Ocean, Land and Air: Vanlife Down Under

British thrillseekers Indefinite Wander talk far-flung touring, van conversion and business opportunity in Australia

We left Taunton in February 2019 where we backpacked around South East Asia for 6 months managing to visit 7 beautiful countries.

Our first stop was Thailand.  We stayed in Bangkok for a couple nights and then headed north where we explored Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai. Each were unique in their own way, offering a wide variety of spectacular temples, natural canyons, and the most memorable visit, going to an ethical elephant sanctuary. It was truly an unforgettable experience being up close and personal with the rescued elephants.

Alan and Viki AKA Indefinite Wander

Next stop, Vietnam – Alan’s favourite country that we visited in South East Asia.  We began travelling along the coast from the south to north – our favourite stops were Phong Nha and Ha Giang. Phong Nha is famous for its caves, there are over 500 including the largest in the world. We visited a few and they were all breathtaking – we loved walking through the incredible natural forms. Further north, we did the famous Ha Giang loop. We hired semi-auto bikes and rode around the loop over 4 days and the views were probably some of the best we’d ever seen! 

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Then Laos where Viki celebrated her birthday at the Kuang Si Falls, and we joined in with the biggest water fight we have ever experienced. Every Laos New Year they celebrate by having the most epic water fight you could imagine; everyone had water guns, buckets, hoses, spraying anyone and everyone that drove or walked by, it was brilliant! 

Cambodia was next on our trip, this country displayed the most beautiful architecture in their temples, Angkor Wat and Preah Khan Temple being our favourites. 

We then went back to Thailand to explore the great islands of the south, and became qualified SSI Level 1 Freedivers which was a very memorable course, and such an accomplishment.

Malaysia was our next destination which we absolutely loved, there was so much to see in this country; incredible views, stunning temples, interesting history, and of course the overwhelming city of Kuala Lumpur. 

We also stayed in Singapore for just a few nights, but made the most of every minute we had.

We didn’t get much time in Indonesia before we had to return home, but we were able to visit Bali and a few little towns within it, which were beautiful. We would like to return one day. 

We then had to return home for a few months for a family matter, but after our home visit, we flew out to the Philippines. It was Viki’s favourite country that we travelled to in Asia. Absolutely beautiful! There are endless islands to visit, and so much to see on each one. The ocean was crystal clear and full of marine life, and the famous Barracuda Lake in Coron, Palawan was out of this world. 

Then we travelled to Australia and were lucky to get in just in time before Covid hit. We have been in Australia since. Perth, in Western Australia is our current home away from home.

Because everything was very uncertain on our arrival, we decided to be safe by renting an apartment and working for the first 6 months to see what would happen with the virus. Covid settled over here so we began planning our travels.

First things first, we needed a van. We found a Mitsubishi Delica L400, long wheel base 4×4…perfect! Over the 6 months and beyond whilst we were doing farm work, we converted our Delica into our perfect little home.

Once ready, we finally got to use him properly and go for a trip around South West Australia. Our route began in Esperance where the pristine beaches and the crystal clear blue waters outshone our expectations.

Bremer Bay was next on route, a small town famous for its Orcas. We joined a tour and were lucky enough to see many of these incredibly intelligent creatures up close.

Then Albany, one of our favourite stops of this trip. An atmospheric town, stunning national parks, and the best bit, the epic 4×4 routes where we found our most favourite camp spot – right along the coast with the most incredible views you could imagine.

A favourite camp spot

After that, Denmark, famous for its Elephant Rocks and Greens Pool is a gorgeous coastal spot perfect for snorkelling; Peaceful Bay offered more exciting 4×4 tracks, particularly along the white sandy beaches.

Walpole was home to the Valley of the Giants, a man-made tree top walk surrounding giant Tingle Tree.

At Pemberton & Northcliffe where we were deep in the forest, we daringly climbed the Gloucester Tree. Not strapped in, no harness, no safety equipment, just metal pins scattering the surface of the 58 metre tall tree, and a fine netting wrapping around the outside. The extreme-jelly-legs were worth the view at the top.

Then Margaret River, the surfers paradise had delicious vegan food and endless wineries and Dunsborough, another favourite – a beautiful little town along the coast; and then finally, back to Perth. 

