Posts Tagged ‘Land Rover Defender 130 Overland’

Thanks for waiting, apologies it’s taken nearly three weeks to get the latest chapter out, finding the motivation to write what is possibly the final blog has been hard to come by. Actually, I’ve been trying to get Megan to do this one but she’s having none of it, apparently my standard is too high, well that’s what I’ve told myself. Much like all enjoyable holidays it’s finished far too quickly and looking back on the trip at the moment it’s nothing but a blur . This might have something to do with the fact that we are currently slightly hysterical after four separate flights, three different airlines, two bus journeys, a boat ride and 27 coffees in the space of thirty hours. We are on our way home.

So let’s fill you in on what’s been going on: We last left each other exiting Cape York if I recall, then we drove to Brisbane, shipped the car and flew to Malaysia. So until next time folks!

Even sleep deprived I’m still hilarious, no? Actually, quite a lot took place and did you know, now this is bit of a side track but bear with me, did you know that it’s such a small world that randomly on a little campsite, literally in the middle of nowhere I met up with Paul and his girlfriend Annie (I hope to god that’s her name, I’m sorry if it’s not, but I’m really bad with names, aren’t I Maggie? I mean Megan.) You know Paul though, no not that Paul, Exeter Paul! Well, for those of you who don’t know Paul (how could you not?) he used to live with my brother in Exeter. No not like that, not as a ‘life partner’, as a university house mate. Just recently I had accepted his friend request on ‘the Facebook’, and thank goodness I did as that might have been an embarrassing and awkward moment. Then out of the blue this hairy traveler looking chap starts shouting my name, as I said on a campsite in the middle of nowhere and suddenly I met up with Paul after a ten year hiatus! Small world. We had a great night chatting and catching up, listening to their travel plans. It made us quite jealous, as our trip was ending and theirs was just beginning.

 

From this chance meeting we drove onto Cairns and camped out there for a week, enjoying the sunshine and ice cream coffees. As we hadn’t up to that point bought much in the way of souvenirs we went a bit crazy and have now got quite a lot of art packed into the car. Some of the local stuff at the markets was actually very good and now all we need is a flat to put it up in. The daily budget will not reflect the purchases, as some of the stuff we got was a daily budget in itself, but then how can you put a price on art? Well actually nothing more than $50 if I’m honest.

It was a drag to leave Cairns but the count down clock was ticking and one morning we woke up and realized we would have to do some mammoth drives in order to get back to Brisbane by the date we had set ourselves, so it was somewhat of a surprise to wake up three days later only to have driven 50kms down the road. Damn the Aussie sunshine and great beaches! So now it had become a race to reach Brisbane in time, three days and just under 2000kms. Do-able in a normal car, but verging on impossible in a Land Rover… but as long as we didn’t break down we would be fine. We broke down. We had driven about 600kms when the rear axle’s diff started to leak, badly. Phoning around we found a garage to take it to and although they were fully booked out for a month they managed to fit us in. After a lot of sucking through teeth a diagnosis was given, “I think it’s cracked mate’. Only two more days to go and we would have been home free, but never mind. Not having the money to fix it properly we got them to cowboy it, to glue it up to stop the leak and put it on the long list of things to get fixed once we are home.

 

The weather had by this point started to get cold again so we sought comfort in a motel and after ten weeks of camping it was damn nice to get into a proper bed and have a toilet that did not require walking across a field to get to. Then all of a sudden it was our last day on the road, but we got the impression the Land Rover didn’t want to leave Australia… I can’t really put my finger on why we got this feeling but the fact that the exhaust blew off the side of the engine that morning might have something to do with it. Ok, that might be a tad of an exaggeration but after investigating a funny noise it was clear there was something wrong, as the entire engine was covered in soot, more soot than usual anyway.  Twice in two days, come on?!? Luckily we managed to track down a new gasket, randomly in someone’s house, and after two hours in a lay-by we were off and running again. However this time, with only 300kms to go we simply rolled the windows down so the deafening wind noise would drown out any more strange noises and we could well and truly bury our heads in the sand. It worked like a charm, and we finally arrived just outside Brisbane, after a slight detour into a woodland thanks to the GPS, at around 7pm.  And after 30,000 miles that’s where our journey ended, a couple of miles outside of Brisbane at the house of our friends Adam and Sharon, who kindly put us up for a couple of days so we could get our stuff together and pack the car up.

