How long does it take to do the big lap of Australia? What is the cheapest way to travel around Australia?
Pete and Taylor from @cruising_overland have been travelling full-time around Australia in their Troopy since they started their very big lap journey in September 2020. They’ve been on the road for 20 months and upon nearing the end of their lap, they decided to take in their new furry friend Ralph.
Welcome to Aussie Travel Stories, the series where we ask Aussie travellers questions to help inspire and educate the Big Lap community to enjoy the greatest road trip of their lives.
Taylor: Hi Big Lap Bible! I’m Taylor
Pete: I’m Pete
Taylor: And we’re from cruising_overland
What’s Your Travel Story?
Pete: We’re full-time travellers. We started in September 2020, we’re actually coming close to the end of our lap in about a week or two. Just started off just the two of us and about 10 weeks ago we got our little travelling companion Ralph who we’ll introduce to you later.
Why did you decide to do a Big Lap?
Pete: The big lap was something I always wanted to do. I’m originally from the UK and I came out here 9 years ago now, and with the intention of doing it within the first year, that didn’t happen so I managed to get sponsored and ended up staying here and becoming a citizen etc. But I said before I settled down, that it was something I had to do. So yeah that was the main reason for us doing it, and Taylor wanted to come with me as well. She wasn’t super keen at first but I managed to break it down a little bit
Taylor: I was convinced
Where are you currently?
Taylor: We are currently at Giralia station
Pete: Yeah, just near Exmouth, about 5 days. We’ve done like a figure of 8 around Australia when we set off originally. It got too hot because of covid, we had to set off a little bit later. We got up to Broome and it was November time which is the wrong time of year to be in Broome, especially in a tent with a car with a pop-top roof
What is your setup?
Pete: We’re travelling in a 2005 Land Cruiser Troop Carrier with a 1HDFT engine, and we had the roof cut off and put a new cap conversion just to make the most of the space in the back which is where we’re sat now, and yeah we’ll show you a little bit around after
Where do you generally stay?
Taylor: So we generally try and stay in free camps, we use the app Wikicamps which a lot of travellers that we’ve come across, use. Probably what? Once every 2 weeks, we come to caravan parks
Pete: Yeah something like that, sometimes it’ll be, you know it might be sometimes once every 3 weeks, sometimes it might be once a week, but lately it’s not been that much has it?
Taylor: No, it just depends where you are if you’re near a large city you tend to stay in caravan parks more often, If you’re more remote like we have been in North WA it’s pretty easy to free camp.
What is the best camping spot you’ve stayed at?
Taylor: We’ve got a few
Pete: So many, depends on what you like doing but for us, I really liked Liffey Falls in Tasmania, it was, was it free?
Taylor: It was free yeah, it was right next to a waterfall and a creek. There were toilets, campfires
Pete: It wasn’t an official campground but yeah, that was one of my favourites and walking distance to all the activities that that place sort of provides.
Taylor: Dundee beach was a really good one, we went and visited that on a weekend when we were looking for work up in Darwin, and just yeah, a park a bit like the Dampier Peninsula really isn’t it
Pete: Very similar yeah, more crocs though.
Taylor: And Point Brown lat easter so a year ago we crossed the border into SA from WA when we went to Point Brown and spent about 4 nights
Pete: Uh yeah
Taylor: Over the Easter period, and yeah, that was another top camp for us.
Where is the best place you’ve ever been?
Taylor: We get asked this question everywhere, with everyone we meet. They say what’s the best place to go to and it’s such a hard question
Pete: It really depends on what you like doing. Tasmania for us was really good. Prior to getting Ralph, our little dog, we were able to go to all the national parks, we were hiking, sometimes a couple of hikes a day or a hike a day. Tasmania is awesome, and free camping’s great I mean when we got the dog, the dog’s situation is very good. They’re really good with dogs, aren’t they?
Taylor: Yeah, really lenient
Pete: Yeah, Tasmania for me
Taylor: I loved the Eyre Peninsula. We didn’t really get to discover it that much, we were in a bit of a rush when we went to SA but that’s just one place I’d love to go back to. So many nice beaches
Pete: Yeah the Western side I think for me.
Is there a place you won’t go back to?
Pete: Airlie beach for me. It’s just too commercialised. I see the attraction, I really do. And that’s the trade-off you’ve got between a place that offers so much, you’re gonna bring lots of people in.
Taylor: It was very expensive too
Pete: It was super expensive which when you’re on a budget if you’re just going for a holiday, you know, it’s not a problem, you’re only away for 3 weeks, you get to go back to work, you’re making the same money again, but when you’re travelling full time you’ve got a budget to stick to, places like that become really hard. I think it was $55 a night or something, don’t quote me, $55 a night to camp there and then when you’re there, the prices of everything is hiked up you know. You wanna go out for a beer cost ya, I think it cost us $14 for a stubby beer in um one of the pubs. But away from the actual town of Airlie beach
Taylor: It’s gorgeous
Pete: Beautiful spot, but yeah, Airlie beach I won’t be rushing back to.
