The End of An Incredible Era

Coming out of a life changing journey such as our 12 month trip around Australia, you would like to think that we learnt a thing or two along the way. Through hardship, happiness and mishaps, somehow we still managed to stick it out together and come out the other end as a couple even more in love and understanding of each other than ever before. So, what was it that made Oz360 change our lives forever more?

Well for Tom...
He mastered the art of changing tyres, four to be precise. Each time with a loving (nagging) girlfriend asking stupid questions and giving useless advice along the way.

He learnt that if you creep up on a 4 foot sea lion while it's sunbaking on the beach, it will turn nasty and could possibly tear you to shreds if you're not fast enough on your feet.

Having now serviced a Troopie four times and being in charge of any vehicular maintenance along the way, Tommy is now a very talented token Bush Mechanic.

Tom learnt that if you wear a khaki akubra, faded blue shorts, a khaki King Gee work shirt and a pair of hiking boots, you are bound to be mistaken for the Park Ranger on at least more than one occasion. (The big bushy beard didn't help the situation either).

He discovered a new found love for fishing. He transformed from being one of the most useless fisherman who threw back his first fish ever caught in Australia only to later learn that it was infact a nuisance pest the size of my pinkie with strict orders to kill on the spot and never to return to the water. Even after a bumpy start, he still managed to find a love and yearning desire to fish every waking minute of the day.

He never fished in the hopes of food at the other end of his line, Tom fished because he loved evaluating the water, the type of fish present, adapting his rig depending on his predicted catch, and standing for hours on end gripping onto that rod so tight as he stood back and just watched the day go by. When I think of Tom fishing, I recall his return to camp after each outing. I could tell just by the stride in his step, the weight of his bag and the look on his face whether or not he had an amazing catch to speak of. It is now safe to say that fishing has become a direct rival with the geology of the land for Tom's attention & affection. He has without a doubt, unveiled a new found love.

And considering how useless I am behind the camera, thankfully he also managed develop quite the eye for photography...

And for me? What did I learn after a whole year of living on the road? 

I realised how extremely lucky we were to be able to do it in the first place. The hardest part about buying & setting up a vehicle, saving up, quitting our jobs and actually set off on our adventure was making that commitment & following through. Having a dream will always remain a dream until you make it a reality. Once we had made the commitment to go, there was no turning back. Once we  had finally set off, you would like to think that all of our cares went out the window and we could just drive the open road for the next 52 weeks without a worry in the world. Well, quite the opposite really. There were days when it was just plain shit. Times when we would be so worried about our spendings after calculating that we had blown our weekly budget by 250%, or when the weather was so miserable that we all we could do was coup ourselves up in the cramped confined area of the Troopie cabin praying for the rain ease the following day, or when the Troopie blew a head gasket and we risked possibly having to call off the trip altogether or source an alternative vehicle. Those times were admittedly testing but in reflection, I now realise that they only made us stronger. So many times I remember Tom turning to me and saying "While this may seem really horrible right now, it sure beats working 9-5 Monday-Friday sitting behind a computer in an office somewhere"... that made us feel better everytime.

I love thinking of all of the people we met along the way, those special ones that shaped our journey and gave us stories to share for years to come - 

We made friends with Ned & Tren in Eden, NSW by default really, thanks to the terribly rainy weather we crammed ourselves under a tarp the first day we met and enjoyed endless pots of tea & pancakes for the whole day.

This was the Troopie Trio at Swimcart Beach, TAS. After spending a few days with Maria (in her Troopie called Norbit) and Jess & Dave (in their QueensLandCruiser), we instantly decided we must keep in touch. It wasn't until 4 months later that we literally bumped in Maria in Monkey Mia, WA and we caught up with Jess & Dave not long afterwards in Darwin, NT.

Our generous mate Aaron & his family in Tassie, who took us in, fed us, donated an abundance of fresh honey and took us out shooting. Such an awesome experience, one with many stories to tell for years to come...

The pub in the outback - Mungerannie Hotel. WOW! I am so glad we worked there. There wasn't one day during our whole three weeks there that it ever felt like a day at work. Pam and Phil just made us feel like we were part of their little family. I can't wait for the day that Tom and I go back there, even if it's ten years from now - it's definitely worth a revisit.

Co-founders of the Coward Springs Cup - Tom and I met Denise & Sparks on the Oodnadatta Track, damn smack in the middle of nowhere. Even after three days in the outback, we still managed to keep ourselves very well entertained...

Our second and last time we worked - at Lake Argyle Cruises in WA. And by 'work' I of course mean socialised with Greg & his family and answered a phone calls in between :)

After hours at Lake Argyle - our neighbours in the Caravan Park - Don and Fina were the ones that kept our sanity (and the only other non-grey nomads in the whole park). We were so lucky to be camped up next to our new found friends...

