The Big Van Trip – Perth to Norseman
So its about Day 5 now, or maybe Day 6, and the Big Van Trip is going awesomely!
All kinds of stuff has happened, and I thought its about time I share some stories.
So the last couple of weeks before leaving was super hectic. Erin and I had both just finished up full time work and study, crazy enough in itself for slackers like us. Then we set about the task of selling all of our shit. I mean pretty much everything. Stuff that I had lugged around a dozen sharehouses, gone. Cool items picked up from verge collection: SOLD! Yeah actually sold a lot of stuff for more that we had bought it for, but also a few things went at heartbreaking prices. But all in all it was easier that Id thought, just take a few photos, bang em up on gumtree, and years of clutter and materialism, GONE! And about 80% of my clothes went to Good Sammys. It was a great feeling, minimising all this shit that had been piling up for years. And of course whenever friends came around I managed to unload something on each of them!
The other thing that needed doing was fixing up Nightshift, my van. Id bought her a couple of years back to live in for a few months around town when I was living a quite nomadic life, doing archaeological fieldwork internationally and a home, and just didn’t really need a house (also to tell the truth I had had a gutful of irresponsible real estate agents and asshole neighbours). Anyway, I bought Nightshift from a metal worker tradesman so she was just an empty tradies van, and set about putting in a bed and stuff to live in it at the beach. I should note here that I was inspired by my little brother who had been sleeping in his 4WD at the beach and was jealous of his lifestyle!
So back to the present: I needed to fix the van up ready for a Big Van Trip, so I set to work at my mate Jake’s house who had a garage (thanks heaps Jake!).Banged in some cabinets for storage, cut a hole in the roof for an air vent (fucking nerve racking that experience), put on a roobar and layed fake turf on the floor in the front for a relaxing ride. Was good times actually, I really like hanging out in a shed tinkering on this and that, I guess its just another way of getting creative really, and that’s probably why I like it.
So after all this mad selling, packing, working on the van, and shelling out a fair bit of $$ for mechanical work, we were ready to leave. In fact we had gotten rid of almost all of our possessions! I left a couple of things at Dads, but not much for 29 years of livin. Good feeling.
So we hit the road! Man it felt so good already, knowing that this was all I had: a van with everything we needed, enough money in the bank, and fuck all in terms of plans! Ready to take what life threw at us.
First stop was Dwellingup forest. A handful of friends came down to send us off and it was great to have people down for the send off. Set up camp, listened to bad reggae, rode around on bikes like crazy fools, went swimming in the river, sliding down rocks, and ended up at 3AM drunk on good rum standing under a waterfall fully clothed for the rush of it! Dried ourselves off by the fire and managed to get a little sleep into the bargain.
A bit emotional saying goodbye in the morning really. Good friends are a thing that you can sometimes take for granted. An old friend can really remind you of who you are, and Ill miss you all until we meet again. But the road calls!
We were the last ones left because we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be. But before we could hit the road we had our first drama! The corrugations leading to the camp site had shaken the fuck out of my little inverter in the front, shorted it out, and blown a fuse or something! We had no indicators, headlights, stereo or anything! Managed to find that shit and put in a substitute fuse, too low rated for its purpose. Had to be careful what we used until we could get to a servo. Lucky it happened so early in the trip, as now I have a bunch of spare fuses. Phew! While I tried to figure out that little problem Erin made a few additions to the back of the van, her ‘pockets’ invention for wall side storage!
OK, so ready to hit the road finally! I had woken up with a cold from wearing myself out over the last few weeks and finally stopping. You know how your body does that? Pretty annoying, it gives up when you finally have nothing to do and can relax. But to tell the truth, I didn’t even care; I was having such a good time. Will have to do better than that to stop us!
So it was down to Margaret River where my brother had recently moved, being the beachside bum that he is. Driving into Prevally (town next to Margs central) we saw the devastation from last years’ fires. Many people had lost their dream homes down here in those fires. Luckily no one died, some locals told us the story of a guy who, having not enough time to flee the fire, put on scuba gear and sat at the bottom of his swimming pool, watching the fire rage overhead from the bottom. Terrifying thought.
So we tried to rendezvous with Aidan my bro, who was having a few cheeky Margaritas down at happy hour at the pub. After getting a bit lost in a maze of awesome fancy houses, we found him milling around a roundabout waiting for us. The street was called ‘Resort Place’. What a life he has haha! Aidan really chooses awesome life styles everytime. Unlike alot of the guys from his school year, he doesn’t have a fancy professional career which he sometimes laments, but if you ask me, he has life figured out.
