Day 6 on the Great Ocean Walk – Gellibrand River to the 12 Apostles

It’s 4 March and a beautiful 26oC day for our final hike. Today we start at the Gellibrand River camping ground at Princetown and finish at the 12 Apostles visitor centre (with the crazy expensive water).

We’re off by 07:45 (an all time record!) to do the usual time-consuming shuffle of cars to the finish and start points. For example, the drive from Bimbi Park to the visitor centre is 75 minutes.

Gellibrand River is very pretty and I can see a wetland boardwalk which would be a must-see if we weren’t hiking. There’s plenty of bird life today – yellow tailed black cockatoos, a few murders of crows (they’re a bit creepy), blue wrens, butterflies and other assorted critters.

Kim and Aileen at the starting point of today’s hike

ALONG THE PATH

We hike along cliff tops through coastal scrubland and low heath, before stopping at 11:00 for a cuppa at a lookout with spectacular views all the way up to the 12 Apostles. We take time to ponder life, death and other imponderables for a long while before tramping onwards.

Stopping for morning tea

There’s been a lot of effort expended into making the path … it crosses the tops of dunes, cuts down into the back of them, then into 6-10 foot high scrub, or across rocky areas with shrubbery that’s only centimetres high. There’s board walk, sunken boards, sand, gravel, dirt. It’s beautifully made (as is much of the GOW) and a pleasure to walk on.

In the distance we can see the rock stacks of the 12 Apostles – rather special seeing them inch closer and closer. Down there we knew there’s 13.2 million tourists milling about, but we’re walking this bit completely on our own. Delicious.

Views down to the 12 Apostles

COMMEMORATION TIME

Near the end there’s a plaque set into the ground commemorating the Great Ocean Walk. Most tourists wouldn’t see this because it’s still a fair hike to the visitor centre. We take a bunch of photos to celebrate that we made it, even though we couldn’t hike the whole distance due to extreme heat.

As we leave, a young German guy bounces into the commemoration area and I take a photo of him leaping into the air. Later, at the Gibson steps, Daryle stays with the packs at a lookout while the other four walk down the steps to the beach (with some of the 13.2 million tourists). The German guy bounces into the lookout and Daryle offers to look after his pack so he can enjoy the beach unencumbered. That was great except he lingered down there forever, oblivious to the fact he was keeping five people waiting while he endeavoured to have a swim in the very dangerous surf. He was, in Australia vernacular, a selfish idiot.

IRISH MEETING!

At the 12 Apostles visitor centre, we bump into James and Aoife (what was the chance of that)! They’ve been stuck in Lavers Hill and Princetown for two (weekend) nights where there was nowhere to buy food, and no buses running. The bus was finally arriving today so they were madly scoffing edibles and waiting for it to turn up. Lovely to see them before they head off on their next great adventure in South Australia. Both looking well, kisses goodbye!

FINAL APOSTLES PEEK

We take another quick look at the massive 45 metre limestone structures that make up the 12 Apostles. The light and clarity are not as good as the other day, so chuffed we saw it in a truly stunning weather.

The sight of them really leaves you awe-struck in wonder – they’re enormous and stunningly beautiful. There’s only eight stacks left as five have fallen down since they were discovered. The surrounding cliffs are some 70 metres high.

The sea and weather have gradually eroded the softer limestone, and caves and arches have formed in the cliffs, and rock islands up to 45 metres high were left isolated from the shore. Fabulous stuff.

LUNCHTIME

Into the car and off to Port Campbell for lunch. For the first time, it’s cool in the shade so jumpers and coats on at our picnic table. The rest of the day is spent looking at London Bridge, the Grotto and the Arch – all stunning formations in their own right.

At the Grotto we meet a delightful honeymooning Chinese couple and a pair of young American lasses, and we take photos for each other. It’s an internationally flavoured afternoon.

LAST HOURS

We spend our last evening trying to finish the mountain of food (ergh, I’ve put on weight), a mad pack, then sitting back for a relaxed chat. One thing we note are the huge numbers of dead gum trees as you drive along the road to the lighthouse. Turns out the koalas have eaten them to death. That’s what you get when you destroy habitat (farmers take note) and push native creatures into an ever-decreasing space. The poor souls eat themselves out of house and home.

The next day we head back to our respective homes, another great hike under our belts and keen as mustard for the next one. Watch this space!