After now returning to my home town of Brisbane, we have been thrown right into the deep end to return to 'reality'. Both Tom and I are really excited to be normal once again, there were certain aspects that we used to take for granted during our normal life. Fresh, running & drinkable water. Hot showers every morning without a 100metre dash to the ablutions - and no need to wear thongs in the shower!! A hot cup of tea within minutes after the initial flick of a kettle. No artistic gymnastics every morning to roll the bed up with only one metre head clearance from the base of the bed. Comfort in the knowledge that we knew exactly where we'd sleep that night and how much it'll cost. Access to a washing machine that doesn't need to be activated by endless numbers of gold coins. And a bank account that gets topped up on a weekly basis. 

Even after being in a home for over a week and jogging my memory of all of those little quirks of living on the road, I realised I've already begun to take it all for granted once again. We loved everyday on the road and while the list above may identify all of those little things in life we missed, not having them there didn't bother us so much. We had comfort in the knowledge that we were free, travelling the open road, we had each other and always enough fuel to get us to our next campsite. That was all that mattered. 

Through all of the ups and downs, highs and lows, good times and not-so-good times, I wouldn't change a day of our adventure. Oz360 taught me to be thankful for what I have, to appreciate every second of your freedom and above all else that stress is purely a state of mind and so too is happiness.

Oz360 changed our lives.

The day we left.

"Locked in Love" on the Seacliffe Bridge, NSW

It was a pretty tough life.

The day we got Charlie back after he blew a head gasket.

Just the three of us.

Sunshine & Happy times.

 Looking towards the future.

CAMPSITE # 169 - Freshwater Campsite, Rainbow Beach QLD

We were trying to be very strategic when choosing our campsite on the Cooloola Coast in Rainbow Beach. School Holidays meant hundreds and hundreds of people crowding the whole beachfront and the last thing we felt like doing was spending the last week of our trip having to contend with the school holiday crowd.

We wanted a campsite that was nice and secluded, somewhere that we wouldn't be camped right on top of our neighbour but somewhere that was still within walking distance to the beach. When booking our 4WD passes at the Rangers office, we were informed that they were preparing to have their second busiest weekend of the year to date. We quickly responded by querying the whereabouts of the quietest campsite. That's how we found - 

Site : Freshwater Campsite
Rating : 11 / 20
Facilities : Dappled woodland, lovely and shady area, within 200metres walk to the beach. Hot showers available for $1 = 4 minutes except it's the only campsite in the whole area with hot showers so there was a line up of 20 women to use the showers - urgh!! $5 per person per night for camping, $30 for a 4-7 day 4WD pass.

Tom took a 1.3km stroll to the Freshwater Lake and returned to inform me that after all of the freshwater waterholes that we'd seen during the last 12months of our journey, the Freshwater Lake was quite a let down. I suppose you can expect that once you've seen so many beautiful things, places with limited beauty just don't seem to shine like they used to.

Welcome to the world of having to deal with School Holiday campers. Driving on the beach during school holidays alongside all of those irresponsible rev heads is an absolute nightmare. Tom and I went for a walk down to the beach from our campsite and sat and watched the highway of cars racing along the beach at a million miles an hour. We sat right at a creek inlet watching the tide rushing out creating mini-cliff like drops along the way. The legal speed limit on Teewah Beach is 60km/hr but anyone who has ever driven a 4WD on the beach knows that you can never expect to be driving a continuous & steady 60km/hr and that you must be prepared to come to a complete halt in preparation for soft sand, washouts and any other points of danger. Some people proceed at snails pace with absolute & extreme caution while others like to show off how rough and tough they are by pressuring slower drivers and being altogether irresponsible. Combine these two types of drivers on one stretch of beach and it results in absolute beachfront chaos. Road rage on the beach surely is not my idea of a good time.

CAMPSITE # 168 - Bundaberg Rum Distillery

I don't even drink Bundy Rum! I can't stand the smell of it let alone the taste. So, why on earth would I even consider going to the Bundaberg Rum Distillery? For the same reason you quit your job, pack your life into a Troopie and go for a big long drive around the country for a year - the experience. (And also for the love of your rum drinking boyfriend).

For $15 per person, you can go for a self guided tour around their museum. The museum explains the process of making the rum and gives a bit of history about how it all started. You can pay an extra $10 per person to do the tour of the distillery and see for yourself how the rum is made and where it is stored. 

As a non-rum drinker, I couldn't help but have a little chuckle at the seriously-serious-rum-drinkers on our tour. Just as we were lining up for the tour, I turned my head to the earth shattering rumble of a shiny black V8 Ford Falcon with tasteless red hot flames paintwork and cheap glossy chrome covering all of the plastic that lay beneath, this bogan-mobile certainly was difficult to miss. But the car had nothing on the young family that climbed out of it. Let's just say, they were A-typical Bundy Rum drinking Aussie Bevans. And then there was their chubby little son, surely his t-shirt reading "My Dad Can Kick Your Dad's Ass" says enough.

No doubt these guys were friends with the 5 or 6 fellas parked up on their camping chairs right out the front of the entry. After noticing two of them with laptops perched on their laps and a couple of others engaging in a card game (using Bundy Rum cards of course) it was quite clear that these guys had been sitting around for a long time. We went over to have a chat to them and to find out why on earth they were there. Turns out, Bundy Rum release exclusive bottles and they were there to get the first ten on offer. So, how long would you wait in line 24 hours a day with only loo breaks and a shower to break up your day all to acquire one bottle of your favourite drink? The guy in position number one had been there for 2 days. He had another 12 to go. That's all. Nothing else to do but play World Of Warcrafts out the front of his Bundy Rum factory. But that's ok, his 'Mrs' drops the kids off after school for half an hour so he can still see the kids.

