Welcome to another Wolf Bear Collective 'wild wander' with Steph and Andy, read through their intrepid adventures across our great southern land of must see destinations, essential camping items and an insight to their life on the road.
We call him Colonel Nutbutter and he’s the star of the show, not us. Who’s Colonel Nutbutter, you ask? He’s our 2003 Land Rover Discovery equipped with a roof tent and every bit of camping gear you could need from a pull-out kitchenette to a portable shower that ended up being a game changer at the end of a long hot day of adventuring. He’s the weapon that carried us through six states and territories of Australia and our home for two months.
We bought Nutbutter in January 2021 with grand plans to travel Australia. I was stood down from my job at Qantas and Andy freelances in TV, so he made space between contracts. But our plans shifted when COVID *this is the first and last time you’ll see that word here* struck once again and we had to stay in Sydney for several more months. Poor Nutbutter sat on the city streets waiting for his moment for so long the battery even went flat which felt very symbolic of how we felt after being cooped up for so long. It made it even more satisfying when we sat on the M5, 7 hours of driving to go, two iced coffees in hand, knowing it was actually happening. We’ll breeze past the fact that it was 36 degrees and the aircon had gone bust… All part of the journey, right!?
Our very first night camping, we stayed on a herb farm overlooking a lavender field in North West Tasmania.
"Not-so-fresh off the 11-hour ferry ride, it was our first time sleeping in the rooftop ‘penthouse’ and we were both nervous, trying to let go of that city life mentality while brushing our teeth out the back of the car and pondering what creatures might be lurking in the woodlands behind us..."
But I was shocked at how quickly you can adapt to a different lifestyle; how quickly I switched off from work and, as a self-confessed hygiene freak, lover of a plan and a person with several irrational fears, how quickly I learnt to be at peace with everything that was out of my control. Explorer mode: on.
From there we drove anticlockwise around Tasmania and did a mixture of free campsites in National Parks, paid campsites on people’s properties and a couple of motels and Airbnb's dotted in between mainly so we could shower properly and, if we were lucky, fill up our 20-litre water bottle. One of my favourite moments was free camping in the Bay of Fires where there was no running water, so we woke up in the morning and went straight into the ocean to wash off. The best wake up call. Another amazing feeling was after a day we had spent the morning on the beach, then packed up, washed off and got changed ready to head to the next place. We got in the car, started up the engine but then looked at each other sad to be leaving the crystal blue waters on such a sunny day and both had the same thought “shall we just stay here a bit longer?” – we couldn’t think of a single reason why not and it was the most liberating feeling knowing we could do whatever we wanted, especially since our penthouse suite atop of Nutbutter had no specific check-in time!
We started to find great meal ideas that you can cook out the back of the car with two hobs and minimal utensils. Some of the dishes we had on repeat were black bean, spinach and corn quesadillas, satay tofu and vegetable noodles and on the lazier days we’d cook premade ravioli and add a load of spinach, coconut milk and the star ingredient, squeezy vegemite, something that I once promised I’d never buy (jar over squeezy every time) but it very much thrived on our trip. Other camping MVPs for us: the self-inflating beach bed I got Andy for Christmas, the x3 humble carabiner clips that meant we could attach any extras to our backpacks plus turned our small lantern into a ceiling lamp at night and our trusty Wolf Bear Collective jumpers and tees. We only brought one jumper each on the trip and the soft fabric brought so much comfort on the cooler evenings, while our Origin T's were perfect for long bush walks as well as chilling out at camp.
After Tassie we headed to The Grampians (Gariwerd) and then onto SA, passing through some lovely little towns like Robe and Mannum on our way to Kangaroo Island. One thing we became very good at was finding ice creameries and antique shops wherever we went, a killer combo. The showstopper was the orange and cardamom ice cream in Timboon, well worth a stop just off The Great Ocean Road.
On KI we found the most beautiful camping spot in a quiet corner called Antechamber Bay. It’s where the river meets the sea and you can look back at mainland Australia. It’s somewhere we’ll never forget as it’s also the place where I proposed to Andy! Our happy place is exploring and we’d both been in a state of pure contentment since the start of the trip so in the spirit of riding the wave I decided to go for it. I woke up early and put together a trail of post-it notes that lead him through the campsite across the river and up to a beautiful lookout. We spent the rest of the day exploring the local shops including honey ice cream at Clifford’s Honey Farm (yes, we were 80% made of ice cream at this point) and the best gin cocktails at KI spirits. Then back to the tent where we found a way of hanging the iPad from the roof bar of the tent and had our own little cinema. Not the lavish engagement some would imagine but it was perfect for us.
After KI we did something wild and headed to Melbourne where we parked Nutbutter at the airport (we both came close to tears leaving our trusty mate behind) and got on a flight to Uluru. One of the best, most impulsive decisions we’ve ever made (sorry, Nutbutter!) I don’t know if it was because it had only just reopened or because it was off peak in Feb, but it was so quiet that we had the viewing platforms all to ourselves. We walked around the base of Uluru which was a really special experience, learning more about the Traditional Owners of the Land and admiring ancient sacred sites. We also got lucky as it had rained heavily the week before, so all the water holes were full, a breath-taking moment not just to see but to feel.
Along with the highlights,
"there were some scary times along the way like when we set off on what we thought was a gentle walk in Cradle Mountain but then ended up scaling a canyon..."
with nothing but a rope between us and a sheer drop! Or the time we went on a bush walk and within ten minutes saw not one but two brown snakes blended into the tree roots. We swiftly turned around and made our way back to camp where we spent the next two days playing Monopoly Deal by the safety of Nutbutter! Who knew that sitting by a car could feel like such paradise?
The thing we learnt at that point is there is no shame when it comes to camping and exploring. Every person has their own idea of what adventure means and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The sooner you can let go of any preconceived ideas and pressure you put on yourself, the sooner you can find your sweet spot and fully dive in. And so be it if that also involves your boyfriend refusing to ever play card games with you again because you “allegedly” got too competitive and threw your cards across the table! Our way was right for us, but I wouldn’t give any advice on how to do it other than just do it. Whether it’s two days, two months or two years, exploring will nourish your soul in ways you can’t imagine. Oh, and always take your WBC clothing faves and a squeezy vegemite with you, you won’t regret it.
Written by, Stephanie Dennington