Day 5 on the Great Ocean Walk – Moonlight Head to Wreck Beach

A cooler day so we decide to walk from Moonlight Head to Wreck Beach. While it’s only 10 km, it’s tricky working out start and end points that work. Literature says it’s a difficult but rewarding walk involving 333 steps down to Wreck Beach, with the anchors of the Marie Gabrielle (1869) and the Fiji (1891) wedged in the rock – a reminder of how treacherous and dangerous the sea can be along this sweep of coastline.

Fortunately we sleep well despite the heat. The fan cooled the hot box cabin a little, a cool shower just before retiring, wet bath towel over the body, and life is good. A cooler wind smashed leaves, nuts and twigs onto the roof of the kitchen during breakfast, and a teeny bit of rain ramped up the humidity.

BOOT NEWS

The great thing about today is Kim spoke with a lady who owns a shoe shop. She suggested to loosen the laces around the toes, tie a knot below the ankle to keep these loose, then tighten the laces above that point. This enables the toes to move freely, but keeps the hiking boot firmly in place. I did this and it worked a treat …no more toe pain for the rest of the trip. Such a simple remedy!

OFF TO MOONLIGHT HEAD

The usual drive to the end point with both cars begins, then a trek to the start of Moonlight Head with one car. It’s taking up a lot of time to do this each day so I can see why others hike and camp the entire route – it certainly saves a lot of commute time.

To get to Moonlight Head is a little weird and wonderful. You need to travel about 15 kilometres past Lavers Hill towards the 12 Apostles, then take the turn off for Moonlight Head Road. After 10 minutes along an unsealed road, you arrive at a car park.

The start point is the edge of a farm, which the owners have managed to denude of any living thing other than a few interested cows. Love to know why farmers continue to feel the need to completely strip the land. And we wonder why the climate is changing.

A climb over a style, a wash of the boots to prevent cinnamon fungus, and off we tramp into the forest.

My goal today is to take creative photos – whatever takes thine fancy. Kim likes the idea too, so the pair of us dawdle along in a happy fashion photographing ferns, flowers, sticks, rocks, dead sea creatures, shells etc.

Near the entrance to Wreck Beach, we deviate to look at the 1905 Moonlight Head cemetery. It’s nicely done with a lovely entrance, but not too many graves to peruse yet. One could take that as a good thing!

WRECK BEACH

There’s a degree of conjecture about the number of steps down to Wreck Beach. We counted and got 333. Other websites say 366, 322 etc. The steps themselves weren’t that bad – just take your time. Happily, coming back up didn’t seem to take as long as going down. However, you want to do this walk during low tide otherwise you can’t see the anchors.

A cuppa and lunch on the rocks, then off on our separate ways for a good fossick – Aileen for sea glass (she makes beautiful jewellery with it) and the rest of us for shells and other titbits. Very cloudy, trying to rain, lovely cool temperature though. Eventually we reach the section of the beach where old anchors are embedded into the rock.

A LITTLE SHIPPING HISTORY …

Information taken from the 12 Apostles website:
The Marie Gabrielle, a large steel hulled French registered and crewed barque ran aground at 1am on Wreck Beach, just west of Moonlight Head. The crew waited until daylight and all got to shore safely in the ship’s boat. Four crew members stayed with the boat with the remainder heading west along the coast bound for Cape Otway.

Without water and food and faring badly by the third day, the crew came across the lightkeeper’s children on a beach below the lighthouse. The frightened children, not understanding French and alarmed by the crew’s dishevelled appearance, ran off and got help from the lightkeeper Henry Ford.

A rescue party was sent to recover the remaining crew and all were hosted locally for over a month until the twice yearly lighthouse supply boat could return them to Melbourne. Mystery surrounds the fate of South Pacific islanders that were also crew on the boat.


You do have to watch where you walk on Wreck Beach. There’s lots of holes filled with water and creatures, but it’s a pleasure to wander around and see what’s in them. Photographing the anchors against various backdrops and in different lights would be delicious.

Back up the 333 steps, into the car and off to Port Campbell to check out Sow & Piglets, a local micro-brewery and backpacker’s lodge. Clean as a whistle, a kitchen to die for, not a single fly in sight – be great to stay here. Interesting spot for a drink with quirky decor which Kim and I loved. Sadly I’m not into beer, so a strawberry stout did the trick … it was pleasant enough and a sure-fire way to relax.

Back late at Bimbi Park and its ubiquitous flies in the kitchen and dining areas. Daryle cooked a staggeringly good pasta with zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, cream and Worcestershire sauce. We were in heaven … what a way to go!

Read about Day 6 …

Day 4 on the Great Ocean Walk – Castle Cove, Johanna Beach et al

Another extreme weather day so hiking is suspended due to high fire danger. It’s already hot at 5.30am so we decide to watch the sun rise at Castle Cove.

