We arrived in Australia on a Saturday afternoon, a little sad to say goodbye to amazing New Zealand, but nonetheless excited to start a new chapter in our adventure. We saw and did so much in NZ…our camper van rental peeps were shocked at the amount of mileage we put on the van given the amount of time we were in the country. They said they expected (for a 28 day rental) around 2000 km—we drove over 5000 km. But instead of feeling proud of how much we were able to squeeze into our month-long trek in NZ, I grew contemplative. Wasn’t the point of this trip to try and slow down? Did we just transfer all of our anxieties from daily life in SF over to our trip? Was I still living too fast, just with a prettier view?
These thoughts were in my mind as our plane approached Sydney. OK, first things first: Sydney is HUGE. And flat. And beautiful. And HUGE. I turned to Jeremy and said, “we’re not in New Zealand anymore.”
It’s funny…I would totally expect a huge culture shock when traveling from an English-speaking country to Asia, for instance. I didn’t expect any difficult transition from New Zealand to Australia. And perhaps that’s precisely why we had such a hard time adjusting the first few days. We were so focused on trying to squeeze every last experience out of NZ that we completely forgot to prepare ourselves mentally for a new country, a new routine, and a new (much smaller) van. A van that, quite honestly, looks pretty ridiculous:
We got off to a pretty rocky start in Australia. Because we changed our flight to a later time, we ended up getting in later and were charged AUD$75 by the rental van company because we showed up 10 minutes after closing time. Then we headed out of the city and both of us were WAY past the point of hangry and bonking before we finally got something in our stomachs. And when we rolled up to the holiday park, the place was bigger than most of the cities in New Zealand and cost AUD$45 per night. That’s right…we’re not in New Zealand anymore. And on top of all that…the van. Jeremy wasn’t sure we were going to make it the full two weeks in that tiny van. We were too tall to sit up straight in it and it had flesh-colored vinyl curtains. I repeat: FLESH COLORED VINYL CURTAINS. He even suggested trading the van in for a bigger one after our first night in the car.
Before you all get too concerned, I’m happy to report that we worked all of these issues out. I think we were both on edge the first few days driving up the coast of New South Wales (NSW), and we didn’t really like the areas directly north of Sydney (too scene-y for our tastes). But once we got about 3 hours out of Sydney, we started to find our new groove and settle in to this new, bigger, hotter, and still-beautiful-but-in-a-different-way-than-New-Zealand country.
I think the biggest adjustment we had to make was to get used to the fact that in Australia, the natural beauty is much more focused towards the beach. Once we accepted this fact, we were able to open our hearts to this land they call Oz. And now I’m going to lift a line directly from one of our guidebooks because it so perfectly and accurately describes the experience of driving the coast of NSW that I wouldn’t be able to find better words myself:
“The north coast of NSW stretches almost 900 km from Sydney to Tweed Heads, a seemingly endless string of beautiful beaches, bays and headlands, crystal clear waters and national parks. There are so many stunning natural features that, after a while, they all seem to merge into one golden memory of sun-drenched sands and crystal-clear waters with the constant soundtrack of rolling surf.”
Indeed, I can’t remember anything from the two weeks we traveled the coast of NSW. That is, I remember that we saw this lighthouse and that incredible sunset, and we walked on those rocks and swam in that cove, but I can’t remember where we were when we did those things. Compare this to New Zealand, where I could remember the name of every podunk little town we passed through, even if it was some crazy Maori name. I kept having to ask Jeremy, “where did we do that again?”
Still, a few things do stand out, and I think it’s best to say it in pictures:
to be continued…