When I said goodbye to Christoffer and Mikkel, we’d already agreed we were going to meet again and travel together for a while. Without these two great guys, my stay at the farm would have been much harder. Being able to sit down every night, have some beers and talk and laugh about what happened made it all so much more bearable.
When I was waiting the next morning for my ride into town, on the bus they had booked (and payed) for me, I had some time to look around and take pictures of some things on the farm I’d missed. There were cool old vehicles scattered everywhere, one hundred procent my thing.
Darrel, the boss, is just really into that his wife told me in the car on the way to town. He got old tractors brought over from Tasmania and intends to restore all of them one day. It’s a bit sad we just didn’t get along since I’d have loved to talk about those things with him.
I’ve been calling a bit with Chris since I left, and he told me how at first Darrel seemed glad I was gone, offering them both full-time jobs which they obviously turned down. He joked with them about some broken tools he found afterwards, that they’d just “blame it on Laurens”, which even I think is a bit funny. But he seems to have forgotten about that after a week or so and Chris says he’s “the new Laurens” getting all the blame and anger over him, while there’s a bit of a lack of things to do. Even Mike has to sweep the floor, a big step down from his previous role as superstar favorite harvester-driver.
Stef is just such a cool and interesting guy. Even though he could retire from his old job as a 3D CAD professor (which is quite close to my old career), he’s working as a motorcycle riding instructor for a big riding school. That night he brought home a huge van and trailer carrying some 9 bikes and gear for a course he was doing on the other side of town. Seeing how he had such a good time made me realize this could be a career path for me, combining motorcycles and teaching, two things I really like.
The big reason for going back to Brisbane was a car I’d seen for sale there. I’ve always wanted a car like this, but it just never fit into my life. This one, a 1997 Toyota Hilux Dual Cab (4wd Diesel), stood out because it had lots of storage space, a dual cab to take more than one passenger and a nice drawer and fridge/freezer setup for what looked like a decent price. I didn’t really get the chance to see the car at all before I came there an was basically set on getting it after the tough times at the job, to have a bit of fun and adventure.
It quickly turned out I’d been a bit overexcited and there was a lot more wrong with it than I thought. The guy had lied about some stuff, and even when I saw problems, my pride in my mechanical skills after being humiliated a bit at the job, made me ignore them. Rust spots turned out holes that had been patched, changing the radio antenna involved taking body panels off that revealed more rust, air hoses had cracks, the steering was worn out and very sloppy, the rear differential didn’t have worn bearings but the gears themselves were worn, and so forth.
Stef knew a guy, Tony, a mechanic that worked on his crusty old Landcruiser, who helped me out a bit. He welded the steering problem for free and offered to do the inspection of my car (another thing the previous owner should have done himself). I had the inspection on friday so had to get cracking to sort a lot of issues out by then.
I wanted to keep things cheap, so I started going to wreckers, junkyards, to find used parts for the car. If you know me a bit, you know I absolutely love this stuff. Walking around between rusting old car hulks, scavenging useful parts. I found quite a bit of things over several trips to a few junkyards. Some where clearly better than others, with good inventory systems and friendly staff, and some were just a bunch of jerks trying to rip me off.
The hardest part to find was the rear differential. I thought getting a Toyota Hilux would mean all parts were plentiful, but model year 1997 had a differntial with ratio 4.55, while all years before and after had 4.30. Getting the wrong diff meant my gearbox would explode if I engaged 4-wheel drive. I ended up finding a reconditioned one online that could make it to Stef’s place in one and a half days. It took a big bite out of my budget, costing about double of what I’d expected (like a common 4.30 diff would have cost).
I spent about 2-3 days under the car swapping the diff. It wasn’t hard, but the rear brakes turned out to be much harder. The drums had worn a lip, making it hard to get them off and it took a lot of effort to swap the brakes out. Working on motorcycles is much easier compared to this!
