Cold night and crazy ideas
How all of this started? How did we get an idea to go for a trip around Australia?
Imagine a cold, windy winter night in Australia. I know, I know… Australia is supposed to be warm and sunny. Not in my story. As I said – it was cold, and we were sitting at the diner table with a hyperactive three-year-old kid. Sounds familiar? Good, I know you have been there once or twice. And at that time, out of nowhere, my husband said:
It’s enough, why don’t we move to Gold Coast and start a new life there?
In the past, we talked many times about moving out of Melbourne as the weather was too cold, but you know how difficult it is to do it. We had a long discussion, we were considering many options of how to do it, but suddenly we got a different idea.
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Why don’t we go around the block first and then look for a job on Gold Coast?
That idea got stuck in our mind, and shortly, we decided to sell everything and prepare for the big trip. It took us three months to sell the house, two cars, quit two good jobs, and pack to storage what we could not sell.
Finding a 4WD for a big trip
We knew we needed a new car to tow a camper trailer with ease. In a short time, I found 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 with some minor extensions installed. I remember during our test drive, we were in a big shock. Nissan Patrol is a proper 4WD car, and when you move from a small car, it feels like you are sitting in a military tank.
Luckily we got a good deal with the lady, and we ended up buying almost a brand new car. Unfortunately, that was just the start. The car had to be still modified a bit for our trip around Australia we were planning.
Although we knew nothing about off-road driving, we decided to visit our friendly mechanic and ask him to upgrade our new car. He was thrilled!
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 tire 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 what to upgrade, we left the car in the hands of professionals, and I started to shop around for a trailer.
Look for a second-hand 4WD – you can find really good deals from private sells
Trailer test and purchase
Finding a good camper trailer that could work for an extended period of time as our new home was not an easy task. We already had a small, hard floor trailer and were hoping it would be good enough for the trip. Let’s put it this way – we were wrong…
Before making a big decision about the trailer, we took our small trailer for a three-week camping trip to Adelaide and around 2000 km. At first, it wasn’t bad, but we noticed that the space inside the trailer was limited, and the setup was long and tiresome. It was sufficient for a 2-3 weeks trip, but not for a twelve-month expedition!
Last night, on the way back, we experienced a heavy storm. It rained and rained all night, and canvas started to leak water, so our bed was completely wet. In the middle of the night, we moved to a motel as the conditions inside the trailer were unbearable.
That was it – we needed a bigger, better-designed trailer with two beds and a hard roof. It was important to us, so possums and rain would bounce off with ease. This happened in the Grampians. Possums were using our trailer as a trampoline all night long as we stop under a tree where possums lived.
We had finally decided to buy a Coromal Silhouette trailer with two beds, a lot of storage and a kitchen with a fridge.
Crush 4WD course was needed
Believe me, when you move from a small car like Honda Jazz or Mazda 3 to a proper 4WD, it feels different.
Firstly, when you get inside, you have to step up a bit – it is a big car.
Secondly, you have to know how to operate the low range gears and know when to use them.
Lastly, there is a lot to know about your car, like how to change tyres, how to repair small problems, how to check if everything is right.
Saying that we decided to go for a one-day 4WD course, where we had a chance to cross the river (we were bogged immediately), learn how to recover a stuck vehicle (guess who’s car it was), negotiate steep hills and drive over obstacles not leaving car parts behind. It was a perfect hands-on experience that we often used in our future adventures.
At least, we will be now more confident when we make our trip around Australia 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 quietly sat at the back of the car. We were ready for our big adventure.
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 through Bendigo to Kerang passed quickly, and the car with the trailer was running smoothly. Unfortunately, at the turn, just before stopping for the night, a truck had sprayed a stone, and a 1cm crater appeared on the windshield—bad luck.
We decided to look for a windshield replacement the next morning, but after talking to the campsite owner, we changed our minds. An Aussie said briefly:
Do not replace the windscreen until you really have to!
He was probably right, so we let it slide. It happened. It was not our last broken windscreen. Our darling, Nell, was so far ok with the drive, but along the way (300 km from Melbourne), she continuously asked when we would arrive at the zoo?
We didn’t promise her any trip to the zoo, and even though we wanted to take her there, there was no zoo for another 1000km…
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. I could only wonder why he was snoring so loud, causing the camper trailer to vibrate.
And this is it from the starting day of our trip around Australia.
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