Kirra, Coolangatta and Tweed Heads

Elisa Young
Thursday 27 March 2014

Travels across Australia with a Rabbit

Caravaning from Kalgoorlie to Tweed Heads with Nero the rabbit

I woke up one morning in Kalgoorlie with the nagging feeling that if I didn’t do something soon then I’d spend the rest of my life there.

Kalgoorlie is a remote gold mining town in the middle of Western Australia, if you’ve seen the TV show Deadwood, then you know EXACTLY what kind of town it is.

I’m a city-slicker, I’d been happily living in Brisbane, Queensland until the Australian Department of Immigration had instructed me to go live in the remote Australian bush, 4000km from Brisbane. I had sold my soul to get Permanent Residency and now it was time to return to the real world.

So, I needed an escape plan. There were a few problems, having watched one too many episodes of Air Crash Investigations I was scared of flying. Having the teeniest, most impractical 2-seater sports car and Australia’s roads being full of kangaroos & road trains, I was scared of driving. I would be travelling alone and my recent viewing of Wolf Creek wasn’t helpful.  Plus, I had a rabbit, rabbits are illegal in Queensland.

Nero is a rather self-important, snooty, rotund bunny. She seems to think that she is in charge, and she’s right.  I decided the best solution was to purchase a motorhome, as I wouldn’t be able to stay in hotels with a rabbit, and the car only had enough space for a small suitcase.

I bought the motorhome. It sat in my driveway for 6 months, I was too scared to drive it. For the last 10 years the only vehicle I had driven was the teeny sports car. The motorhome was a humongous truck. In my car, I tap the brakes, the car stops instantly, in the 3 tonne motorhome it keeps going when you press the brakes, and if you tap the brakes harder the contents of the motorhome try to join you in the driver seat. Drawers open, objects fly around. When I take a corner in the sports car it’s like being a racing driver through a chicane. In the motorhome the whole thing tips to one side and you think you’re going to topple over. There were all new types of gravity being discovered in the motorhome.  Don’t get me started on reversing.

I decided to move into the motorhome while it sat in our driveway, it would help the rabbit adapt to our new home and she could learn how to hop in and out by herself. Nero and I lived in the campervan in our driveway for another 6 months.

It was getting hard to come up with excuses for not leaving, I’d put my place up for sale, and while no one bought it I stayed camping in the driveway, eventually someone wanted to rent my place, so I had a departure date. There was no avoiding it.

The date arrived. I set off, I felt sick and nervous and thought I was likely to die. Destination outer Perth. There wasn’t much traffic out on the bush highway, few signs of civilisation, just red dust some small shrubs, the campervan, Nero and me. About 6 hours later I arrived at my first destination Mundaring, We were still alive.

I had joined WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) thinking I would lead an idyllic nomadic lifestyle doing farm stays as I made my way towards Brisbane. In reality most of the WWOOF hosts didn’t have farms, they are just normal people who like having visitors come to stay. Being a WWOOF host it seems lets you travel and meet the world without ever leaving home.

I did several WWOOF stops in and around Perth and while there a friend offered to drive my car (which was still in Kalgoorlie) to Perth.  I was originally planning to sell the car in Perth, but it proved very useful for nipping down to shops and doing touristy day-trips. So now I had two vehicles with only me to drive them.

So the long exodus began, I would go ahead in the motorhome with Nero to the next WWOOF stop, then catch the bus/train back and collect my car and then drive that. I couldn’t face the thought of towing the car behind the van. The van was terrifying enough to drive as it was.

My sat nav was evil, it was trying to kill me or at least routinely humiliate me. It asked me if I wanted to avoid dirt tracks, I always said yes, it always took me to dirt tracks. My sat nav didn’t like main roads or highways it would try and find “short-cuts” down remote narrow farmers tracks. It would seek out low clearance bridges for my overheight van, it had a penchant for the steepest of hills and an attraction to dead ends.

Nero didn’t like driving in the campervan, and I can’t imagine how strange her world must have seemed everytime I opened the campervan door to a whole new world outside. I had an outdoor pen that  attached to the motorhome. Nero is a free-range rabbit, I don’t like animals in cages, so she would come and go, in and out as she pleased. She took great pleasure in destroying the interior of the motorhome (ripping up the linoleum floor, burrowing into the foam seat cushions, snacking on the curtains) but all I could do was feel guilty for dragging her on this trip. The alternative would have been to leave her in Kalgoorlie, but I couldn’t bear to think of her being grabbed at by children, left outside in the 40+degree heat (I used to leave her in the house with the aircon on while I went to work) or even the thought of her in a cage was too much to bare. So she had to stay with me, where I knew she would be safest, pets should not be disposable and anyway she is my best friend.

We ventured south along the SW coast of WA to Dunsborough. Where I found 2 fellow WWOOFers keen to cross the Nullarbor to Adelaide, one of whom would drive my car.

At Esperance we headed back north to Kalgoorlie (which was only slightly out of the way) before crossing the infamous Nullarbor. 3 days of driving, 3 days of straight roads, 3 days of flat, flat views to the horizon. The Nullarbor is incredible and terrifying it’s big and empty. For a large stretch the Southern Ocean stays close to the highway and you can turn off to look at the “Great Australian Bight” a great expanse of ocean with sheer inaccessible cliffs stretching to the horizon.

We made it, on to Adelaide where I said goodbye to my travelling companions, then Melbourne, then Canberra, then Sydney, we slowed down in far northern NSW to explore the Northern Rivers area. At this point we’d been on the road for 2 years and could go no further.   

I met many Grey Nomads travelling with their dogs, some even had cats and parrots, but towards the end of my journey I was delighted to meet some fellow travellers who were travelling with their duck Sookie. So maybe I’m not so weird after all.

And that’s how I ended up here in Tweed Heads, living a few metres from the QLD border, which Nero can’t cross. The Brisbane dream will have to wait.

Wentworth Falls Blue Mountains