Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The first 9 weeks…

Here is a bit of a summary of our first 9weeks on the road… I figure this might help others that are planning to do the same thing get an idea of how much it really costs to travel. We are doing this with a budget! But we have a balance of not sacrificing important things but also not wasting money. So we are doing the activities that are important to us but not splurging. We don’t eat out of a night and we have generally packed sandwiches for lunches except on those days when eating somewhere nice was part of the local experience for us. Because of the ages of our kids we have generally not had to pay for accommodation or entry fees for them so families with older children will need to all a bit extra.

We have traveled x kms over 63days at an approximately total cost of $6250.

Fuel- $2,100
Accommodation- $1,225 (An easy mix of van parks, cheap camps, and free camps)
Shopping- $1,415 (groceries, regular daily purchases)
Snacks- $400 (things like coke, eating out for lunch, cake & coffee etc)
Laundry- $120 (I also used our own little washing machine as a supplement, but keep in mind we are using cloth nappies so a regular family without nappies would wash a heck of a lot less)
Alcohol- $295 (mostly cartons of beer rather than pub prices)
Activities- $440 (entry fees, helicopter flight etc)
Other- $180 (clothes, rechargeable torch etc)
Gas- $75 (for the weber and running the fridge, I think the bottle is mostly still full)

There are probably some things that I am missing… I don’t think I have the $75 for the waeco fridge cover in there for example but that’s not a typical traveling cost so I think it’s all near enough for the purpose.

So essentially we have had to allow about $700 a week to do this. I think for most families that have allowed themselves, say, a year to travel Australia then we would be moving at about the right kind of pace, but for our future travels (when we don’t have an existing work commitment to make) we intend to do it much, much slower. Which would reduce our overall fuel costs and drop our weekly expenditure to about $500. But for a family with two kids between 5 and 15 I think you need to allow an extra overall cost for accommodation of between $500-$700 plus activities etc so on average another $100 a week.

Essential travel bits, and things we wasted our money on!

Big winners-
The waeco- so handy having the fridge in the truck with us. An absolute lifesaver with keeping sandwiches and snacks on hand for the kids when we need to push through that extra half hour and also in the heat to keep our drinks cold. Worth every cent!
Tinting on the truck windows.
Our Camps 4 book.
My 4 thin plastic Tupperware chopping boards.
The in-car DVD player (again for the kids)
300w inverter which converts the trucks 24v system into 240v power which has been bloody handy.
Weber BBQ
My menstrual cup (sorry blokes if it‘s too much information! but the women might appreciate the tip)
The inner-spring mattresses.
The internet gateway thing so we can both have wireless internet connection on our own laptops,
Not sure if it was worth it-
The washing machine. I think if you got into the habit of setting it up, or stayed somewhere for more than just a few nights then it would be different. We used it anywhere we camped for more than a few days but it was more effort than it was worth to get it out and set it up. If it was plumbed in inside the van then that would make a huge difference to using it.
The annexe walls. I love them and I love the extra room it gives us when we are stopped for a period of time but for the vast majority of short-stop traveling I think the shade cloth surrounds are much handier simply because they are soooo much quicker to set up.
The TV. We really never turned it on. Maybe if we had a better easier antenna it would get used more.

Total waste of space or money.
The boat.
The tools we bought along we really don’t need. Regular tools are ok but we also bought working tools like the which I think are just taking up a heap of space and dragging down our fuel economy and are not going to make any difference to us finding work at all.
My red wine. I am not drinking anywhere near as much as I had hoped! LOL! It’s been so hot I have not felt like a red wine. I think I have drank three bottles! So another 53 bottles to go.

Monday, May 11, 2009

half hearted super quick update

no time to do it right but here is a quick thingy i typed up earlier

The last few days in Darwin were spent getting things organized for work. Getting gum boots for the kids (for snakes and other bitey things), a good hot-weather work shirt for Tim, and bits and pieces like that.

Mum and Dad looked after Jordy one night so that Tim and I could head in to town and see the city by night. We took Darcy and walked up and down the streets full of cafes and bars, and along past the old town hall that was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy. We stopped for a mezze plate at one restaurant and then wandered some more and then stopped at another café for coffee and dessert.

The next day we headed into Lake Alexander for a picnic lunch and the boys played in the massive playground.