Castle Cove is where we were supposed to have finished the previous day. Turns out the surfers are more interesting than the sunrise. It’s very pretty though, and a bevy of humans come and go as they check out the surf from our lookout.

Later we head to Johanna Beach for breakfast and arrive to find the main camping ground overflowing. A couple of young ladies say they’d booked and paid for the campsite, only to arrive and find someone else was in it. Personally I’d have chucked them out but they were too polite and found another site which was windy and unpleasant.

We find The Perfect Spot at the hiker’s-only camping area with splendid views over the beach, a wooden shelter, toilets (with a view) and picnic tables and it’s out of the hot northerly wind. When you’re hiking, that’s perfection.

Fooling around at Johanna Beach

After scoffing muesli, yoghurt, berries and coconut milk, we debate our next move. The thought of returning to the hot box cabin at Bimbi Park is seriously unappealing, so we decide to visit the 12 Apostles, even though we weren’t planning to see this until the last day.

It’s extraordinarily hot, my wet towel around the neck comes to the rescue again.

The centre at the 12 Apostles is sheer tourist rip-off territory … A$3.95 for a bottle of water. There’s a queue of people buying, although there’s nowhere else to buy foodstuffs around here. They really need an Information Centre and reasonably priced cafe.

Even though I’ve seen the 12 Apostles in recent years, it’s still a thrill to see it again, particularly as the air is clear and the sky a beautiful blue.

Section of the 12 Apostles

There’s hundreds and hundreds of tourists from all nations. After the serenity of the bush, it’s hard to reconcile the crush of humanity here. We enjoy strolling about in our own time – it’s extraordinarily beautiful when that sky is so blue.

At Port Campbell, we check out the beach and shops. It’s a lovely spot, well worth a visit. The lifeguard suggests we visit Timboon for icecream … “the best in the country” he pronounces. So we do. $8 for 2 scoops (nothing is reasonably priced where tourists wander). Yes, nice icecream but for me it’s no different to anywhere else. Still, in 40oC heat, it’s bliss to sit in air conditioning and slurp.

Daryle, being the owner of a boutique brewery, feels a visit to the whiskey distillery is in order. Eventually we depart the distillery with a bottle of limoncello (go figure), and head back to Port Campbell where a swim has become a necessity. No swimsuits or towels on-board so we make do with underwear and the power of drip dry.

When we get back to Bimbi Park, the power is out so we munch cheese and wine on a table outside the kitchen. The rubbish smell is fairly ghastly and the flies are even worse, but it beats being inside. The owner of Bimbi delivers a fan to our hot box so that helps move the stale hot air around. Hopefully a better night’s sleep will ensue.

Read about Day 5 …

Day 3 on the Great Ocean Walk – Cape Otway to Aire River

One of Victoria’s stifling hot 40oC days begins. Our plan is to hike about 20km from Cape Otway lighthouse to Castle Cove, but the lethal north wind may stuff that up.

After the usual time spent getting one car to the end point (Castle Cove) and the other to the start point (Cape Otway), four of us start our hike around 08:30. Daryle went back to the campground and picked up our Irish pals to save them a 6km hike before they’ve even started. The plan is they’ll catch us up. For such a hot day, 08:30 is much too late but it’s difficult to get ourselves going in the morning.

THE START

Fortunately the start of the walk is through ti-tree which provides a good bit of shade. Today I’ve added heavier items to my backpack to see how it handles – no problems at any time so I’m thrilled.

At the start of the hike, there’s an old cemetery to peruse. Here we chat to an older couple on an organised self-guided tour. They’ve hiked a lot in their lives, despite a list of health issues. Other than our group and them, we see no-one else on the track today.

Cape Otway lighthouse cemetery – many died quite young

Daryle and the others quickly catch us up. Walking above Station Beach, we take some stunning pics at a high point. It’s incredibly hot so we’re conscious to keep up our liquids. A hot tip – take a wet towel and drape around your neck. It’s incredible how it keeps you cool.

We spot a few interesting bugs and beetles along the path but other than that, no critters or birds are abounding in this heat.

Approaching Station Beach – stunning views

OH BUOY

Along the way, we spot an abandoned buoy by the path. I rather coveted it, but there was no way I was going to carry it in the heat. Daryle, the most adventurous and crazy of us all, decides it’s just the thing for her micro-brewery so she ties it onto her backpack and there it remains bouncing about for the rest of the day.

