Road trips, just like many aspects of travel, often don’t go entirely to plan. They always start exciting. Everyone has those idealised expectations in their head – from Che Guevara’s pre-revolutionary tales in the Motorcycle Diaries, to the iconic portrait of girl power in Thelma and Louise. Hours spent on the road, listening to loud music, seeing an abundance of crazy things, and being absolutely free to go wherever and do whatever you want to do. Perfect.
But although having a vehicle to yourself does offer you a huge amount of freedom, it’s easy to forget the constraints that that same vehicle can also impose upon you if it all goes wrong – as I experienced on the Great Ocean Road towards Sydney.
It all started as planned. We hired a battered old camper van from the notorious Wicked Campers. Kim Possible was graffitied on the side, and a highly inappropriate message ironically unsuitable for the children’s eyes it attracted graffitied on the back. The inside was a bit grubby, a bit dingy, and a bit small for the four people it was supposed to house for the next two weeks, but we loved it.
The Great Ocean Road was incredible – made better by the freedom our wrecked little van gave us. We froze our arses off the first and second nights due to being completely unprepared (there was one – yes, one – sleeping bag between four of us...), camped in some crazy places, saw some amazing views, and experienced a side to Australia that I didn’t know existed.
On our way back to Melbourne, the fumes in the back of the van got steadily worse, resulting in a near collapse of one of the passengers. It was just as dramatic as it sounds. We got on with it, however, accepted that the van was wrecked, and decided to get it swapped for a different one for our long trek back up to Sydney.
Again, all went well. We had to wait until the following morning to leave, but it was Halloween so face paint was adorned and drinks were to be had in Melbourne. The next morning we picked up the slightly cooler AC/DC themed van. A steady 7 hours of driving, 3 coffee breaks and one strange parrot lady later, the worst happened. The sun was setting over the tiny town of Bega somewhere between Melbourne and Sydney, and the van ceased to function any longer.
We were lucky, really, that we broke down a 10 minute drive away from a town – even if it was a town that horror movies are made of. It could of been on any of the long winding roads we had been down earlier that very day, where we could have waited several hours to be picked up and sadly towed back to civilisation.
However, here’s where the constraints of the road trip ideal come to be realised. We were stuck in Bega for two days. Two days out of only 18 in Australia. That’s a high proportion of our precious Australia time wasted in a town famous only for cheese and the murders of teenagers in the 90s (it’s true. Wikipedia never lies.)
So would I plan a road trip again when a guided tour could work out cheaper, easier and less time consuming? Without a doubt. Would I book a camper van with Wicked Campers again for the sake of a few spare dollars…? Maybe not. Yet again, lesson learned I guess.