Transport. The 400$ that was quoted by the mechanic turned into more than 1.000$ and we still had to go to two other mechanics to get a wheel alignment and a fix to the gearbox. It left us flabbergasted with a grand total bill of close to 1.500$ (nowhere near 400$…).
And just when you start to think things with the van could not possibly get any worse, the world has a tendency to prove you wrong. While driving a mere 5km/h over a parking lot a lady wasn’t able to see us in our gigantic white van and crashed into our side while backing up rapidly. Our van got quite a hit and a dent at the right rear side. Luckily for us, nobody got injured and she was insured, which turned out isn’t standard in Australia. As we just bought the car, we didn’t arrange the insurance yet. This turned out to become a huge hassle involving about five hours of calling all insurance companies. None would take a car with existing damages, except for the RAC. Super relieved we finally got all our insurances in order. Later we had to go by an assessment agency to assess the damage. 2.100$ of damage! Luckily her insurance stepped up and was quick to pay out the damages.
Customizing our very own van!
Now that this was arranged we could finally focus on the car itself. As the interior was far from what we wanted, made from non-consistent rest wood, we made a simple plan to change all of that. First we stripped the car, removing all the wood and old carpet. We then build a wooden base-plate and covered it with a fluffy comfy carpet. We wanted to be able to use the space for both a living room as a bedroom, so we made our very own fold-out bed. Both of us have little carpeting experience but with a little effort (and a whole lot of YouTube videos) we managed to fit it to perfection. To dress up the place we bought a small white closet with boxes for some extra storage space.
After remodeling the “living room” the kitchen just had to go 😉 so we build some extra planks and gave the whole thing a bit of a tune up. We also cut off the side of the top-board so that we had space for the picnic table and chairs.
Overall the van looks great but it still needs a bit of personality. I’m sure we will find lots of strange and funny things on the way.
A day trip to the Island filled with happiness!
On our very last day in Perth, without actually seeing much of the city itself, we took a day to visit Rottnest Island. An island dominated by furry, hopping rat-like animals, it is on our Top-10 must sees in Australia. The Quokka is arguably one of the cutest animals in the world, with its friendly face, fluffy body and rat-like tail. It is a real contender to the cute Tarsiers we’ve seen in the Philippines. We took the ferry around nine and rented a couple of bikes to get around the island. The island is “only” ten kilometers long, but the hilly terrain makes it feel like lots bigger. We set out a bike route and were eager to see the Quokka, an animal known as the happiest animal in the world. It didn’t take long before we saw our first Quokkas hopping around just outside the settlement. Once you have seen one, you start noticing them everywhere. We made our way down the coast passing the famous white-sand beaches of the island. Absolutely stunning! As it was only 22 degrees we refrained from hopping in the water.
Along the lines of Australia being the country in which everything can kill you, the waters are home to the blue-ringed octopus and the land is not only home to Quokkas but also to several species of lethal venomous snakes. And we’re not even starting with the hordes of hungry sharks and red-back spiders… Yikes!
We spend the entire afternoon biking around, enjoying the sunshine and the changing landscapes. Seeing Quokkas and other wildlife on the way, we visited the Wadjemup lighthouse at the highest point of the island. We really enjoyed our visit and were really happy things were finally starting to look up.
Three weeks have flown by. So many things to arrange and so little time to do some actual traveling. But with our van ready to go, Australia we are ready for you!