The Big Van Trip Continues… City Life?

Everything’s still going well for us on this trip with no end date, but things have had a change of pace recently. Let me tell ya about it…

After I left you last, we were on the cusp of hitting Adelaide. Well, we got there! Headed straight for Glenelg, a beachside extension of the City with pubs, backpackers and cafes. Like the Fremantle of Adelaide, with a bit of a Scarborough vibe thrown in (sorry you probably wont understand unless you’re a West Aussie!). Figured that we’d check into a hostel for a night or two and do some washing of ourselves and our fabrics, as we’d eaten a load of dust on our travels through parched inland South Aus. But it was actually a difficult thing to find one that would take Australians! We settled for a place that charged us a couple of bucks extra for being from Oz. What do you think about that? I guess its because rent has gone up so much over the last few years, almost Australia wide, and the backpacker joints don’t want their place full of frustrated house hunters!

Well, we parked about 3 blocks away and had to almost ‘move house’ to get our stuff out of all its nooks and crannies in the van and into an overnight bag. Not to mention getting our laptops and valuable stuff, I didn’t really feel comfortable leaving all our gear so far away from where we were sleeping! So it was a real pain in the ass honestly. And City Life, man, you need all these different articles of clothing, depending on what activity you are going to be doing. Shoes for this, thongs for that, shorts for this, pants for that. Why can you go everywhere in boardies and thongs? Why do we have to be so damn fancy? Haha anyway I don’t see the sense in it, it just meant I had to dig around for things like shoes that I hadn’t seen for some time.

That night we caught the tram into town, checked the local Gig Guide, picked the weirdest sounding band name and went and checked them out. They were called something like Monkey Swallow Experiment or something equally bizarre, and were playing at this old converted building called The Promethean. Well, they were pretty cool, but a bit too symphonic and stilted for my taste, not enough groove maybe. But they put on a great show, it was interested music, and they had a VJ doing crazy visuals too! The best part came afterwards, when we were sitting down having a rum cocktail and wondering if the show was over. There were some beats playing, and they started to get under my skin. I was facing the other way from the stage, and just thought they must be playing some hip shit off someone’s ipod, but when I turned around, there was this bearded dude, with a bunch of machines on stage, mixing, recreating, rearranging, and playing his beats live! The stuff was really awesome, and we stuck around and checked him out for an hour, before tramming home and immediately buying his EP on itunes.

Check him out att

Next day we again had a bit of a clash of personalities. Being in the City, I felt like running amok and drinking and having fun. I guess your girlfriend aint the one to do that with for most people, and I guess I was missing my friends back in Perth. I got my way for a bit, but Erin wanted to go home early and my experience of Adelaide nightlife was cut short. I guess i could have stayed alone, but sometimes that aint no fun. Cool place though, a little bar set up by a young couple, they were working the bar and looked pretty weary but they were really doing something! I had found the joint because I read that it was where that Oisima producer got a leg up to playing his beats, and that they supported local artists.

Next day we split from Adelaide. I was sick of the fast pace of the city already, and felt like it wasn’t worth the hassle unless we were having fun. One funny thing I saw on the way out of there, taking one of many loads of stuff back to the van (moving house again), was a dude pushing a bombed out old car down the street, then hopping in and trying to jump start it. And all these people queuing angrily in their cars behind him, no-one getting out to help him! What the fuck is with that? Man, City Life.


So we left town, and headed to one of Erin’s hot spot destinations, MacLaren Vale, where they make all the party juice. We picked up some real nice wine, some boutique beers, and even a few bottles of Mead (wine made from honey). Pretty good in the end, but if I’m going to be honest I must say I was cranky for the first half of the day. I didn’t really feel like doing what Erin wanted to do, after I felt she had piked on going out exploring Adelaide nightlife with me. It surprises me sometimes how childish we all can be if we don’t get our way, I didn’t want to admit that I was pissed off, when I should have recognised that I was and that it was ridiculous, and then let it go. I am slowly learning balance on this trip that hopefully I can use in other areas of my life haha. Anyway, I got into it in the end, it was free tasting after all!

Next stop, we consulted the free camping map and found a place half an hour to the south, on the coast. When we got there though, it turned out to be not free, and set back from the beach in exactly the kind of place I hate: what would otherwise be a beautiful natural camping spot spoiled by concrete shit and little treated pine railings, signs telling you where you can and cannot camp. Fuck that! So we drove down to the beach and pulled up next to the no camping sign, much nicer. Some places just don’t get it: if you go camping, you want to be in nature, not in some half built half degraded bush shithole! Maybe a 4WD is on the cards one day 🙂

Now the thing about “Stealth Camping”, or camping where you’re not supposed to, is that you can get woken up by rangers before you’re done sleeping, which is NOT a nice way to start the day, and you will end up having a grumpy day (they can also fine you a couple hundred bucks). So if you want to do it, you have to play it a bit smart. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with sleeping in your car as long as you don’t have some big sprawling camp set up, and as long as you don’t leave any rubbish or adversely affect the environment around. So my rules are:

1)Don’t Sleep Where you Party

cook your food, have a few drinks, crank some tunes, whatever, in one place, then pack up, get ready for sleeping, and move a bit away and just climb in and sleep.

