Cold night and crazy ideas
Have you ever wondered how a small idea can lead to big adventures?
One cold, windy winter night in Australia, my family and I were gathered around the diner table with our hyperactive three-year-old kid. The weather wasn’t as warm and sunny as you might expect, and we were feeling restless. That’s when my husband suddenly spoke up:
“Enough is enough. Why don’t we move to Gold Coast and start a new life there?”
We had discussed moving out of Melbourne before, but it always seemed too difficult to do. However, this time, something was different. We talked it over and realised that we didn’t want to settle down just yet. Instead, we wanted to go on an adventure and explore the beautiful country of Australia.
“Why don’t we go on a trip around Australia first and then look for a job on the Gold Coast?” my husband suggested.
The idea excited us, and soon we decided to sell everything we owned, quit our jobs, and pack our bags for the trip of a lifetime. It took us three months to sell our house, two cars, and everything else we didn’t need, but finally, we were ready to hit the road and start our adventure.
Finding a 4WD for a big trip
When we decided to go on a trip around Australia, we knew that we needed a car that could tow a camper trailer with ease. After some searching, I stumbled upon a two-month-old Nissan Patrol that the previous owner wanted to sell because it was too big for her.
The car had only 2000 km on the odometer and came with some minor upgrades already installed. During our test drive, we were taken aback by the size of the Nissan Patrol. It was a proper 4WD car, and it felt like we were sitting in a military tank compared to our previous small cars.
Thankfully, we were able to strike a good deal with the previous owner and purchased the almost brand-new car. However, our modifications were just beginning. We knew that we needed to upgrade the car further to make it suitable for our trip around Australia.
Despite knowing nothing about off-road driving, we visited our friendly mechanic and asked for his help in upgrading our new car. To our surprise, he was thrilled to help us and gave us some great advice on what modifications we needed to make for our trip.
We have decided to:
- Remove the back seats
- Install a security crate
- Install a drawer system
- Install a 50L fridge
- Add an aluminium rooftop
- Install two cans of diesel on the roof
- Add a second spare tire (6 tyres in total)
- Set of “must-have” car parts and filters
- Purchase a tyre manual repair kit
- Install auxiliary battery for the fridge
- Install a CB radio
- Install brake support for the trailer
- Install a side shade
- Purchase a recovery gear
- Purchase Hema GPS Navigator and maps
Once we decided on the modifications we needed to make to our Nissan Patrol we left the car in the capable hands of professionals and started to search for a suitable trailer.
We needed a trailer that was durable, spacious, and could withstand rough terrain.
Look for a second-hand 4WD – you can find really good deals from private sells
Finding a new trailer
Finding a camper trailer that could serve as our new home for an extended period of time was no easy task. We initially had a small, hard floor trailer that we thought could work for our trip, but we soon realised that it was not suitable for a long-term expedition.
To ensure that we made the right decision about the trailer, we took our small trailer on a three-week camping trip to Adelaide, covering around 2000 km. While the trip started off okay, we soon realised that the space inside the trailer was limited, and the setup was cumbersome and time-consuming. It was evident that our small trailer was only sufficient for short trips of 2-3 weeks, not for the twelve-month trip we had in mind.
To make matters worse, we encountered a heavy storm on the way back, and the canvas of our small trailer began to leak water, drenching our bed. It was unbearable, and in the middle of the night, we had to abandon the trailer and seek refuge in a motel.
This incident made it clear that we needed a larger, better-designed trailer that could withstand rough weather and offer enough space for a comfortable long-term stay. We eventually settled on a Coromal Silhouette with two beds, plenty of storage, and a kitchen with a fridge. The hard roof and design would prevent rain and possums from ruining our sleep and damaging our belongings. We were finally ready for our adventure around Australia!
Crush 4WD course was needed
Believe me, when you transition from a small car like a Honda Jazz or Mazda 3 to a proper 4WD, it feels different.
Firstly, when you get inside, you have to climb up a bit as it is a larger vehicle.
Secondly, you need to know how to operate the low-range gears and when to use them.
Lastly, there is a lot to learn about your car, such as changing tyres, repairing minor problems, and checking if everything is working correctly.
Therefore, we decided to attend a one-day 4WD course where we had the opportunity to cross rivers (and got bogged immediately), learn how to recover a stuck vehicle (guess whose car it was), navigate steep hills, and drive over obstacles without leaving any car parts behind. It was a perfect hands-on experience that we often used in our future adventures.
At least now, we will be more confident on our trip around Australia, knowing that we have some 4WD knowledge.
More information about preparing for an off-road adventure is in our off-road driving guide.
Trip Around Australia – preparation summary
There were many things to finalise before a big trip, so let’s summarise what we did:
- We sold the house, two cars and a small camper trailer
- We sold most of our furniture and other stuff
- We move the rest of the furniture to a storage
- We bought an almost brand new 4WD car and fully upgraded it for the trip
- We bought a new Coromal Silhouette camper trailer
Finally, all was ready for the road. The car and trailer were packed, new maps loaded, and 10 teddy bears plus one little girl were ready for the adventure of a lifetime. We had no idea what to expect, but we were excited to find out. The trip around Australia was about to begin.
When you sell a house your first offer is usually the best offer
What a good start – cracked windscreen!
Finally, we escaped!
After 8 long cold years in Melbourne, we were free to go. It was a strange feeling leaving our house with a new owner already. There was some uncertainty as we did not know what would happen. We were pretty confident as we did three months of intensive preparation, and our excitement was quite high.
That day, we left at 2 pm after a delicious dinner at my mother’s place. Before we hit the road, we checked for any road closures to ensure we won’t have any unpleasant surprises. We used Vic Traffic for road status and Vic Emergency for road closures.
Starting our trip around Australia
The road from Bendigo to Kerang passed quickly, and the car with the trailer was running smoothly. Unfortunately, just before stopping for the night, a truck sprayed a stone and caused a 1cm crater on the windshield – bad luck.
Initially, we planned to look for a windshield replacement the next morning, but after talking to the campsite owner, we changed our minds. The Aussie advised us not to replace the windscreen until it’s necessary. He was probably right, so we decided to let it go. It wasn’t our last broken windscreen, though.
Our daughter, Nell, was enjoying the drive so far, but along the way (300 km from Melbourne), she kept asking when we would arrive at the zoo. We didn’t promise her any zoo trip, and even if we wanted to take her there, the nearest one was still 1000 km away.
Our first stop was at Ibis Caravan Park just before Kerang. The night was beautiful and warm. My daughter and I slept like babies. Marius claimed that he couldn’t sleep the whole night, but I could only wonder why he was snoring so loud, causing the camper trailer to vibrate.
The next morning, we packed up the trailer and hit the road again. We were excited to continue our adventure and see what lay ahead.
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4WD Equipment Checklist
Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)
UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency
Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road
High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks
Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking
Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places