Where can’t you wait to go?
Taylor: We can’t wait to go to a few places. Some of them we haven’t been to before, and I think that’s why we can’t wait to go back or can’t wait to go there. So Cape York, we never did Cape York. A lot of people questioned why we didn’t. Purely because we didn’t want to destroy the car.
Pete: yeah basically the car is essentially a campervan
Taylor: A home
Pete: A Campervan on wheels, you spend a lot of money and a lot of time and effort, getting it ready and you know, I was aware that I could take the chicken tracks up the, just to get up to the Cape, but, I wanted to make sure that I sort of did it and experienced it rather than just drive the PDR or you know, just go around all these. But there are certain water crossings that you have to do and at the time that we were there, it was very very busy and we heard that it wasn’t the best time. I mean it was a good time to go but it was obviously very busy so, a couple of things coupled together basically deterred us from going but it’s somewhere that we definitely want to go to. The other place is back to Arnhem land. Went out there for a week or eight days last year. Awesome, awesome spot. Really, really, really fantastic. Just a long way and I’d like to go with a slightly bigger boat
Taylor: Yeah, and we didn’t do Victoria all that much, we would love to go back to the high country and just experience the hills and the Grampians and all that sort of area
Pete: the high country yeah
Do you travel with a pet, does it restrict you?
Taylor: We do now!
Pete: I’ve been chewing Taylor’s ear off to get a puppy for, or a dog for possibly the start of the trip, but she said “no no no no no”, and I’m really glad that she did because we wouldn’t have gone to half the National Parks, that is the biggest problem with having a pet, that is if you want to go to National Parks you have to plan well in advance, you have to find somewhere to either to leave them, which is costly, but not usually too bad, or you’ve got to find some really nice people and be able to trust them.
Taylor: And the other thing we didn’t realize travelling with a pup was the temperature, so we, about two and a half weeks ago we were in Melbourne and we’re trying to find rugs for him because it was so cold.
Pete: Yeah buy extra towels
Taylor: So then yeah two weeks later and we were in the heat of the NT and Northern WA so it was a big change for him, big change for us too because it was just so warm, and no breeze but yeah we just saw him suffer a little bit, that’s why we sort of headed south to get to the mid coast and try and get some breeze, and it is a lot cooler.
Pete: Yeah it’s heaps cooler down there
Taylor: And he seems a lot happier too
Pete: Yeah, but um, it’s just one thing you have to take into consideration because you know, I mean during the day it’s fine when the car is running and the aircon’s on he’s happy but, yeah, night time and during the day it’s just stuff you have to consider.
Any scary or funny moments on the road?
Taylor: It’s a scary and funny story all at once
Pete: Yeah there’s been a few so, we just left WA and I’ve never been out of the state, um I think Taylor had only ever been out of the state on an aeroplane, never been out on a car and just very excited and Taylor said right, we left WA heading towards South Australia and she said, “I’ve heard that the Bunda Cliffs which basically look over The Great Australian Bight are awesome. You have to stay on the cliffs at least for one night and experience them.” So not knowing much about it, I do a lot of the driving, not looking at my phone, I said to Taylor “Alright well where are they?”, so she just goes on Google maps, which we rely upon a lot and she just types in “Bunda Cliffs”, and unbeknownst to us, Google Maps just generates a place where the Bunda Cliffs are, not necessarily where the bunda cliffs camping spot is. So we take about, we drive for about 12 kilometres and she says right, “you have to take a right up here”. And there’s a little bit of a formed track, not an overly well-used formed track, but it was a track, and we’re towing the little boat. We’ve got a little three and a half, four-metre tinnie behind us, and the troopy, and we start going down this track and we start to go down, basically down these cliffs and all the pictures I’ve ever seen, you sit on top the cliff and it’s just a straight drop. So I can’t imagine there’d be too much going down and then back up and down and up. So anyway, we get halfway down this track and I’m, starting to realize that this is probably not the place that we want to be and what happens is we come to a very steep drop. I’d say probably only a metre and a half but it’s straight down metre and a half but it’s straight down metre and a half. It’s enough to roll a car and basically, I’ve got it on full lock to the left, and the car is just continuing to go straight, so panic stations are everywhere. We, I’ve tried to figure out how what to do. Taylor gets out and she says “I’ll just reverse”, so I was like you can’t reverse, I can’t reverse the trailer’s sat like that and the boat sort of had quite a sharp angle next to the car, I can’t reverse it out. So I said, “Right, we’re gonna have to go down, down then turn around then turn around and then try and come back up”. So Taylor jumps out and a typical Land Cruiser has to put a foot on the brake whilst I try and figure out a way for us to, for us to get out of there without rolling the bloody car. So eventually what I did was, we’ve got a lot of really big rocks and just really just packed them in hard against the front right wheel, which is where the dropoff was and just hoped to God that it’s that it started to turn, and it did. It did eventually start to turn, however, I looked out of my window and it was just a straight like, from the window it probably would’ve been a two-metre drop and the car just missed it by probably, well the wheels were probably three inches from the edge.
