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Most of us can relate to the fun we had canoeing at summer camp when we were young. But that was nothing compared to the experience of whitewater kayaking that came next for me. I have always loved canoeing, though it always seemed difficult to participate. It has only been in the last decade that the development of inflatable canoes has made a big difference. You can more easily access rivers, you can store a canoe in your car, you can even take them on a plane. They are very light, very cheap, with little loss of functionality. Perfect for weekends away or campervan holidays. Social networking was the other big change. You can now use Facebook, etc to join canoeing adventures in your local region or abroad.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sydney to Brisbane, Australia (1300km)

This is the 2nd campervanning trip I have performed with a 'returns' vehicle with This company is a JV between Maui & Britz Campervan Rentals. Basically they are offering people with a drivers licence over the age of 25yo the opportunity to return their campervans to another office because they have an unfavourable distribution of campervans around the country - whether Australia or NZ. The inducememts they offer are a 500km return allowance, $150-$300 of petrol allowance depending on the distance (1000-4500km) and a nominal rental charge of $5-10/day, compared to $80-120/day for a full-paying customer. I thought it was a good deal, even if you are constrained to return the vehicle within 3-8 days depending on the distance (usually requiring 300-500km a day). There are pretty stiff insurance risks if you breach the terms so read the online contract. Pay particular attention to windscreen damage and implication of hitting kangaroos if you intend travelling around dust-dawn. The shorter trips are particularly attractive, and you might just get lucky and be able to line up a return trip on similar terms. Otherwise you will need to fly back on a discount airline for $150-250/pp. The airlines to check out are, plus some of the international airlines that stop at domestic ports, eg. Thai Airlines has onward flights from Brisbane to Sydney.

Anyway my trip started at Mascot near Sydney Airport. The Britz pick-up office is an easy walk from Mascot Railway Station on the Easthills-Airport Line, perhaps requiring a change at Wynyard-Town Hall-Central.

VW Caddy Life Specs

On this trip I took my girlfriend. We knew that we would be getting a VW Caddy Life, which were were able to look at on the Britz website before travelling. Its a very small vehicle with a 1.6-litre engine, so it gets amazing fuel economy. The vehicle is well designed, holds well on the road, and is not so under-powered considering its small engine. I guess the things I didn't like about the vehicle is:

1. The long wheel base - for such a short car - means less clearance off-road

2. The lack of space for more storage and a 60-litre fridge (with 3-4 deep cycle batteries)

3. Problematic gear change stepping down - might go the automatic

The things I liked:

1. Good steering-road holding

2. Large tires...I'm not physicist, but does that contribute to the excellent fuel economy. I seemed to get about 600km to the tank.

3. Compact size - if you forget the negative for storage

4. Ability to comfortably seat 4 and sleep 2 with luggage.

5. Great interior design, not to mention sliding doors on both sides (4-door)

6. Good inclination of front windscreen to prevent damage from stones

In conclusion this vehicle makes a great country car if you instend to use it for weekend trips to the coast or the city. I found the gear changing problematic, but maybe that can be overcome. I didn't after 3 days.

The Route

You can travel from Sydney to Brisbane in about 950km, however we went into the mountains so we ended up taking 1350km. They complained, yet I was within my 1500km allowance. The route I chose took us up into the mountains before going back to the coast. The route was:

1. Day 1: SYD-Mascot-Raymond Terrace-Gloucester-Taree-Lake Cathie-Lighthouse Beach-Port Macquarie

2. Day 2: Port Macquarie-Wauchope-Walcha-Uralla-Armidale-Ebor-Grafton

3. Day 3: Grafton-Casino-Beaudesert-BRIS

The highlights of the trip are the green hills and mountains of rural Australia and the beaches. I recommend going horse riding at Cobark (50km west of Gloucester) if you have time. I did it on another trip and its a great experience. Or you could canoe on the Barrington River after rain - also to the west - turn left off the Scone road before you cross the Barrington River. There is a canoe hire place 12km along this road. Otherwise you can just drive through an look at the nice scenery.

If you are coming from a developing country you will particularly like the driving and getting away from everything. Lighthouse Beach south of Port Macquarie would have to be one of the best beaches I know for walking. Why? Its flat, its 30-40km long, its high-energy offshore, but low-energy nearshore, so it sounds wild, but otherwise nice to wade through. Its quiet. You will probably cross paths with just 10-20 people, and its long so you will loose track of time. I paricularly like walking there in the early morning or late afternoon.

At Flynns Beach just south of Port Macquarie, you can walk south from the headland (before Shelleys Beach). This track links 3 beaches together - I like the last best because its so unspoilt and wild. Leah wanted to stay the night in a hotel - so we went to the cheapest in town - the Macquarie Hotel for $50 - share bathroom. You can get a pub meal there for $10-12 or a kabab along the main street. But there are nice restaurants closer to the river near the Macquarie Hotel.

The drive from Port Macquarie to Walcha takes you up the Great Dividing Range. Sadly there are no great walks along this stretch of Oxley Highway, as its a scenic area. But its a nice drive, though it has 60km of hair-pin turns so take petrol. Once you get on the plateau its easy riding. There is a nice coffee shop in Walcha and IGA to get food. We kept going, picking up some tourist information at Uralla. Stopped briefly in Armidale library to use the internet then travelled onto Grafton via Ebor. There is a waterfall at Ebor but there was no water because of the drought, just alot of annoying flies. Its quite a spectacular gorge, and there are about 12 of them in the region like that. The drive onto Grafton was very remote. Nice countryside, but no cultural intetest. In Grafton we ate food we already had in the car, and I walked around Grafton while Leah slept. I packed the car in the pub for security. Grafton is a nice town, with wide, tree-lined streets, and old houses. It really is unloved, I think because its remote from Brisbane & Sydney, its away from the coast (beaches) and there are few jobs there. After returning, we moved to a residential street, parked outside a church, and slept. Close to Leah and God. Quite a trio dont you think!

The next morning we drove on towards Casino, where we ate breakfast at McDonalds. We next drove NNW towards Beaudessert, crossing the ranges (Qld border) near Lions Gap. The roads deteriorated going into Queensland, and the rest was a bit of a rush to get into Brisbane.

1 comment:

suriya said...

i had traveled in the similar camper van and to tell you they are super comfortable and enjoyable ... :)

Britz Campervans

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