Meanwhile Stef’s birds had a baby Cockatil named “Zola” that he started hand-feeding to tame it and make it get used to humans. It was just the cutest thing, so helpless, getting bigger and growing more feathers every day.
After about 10 days I got everything done. All the paperwork, repairs, inspections and equipment for the trip. It all ended up costing so much more than I anticipated, at least 50% more than I’d hoped. I had some stress about this since my budget was shrinking fast and I realized I would never get back what I’d put into the car (having clearly overpaid for it). But in the end it’s just money, I can make it back if I work some more. I hope.
With the car done I set off to Melbourne, to pick up my travel mates for the trip in the coming months. I wanted to share fuel costs on the way down, so I managed to find some people for the coming 3 days that wanted a ride down. Philip from Germany came all the way, Ahri, a cool Australian guy, came along halfway to Sydney. We picked up Beatrice from Canada a bit later.
Getting to Melbourne was more a quick transfer thing, I’d go all the way back up to Brisbane, taking it slowly, seeing the sights, but right then the plan was to do the 1800km in 3 days. I did most of the driving, Ahri did some but the others were not comfortable with it.
The first night, Ahri called some friends and got a tip for a nice beach we could camp on. Despite the signs saying it wasn’t allowed, we just hid around a corner.
We dropped Ahri off near Sydney and me, Philip and Beatrice continued on. Beatrice did a great job finding a free, legal camping spot through the Wikicamps app, but not before we swam in a river and had some dinner next to it.
The difference in temperature at night between northern, coastal NSW near Queensland, and southern, inland NSW near Victoria was pretty big, that night was pretty chilly.
Just before we got to Melbourne, during a whole new day of driving, Beatrice suggested we’d visit Glerowan, site of the famous showdown between the outlaw Ned Kelly and the Australian police in the late 19th century. Ned Kelly became a cult hero and today is considered part of Australia’s heritage. There’s not much left to be seen from those famous events, but there’s a walk with some nicely explanations.
After that we got into Melbourne, which was a pretty stressful place to drive a big car like that in. I dropped Philip and Beatrice off and was going to meet my travel mates for the coming weeks or months soon. I’ll write more about that soon.
I figured I’d add some things I learned, if anybody considers doing the same here in Australia:
Buying a car
Buy a car that is in good working order from the start, and comes with most of the stuff you will need. Anything extra you have to buy is probably a loss, so better have someone else take that loss for you. Whoever buys my car will get a great deal I bet…
Get the seller to do the roadworthy/safety certificate, it’s really the norm, don’t get talked into anything else unless he takes a large chunk off the price.
The paperwork is not hard, but you need to have an address to receive mail on and register the car at. Potential fines and speeding tickets could arrive there too, so it’s best you have a friend/relative that’s ok with that.
Shops to get cheap supplies:
Tools, car stuff, 4wd equipment: Supercheap Auto. SCA has a lot at cheap prices. it’s not all the best quality, but they have decent brands too, and for some stuff it doesn’t matter. I got my tools, fluids, storage boxes, straps, etc all here.
Camping supplies: Kmart. Department store Kmart has very cheap camping supplies, tents, etc. It’s not all very good quality though, but for some things that doesn’t matter. Water cans, camping pots, chairs are all OK here for the lowest prices I could find. Better quality camping supplies can be found at dedicated stores like Anaconda
4WD supplies: 4WD Supacentre. I didn’t end up going here since I blew through my budget so fast, but things like a rooftop tent, awning, racks are all decent quality at low prices.
Online parts: Online Auto Parts have tons for a lot of cars. EZ4x4 were one of the few that had my rare ratio diff.
Mehcanics: don’t go to the big chains like Jax Tyres or Bob Jane Tmarts, find some local dodgy mechanic who’s ok with being paid under the table. Better yet, get a friend or someone who knows the mechanic to send you there with a reference, you’ll get treated better and might get a discount!