Taylor: It was very scary
Pete: It was very scary, we were in the middle of the, basically nowhere if anybody’s ever come across another ball. Yeah, there’s not a lot around there, and yeah didn’t know where we were going. Anyway, managed to get turned around, eventually, get back up to the track back onto the highway, and before we jumped onto the highway, I checked the Hema Maps, a little atlas that we’ve got, and lo and behold about 30 kilometres up the road, there’s the uh, Bunda Cliffs Campsite. So if we just looked at the real map and not trusted Google Maps.
Taylor: Yeah. Always cross-check. Wikicamps, the hard book, and Google Maps
Pete: I hope I did the story justice. It was quite a stressful occasion
Tell us about the item you can’t live without
Taylor: We bought these it’s a four-pack of magnetic HardKorr lights. They’ve got multiple settings different colours, different vibrancies and they’re just awesome, you can put them on the car, you can hang them under the awning, and they’re just a really neat little convention I think.
Pete: For someone that doesn’t want to set up and have leads and wires everywhere and they literally are just, take them out plonk them where you want it and it’s done. It’s on in seconds. A very very useful little bit of kit.
Taylor: We also have our drop-down table.
Pete: Yeah drop-down table for me. It’s not a necessity and it’s something that all not full drives can afford to have because just because of the length and the space on the side of the car and it’s all on the side of the troopy that we’ve got. But, yeah, we use it every single day. Twice, sometimes three times a day. So if you said to me an item that you can’t live without, it would be that, because if I had to set up a table every single time, I’d lose my mind.
Tell us how you fund your Big Lap and budget – did you save before you left? Do you work on the road?
Taylor: We worked very hard for a solid 2 years didn’t we?
Pete: Yeah pretty much. Two years getting the car to where we wanted it and then also yeah, saving for the actual trip itself. Between us, we’ve spent a house deposit. We intended to come back with a house deposit but I think we reached, got halfway around and we said it’s just without working a bit more, it’s just not possible
Taylor: We’ve worked a little bit so we did a month in Karratha I was swimming teaching, Pete was installing solar panels, then we got up to Darwin and absolutely loved it so Pete, um, we got a house sit and Pete got a job working at the bar and that was a really cool experience. We loved Darwin and yeah its just hard for us to work solid for a long period of time only because of the setup if we don’t have accommodation included. We probably would’ve stayed longer in Darwin and worked for longer if we got a rental but it was just a bit hard.
Pete: I think if we had a van or we had something like a bus that’s a converted bus or camper van, whatever you want to describe it,
Taylor: Easy setup.
Pete: Easy setup but then also having a mode of transport, so set up a base and then go from there. With the car being the transport it was a bit unfair, I was finishing at 2:30 am some nights and you know, it’d be unfair for Taylor to have to stay up til then for me to then drive home so yeah, that’s probably why we didn’t work as much as we maybe had planned
How much do you spend and what is your biggest expense?
Pete: Yeah fuel. I feel the way that fuel prices are going, it’s definitely fuel, but even before the fuel prices going crazy, it was definitely fuel. Whenever you’re doing, I think we’ve done 60 thousand kilometres or just over 60 thousand kilometres, we get roughly a thousand kilometres out of both of our tanks and it costs about $250 to fill both tanks so if you do the maths, sixty times that. It’s a lot of money but you know, you’re not paying rent so it sort of works out, a little bit like that. What’s our average spend usually, roughly?
Taylor: It’s really hard because it changes from week to week. I don’t know what the average has been, or would be.
Pete: So we’re just up at Cape Leveque, just north of Broome. We spent Easter up there very very warm. But you know, for a week we hardly spent anything. Our food was our biggest expenditure because, you know, we’re taking enough for five-six days but we weren’t going anywhere. So we weren’t spending stuff. So some weeks you have weeks like that where you don’t go anywhere but the initial cost at the start for all the food can be quite high and then there’s other times when you are travelling every single day, going to different towns, going to different attractions, you know, museums whatever and there’s little costs incurred through that so I would say roughly a bit around $500-$600 a week
Taylor: yeah I was at $500 a week
Pete: But that’s including everything, fuel and food and everything else
What’s something you know now but didn’t before you left?