What could have been a rather depressing few days, our last in Australia, instead turned out to be some of the best. We were treated to amazing home cooked meals, free flowing booze, boat rides, and probably the best last day of a holiday ever. We took the ferry across to a large sand island called Stradbroke just off Brisbane, and even though it called for a 5am start we saw so much wildlife at close range: whales, turtles, dolphins and finally our first koala in the wild! Throw in lunch consisting of homemade burgers on the beach and a bit of off roading, and it was a top 10 day for sure.

 

Oh and that’s not even the best bit! I went fishing for the first time ever! I didn’t catch a thing, but that’s not the point, I now know how to fish, kind of.

 

We also met up with Ryan, a fellow Land Rover owner, who we met when we were first in Brisbane and he treated us to a fresh fish meal and two kilos of fresh prawns that we even went down to the trawler to pick up. Aussies are just so friendly!

We can’t thank Adam and Sharon and their family enough for putting us up, feeding us, letting us use their washing machine constantly for three days and taking us out. Like I said, what could have been a miserable couple of days were simply amazing.

All too soon it was time to drop the car off and catch a flight to Malaysia. Dropping the car off was a simple procedure; we just handed over the keys and carnet. No paper work, no bribes, no last minute changes, just a simple ‘here you go’ and a ‘thank you’. Ah the joys of organizing shipping in a developed country. Actually, I hope they were shippers and not just carpark attendants… thinking about it they did look kind of confused and I did think it strange that I had to explain what a carnet was to a shipping company…

‘Megan! I think I might have handed the car over to a couple of traffic wardens!’

If in fact they were shippers we should ‘hopefully’ get the car back in five weeks, so 35 days to decide what to do with it.  After a quick stop at the supermarket to get as many TimTams as we could stuff into our hold luggage we were dropped off at the airport. Our last few hours in Oz were spent using up all our spare change and buying magazines for the flight, and a few more TimTams. We loved Australia. It has so much to offer, so many different landscapes, so many opportunities to escape the crowd, so many places to visit and to camp. Plus, and this is something that surprised us, so much interesting history. I think it’s the fact that it’s recent history that makes it so interesting and something you can actually relate to. It’s somewhere we are coming back to, long term.

Currently I am sitting on a beach in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia, trying to remember my port from starboard, my monkey first from my sheep shank in a bid to get ready for work. It’s going to be weird going back, but good to see family and friends. Plus we need to start planning our next trip and although I slag old blighty off, it’s still the only place in the world you can get a great Sunday roast while perusing the papers and drinking a proper pint of bitter. Perfect Sunday.  Since it’s a habit now I’ll do a blog about being home and the car’s return after her cruise. Megan is in the process of doing the final figures for the trip and once my heart has been restarted after she tells me how much we spent in total I’ll post them up for those interested in a similar trip.

So what can I say? It’s been great, thanks so much for showing an interest in my ramblings and our trip, I hope it’s inspired some you to go off on your own trips, but the biggest thanks goes to my travel buddy Megan. Thanks Megan for putting up with me, correcting my apalking speling and grammar’s and making a year on the road so much fun.

Laters.

We made to the tip, the top of Australia and the furthest north you can go on this mighty continent. It was an achievement for us, the last couple of days before the tip were spent doing running repairs to the Land Rover and to finally reach our goal was a very proud moment for us. It was also tinged with disappointment as this also signaled the end of the trip and the next few weeks was all about getting ready to pack the car up and send it home. As we took those final footsteps to the sign marking our destination I willed it to be further away as any steps taken after that sign would be south and would have an air of ‘homeward bound’ about them. Cape York was never our original goal, our goal was to get to Australia overland, but that changed pretty early on when it was clear we couldn’t get through Pakistan and the car caught fire in Turkey….’Megan, Megan, do you remember when the car caught fire in Turkey and smoke started pouring out from between your legs?…ahhhhh…good times!’. So that plan changed to getting the car shipped to India which fell flat on its face when the costs involved became clear, and many a plan after that changed due to various changes in our mood, the level in the bank account and the amount of sunshine on offer. We didn’t so much trek to Oz as ship to Oz, but you can’t really plan what’s going to happen on trips like these, can you?