Oh buoy oh buoy

On Station Beach, Jen finds a welcome spot in the shade and a late morning tea erupts – plums, shortbread, nuts and sweet treats. Daryle carries a trangier cooker (along with the coveted buoy) and she’s our Chief Water Boiler at every stop. At this point, we have quiet concerns that James and Aiofe don’t have enough water for this very hot day because they don’t have enough to spare for a cuppa – something they both love.

My boots still cramp the toes so they’re promptly removed and on go my hiking sandals – oh sweet relief. We ask the older couple to join us, but they turn us down and continue walking.

ONWARDS

The north wind blows fiercely by this stage, and a walk into the wind along the steep sloping beach is far from pleasant. If there’s one bit of our hike I’d happily cut out, this would be it. Aiofe is particularly suffering with the heat and it’s not going to get better.

Death on the beach

At the end of the beach, we climb up into a fairly shady overhang of trees. We gave Rainbow Falls a miss figuring no rain = no water = no waterfall.

By early afternoon, everyone is struggling with the heat. My wet towel is a saviour but others are dizzy and nauseous at times, no matter how much water we imbibe. I can safely say we all look wrecked.

SPOTTING THE RIVER

On and on we trudge, until eventually Aire River is spotted sparkling in the distance. It’s a beautiful view but all anyone can think about is putting bodily parts into that cool wet stuff.

The downhill run to the river is pure sand, made molten hot from the heat. While my sandals are great quality, they aren’t good enough to withstand molten. Daryle also wore sandals so we ended up literally jogging down, backpacks and buoys rocketing around on our hips, feet burning all the way.

ARRIVAL AT AIRE RIVER

Feet straight in the water. We wait for the others to catch up, while James and Aoife head across the bridge to a pier on the other side. And there they sit. In the sun. We’ve explained to them that with their fair skins, they need to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Aoife already has a nasty dose of sunburn, and she’s burning up in today’s heat. But they dangle their feet over the side of the pier into the water and that seems to create happiness. Who are we to argue!

Oh heaven …

In due course, everyone’s sizzling feet are adequately cool and across the bridge to the camping ground we tramp. Chatting with the helpful chap cleaning the facilities, he advises we’d be right royally stupid to continue – the next section runs into a valley and without the sea breeze, the temp will be over 50oC. He said we wouldn’t be able to drink enough water in the heat to stop heatstroke and would potentially require rescue by helicopter (tempting, if it didn’t cost so much).

We’d already decided it’d be irresponsible to continue, so that settles any concerns about missing the next section because, after all, we did want to walk the whole damned thing. Hiking the whole way is now out the window and up the creek.

By this point the older couple, who should’ve arrived shortly after us, still haven’t turned up. The tour operator arrives in a van and we tell him of our concern. We find out next day that he walked an hour back up the track to discover them overheated, disoriented, stressed and struggling. The heat can be unforgiving, even with experienced hikers.

Our new facility-cleaning-friend drives Aileen to Castle Cove to pick up the car, and drops off James and Aiofe. While that happens, the rest of us enjoy a cool swim in the river with its muddy squishy bottom, but the temperature is magnificent and one feels vaguely alive again.

A late picnic lunch consists of melted cheese, melted hummus, hot tomatoes, hotter carrot sticks, and warm crackers. Finally some bird life appears – blue wrens, pukekos (purple swamp hens), white herons, shags and the usual motley array of birds you see everywhere.

Gear dumped, straight to the lake

END OF DAY

Back at Bimbi Park, we enjoy a three minute shower (all you get for $1), and eventually tootle into Apollo Bay for fish and chips. Don’t buy them from the boat ramp folks – they weren’t good. A poor night’s sleep for all in the stifling hot and airless cabin.

P.S. A text from James later in the day advised they hitchhiked further north and would hike a little more before heading into South Australia. Bet they have a bazillion stories to tell at the end of this!

Read about Day 4 …

Living in Chiang Mai?

We spent three weeks in Chiang Mai in 2018, with a view to checking out whether this could be a great place to live for a while each year.

Driven by future financial limitations, we’ve read how others have moved to Chiang Mai (Thailand) from Australia and are living a wonderful (and cheaper) life, so thought we’d see whether this was a real option. Greg booked accommodation for 3 weeks and off we went.

