Hitting the frog and toad - Cruising Australia in an FJ Cruiser

Brett Groves and Sarah Ryder have always loved camping and travelling so it’s no surprise that they dreamed of one day road tripping around Australia.

And now, after 12 months of serious discussions, they've bitten the bullet and packed up their house, thrown in their jobs and headed off into the wide blue yonder!

We took the opportunity to find out more about their story so far . . .

Sarah-and-Brett

Tell us about yourselves - who’s on the trip?

There are two of us on this trip, myself Sarah and my partner Brett. We’ve been together now for about 5 years, when I moved up to Brisbane.

We enjoy the outdoors, camping, surfing and travelling. Since we met we’ve been to Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand and Fiji. The trip around Australia has been a bit of a dream for us since we realised we’ve travelled to different parts of the world but not our own backyard. We’ve done several camping trips around Brisbane and Queensland but it’s never been quite long enough.

I'm a software project manager and didn’t do a lot of camping before meeting Brett, but I’ve always loved getting away from it all, no phones and definitely no computers!

Brett as a young bloke was in the army and that’s where his love of the outback and camping grew from. He worked in the transport industry since leaving the army and recently took up renovating houses.

Tell us about your trip plans

Our trip will take in all the states of Australia in a clockwise direction starting with a trip to the Cape.

Because we both like to get away from it all we upgraded to an off road camper so we can get into the inaccessible places. We started seriously planning for the trip last year. I was very hesitant but after seeing The Big Lap DVD I thought we could do it.

We have done a rough plan which should take us 16-18 months. We did a test run up to Inskip point before coming back to the Sunshine Coast, making a few adjustments and heading off on the 7th of June.

Our plan is to head west out to Winton, but on the way see Carnarvon Gorge back through to Longreach and then up though to Townsville and Cairns. We are currently on a bit of detour back to Emerald as we’ve it some major rains and roads and national parks have been closed. We will wait out the predicated rain band in Emerald.

The Big Lap Budget Bundle

Our goal is Cairns and then the Cape, we are just waiting for the school holidays to finish before heading up to the top end as we’ve been told a lot of families race up there in the school holidays in the dry season. At this stage it will be via the Development Road as it is the beginning of our big trip and we don’t want to have any major repairs early on.

After the Cape we will met up with some of Brett’s relatives (his dad is one of 17 relatives so as you can image it is a large family !) at Cobbold Gorge near Georgetown.

Then it’s a matter of deciding how to head back to the Sunshine Coast, more inland travel or head for the coast and down. We've left our surfboards behind while doing the Cape and intend to then take them with us on the rest of the trip.

After the Sunshine Coast we plan to do NSW, Victoria and be in Tasmania for Christmas. We haven’t really decided what the trip will look like in NSW and Victoria as we want to do some outback NSW but also surf on the coast! There may have to be a compromise.

My family is from the Hunter Valley so there will be an extended stay there and in Sydney to visit Brett’s brother.

Tasmania will also be an extended stay as we both enjoyed a visit to the apple isle last year.

The New Year should see us spending some time Echuca visiting more of Brett's family, into SA then travel around the bottom end of WA, through Perth up to Broome and the Kimberley's for next years dry season. Our trip will be ended off with a visit to Alice Springs and Uluru then back through Queensland outback and home.

Sarah-and-Brett-Camper-Setup-700

How long have you been planning your trip?

Brett has been dreaming of a trip like this for a while but it gathered momentum with us last year when Brett's dad Barry passed away. Barry had always dreamed of doing more travelling but never got the chance to. We thought that life is too short and with our plans to do a lot of 4WD and walking we’d like to do this while we are still relatively young. We can do the caravanning when we retire!

What do you hope to get out of it?

Not sure what we are trying to get out of the trip. That we can do it, a challenge of being independent and survival. Also marvel at what this country has to offer us, other than the cities.

Also it’s a life style change, we’ve both being working for at least 25 years and think there is more to life than 9 to 5 jobs and paying bills.

Surfing-at-Crsecent-Head-700

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Fuel consumption! Our FJ Cruiser is petrol and while our camper is only 800kg, we are finding fuel to be our biggest cost. Perhaps we have taken too much with us! We will be returning back to the sunshine coast after the trip up the Cape so I can see we may be stripping back some of our gear.