Pete: All the things that you’re scared of and, you might get anxious about possibly doing a trip like this, don’t be, basically. Just be prepared. Be prepared and have a little bit of money put aside for a rainy day. Like we both got a couple of thousand put away just in case, you know, something goes wrong and, you’re never going to get stuck. I don’t think
Taylor: No there’s always people to help you, always businesses that are geared up to help you.
Pete: I mean we’ve been lucky that we haven’t had too many, so many things go wrong but, you know, there are these safety nets for you to fall back on. That would be my biggest thing because I was really anxious about the things that you read about. Breaking down in the middle of that. Well yeah, you might break down in the middle of the outback but, you know that you’re not going to get completely stuck unless you’re going into some really really super remote places like some of the deserts at the wrong time of year, I don’t think that you’re going to get too unstuck with travelling
Taylor: If you’ve got an EPIRB and stuff like that for an emergency.
Pete: You’re uh, you’ve set yourself up
Taylor: You’re pretty safe
Pete: What about you Taylor?
Taylor: I’ve realised that family is only a phone call away. When we first left I was really anxious about leaving home and not being around people, but you meet so many people on the road and it’s just amazing the friendships that you make.
Pete: They kind of become your family in a weird sense. You can only be talking to someone for five or ten minutes and
Taylor: You’ve got some lifelong friends.
Pete: You’ve got some friends that you’ll meet up with again and then, you know, meet them again and you become even closer.
Taylor: And they’re in the same boat as you so… things just fall out?
Pete: No, you’ve just knocked your lens out.
Taylor: My lens?
Pete: That thing.
Taylor: Oh no that’s your, erm… It’s all good
What is your favourite thing about travelling?
Taylor: Mine is about meeting all the different types of people. I love socialising and, yeah, just meeting friends and like-minded people. Even not like-minded people. You just learn to interact with different people, of all ages, and different walks of life. That was my biggest thing about travelling
Pete: Mine is waking up every day and not having to answer to anybody but yourselves. I think, and now, Ralph. You don’t have to answer to anybody, you just, if you want to go somewhere, you go somewhere. If you just want to sit around all day and do absolutely nothing, you can do that. If you want to have a beer at nine o’clock, who cares, you know, I mean, I wouldn’t advise it every day but, you know, your own boss if you like.
Taylor: You’ve got a heap of freedom.
Pete: Yeah, there’s a lot of freedom.
What has been your biggest splurge? Was it worth it?
Taylor: Our biggest splurge so far on the lap, or it will be on the lap is, Pete, surprised me with erm, the orcas?
Pete: A trip to see the orcas. Down in Bremer Bay in Western Australia
Taylor: And that was worth it. It probably wouldn’t be like a yearly thing. We’d probably do it again when we’ve erm, when we’ve got some kids or something. I mean, it’s a once in a lifetime
Pete: Yeah, you don’t have to go out there every week to see them
Taylor: But they were amazing.
Pete: Yeah they were very good.
Taylor: And I bought Pete a 3-day drone course down in Esperance and I think that was pretty worth it. It got you into the, it got you a few tips and tricks.
Pete: Yeah, help me in editing and stuff, not that I’d do it
Taylor: hehe, it was good while it lasted
Is there anything you bought but don’t use as much as you thought or it wasn’t worth the money?
Pete: Uhm, yeah we bought a weber when we were halfway around. I’m not entirely sure why. I think we missed roasts and stuff like that but, we do use it and it is very good and very handy and it’s not too big.
Taylor: We had something similar at home and, just thought that we should have brought it
Pete: I guess that that would be probably one of the only things that we bought with us that
How were you affected by the lockdown?
Taylor: When we were in Darwin, we had a five-day lockdown and that was actually quite convenient because we were in our house sit.
Pete: As convenient as a lockdown can be. But we were lucky that we were in a house I think is what Taylor’s saying.
Taylor: And it was only for five days. Not like Melbourne or Sydney where it was weeks, but we’ve kind of avoided the lockdowns
Pete: I mean we weren’t affected directly by lockdowns but it was always something that played in the back of your mind
What is your biggest tip to other big lappers?
Pete: When packing, be strict and be honest with, if you actually use something. We are both guilty of this, however, Taylor is very very guilty. The amount of clothes in her clothes drawer that I have not seen her wear because she uses the top four inches of her clothes drawer yet the clothes drawer is jam-packed. You can’t get another thing in it and she wears the same thing every day. All the same things. That would be my biggest thing, and then do it because you want to do it. Don’t do it because you want to become Instagram famous or YouTube famous or, you know, don’t do it for anybody else but you and you guys and take it in when you’re at some of these places.
Taylor: Don’t just snap the picture and take a video
Pete: And then go, yeah. I mean we’ve done it sometimes with a few places. You get there and then you go “Oh it’s not as great as I’ve maybe thought”. But it’s life, it’s not Instagram
Taylor: Nothing’s perfect all the time. I think that’s it!
Pete: Thank you!
Taylor: Thanks, guys!