Vanlife – Week 1

2018 is finally here and the 1st of January brought with it a lifestyle completely different to what we are used to. We’ve gone from the complete safety of a secure job to a living in a van not knowing where we will spend the night.

We are settling well into life on the road and we’ll be exploring mostly south of Sydney until the end of February.

On New Year’s Day, after practically hiking round Sydney’s insanely huge CBD, we set off to find a free campsite in Jamberoo. Jamberoo is about two hours south of Sydney and only a fifteen minute drive from Kiama right on the coast.

We’d been researching free campsites on the Campermate and WikiCamps apps and a small campsite next to a cricket oval sounded perfect for our first two nights.

Jamberoo & Kiama

After driving through beautifully green rolling hills, we found Jamberoo to be similar to an English village with a historic pub right in the centre. The campsite was good enough with drinking water and toilets. It was only after our second night that we found a free pool and cold showers in the village.

We spent our third night on the side of the road outside Kiama with a dozen other campers, again absolutely free. We’re able to use rest stops like this for a quick overnight stay so that we can drive back into town where parking is normally free for a few hours.

I’ve never really watched surfing but we stumbled upon the Junior World Championships at Bombo Beach. We made our morning cup of tea right next to a snake which wasn’t so good before chilling on the sand watching the competition. I didn’t have a clue how the scores worked and everyone seemed to be doing the same thing but it was fun nevertheless.

The rest of the day was spent wandering Kiama’s streets. Kiama is a pretty harbour town famous for its blowhole where the waves are sent twenty feet into the air. The weather hadn’t been great so when the sun finally came out, we felt as though we could relax a little.

By chance we realised that our Merlin annual passes allowed unlimited entry to a rainforest canopy walk not far from Jamberoo. What we didn’t realise was how steep the hill up to it was although if you read Macqaurie Pass on a map, you should think massive hill. The van managed okay in third gear but there was still a huge queue of traffic behind us. Nothing we can do I’m afraid!

So there we were at the top of a huge, I’d say mountain, ready to go on a canopy walkway through the treetops when the wind picked up. I’m not great with heights anyway but I really was not feeling it.

There were two parts that I didn’t like (although the views were fantastic). 1 – I don’t know how to describe it but there were two dead-end walkways which were suspended with wire and designed to move with the wind. There was a sign saying that it was designed to withstand winds up to 260km/h but that still did not help when you’re so high up rocking backwards and forwards. We didn’t last long on those bits, one at either end of the walkway. 2 – As if we weren’t high enough up already, some crazy person decided to build a lookout tower right in the centre. There were kids up the top so it must have been okay to climb the 100 odd steps up. Well that tower rocked a bit too and you were constantly trying to pass people on the narrow staircase. The views were incredible but maybe not even worth it for the walk back down!

Treetop Walk
Treetop Walk
Treetop Walk
Treetop Walk

We spent another night in Jamberoo so we could check out the local pub. It was popular with motorcyclists as the tourist drive cuts straight through. I couldn’t believe the prices – $12 for a beer and a vodka. We were paying more than that for one drink in the cities.

Jervis Bay

The next stop for us was Jervis Bay and two nights of free camping half an hour drive from the main beaches. Unfortunately for us, we were introduced to drop toilets (exactly as it sounds) and we will be doing everything we can to avoid them from now on.

Jervis Bay is a National Marine Park and, between May and November I think, humpback whales stay in the bay with their little babies. When we come back around we’ll be here at the right time for the whales and I can’t wait to see them.

However, on the plus side, we found paradise at Chinaman’s Beach and Hyams Beach where the sand is said to be the whitest in the world. I don’t know if that’s true but what I do know is that the sand squeaks so loud when you walk across it.

We wanted to stay longer in this area and so decided, for week two, to pay for somewhere to stay for three nights. On this coast there are few free camps and we are hoping that the cost will come down once we start the lap of Australia.

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