Originally published on weekendnotes.com
Hire a Kombi – Step out of your comfort zone and into an adventure. Take your kids, your friends or your lover and drive off into the sunset in an original Kombi Van.
Have you ever dreamed of travelling around Australia in a Kombi Van? I always have so it was with great excitement that I finally organised my first drive in my dream car.
Alyce and George at Hire a Kombi in Marcus Hill on the Bellarine Peninsula have six Kombis and one VW beetle available for hire. Each one has been lovingly restored by George, an accomplished mechanic and Kombi enthusiast. His passion for these vehicles is evident when he is showing customers the ins and outs of the van. Each van is named and has a vibrant colour and a personality of its own.
There is the cream coloured, elegant Harriet, often used as wedding transport. There’s deep orange Clancy, and Mango, the automatic van. The lovely Applejack is the van that George built for Alyce. This van sparked not only their love affair but also the business idea that the two of them have brought to fruition.
My daughter, Rose, and I hired Gracie, an original Westfalia from Germany. She is an olive green beauty, which sleeps four; two in the van with seats folded down and two in the pop top’s mezzanine level. The seats are upholstered in the original 70s blue and green checkered material and immediately remind me of the furnishings in my childhood home.
The van is fitted with a two burner stove, a small fridge and a sink and the little cupboards containing all the utensils and cookware needed for a completely self-sufficient Kombi adventure. As well as all the practical things, George even gave us a string of fairy lights to hang up at night, which added an even more magical feel to an already dreamlike weekend.
The Great Ocean Road is peppered with hundreds of amazing campsites but we chose to stay at Cumberland River Holiday Park. Perched on the river bank, surrounded by walls of towering rock and listening to the sounds of merry campers, Rose and I spent many happy hours in Gracie’s interior. We relished using the little kitchenette and picnicking inside, even though we had deck chairs and a fabulous awning to sit under out in the fresh air.
Driving Gracie was like a day-long exercise in mindfulness, not only because the views were spectacular as we rounded every corner, but also because the actual art of driving a 40-year-old manual vehicle required intense concentration. The gears are the same age as I am, the steering wheel is large, and the luxuries that we enjoy in our cars now don’t exist in the Kombis of yesteryear.
I had to laugh when Rose wondered aloud how to turn on the air conditioner. She’d never been in a car that used a handle to wind down the window. I also laughed when I spent a stressful, and quite sweaty, fifteen minutes in a car park in Apollo Bay, unable to get the gear stick into reverse. It brought back so many memories of learning to drive in my dad’s old Torana during my teenage years. George calls this gear an “anti-theft” device, as many drivers of modern cars find it difficult.
Gracie has a Bluetooth audio device so that drivers and their passengers can enjoy their own choice of tunes. We pumped up the Beach Boys and ABBA and sang along as we followed the twists and turns of the road.
The Great Ocean Road is perfect for holiday driving. There are achingly beautiful ocean views and plenty of lookouts at which to pause and digest the natural beauty of this famous part of Australia. If you’re looking for a way to relax and enjoy life, this is it. My lifelong dream of travelling around Australia in a Kombi Van has been far from satisfied by this short weekend trip. George and Alyce will be seeing us again, and again and again.
I can’t recommend Hire a Kombi more highly. The Kombis are stunning treasures and George and Alyce are running a fabulous service for people from Melbourne who want a quick, fun, getaway.
A few things to note before you take this trip:
Can you drive a manual vehicle? For me, it had been a long time so I was nervous on the road for a while, not driving over 70km per hour. Eventually, I found my rhythm again and it was the greatest pleasure to feel the car and respond to its particular moods and temperament.
Do you have insurance? Take out the extra insurance as recommended by George and Alyce. These vehicles are not modern day cars and you don’t want to be stuck with a huge bill if something goes wrong.
Bring your camera. You’ll want to take hundreds of photos with your gorgeous Kombi.
If you’re not an experienced camper, plan your trip ahead of time. Book a campsite that has bathrooms or other facilities that you think will make your trip more pleasurable.
Don’t forget your cards and board games so you can have even more old-fashioned fun.