2)Don’t leave anything outside the car

unless its a fishing rod which you can use as a good excuse if a ranger comes along

3)Get up early

get up by 6:30, before the rangers/beach inspectors come out to play. Good time to go for a fresh swim anyhow! Forced healthy livin.

4)Don’t leave any rubbish

don’t give anyone an excuse to say that free camping is morally wrong!

Follow them and you can free camp practically anywhere. Thats what I’m talking about!

So next stop was Mildura, out of the state of South Australia, and on the border of Victoria and NSW. Entering Victoria, there was a noticeable change in the roads, where once they were windy, now everything was dead straight and gridded out.

We got up to Mildura, a kind of inland oasis on the Murray river, and found a free camping spot on a bend on the Murray. One of the best spots we had had so far! We just chilled and did nothing for two days, which was great. I caught a fish too, which turned out to be a carp, a kind of big goldfish that is frowned upon as an eating fish, but I ate it before finding out about this stigma, and to my mind, free of prejudice against the poor carp,  it tasted pretty good!


Amongst doing nothing for the few days, we did do a little bit of van repairs that needed doing. Was a good thing to bring a few tools and stuff, and with the 240v inverter we can even run proper power tools in the bush!


Staying at Mildura for a while next to the river was pretty much the first of our extended bush stays. Meaning staying in the one place without driving every day, in some free camp in the trees. And I got to thinking, this is such a cheap way to live! And I can do all of the things I want to work on at the moment; reading, listening to music, practicing keyboard and making tunes, photography, learning to meditate, writing, mountain biking. Could this be a way to live for a bit?

It was about this time I realised we were now in NSW.


I’m not sure just how long I could stay in the one spot, but next camp we moved a few hundred Ks down the road to the banks of the Murimbidgee River, and had a pretty similar camp, another good one.


The next day we hit Canberra, ready for another dose of City Life. We stayed with Erin’s cousin Phoebe, who has recently moved to Canberra to work  for the government. She has what appeared to be a great lifestyle set up already, with a great house in a good location, a sweet job, friends, and an exercise routine. From what Phoebe says, its a much more balanced lifestyle than her previous one as a vet, working crazy hours and having no time for anything else.


Wasn’t too bad staying in the City i guess, but us humans, we really make a mess of the soundscape. Sound  pollution is really overlooked I reckon, the otherwise beautiful and calming sounds of nature are completely obscured in a city, and in suburbia at least your day invariably starts with the sound of traffic and lawnmowers! Shithouse compared to being out bush. I guess its about what’s important to you though isn’t it, every situation has its pros and cons…

We went for a hike up this mountain that looks over Canberra, really its surprisingly good how close you are to little bits of nature in this City.


We also met up with my old friends Tim and Soph. It was a near thing actually, these guys have been hassling me to come to Canberra for ages, and when we finally make it there i had my dates confused (as usual) and thought that they were visiting Perth! Turns out they were in town, and luckily we caught up for a big dinner and drinks session on our last night, drinking MacLaren Vale mead and good red wine, then moving on to whisky like we needed it! Was a lot of fun, we slept on their floor, got woken up to construction site noises (again!) and went to these awesome Canberra markets and stocked up on all kinds of good produce. Not a bad start to the day!


Canberra is actually not a bad place, everyone seems quite intelligent which is probably a weird compliment about a place. Random exchanges with people seem pretty friendly and open too. There is  also a much talked about Bogan element in Canberra, and while I never saw anyone that would be considered Bogan by my standards, they are out there, as evidenced by this photo!


So Canberra was OK, but we had the AAA conference to get to! This has been the only actual date that we’ve had to stick to on this trip, the only fixed item on our itinerary, so there was no missing it! Off to Wollongong we drove, dropping my mate Tim at the airport on the way, and driving off down the highway with the side door of the van open…

Nearing Wollongong, it looked like there was thick smoke up ahead, so we wound up the windows and prepared to watch out for flames. But entering it, we didn’t smell anything, and it turned out to be mist! Pretty soon we found ourselves on this steep winding road, dropping down to the coastal plain from the mountains, driving through beautiful thick forest on hairpin bends.


Really beautiful, and it got me thinking, maybe I’m not strictly a beach person, I could live in forest like this too I reckon! But staying in the forest was not an option just yet… on to Wollongong! Soon as we came into town, completely blissed out from the amazing mountain drive, some crazy Wollongong bogan starts honking and shouting at us to get out of his way. Son of a bitch! Quite a contrast haha. Wollongong? Now that’s a proper bogan town!

Hitting ‘the Gong’ we pulled into a caravan park to stay for the week while we went to the conference. Turned out that the place was a lot bigger than we thought, there were screaming kids and grey nomads running around everywhere, and a strange obsession with poo around the camp… A man came up and warned us that a pipe in the middle of our patch of grass was for caravanners to pour their poo down, and there was even a poo in the showers! Oh man, I thought ‘this is going to be shit’.