We also hit the Mindil Markets. The very first market of the year for the start of the Dry. I imagine it is always incredibly busy but I was amazed at the number of people there. And the food!! Yum! There was an amazing variety of food and a heap of stalls. We had a few big fruit smoothies and then some Indian and then a banana and nutella crepeJ and browsed the arts, crafts, clothes, and souvenirs on offer.

We watched the sun set over the sea (along with about a thousand other people) and enjoyed some live music, fire dancing, and a reptile show. Later in the night we moved down to the beach to watch a fireworks show. The kids were covered in sand and we knew they would fall asleep in the truck on the way home so we walked all the way back to the truck and grabbed a towel and change of clothes and then fought the crowd to get back to the toilet block to shower the kids. It was a cold shower! So lucky it was a warm night.

The prices all rise to stupid tourist season rates on the 1st May so we decided to leave even though we did not technically start work until the Monday. We had intended to camp out at the rockpools in the NP but we were told we could set up our camp out at work and have a look around the place so we did that instead.
The café is about 90min from Darwin and we got out there at lunchtime. It took us the rest of the day to set up our camp seeing as we are going to be here for a while (fingers crossed). We put the full awning up and unloaded all our gear and set ourselves up to stay put for a while. Looking forward to a change of pace.

Heading to Litchfield...
We spent the next few days easing into work. Just getting a feel for what we need to do and where everything is and how it all works. In between that we went for a few drives through the park (covers a decent area) to see the local attractions.

Wangi Falls is impressive. There is a huge clear swimming hole (all safe from crocs) but it is still closed for swimming at the moment. It should open up within the month the ranger thinks. When the water level gets too high there is a whirlpool effect under the falls that can suck you in and there have been a few deaths over the years so the coroner has put a limit on the height at which it can open.

We also went to Buley Rockholes. Amazing! A series of probably a dozen or more cascading waterfalls with rock pools and spas and little rapids. The season is really just starting and I’d say that the water would have been considered far from crowded but there were still a lot of people there. I’d guess another hundred or so. The tour buses come through and spend an hour and leave again so we’ll have to check out their timetables for future visits. But everyone spreads themselves out amongst the pools so you get plenty of space to splash around.

I also took the kids for a drive to see Tolmer Falls- you can’t swim there even though there is another incredible waterhole. There are a couple of endangered bat species there that they are trying to protect. But it’s a great view from the lookout and there are a few walks around the area for those not carrying a toddler and pushing a pram!

We checked out Greenant Creek… just a little creek and nothing all that exciting but I am looking forward to doing the walk from there to another good waterfall and swimming hole that you can only access by foot so it would have fewer people.
And we called past Tabletop Swamp but it’s just a swamp! And unless you are into bird watching then there is not a whole lot there.

Settling in...
Work has been really good. Just learning the ropes and getting the feel of the place. It’s really laid back and everyone is amazingly friendly and great to work with. There is a bit of variety in the stuff that we are doing which makes things even more enjoyable and we can already see that once the peak tourist season hits it will get really flat out here over lunch! I only do a couple of hours each day which I can fit in around the kids but Tim generally has full days. They have some big projects planned here which will keep the blokes really busy.

Our camp is pretty basic in some ways but also really good in others. The area around our camp is mostly sand with a viney sort of semi-grass cover which is not a lot of fun. I sweep out the van three or four times a day! But we are under a big tree so have a good amount of shade and a place to hang the kids’ swing and put their cubby house. We have the full annexe up so there is room for their toys and for them to play.

We’ve found a great creek not too far from here that is perfect for us to go for a swim in. It’s not on the main tourist trail so has generally been quiet when we’ve been there. It’s a small, croc-free, sandy bottomed creek with lovely clear water and is nice and shallow for the kids so I imagine we will spend a bit of time there.

Not having any phone or internet or tv is both good and bad. Good cos it means we do other stuff but bad cos, seriously, sometimes it’s just nice to sit down and watch some telly or surf the net! LOL! We have hardly watched tv at all since we have been traveling but we all miss the footy. And it’s surprising how much you rely on the internet to check things or look things up or find something out. And of course we all miss the connection with friends and family. But on the plus side this is the first chance we have all had to catch our breath and slow down and relax. Which is surprising to say cos we are back working! LOL! Once we finish out the season we will certainly travel more slowly. We look forward to spending a week in each place, even when there is not all that much to do in a little town we just want to hang out and meet the locals and get a feel for a place, even spend a month in a town if we can start doing WOOFER type work or get involved in a community in some way.

But for now things are looking good here.