We spent two night in Margs with Aidan. He’s working in a café down there and has made friends with a great bunch of people, mostly really good looking surfin chicks which doesn’t hurt! Everyone in Margs has smiles on their faces and is super healthy and positive. Man, we went out to the pub on the first night, and there is this killer band playing, everyone having a boogie (even the dudes), everyone is smiling and laughing, and anyone bumps into you and their all apologetic and friendly about it! Unreal man, what a place. Aidan said its because everyone knows that tomorrow morning their gonna wake up and have a surf. Heaps of van dwellers down there too 🙂
So catch ya later Margs and Aidan. I tell ya, I could have stayed a bit longer there!
But the road calls.
Next stop was Manjimup where my mates James and Valentina were doing orchard work. On the way, we did a bit of harvesting ourselves. Erin had learned about ‘Bush Chillis’ from some Aboriginal people she had the good fortune to work with, and wanted to find some to help my cold out. So we stopped at a white sandy patch where they’re known to occur, and bang, there you go, two bush chilli plants sticking up from the sand! We had to dig for about 10 minutes to get the little fuckers out, but we got em.
These tasted somewhere between chilli and horseradish, and were quite hot! Like a lot of bush tucker to my mind anyway, they were a bit bitter but a real interesting experience.
We had to wait until after 4 o’clock for the manager to leave the orchard so that we could sneak in, and decided to go and drive by my Uncle’s old farm, called the Kin Kin. My grandmothers brother Uncle Ron had set this joint up when he was 19 years old, gone out and cleared a bunch of thick forest with little help and primitive machinery and started growing things. The road is even named after that side of our family, the Cuttings. They lived one of Manjimup’s oldest settler houses by the Warren River, but later built a guesthouse with cabins higher up the hill and started hosting tour groups and holiday makers. They sold the place about 3 years ago, and it was sad to see it leave the family. We had been going there for Christmas and other holidays since we were little kids, as had my mum when she was little. Even my grandma!
Getting there we decided that we would go and have a look, seeing that my family had built the damn place after all! We took a walk down to the ‘Old House’ down by the river too, where I found a couple of real gems of family history.
All through this region was just awesome driving, winding roads through this kind of enchanted forest. Just amazing, and we made sure to appreciate it before hitting the Nullarbor. Driving along I had made a little navigation device with an old netbook and a little gps dongle. Basically I have all the HEMA maps of Australia loaded in and using the gps, a little arrow would show our position on these maps anywhere in Aus! I know I could have just bought a TomTom of whatever, but I get a certain pleasure out of building things myself. Go on, laugh at me if you want! Erin does like every time I bring it out! But we wont be getting lost! Haha 🙂
So actually we did get a bit lost and James had to meet us at the Coles carpark in Manjimup to show us the way to the orchard. Following this son of a bitch in his little car, we had to get some serious speed on the downhill parts to make it up the hills in our fully loaded van! But we got there in the end. This huge orchard, that grows more fruit than any other orchard in WA. And in the middle there is this complex of Dongas (demountable buildings) full of backpackers! All these cool Italians, English and Irish people, and my mate James who had come down with his girl Valentina. In Aus as a traveller, you can choose to do 12 weeks of super low paid, hard farm work to get granted a second year travelling visa, and many cool cats elect to do it. James had come down for the experience, crazy bastard, but it looked like a lot of fun.
We had a killer jam, I mean it was awesome! Danny used to be a pro football player back in Italy and is now becoming a mean musician on drums and guitar, James was hitting it hard and tight on drums, and I brought in my keyboard and little guitar amp from the van. I was so glad I brought that massive keyboard after having this jam, and I hope there’s more to come. Goddamn, it was killer!
We played until after midnight and then hit the sack. Waking up in time to see the guys before they went to work we found the place a hive of activity: all the poor underpaid workers were running round slamming down some breakfast and trying to pump themselves up for the hard day of work to come. Valentina said that after one week of pruning she couldn’t feel her chopping hand anymore! Saying good-bye to our friends, it was once again hard to drag ourselves away, we could have stayed a couple more days, but we still weren’t out of WA, and felt the urge to reached undiscovered lands. Packing up the van, the manager rocked up and asked us if we were looking for work, after a moment of consideration, we said thanks, but we gotta go! But truly, it would be as easy as that in the right season.
Driving through the forest out of Manjimup and down towards Denmark was breathtaking. Huge forest all the way, winding roads and hills that Nightshift struggled up but made it every time. The roads were pretty damn narrow to be passing logging trucks though, and until you became one with the road after half an hours driving, it was a bit nerve racking. Hitting Denmark, I had never seen such lushness in my own state. Another place I could stop and live for awhile I reckon.
Stopping off at Green Pool, just east of Denmark, we needed to have a snooze just to deal with it all. This is a big pool bordered by granite rocks for protection: the wind was strong enough to take your hat off, but the water was calm like glass.
Truly, this south coast of WA is beautiful country.
So that about brings us up to date folks. We got a little further after lunch, just past Albany to Two Peoples Bay, pulled the van right up to the beach, cooked up a feed and had a cozy sleep in the slightly cold coastal air.
Tomorrow, off to the East and whatever that brings.