So after our final fling with Sydney which involved a group of us enjoying a curry in Surry Hills, Sydney, it was now time to move on to our next Aussie destination right up the coast towards Brisbane with an eye to party in Byron Bay beforehand for a few days!
We had a few options of how to get up there but as poor backpackers we opted for the cheapest and most scenic mode of transport which is using a car transfer service which aids both the traveler and the car rental companies who provide this service. So with a fresh head and lots to get done we got our shit together and headed towards Mascot which is the train station close to Sydney airport to arrange our new wheels and crack all the administrative jargon prior to embarking on our first camper van road trip.
All we knew about the van before arriving in Mascot was that it was a two birth Toyota, so it was a great surprise to find that it was a relatively new model off-road type of vehicle as opposed to a train wreck of a van which likely wouldn’t fill us with confidence for a long journey like the one we were embarking on. All the other vehicles in the yard were in fantastic condition as well which was very reassuring for the professionalism of the car transfer company. The procedure from when we arrived until we left the car yard lasted about 45 minutes and involved only the card used for the payment and a driver’s licence, the passport was not needed which was a surprise to me. You are handed a small laptop sized box which holds the relevant DVD associated with the vehicle you are transferring and told to take a seat in the comfy chairs and watch two actors pretending that they absolutely love the safety features which the vehicle possesses. It is beyond cheesy and provides a good laugh, fortunately it does come with a skip option to alleviate the feeling of wanting to scratch your eyes out and scream at the top of your lungs. On the whole though the presentation is more than tolerable and only around ten minutes long so it’s probably advisable to pay some attention even if it is against your better judgment and/or will ;).
So after the payment has cleared (which in our case was a $1000 bond which is reimbursed on safe arrival of the vehicle at it ‘s destination, as well as a $100 down payment which is the initial deposit that is refunded to you when you pick up the vehicle) you are asked whether you would like to take additional insurance protection to the tune of $32 which protects you against three stone chips in the windscreen and bursting tyres. As this was our first time we took up this option just to see how likely it was for any of these things to happen. As it turned out no stone chips or burst tyres occurred so it’s unlikely we will be using this voluntary added insurance service again on our next car transfer. The final step to hiring the van/car is walking around the vehicle with one of the hire company crew whilst you both inspect for dents, corrosion, chips and scratches. We spent a good few minutes here making sure we had found every imperfection because the penalties incurred can be harsh and expensive if you arrive at the drop off point with what appears to be fresh damage.
On the road…
As this was the final step it was now time to hit the road and get a wriggle on to escape the hectic Sydney traffic. For anyone who doesn’t know about Sydney I should probably mention that there are toll charges everywhere surrounding Sydney and it’s bridges but most of them are aimed at the people coming in to the city rather than the other way around. There is one toll free route to get out of Sydney on both the north and south roads so be sure to ask the guys at the car transfer depot for information on them otherwise you will get stung with a $55 toll charge.
It took us about an hour to get out of
Sydney centre and its busier suburbs but it was a very obvious transition in landscapes as the journey progressed. From the skyscrapers and hustle and bustle of the CBD to the large mountainous areas covered in eucalyptus trees right through to the long straight roads of greenery, numerous creeks and large rivers, we knew this way of travelling by land would be more insightful than yet another budget airline and their at times sterile airport conditions. We had been told by a few friends back in Sydney that we should definitely try and stop off at a
‘Fredo Pies’ restaurant on the way up when a hunger attack was nearing. Neither of us had heard of Freddo’s but since taking the car up the east coast between Sydney and Byron Bay it has become apparent that they are a very popular choice among traveller’s and truckers. Their biggest restaurants hold up to 150 varieties of pie filling including the likes of camel, crocodile, ostrich and pretty much any other animal you can imagine to be edible. Personally, crocodile
was my choice as it was a curiosity more than anything along with the novelty of being able to say I had tried such a rare meat. To my surprise the filling was actually a lot lighter than I anticipated and like snake, I guess, I should have realised that crocodile was a white meat and not red. The taste was fantastic as I happens and it made a great change to the usual packaged sandwich or chips, it also carried a lower price tag than I expected at just $4 for what I would call a pretty hearty portion, so given the chance I would certainly call in to a Fredo’s for another pie with another exotic filling.
Where did we spend the night?
We camped out that night fr the first tie in a camper just off a side road north of Coffs Harbour. We weren’t sure on the rules of using lay-by’s which truckers predominantly used and it was far too late at night to go searching for campsites which would probably ask for a fee which we didn’t want to pay anyway :). So the best alternative we could come up with was to come off the freeway onto one of the smaller roads and tuck ourselves into a forest area so not to be disturbed too much by night traffic. Luckily for us though we had managed to find a very quiet road albeit quite an eerie area with random noises everywhere and no street light whatsoever. We quickly dismissed this and just began setting up the beds so we could sit down and build our own sandwiches from the ingredients we picked up from Woolworths earlier in Coffs Harbour. The baguette with pate and cheese triangles wasn’t exactly the Ritziest meal ever but it certainly did the job for us and it was only a few minutes later before we had passed out to enjoy a nice quiet nights sleep in the middle of nature, very good times!