Look at me getting all nostalgic, and we still have just under a month to go and a short break in Malaysia on the way home. Well, after this trip we both felt like a holiday before returning to the world of work, ten mile queues on the M25 and Saturdays in Waitrows (it’s actually Aldi, but I’m trying to impress you all). In actual fact it’s worked out cheaper for us to fly via Kuala Lumpur, go on a diving holiday for a week and then fly home via Air Asia, than it would be to fly direct to London from Brisbane with a major Airline. Ah Air Asia, for enabling us lower middle class to travel the world uncomfortably but cheaply we thank you.

Anyway, I’m sure you are not interested in our travel plans and the six flights it’s going to take us to get home (our carbon foot print is going to be massive, I’ll plant a small coppice when I get back to the mother land). So yes, the top of Cape York, like much of the rest of it was deserted, quiet and simply stunning. It was rather windy when we reached the furthest north you can go in Australia which all added to the sense of occasion, and looking north out to sea past the islands I really wanted to keep going, but the road quite literally didn’t go any further!

 

The beaches were probably some of the best we’ve seen on this trip, but unfortunately we couldn’t swim in any of them due to the number of animals that would kill you if you put so much as a toe in the water. Never mind though, we still had an amazing time sitting on these deserted stretches of sand and wondering how one country can have so many different and stunning landscapes. This country really is pretty awesome, if only it had a quality, high brow Sunday tabloid that hacked celebs’ phones like we do back home, then we would stay for ever….oh wait…

Reach the top of Australia – Tick

Drove off road – Tick

Forded deep rivers – Tick

Camped on beaches – Tick

Swam in Creeks – Tick

Three days without a shower -Tick

As you can see from the above list we covered all the main aspects of outback bush living and ‘roughing it’, so we began the long trip south and back to a decent latté, Mcflurry, and paved roads. It’s just so difficult to get a half decent hot beverage when you’re in the middle of nowhere: I ordered an earl grey tea the other day and I was asked if I wanted milk in it! Savages. It was at that point that I told Megan we needed to get back to civilization, stat. The roads back down south seemed to have got worse since we drove north and the corrugations had definitely got bigger. Corrugations are ridges in the road that cause a car to shake and bounce all over the place. The best way I can describe them is it’s like driving over a really big cattle grid, but the grids are spaced far apart and they last for 20kms at a time. To try and make it as smooth as possible you have to drive fairly fast so you skim over the top of them, which is fine if you are driving in a straight line but the problem comes with the corners: as the wheels are not really fully in contact with the road surface turning the steering wheel has little effect! For the second time this trip I managed to power slide a 3.5 tonne Land Rover. Jeremy Clarkson would be proud. Megan, rightly so, wasn’t and my pleas to do it again and to video it fell on deaf ears. We slowed down for the corners after that. Boo.

The list of car issues grew daily. First the handbrake light came on for no reason and now it won’t go off, the rear roof rack snapped in half, the bonnet kept popping open, but worst of all a turbo hose came off. When this happened the noise it caused was horrendous and I thought my world had come to an end. Luckily with a bit of handiwork with a hose clip it was reattached and we continued south, both on edge and waiting for the next thing to go wrong. Thankfully noting else did and after three days of driving we made it back to the tarmac. Happy days.

We loved Cape York, we finally made good use of the car and its capabilities and really enjoyed the camaraderie of the fellow travelers. Plus I met loads of Land Rover owners!

 

Currently we are back in Cairns, having a bit of time to clean the car and fix some of the bigger problems. It’s nice to be back here again as we both like Cairns and think we will spend a week up here just being lazy and chilling (is that what the kids say?) before the long drive back to Brisbane and the cold weather that awaits us…

Oh I nearly forgot, I managed to get published in a great magazine in Dubai called Outdoor UAE.  Check the link out below, its on page 30. I’m feeling pretty chuffed about it to be honest, it’s the first step towards a book, the TV show and finally the film deal!

http://www.outdooruae.com/onlineMAG/2011_Jul.html