But it wasn’t so bad. We had a patch of grass and were close to the beach. So we set up camp, and rode our bikes to the fancy Novotel hotel where the conference was every day. Got some exercise, even if Erin started out soooo slow. She is faster now!

The conference was alright, basically, Erin and I are both archaeologists, and figured we would go and do some networking and get some leads on work on the east coast. Was great to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for months or years. Saw some interesting talks too, like one about bones of Polynesian people found in South America from thousands of years ago! Also big digs in Flores looking for more ‘Hobbit’ skeletons, a session on Aboriginal stone arrangements, and some national effort at digital field recording methods for archaeology.

I was also hoping to be inspired by the conference, because I have been feeling a bit stale with archaeology lately and wondering if I want to do it for a career or not. So Staf and Archaeology? Its not bad thing to do I guess, but I do struggle with its limitations, like its very hard for us to know anything for sure about the past. Maybe  it is OK as long as you realise its just a job. The problem is that I tend to identify  myself too much with what I’m doing, and then get annoyed when its not perfect. Its just a job really, and you can go to interesting places and have adventures every now and then. Pretty good on the scale of things! We’ll see what the future holds.

The other thing about the conference is that I got pretty drunk a couple of times, which I hadn’t done very much this trip. Was good fun mostly, but I did get a bit cheeky one night. Ah Staf why! I do get a bit freaked out by crowds sometimes, and can tend to cover up my anxiety with drinking too much! Not that bad though, apparently I was quite ‘hilarious’…

I got a proper sunburn on the last day, and the final night was a real party, everyone dancing, old professors and hot new graduate babes all in together. Was a real mess, and a good send off!

Next it was on to Sydney, more City Life! Could we handle it, or would we need to go bush again? Well, it was too much for me! We stayed with Erin’s uncle and aunt who were super hospitable, but I must admit I got the suburbia blues a bit. I was getting allergies from something, not sleeping well, and it was a nightmare trying to get around and find parking with the van! Not much to tell really, except I wanted to get out of the city. We did however go white water rafting in Penrith, on the awesome man made rapids course made for the Sydney Olympics. This was sick, and we even got to go down the course swimming on our backs because Erin’s cousin worked there! Pretty nuts, only got a few cuts and managed to not drown haha.


We also caught up with my mates Nate and Todd, I used to play in a folk band with Nate, and had drinks at this rooftop bar overlooking the harbour. Pretty sweet view, and drank too much beer once again. City Life mate!


Manly was also a pretty cool place. Good beach there, and I even found a Rum Bar to sit at and do some writing, imagining that famous picture of Hunter S Thomson and dreaming of a different career haha. I got myself a new hat too, and felt instantly 10 years younger!

Erin and I also went and checked out a gig at this little illegal club. Its like an underground music venue, with no license and a fridge full of beers where you serve yourself and put money in a jar. $10 entry, and we saw a pretty awesome big band playing old swing tunes. Totally random and fun, and afterwards we had a long yarn to one of the guys who helped set it up. Turns out a bunch of musicians live there, and put on a gig once a week and sell beers to pay for their rent. Hell yeah!


Unmarked entrance…


And Inside!


The Horn Man gets into it

So I’ve said before, one of the reasons for this trip is to try different places and figure out where I like living. What’s the place for me? Well, this blog post has really been about City Life, and to tell you the truth I am much less chilled in the city. I really want to be relaxed and peaceful in my mind at the moment, and I haven’t been feeling that in the city. But then, you can do some cool stuff in the city, there’s so much to observe, you meet interesting people, and that’s where the best music is happening.  So I’m wondering at the moment how to strike that balance. In a peaceful place where you can be close to nature and outdoor stuff, close to the beach because I fucking love the beach, but also close to opportunities for cool music and somewhere that’s kind of ‘happening’. Not sure of an answer yet, I may be wanting too  much! Maybe some kind of beachside town, maybe somewhere like Byron Bay? Maybe living out bush like a hermit and coming to town for the weekends? Not sure yet, but we have got plenty of time to try it out! I’m not ready to stop yet 🙂

Next Stop, Blue Mountains! And to tell you what, I cant wait to be back in the bush!


Having a bit of a practise overlooking the entrance to Sydney Harbour


6 thoughts on “The Big Van Trip Continues… City Life?

  1. Enjoying your blog Stafford trip sounds great keep them coming..Max enjoying reading
    your adventures, say Hi to Erin travel safe and have fun. Maisie & Max XX

  2. Pingback: Writing Challenge: Map It Out | The Daily Post

  3. SoundEagle would like to commend you for being a responsible free camper. What a trip you have had! Let’s hope that you will eventually find a happy balance between bush life and city life. I find that your travel-log essay is well written and enjoyable to read.

    I see that you are a musician too, and had met many musicians on your trip, especially at the illegal pub. Thank goodness that there are no illegal melodies and harmonies that prevent musicians from playing them.

    By the way, come and check out my (legal and original) music by clicking Music (in post format) or Music (in page format).

    Cheers and Happy New Year!

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