I am sad to part company with Wicked Wanda. She looks like a bit of a minx but has been about as reliable a road-trip travelling buddy as you could ask for. And, with pretty much her entire body covered with acid-trip tattoos, she has certainly turned heads. There have been a few whistles and stares as we rolled through towns like Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise and Noosa Heads.


Now we are splashing through the last few water-logged miles of the aptly named Captain Cook Highway and will soon ease to a grateful halt at Clifton Sands on the coastal run-up to Port Douglas. I too am ready for a rest and am not disappointed to carry my kitbag into a refreshingly luxurious beachfront apartment at Clifton Sands (


I spread out my rumpled clothes, have a hot shower, grab a frosty one from the fridge and turn on the goggle-box. Now I can spend another lazy hour trying to make sense of the complete chaos that is Aussie rules football. Outside Wanda shelters alone under a corrugated iron roof upon which the last fearsome blast of an excessively violent rainy season is pounding. By now she has taken on a character all of her own and I feel vaguely sorry for abandoning her out there.


But she is a fickle wench and it’s hotwired into Wanda’s character that she has forgotten me already. Almost before her carbs have cooled she will be running off with some aging German hippy or a group of over-excited Japanese students. Wanda is a Wicked Camper van and – like a veteran streetwalker – she has already spent the majority of her life trawling the blacktop strip of Australia ’s eastern seaboard. 


At first glance she woos you with her grunge-kitten rose tattoos and the gothic charm of her pixie-chinned face. By the time we had rolled over Sydney Harbour Bridge – trying to decipher the pinball machine neon that signifies various lane changes and attracting (or provoking) a couple of horn-blasts from passing motorists – I was already confident that we were going to be a good team.


Vaguely recalled names from surf magazines and the beery yarns of other surfy travellers beckoned from the shoreward direction: Dee Why, Narrabeen, Avalon, Palm Beach...


But we had a long way to go and I kept Wanda’s nose pointing stoically northward as we covered those first miles up the Pacific Highway. You hit wilderness pretty quickly after leaving Sydney and much of that first afternoon of driving was through protected forest. It was already almost dark when we stopped to camp for the first night in a sleepy little campsite on Fenningham’s Island. We pitched camp under an aerial bombardment of twigs from infuriated local possums (eats roots and leaves) and woke to the bushman’s alarm call of a cackling kookaburra. We take an hour or so to rearrange baggage in Wanda’s cargo hold and by the time we hit the road again Wanda already feels like a home from home.



By Mark Eveleigh