Bertie, the Cangoroof
Sydney, 7th – 13th September + 14th September
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world and the only continent country. It spreads itself over 7,692,024 km2 . If you search the internet you can easily find pictures of different countries laid over the map of Australia. Europe, for example, fits very comfortably inside and there is even space for another half of it. A huge number of European tourists arrive on the continent without a true idea of its size and there are often stories of tired drivers or unhappy travellers.
We, however, knew how big it is. We also knew that despite the highly populated coasts on the East and the Southwest the majority is wilderness - low populated desert or savannah. Thus, many driving tourists stick to the East coasts and fly to Uluru or Perth. We do not intend to do that. If we’ll be here, we will see everything! And for that we collect comments of surprise and astonishment when we present our plans to the locals (at any stage of the journey).
Of course, these ambitious plans require an ambitious vehicle to take us through the wild continent - a vehicle with its own specifics which we need to decide on in advance.
Firstly, after our initial research, we quickly decide that the vehicle in question will be bought instead of rented. This way we will have ownership and control over the car and no hidden contract clauses could sneak upon us. At the same time, the cost of hiring a car is similar to the purchase costs and once selling we could get a return of our investment - after all, money doesn’t grow on trees. But if it did, the Australian outback isn’t exactly fruitful.
Secondly, it should be a van. Other than the fact van life has taken over social media with its romantic visions, this option will save us a lot of money and worries. We can travel with our house, have a comfortable kitchen and bed at all times. And the combination between paid (with all the luxuries) and free (with just a toilet by the road) campsites that the van can offer us, are much more affordable than hostels and AirBnBs.
Thirdly, a very complicated requirement is the availability for 4 legal seats; Mum and dad will be joining us for the last two weeks of the trip and it is important to be able to share it together instead of putting time and money into another (rental) car. Also, it will be so much nicer to be together to discuss the views and plans for the day. (Plus we need enough opportunities to get into an argument or two. Where are we headed to otherwise?!?)
After formulating these important requirements and thinking of many more less important ones, I decided that we needed to get on the Law of Attraction train in order to receive exactly what we are asking for from the Universe. Therefore, while we were in Germany we wrote a list of wishes that we read to ourselves regularly so that the Universe doesn’t miss out on something when handing over our car ...
Our Australian Van:
Cost up to 6,000 AUD
Leisure and car battery
Convertible space for leisure and sleeping.
4+ legal seats
Mobile kitchen station
Camping equipment - table, tent, chairs, stove, kitchen utensils, fridge, water cooler ...
SEARCHING AND … FINDING
Today is a very important and even more exciting day, a valuable step for the entirety of our Australian trip. In a colder morning than yesterday, we set off to Redfern - the neighbourhood of ‘Too Easy Travel’. A company which exists with one main goal to make the travel of people like us in Australia … too easy. To achieve that they carefully choose the cars to buy and after that invest in them - changing old parts, always further than the legal state requirements. Other than a car you can trust, you also receive equipment so you can pretty much get in and go. This includes a structure for a kitchen which unfolds to also be a bed. And on top of that they help with the legalities, include one year Road Assistance and are there to assist should you need it on the other side of Australia. Is it getting too easy? …
Well, they know what they’re doing and their confidence makes you easily trust them. Due to their knowledge of Australian roads, they even manage, without much difficulty, to change our concept. According to them, it would be quite difficult to find a van with 4 seats and even so a van wouldn’t be able to do the distances we plan to travel, especially when roads often require 4WD in the bush.
So, here we are, in the middle of their mechanics (voted “Best Mechanics” for the last 5 years) and carefully inspect an already sold but fully kitted out Nissan 4x4 to see whether we could, too, live in a thing like that for 4 months. We are offered the choice between a Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute. We ask a million questions, test drive the Ford and ask another million questions … There is an option to put a rooftop tent which would minimise the constant shifting of luggage downstairs (inside the car), would offer better temperatures in the heat, but in it we also see the option of the four of us sleeping in the car once mum and dad arrive.
We leave with enough information to make a decision by the end of the day. The demand is so big that the available cars wouldn’t be available long term. We are also not staying forever in Sydney (as much as we might want to). We send messages to both parental bodies and move towards the centre waiting for the Europeans to wake up to discuss our options with more knowledgeable people. By the end of the day after all, comments exchanged between Australia, Bulgaria and England we receive more recommendations for the Mazda although we were leaning towards the Ford. We decided that the Japanese car will need to be test driven as well so we make a call for the company to expect us again tomorrow.
We exit the hostel with a banana in hand and transfer onto a few trains to reach ‘Too Easy Travel’. They take us to the mechanics and we start checking the Mazda with the list Nic’s dad sent over … as if we know what we’re looking at. In order to fully confuse our decision making the car needs to be jump-started - might not be the best sign. But they say the battery is on the list of things to be changed and there is no reason to worry.
This 4x4 drives the same as the Ford so that’s not really a basis for decisions. It does, however, have the weirdest function - it beeps when any door is open. Firstly it is a greatly annoying sound and secondly - it would surely have an effect on the battery - after all, we’ll be keeping them open for a long time.
