Leaving Brisbane With A Plan And A Gearbox

It has been 2 days since we left the city and we are now 800km along our ~2500km route. We have found a quiet place to rest for the day between Narrabri and Gilgandra on the Newell Highway.

But where are we going?

Where is it?
Other places we have visited

Those of you who have followed our travels over the years will know that we are not big on plans – preferring to float around wherever the breeze may blow us.

But, this time we have a plan.

The plan

As Stephanie and I prepare for our life together with Willow, we have decided to upgrade our van home to see us into the future.

We have ordered a 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter van which is to arrive in Hobart soon. I will be spending the summer fitting it out and making it our home.

Since ordering the van in June I have spent countless hours working on the interior designs and ordering all the parts and components needed for the build.

It’s going to be an exciting process seeing the empty van become a home – and of course you will all be along on the adventure starting next week when I will be revealing the secret designs!

But first, Willow and I need to travel all the way to Melbourne to catch the ferry to Tasmania – our only way back to Hobart. With the current van in Hobart I will have all my tools to build the new one.

We are looking to the future but I can’t forget that the next few months will be a difficult with the three of us being apart. Steph will be staying in Brisbane as she continues her studies. The situation made even harder knowing just how close Steph and Willow have become.

But it won’t be long before we will all be reunited!

Making the most of suburbia

In the last months we have been spending most of our time in the city.

Of all the places that we have been with Willow none scare me greater than the dangers of suburbia – busy roads, encounters with other animals, poisonous garden plants. For those reasons we do not let her out by herself.

But this doesn’t mean we have to be cooped up inside all day. Supervised garden outings allow Willow to get her outdoor time and also spent some quality time with us.

But is it enough? No, I don’t think it is. Willow is an adventure cat, much like we are adventure humans, and too much time in the city makes for a cranky cat – and also a cranky Rich!

Friends everywhere!

However, being in the city means we get to meet lots of new friends. This is Iya who lives in the flat next door to us, a white shepherd. Can you believe we have also met a white shepherd named Mya!?

This is Leo who lives next door. He loves to come over and scratch around in the bushes – I think he is searching for Lizards. We often see him up the street.

One of our favourites is Nala. We think she is Leo’s brother from next door. Nala is the sweetest cat but oh my how loud her meow is! I got this video of her exploring the garden with Willow watching from the door.

I didn’t manage to get a photo of the smokey black cat that likes to roll around on the deck. We also ran out of time to photograph Murphy and Maggie across the street.

So yes, there are lots of friends we won’t see until next year.

Our last week in Brisbane

The current van was put up for sale about 2 weeks ago. We can’t really express how much we are going to miss it. It’s been at the centre of our lives for over 5 years now.

My biggest worry was that it would be difficult to sell and that I’d be stuck in Tasmania next year with two vans on my hands. In my worry, I priced it to sell – and the enquiries came flooding in.

After weeding through the tyre kickers we were left with four super keen buyers. I did my best to get them all the information they needed and even did video-inspections for those who were afar.

Things were looking good and we had two weeks before we needed to get to the ferry terminal in Melbourne. Then the unimaginable happened.

A warning appeared on the dashboard – the gearbox had faulted. I clenched the steering wheel and dropped my head.

Still drivable we took it straight to Westpoint Volkswagen in Taringa and was greeted by Nick. Nick reassured me that even though the vehicle was 2 years out of warranty it had only done 85,000km and that Volkswagen would look after me. We left it in their hands.

After an afternoon wait we got the news. It needed a new gearbox and whether we would make our ferry crossing was undetermined.

Nick spent the time with me to understand the situation. He listened to the problem we had and along with his incredible team put forth a plan immediately.

Within the next day Volkswagen signed off on the new gearbox under their goodwill warranty and the part was ordered from Sydney. A few days later the part arrived and was swapped in – despite the service departments busy schedule.

Nick never had any doubts that Volkswagen Australia would look after me. When I suggested that we flex some social media muscle he reassured me, no, they look after everyone.

What is remarkable about this story is not that VW Australia did look after us, it’s how Nick and is team listened, acted promptly, and had this sorted in just a week.

Now Nick tells me they were just doing their jobs. But let me tell you this, what they did for us was nothing short of a Christmas miracle!

Happy-sad endings

Friday came and we picked up the van – the total bill amounting to $0.00. The van was back on the market. The next day we had someone inspect and they liked it. That evening they phoned and before we hung up it was sold – then the sad phone calls to those who missed out.

Our new home awaits. Next week we will arrive in Hobart to pick up our new van and I reveal our secret designs!

So now as I write this from a road stop on the Newell Highway, with Steph in Brisbane and Willow by my feet, I realise that these will be my last nights in this home on wheels. The home that saw us take that leap from suburban life to adventure life, that saw Willow and I become best friends, and that saw Steph and I discover true love – and not for a second do I think of what life would have been without it.

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Van Cat Meow

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