Somewhat Gypsea

The Truth about Van Life in Australia

Van Life can be so romanticized on the “gram,” and one of the most valid reasons for it is that almost every Vanlifers will at some point or another, sell their camper van aka home on wheels. You wouldn’t go online “trashing” your home before selling it, would you?  Well, the same goes for anyone living in a van. Even though we love Vanlife, we also like to keep it real with you guys ! After two years on the Australian roads in a 1983 Australian school bus, we definitely have had our fair share of challenges which made this journey a true adventure & a road trip to remember!

So, here are some of our most cherished travel stories

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💧 The worst Van Life nightmare: Ran out of water crossing the Nullarbor

Ok, first, let’s set the scene: The Nullarbor (Latin for ‘no trees’) is an arid or semi-arid region of southern Australia located on the Great Australian Bight. It is home to “the longest straight road” of Australia, the “90 miles road” 1, 45.6 km without a bend. 

We had officially been on the road for about a week, when we decided to cross the Nullarbor right in the middle of summer. 

Needless to say, we had not worked out all the quirky little things about our 1983 School Bus (Pumbaa). In fact, we did not realize yet that the water tank often had an air bubble. That air bubble was making us think the tank was full when it was not! Plus, we didn’t expect the water tank avalaible on the side of the road would be in such a poor state… Open roof water tank in the middle of a desertic landscape. I can only imagine how many dead animals that were swimming in them. 

Of course, we couldn’t risk using this water to fill up our own water tank. Plus, according to our math, our water tank was still pretty much full… 

A day later, we ran out of water and got introduced to that quirky air bubble I was talking about earlier … We managed to buy a couple of water bottles at a petrol station & decided to treat ourselves to a farm stay for the night so that we could refill our water tank. Little did we know the bore water in this region is exceptionally salted.

So yes, we did manage to fill our tank with clean water, but we still had failled considerably as the water was undrinkable! The next day was a very long drive to reach Ceduna (the first official town we had seen in the last four days). We were then forced to empty and flush our water tank to eliminate all the salt we had in it! 

There you have it, the story of how we lastest a total of 2 days under 35C heat without drinkable water! 

Needless to say, our first van life lesson was learned & this has never happened again!

🐭 Mice Plague & Van Life

Australia has had many mice plagues over the years, which is a real struggle for farmers. Mice plagues occur in almost every state at some time or another throughout the year. And yep, a mice infestation is definetly somethign you don’t want to encounter on your van life journey. Anyways, the first one (and the worse one) we crossed was in Victoria … We picked up a total of 10 mice & a rat within a week!

They would get in the bus and make themselves at home in the ceiling’s lining, meaning we would hear them walking and nibbling over our heads while in bed! You would think that traveling with a cat would help get rid of them, right ?! Well, think again. Nala would literally sit on the driver’s seat & watch the mice run back and forth from their hiding places to her food bowl without even being one bit bothered that they were stealing her food!

☔️ It rained so hard in FNQ that it ripped the paint from the bus.

Let’s start by introducing FNQ: Far North Queensland is the northernmost part of the Australian state of Queensland & home to the rainforest. 

The region has a diversity of climates based on distance from the coast and elevation but is generally hot and humid with a distinct ‘wet’ season (December–March).

We were supposed to visit an island for Dan’s birthday, but it got canceled due to heavy rain being forecasted. So we decided to treat ourselves to stay in a beautiful tree house. While the whole family was safe & sound in our accommodation, it rained for three days straight, trees nearby were falling down & sliding off the mountain. One even stopped a couple of meters from our accommodation. Once the rain had stopped, it was time for us to leave & find out that it rained so hard the lovely blue/grey of Pumbaa had been stripped back to its original orange school bus colour!

I’m don’t think many people would expect this would happen to them on their van life journey !

🚰 Our Sink fell off while on the Plenty Highway (aka a 4 days corrugated dirt road) 

We had just spent a week at Ayers Rock (NT) & wanted so badly to reach Rockhampton (QLD) to meet up with our friends before they left for New Zealand. We realized that the only sealed road would take us way up north & then take us back south, which seemed unnecessary. Especially considering we saw another option: which was pretty much straight forward all the way, a total of 2,085 km (500km shorter than the first option).

There was a catch, though. We would need to go through “The Plenty Highway,” a 498-kilometer unsealed road in the outback. Considering we had already done so many unsealed roads by then, we knew we could handle them. Plus, the appeal of the adventure this trip would bring was way too strong to resist … time was going to tell us we should have resisted the temptation. 

It took us five days to reach Rockhampton, and once we did, we had broken everything possible in the bus. All the doors had opened at one point or another, meaning all our belongings layed on the dusty floor. Doors were hanging on the cabinetry by a thread, our sink had literally fallen from the bench onto the floor & Pumbaa was in serious need of some mechanical love!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, but it is also on The Plenty Highway that we got stuck one night between a bushfire & a sand storm!

Of course, there were many more instances when we wished we had a big red “STOP” button which could just reset the adventure, like the time we crossed a crocodile-inhabited river 🐊 & got stuck in another one hours later !

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