Australia is easy, part one: escape to the other side of the world

Dan Wright has been a motorhome enthusiast for 20 years, and spent many of those years producing travel features and motorhome reviews for Practical Motorhome magazine. He’s enjoyed more than a hundred motorhome adventures at home in the UK, and in overseas destinations that include Romania. These days Dan tours with his wife Tuti.

This country is so laid back even the motorway is called Bruce. Matey abbreviations aren’t slang anymore, they are the part of the dominant culture: school holidays are schoolies, tradesmen are tradies, your car registration tax is your rego.
Even a fiercely guarded brand like McDonalds, built on delivering the same experience to customers around the world, has given in and calls itself…Maccas. You will be relaxed – it’s official. Almost as if generations of immigrants to this place have run not just to the sun, but from older and more uptight ways of doing things.
Trust me, it’s much more enjoyable if you just go with it – something that most new arrivals have learned. Northern Europeans are advised to manage their decompression gradually, to avoid the culture-shock equivalent of the bends.
We flew into Hong Kong first to beat the jet lag. ‘We’ being my wife and her parents, on our way to meet her older brother, his partner and their two young lads.

Tuti and Dan in Hong Kong
Nice idea in theory, in practice 24-hour neon lights and a skyline out of Blade Runner – complete with animated skyscraper-high advertisements – are more interesting than sleep.

Taking in the sights of Hong Kong
It was electronic overload before a planned digital detox, starting in Brisbane. Again, nice idea in theory. In practice, try heading halfway around the world to brilliant sunshine in November and not reminding your friends and family of this every day on social media. It’s not natural.
We hired portable wi-fi from our rental company Apollo before thundering off in our towering Mercedes motorhome. This enabled us to run Google maps sat-nav from our smart phones, which worked pretty well.
From airport to overnight hotel to motorhome depot was predictably straightforward – all short cab rides. We made our way into Brisbane (Brissie, of course – keep up) to pick up some bits and bobs like bug spray and some lunch. It was easy enough to park on the street.
Home for the next few days was to be a bit of hillside farmland near the village of Mullumbimby at the northern tip of New South Wales, just inland from the Byron Bay coastal resort.

Stunning Byron Bay
We were staying with Mikey, his other half Tiffy and their boys Zephyr (Zeph) and Lennox (Len). We sited our Apollo at the top of the hill, where we could plug in; my in-laws were staying put for longer and had a caravan set up at the bottom, next to my brother-in-law’s stylish and sustainable temporary accommodation (he’s an architect, so the plan is to build a full-size house to accommodate the family, especially the fast-growing boys).

The perfect pitch
And we had tickets to the Mullum Music Festival, an event started by locals for locals that’s been gradually getting more popular since it came into being ten years ago.
It’s still super, super laid-back and a friendly environment for kids and grandparents and families of all shapes and sizes. All the venues are in the town, so rather than cramming into sweaty festival tents on muddy fields, you’re watching bands in the school hall or at the local bowling club. It gives it all a very parochial charm, even though the acts are from around the world and a good proportion of the population are what Rolling Stone magazine calls “refugee hippies”.

Family time at the music festival
It sounds like a bit of lazy journalistic stereotype, but it’s pretty much true – you can drop the word ‘chakra’ into everyday conversation and most people won’t bat an eyelid.
We were able to enjoy a ride on the disco-soundtracked double-decker Magic Bus and catch some acts as afternoon eased into evening then, with kids driven home and tucked up safely in bed, the remaining responsible adults were free to let their hair down.

All aboard the magic bus
Most of the music was a little too thoughtful and earnest for me, with the exception of one act, New York City buskers Too Many Zooz, whose self-styled ‘brass house’ brought Friday and Saturday nights to a riotous, raucous and sweaty climax.

Mullum Music Festival
So we had failed to beat the jet lag by staying up late in Hong Kong, failed to ignore our phones by WhatsApp-ing a summary of each day’s activities to the folks back home and instead of communing with the outback like the Bush Tucker Man, had bopped the night away to a club soundtrack reimagined by a Bavarian oompah band.
We hadn’t been to the beach yet and it even started to rain. So far, so unstereotypically Australian. But we were having a great time and getting more laid back by the minute. So we pointed our motorhome inland and drove away from the rain. As the locals would say: “no worries, mate.”
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