We’ve tried to prepare for everything and anything with lots of tools and clothing for the different climates we think we are going to encounter. Preparing for the trip we found it quite hard trying to become self-sufficient, make our car and camper reliable but also to meet our needs.

We had initially planned to head off on the 1st of June but we seem to find other things we needed to do. We had to finally bite the bullet and leave on the 7th otherwise we’d be finding other things we needed or needed to do. Anything else we needed we’d get on the way around.

Why do you think other people should do their own big road trips?

The country is so huge and we seem to be stuck in the cities in our own bubbles where we don’t even know our own neighbours. Since we’ve been on this trip we’ve talked to a lot of people and waved to many a fellow traveller from our car.

It will also be an educational trip to learn more about this country and its history - how the country was formed, its natural beauty like Carnarvon Gorge, the history and lives of Aboriginals before white settlement and also the achievements of the many explorers, engineers, farmers and others. Their perseverance and hard work as they carved out an existence in this sometimes harsh country and environment.

I've found that we are less stressed, more relaxed, laugh more and definitely talk more as a couple, take away the layers of what we think we should be doing or what society demands of us and you will find the real you.

Tell us about your rig setup.

We have a 2012 Toyota FJ cruiser. We fell in love with this car a couple of years ago, its compact, its reliable and capable and has taken us along many a 4WD track. Even though it is petrol and expensive to run we didn’t want to change to a diesel car.

We‘ve done some modifications such as a long range tank, rear draws and 50 litre fridge and power our accessories like camera etc. We also have a 750 Watt power inverter.

Our off road camper trailer is an Off Trax, Outplay Camper Trailer which is actually an import from South Africa. We looked at many camper trailers and we found this one to be small and light while retaining some creature comforts of home. With a great pull out stove and fridge and a great drop down pantry with a huge king size bed! We thought if we don’t have a good place to sleep then the trip would be unbearable.

FJ-and-Off-Trax-camper-700
Ready to hit the road with the new Off Trax Camper Trailer
Brett with the FJ Cruiser and their old camper trailer on Fraser Island
Brett with the FJ Cruiser and their old camper trailer on Fraser Island

What are some of your ‘must go’ places that you are planning to get to?

As I mentioned before we are planning to visit a lot of national parks and the famous Australian icons the Cape, Tasmania, Lake Eyre, Broome, Kimberley's and Uluru.

We want to do the iconic 4WD tracks such as the Gibb River Road but we also want to do a lot of outback and not so much visited places, National Parks and other places that people tell us about on the way round.

How have you funded your trip?

We sold our house and downsized to a townhouse which we’ve got tenants in at the moment. We scrimped and saved a bit and we realise that the money we have won’t cover the whole trip and we are prepared to do a bit work on the way around. We’ve been told that there is work available for those that are willing to do almost anything.

What are your plans beyond the trip?

Beyond the trip!! Who knows. Brett’s kids are grown up so we have no responsibilities. If we find somewhere that appeals to us we may stay indefinitely. We keep hearing stories of people that start these trips and it either extends out beyond their time frames or they don’t ever come home.

It was a lot of planning and preparation that went into this trip. You don’t realise how hard it is to organise the trip, the vehicle, your life at home etc. We’ve been on the road now for 18 days and its gone so fast so we suspect we’ll be at Uluru in no time!

So we plan to enjoy every last minute of it!

Follow Brett & Sarah's Adventure

Web:
https://cruisinaus2016.wordpress.com/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/225208641176552/

Twitter:
@saresy12

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3 thoughts on “Hitting the frog and toad - Cruising Australia in an FJ Cruiser

  1. Keith Buxton says:

    Really hope you enjoy your trip we intend to start March next year 12 months with off road trailer Echo 6 and Pajero just the two of us really looking forward to it.
    We just did 5 weeks away as a test run and really didn't want to come home
    Cheers Keith & Jilly

  2. Hilary says:

    Have fun! But why bother with a caravan later? We are still travelling in our 4x4 and off-road camper trailer very similar to yours, and we are 70!!!

  3. Belinda says:

    Fantastic interview Sarah and Brett. So thrilled that you guys are just going for it. I'm looking forward to keeping up with your news! x

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