What we noticed is the further you get from Perth the easier it is to live nomadically. Most towns will have a water source you can get drinking water from (we use an inline filter just for extra precaution) usually located close to the visitors information centre if there is one. You can also find free 24, 48 and 72 hour stop over areas that allow you to pull up as long as you’re self contained. Alternately most national parks have very cheap campsites with basic facilities allowing a 7 day max stay usually.

We’re fortunate to have the extended option of wild camping in some of the most beautiful spots only accessible by 4×4. We came across our favourite spot in Albany whilst exploring the 4×4 tracks near the coast, we chose one enticing route which at first looked amateur, but it wasn’t too long before we were in very soft sand, tackling huge rocks, and balancing our poor Delica at a very precarious angle. But we pushed through and made it to the most beautiful spot with a spectacular view overlooking the ocean for miles. 

Derry the Delica tackling some rough terrain

When deciding to travel Australia we knew our van had to be a 4×4. You can only access 50% of the country via paved roads and all the best spots are often located down the 4×4 tracks. Enter our 1997 Mitsubishi Delica 4×4! When we bought him he was an unmolested LWB high roof with a fair few areas to address mechanically and electronically but most importantly with a solid chassis. We stripped him bare and progressively built up his interior in stages whilst travelling and living in him.

Our design decisions wouldn’t be considered conventional here in Oz. Usually most setups in a van of our size have outside kitchens with no real way of cooking inside.

We wanted the option of both inside and outside cooking so we can ship the van to colder climates and enjoy being away from the elements. Because of this we have quite a large kitchen work top with plenty of cupboard storage, a small sink with running water and an extraction fan in the roof.

Creature comforts

For sleeping, our sofa folds up into a small double, it’s pretty cozy. Under the bed we have storage space with an arch for storage over the back of the van.

For power we have a 100mah Lithium Ion battery hooked up to 200w solar on the roof. A 1000w inverter provides our 240v and the lights, water pump, extraction fan and fridge are all on a 12v system. We can carry 40L of water and enough fresh food to last at least a week. 

Mechanically Alan does all the servicing, maintenance and modification. As long as you have a good grasp on automotive maintenance, there is a huge following for Delicas throughout numerous different forums.

With so much information it’s pretty easy to find the solution to any problem. There are however some downsides to owning a Delica. If you don’t upgrade your cooling system with an alloy expansion tank and a 3 row alloy radiator you’re more than likely going to overheat and crack your head gasket in the hotter Australian climate!

They also have very little rust protection from factory and being a hybrid ladder/monocoque chassis once they start to rust they are a pig to repair. Ours took us a fair while to find and once in our ownership the first thing on the list was completely rust proofing the underside and hollow sections of the chassis. Once we’d modified him with some Toyo Open-country A/T tyres, Tome bash plate, rear spring helpers and a snorkel we felt ready to hit some really tough terrain. There’s still a huge list of modifications we’d love to do but snazzy parts cost money and right now we’d much rather put that money into the fuel tank.

There’s a sense of freedom whilst travelling and working on the road. You have no ties, and you can choose what you do for work and when you want to do it.  It’s a huge thing for Australians to lap their country and we’ve met so many different people from all walks of life completing their lap. 

Stunning drone photography is one of Indefinite Wander’s skills

Alan specialises in aerial drone operation and First Person View (FPV) drone video, whilst Viki uses her camera experience and dive training to capture stunning underwater videography and photos. Western Australia has to be one of the best places for underwater imagery with its endless coastline, vast abundance of marine life, and the crystal clear water. We have just started OLA Creative Media. OLA stands for Ocean – Land – Air. It’s early days and currently we’re building up our portfolio with relevant content so we can start marketing ourselves to prospective clients.

Currently we are settling in Perth for a 6 month period. We aim to boost our savings whilst also continuing the modifications on the Delica. Once ready, provided covid is under control we will be heading over to the east coast of Australia via the south and we may also take the ferry out to Tasmania. After Australia we plan to ship the van to either New Zealand or Canada depending on what the global situation is at the time.

We usually have a rough plan and then the adventure is spontaneous along the way!

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