We stand in the middle of the parking and can’t decide what to do as the mechanics are too busy to look at the functions we have questions on. And we stay like that for a long time until we decide to act. We will pay the deposit but would decide later today which car to buy once we get answers to our questions. So we say goodbye to 500 AUD.
While we sit in the glass brewery and do admin work we get a call from Too East Travel with our answer and we decide on the Mazda. The car will be ready in three days and we can’t wait! (On the other hand, now we will have enough time for wholesome and whole-day sightseeing in Sydney for another three days.)
WE GOT THE CAR!!!
We get back from our morning walk and get straight onto the many trains to go pick up our car. It is waiting in front of the office - clean and shiny and in twenty-ish minutes of documentation we are 5,500 AUD lighter and we go out to take pictures with the car. After detailed instructions where and how to transfer ownership of the car, we set off. We were hoping to put on the tent today as well, but we won’t manage with time.
We get to the New South Wales services with a thick folder with documents in hand, we take a ticket and patiently wait for our turn. Once we’re at the desk, however, they ask for Nic’s passport to register him and he, of course, doesn’t have it - it is at the AirBnB. I start packing our things to go but it turns out they can put the car in my name as I have my passport with me. Hurray!
But now they want a second form of identification. Driver’s Licence? No, they don’t take it … Hm … But a bank card would work. That I have! But … it says V Kolarova on it and not my full name so it isn’t accepted. I go to the computers to print out a bank statement but, of course, that doesn’t say my first name either (AAAAAA!!!). After 5 minutes of wondering, I remember I have my Bulgarian bank card on me. I take it out … it has my full name on it! YEEESSSS! Yes, but NO! The card has expired two months ago and the bank statement only says my name in Cyrillic. Everything else is in English and my passport has my name in both languages, but they won’t take it. This is some real “Friday 13th” nightmare!
We leave! We have two weeks to get the correct documents and transfer the car. Next time we’ll have it all! We shop for the most important things like a chopping board and fairy lights for the “kitchen” and get back to the flight to figure out how to organise tomorrow now that we need to do a wash, food shop, put on the tent and awning and to get to our destination on time for tourism.
Today was more difficult than it should have been. Our first plan was to be at the Katumba campsite at 12 pm. Knowing our tent plans have moved to today we pushed the arrival to 2 pm which should have given us plenty of time to see the local sights. We arrived at 4 pm - angry, tired and hungry? Why? I will tell you ...
We get up early, pack the bags and get to the local community laundry (for the first time in my life). Within an hour while the clothes wash and dry we managed to arrange all of our belongings in the car and to prepare our bedding for the night. We finish up just in time to fold the warm washing and set off.
We are now hungry so Google takes us to brunch (again). At first thought, it was a mistake to sit in the restaurant instead of taking our sandwiches for the road, but given the two hours that followed, I know that relaxing there was a blessing.
We finally arrive at the rooftop tent place which is just a warehouse full of kayaks. The man who welcomes us is apparently the one we were sent to look for but he doesn’t seem to have any authority around here. He’s also in some sort of a rush because we don’t get much time to look at the exhibit tent before it’s folded away and put on our roof. Why we get the exhibit and not a new one - I don’t know and don’t have time to ask.
He asks whether we can put it on ourselves or he should do it which should take him about half an hour. We obviously show our lack of experience in such undertakings so we decide to do it together and pay him a small fee on top of the tent and awning.
Dear God! How he thought he could do it in about 30 minutes when it took the three of us at least an hour and a half, I don’t know, and he didn’t seem to be more experienced than us - somewhere between Nic’s great skills and my lack of any. It is the most fiddly, annoying, dirty and sweaty job and I still don’t understand why this service that normally comes with the car wasn’t included for us. At the end of the torture, I am so angry (especially with last night’s failure transferring ownership of the car in mind) that if there was a recording of our conversation I would have sounded like R2D2 from Star Wars - heavily censored.
The guy didn’t even show us how to use the awning and the tent and while we struggling to put them away after opening them in the parking lot, he just sat in his car and stared at us while also pushing us to leave so he can close up. We manage to somehow get ourselves to the shop for food, get fuel and wash up after the car fiasco.
We are setting off to the Blue Mountains.
We park ourselves in the campsite with plenty of daylight and start our first set up. We open the tent and are amazed at its fan-like structure. And we look quite cool with it on top of the car as if we know where we’re doing. Meanwhile, I procrastinate tidying the back due to the car beeping when any door is open as we still haven’t figured it out. And I am so not up for brain drilling noises while I organise. And as I pick excuse after excuse Nic figures out the SOLUTION! When you manually turn the latch on the door to a closed state, the car thinks the doors are closed and stops binging. Hallelujah! Now I can tidy.
The same evening I asked on Instagram what we should call our new Mazda Tribute 2002 and many good suggestions came in. In a mix of three, I would like to officially introduce Bertie the Cangoroof (second part an idea from my little brother which I still can’t completely explain).
It doesn’t tick all items off the initial list but has the most important ones. Therefore we wish for Bertie to be strong, and successfully and without accidents, to be our home for the next four months and take us to the deep wilderness of Australia.
Vassya (and Nic)