It’s been an interesting month to say the very least. After a somewhat surprising turn of events since my last post — let’s just say things did not work out with the French guy — it was time for me to figure out if I wanted to renew my three-month lease here in Darwin or if I should hit the road again. After a lot of long walks and a significant amount of soul searching, I decided on a compromise that would allow me to do both.
An Upcoming Adventure in Broome and the Kimberley
I officially ended my lease and will be flying to Broome next week to spend some time exploring Northwestern Australia. While there are a ton of ways to go about this, I decided to splurge and treat myself to a good old fashioned guided tour through the Kimberley region so I can get my fix of all things hiking, camping, and sleeping under the stars, something I’ve been looking forward to doing again since my epic trip with Mulgas Adventures last May that had us doing just that in Uluru/Kata-Tjuta National Park and King’s Canyon in the Outback.
While most Kimberly tours were completely sold out by the time I even started looking at them, I did eventually track down one through a company called Kimberly Wild that had a sale going on at the time. Instead of costing $1,995 AUD for a 10-day/9-night adventure, a coupon code on the website allowed me to save $400 AUD, bringing my total to $1,595 AUD, or about $1,177 USD. That total includes all accommodation, meals, and transportation between Broome and Darwin via a four-wheel drive vehicle that gives us access to some of the coolest parts of the Kimberly and the legendary Gibb River Road you really can’t reach otherwise. Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked.
The tour brings me back to Darwin at the end of July, just in time for an event on July 22 called the Darwin Beer Can Regatta, so that works out nicely. There also happens to be a bunch of shows coming to the Darwin Entertainment Centre in August as part of the Darwin Festival so I’m going to stick around and save up as much money from my sweet ushering gig as I can, then eventually hit the road in September.
Back to the Outback
The idea is to do a road trip with some friends down the middle of Australia from Darwin to Alice Springs, stopping at a few fun photo-ops — like Mataranka Hot Springs, the Daly Waters Pub, and a funky rock formation known as the Devil’s Marbles — along the way before making our way out to Uluru/Kata-Tjuta National Park and King’s Canyon.
From there, the country is my oyster. I am having a really, really tough time trying to figure out where to go from there, as I could backtrack and head across to Cairns on the East Coast while it's still the Dry season, or continue south to Adelaide, then take the Great Ocean Road over to Melbourne, and eventually head up to Sydney to visit friends and meet up with my Mom, who is hellbent on visiting me sometime in October/November.
My dream was to end up in Sydney for New Year’s Eve so I can see the fireworks in person, but honestly, if the timing doesn’t add up, I can always try and do it next year after my stint in New Zealand. I think I might end up back in Perth at some point, if only to continue exploring the West Coast since I didn’t have much time over there at the start of this trip. As usual, there’s so much to see and not enough time. On the bright side, I can always come back to Australia anytime for up to three months as a tourist (ie. not on a Working Holiday Visa if the second year extension doesn’t work out) and see whatever’s left as part of a vacation.
To Drive Or Not To Drive
One of my biggest decisions to make soon is whether or not to get a car once I come back to Darwin at the end of July. In theory, it would be easier and cheaper to be able to drive myself around at will, check out things of interest, camp at a few national parks or RV/caravan sites along the way — most are $6-$20 per person per night depending on where you go and what kind of facilities you want — and turn this whole thing into a super-mega road trip adventure. I’m thinking an automatic station wagon or sedan would be more my speed vs a big camper van since I’ll be camping in my tent or staying in hostels the whole time and won’t be sleeping in my car unless I have to. I also need to think about how much it’ll cost to fuel up as I go. Gulp.
I don’t necessarily have to do it alone either. There are tons of Facebook groups out there where people post places they want to go and ask if anyone wants to join them, whether in their own car or as part of a convoy so you can all drive down and go camping together. All of this sounds great, until I start worrying about what happens if my trusty steed were to break down or if I all of a sudden need to blow money on repairs. Backpackers I’ve met have said it’s worth doing, if only to break up the monotony of long bus rides and expensive flights between places. I’d also be able to sell it at the end of my trip, but Lord knows how much fun that will be.
Thinking Ahead to New Zealand
I’m allowed to stay in Australia with this Working Holiday Visa (462) until March 22, 2019, at which point I’m going to pop over to New Zealand and pretty much do the same thing over there for the remaining months. I (stupidly) didn’t think this all the way through all the way when I applied for my NZ WHV back in October of last year — I should have waited until THIS year and applied for it just before my 31st birthday in September, oops! — so unfortunately, I have to visit this year sometime before October 31 in order to “activate” it, then finish off the one in Australia, then finish off the one in New Zealand, so I’ll only end up with about six or seven months there instead of a full year like Australia. But that’s okay. I plan to make the most of both either way.
Help Me Plan My Next Move
So, if you were in my shoes, what would you do? Would you buy a cheap backpacker car, learn how to drive on the other side of the road, and just go for it? Would you head straight down the middle and work your way back up the East Coast or start in Cairns and work your way down to Sydney? Have you done something like this already? Any tips, ideas, or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Until next time, happy travels!