Site : Pippies Beachhouse Rainbow Beach
Rating : 5 / 20
Facilities : Setting up camp underneath a hills hoist in the carpark of a backpackers wasn't exactly our idea of an ideal campsite. But, after touring the Bundy Rum Distillery all afternoon we turned up so late that this was the best we could get. $12 per person to sleep in your own car in the carpark and use their backpackers facilities.

CAMPSITE # 167 - Southern Cross Backpackers, 1770 QLD

Naming a town after a year, now there’s an interesting approach. Was it just laziness that drew Cook to give it its name? Perhaps he was so fed up with trying to be creative when naming his discoveries? Or maybe there was some sort of insight into its naming – either way, the town name of “1770” surely is a difficult one to forget.  It got me thinking about strange names of places that we’ve come across on during our journey –

Deadman Creek, NSW - was a body lying in a gully the result of its name?
Alligator River - Kakadu, NT – Now this one was named after sighting prehistoric reptiles in the water that they assumed to be an alligators but then later discovered to be crocodiles.
Chinaman’s Knob, VIC – Does it speak for itself?
Dismal Swamp, TAS – Which contrary to its name, was far from dismal.
Murder Point Rifle Range, QLD – Yep! Actually exists, don’t think we’ll be going there in a hurry.
The End of the World, TAS – Really does feel like the point at the end of the world. If you were to travel directly west from “The End of the World” the next continent you would reach is South America.
Useless Loop, WA – Just off from Monkey Mia, we didn’t take that road.

I'd been to 1770 just once before, as a quick stopover during a road trip to Airlie Beach. I remembered it to be a quiet coastal town just at the beginning of a major tourist boom. Aside from a few dozen modern mansions erected in the last 4 years, it was still the 1770 I remembered it to be. Last time I went there, it was during the peak season so to no great surprise we had a very rough time trying to find accommodation due to our lack of pre-planning. I was distraught four years ago when we tried to check into the Southern Cross Backpackers and were turned away because they were fully booked. I desperately wanted to stay there. Second time round, I was determined to not set myself up once again for disappointment.

Southern Cross Backpackers in 1770 is without a doubt the BEST backpackers both Tom & I have ever seen. It's located 2km out of town, and seemed to me to feel more like a rustic bush retreat with a touch of funk. Let me paint a picture for you of our first 2minutes of our arrival.

Take the turn off at the blue VW combi parked out the front - always a sign of some happy hippies in residence.

Follow the long driveway into a paddock of luscious green grass meeting an man made dam covered in white water lillies.

 Park up next to the golden fern palm trees and colourful Bali flags blowing in the wind.

Walk alongside the sparkling blue backyard pool and gaze over towards the good looking people (insert gender preference here) lazing about in there togs under the glow of hot summer sunshine.

Enter a glorified shed decorated in foreign flags, comfy lounges while listening to funky music you've never heard but already want to jump straight onto itunes and download a copy for yourself.

Find yourself increasing your intended one night stay to three nights when you learn you can setup camp on the grass out the back and use all of their facilities for just $13 per person per night.

Finally! Somewhere we could camp with people that we were closer to their age of than their own grandchildrens'. People we could relate to and share stories of our world travels. Finally, somewhere to drink in public at seriously reasonable prices. 

We broke out the damper, and sat around the campfire socialising and sharing our Aussie bread...

And then, it was time to do as the backpackers do, get really cheap deals on all of the local attractions. Would you believe, that there is still a place in the whole of a Australia that you can join a small group of other beginners for a 3 hour Learn To Surf lesson for $17 per person at Reef 2 Beach Surf!! Holy moly that is CHEAP!! That includes board and wet suit hire. We had an absolutely fantastic time, to a point where we were so disappointed we hadn't learnt to surf at the START of the trip!!!

Meet Patrick, he's our new friend that suggested we all went surfing together. We have Patrick to thank for our full day of awesomeness!! Patrick is from Ireland and has taken a year off to see as much of the world as humanly possible. He also has a blog you can check out at 

Perfect learn-to-surf conditions resulted in Tommy and I riding those waves like we were the next Mick Fanning...

And then Tom decided to start showing off by surfing backwards...

And then the man and his dog decided to start showing off...

By the completion of three days in the life of a backpacker, I was ready to return to our old life. 72 hours of funky music blaring through the shed that no longer felt glorified was beginning to give me a headache. Cooking three dinners amongst the pig sty left behind by grubs that wouldn't wash their own dishes made me concerned for our hygiene. Standing in the kitchen watching three youths 'meditating' to the water on the stove to make it boil faster just made me roll my eyes. Showering in a unisex bathroom while an American in the cubicle next door was busy trying to suss me out in the hopes of sharing one cubicle to 'save water' and I had just about had enough.
Time to return to our old life, just the three of us - Tom, the Troopie and I. At least for the next very small handful of campsites remaining.