PRIORITIES

Given the cuisine is a big drawcard for us, these were our main priorities:

  • Food options and costs (given most food is cheap around the world compared to Australia)
  • Accommodation: rental types, costs, short and long term options, purchasing an apartment
  • Language & culture – ease and ability to communicate
  • Getting around – rentals, purchasing vehicles
  • Health options

There’s other priorities but I won’t go into details or I’ll bore you stupid. Here’s the main observations and experiences.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

We arrived on late Saturday afternoon. It was hot and rather quiet at that time – everyone’s keeping out of the heat.

Greg liked the place immediately – chaotic, friendly, a bit of a mess but it had good vibes. I decided to defer judgement because my first impression wasn’t quite so favourable. Dilapidated, chaotic, hot and humid … disappointing actually.

We stayed in a really cheap hotel for a few nights before moving to the more upmarket AirBnB. The unit was a huge space with two massive industrial air conditioners. While the blasts of cold air were welcome, they blew so hard I caught a chill and ended up catching a nasty cold. Not an auspicious start.

The 3 seater lounge chair in the cheapie looked good until I tried to move it away from the wall out of the line of the industrial air con. The back fell off.

The shower worked but sprayed water over everything, necessitating extra towels to mop up the enormous puddles of water.

The hotel pool was mouldy on the edges and dozens of manky, tumour-ridden pigeons were drinking and bathing in it. No way did we ever put our heads under.

You get what you pay for.

THE FOOD

Wow, where to begin? So many options, all absolutely scrumptious with huge range of quality and prices.

You can find many other cuisines – Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, American (although one couldn’t really class that as ‘food’), among others. However we stuck to Thai – can’t beat the best cuisine in the world.

We particularly loved the street food – less than A$5 for two meals. Eating two meals out a day is easy – the trick is getting enough vegetables.

ACCOMMODATION

The AirBnB was great. The one we selected was located in Nimmanhemin – a very upmarket, buzzy and vibrant part of Chiang Mai. There’s lots of newish apartment buildings, restaurants and an over-the-top shopping centre (amused us no end).

Spoke to some friendly Kiwis who purchased a condo there years ago. Although prices have risen much higher than we’d envisaged, the price was still affordable providing we sold our property in Australia … and we’d have a bit left over. However, it meant that once we sold, it’s unlikely we could afford to buy back into any city in Australia.

THE UPSHOT

While we loved our stay in Chiang Mai and booked another two week stay in October 2019, we decided the culture and language were too foreign and different from our own. Neither of us are particularly linguistic so picking up the language will be difficult. We prefer to be able to communicate easily – not an easy task in Thailand.

Driving in the traffic (particularly as we age) is akin to taking your life in your hands. I’m sure you’d get used to it but there’s always people suddenly pulling out or changing lines without indicating. If you have an accident, as a foreigner it’s invariably your fault – even though it probably isn’t – and bribery is therefore required.

So we’ve decided we shall visit Chiang Mai whenever we fancy, stay as long as we like (and are allowed) and enjoy it as we choose. No living here for meandering ducks in the foreseeable future.

Tramping the Great Ocean Walk

Take five women in their 50s, throw them a 100km hike, then stand back and see what they’ll do.  The outcome rather surprised us too!

Collectively known as the Tramping Sisters, five pals living around the Sunshine Coast (Kim, Jennifer, Daryle and Aileen and myself), figured a long hike would be just the ticket on our annual February hiking pilgrimage.

We picked the Great Ocean Walk – a 100km trek along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.  We’d tramp it in stages over six days.

Great Ocean Rd hiking map

Because hiking with camping gear is an art a few of the Tramping Sisters have yet to master, we elected to stay at Bimbi Park in Cape Otway for the duration. To get around, we hired two cars to get us to/from the entry and exit points.

ABOUT THE ACCOMMODATION

Bimbi Park was cheap – a teeny tiny cabin to (allegedly) sleep 9, which is great provided you’re all children, don’t have any luggage whatsoever, and the temperature never goes above over 16oC at night. 

Summing up:

  • There’s limited ventilation in the cabin, which is great if you’re 10 year old boys who view farting as serious fun, and consider breathing fresh air to be an optional extra. When the temperature starts to climb (as it did for 2-3 days of our trip), air flow becomes an important factor.
  • No space at all to store luggage or foodstuffs. We had a couple of spare beds to put things, but it was messy and awkward.  Recommend they ditch a bunk bed and add cupboards – that would make it worthwhile staying again in the future.  However, it was cheap – you get what you pay for.
  • Kitchen facilities fairly good, providing no morons are staying with the expectation their mothers will miraculously turn up and clean up after them (surprising number of young folk who act this way).  
    TIP: Clean up after yourselves and do your dishes.  Kitchen did need more bench space to prepare food, and to wash and dry dishes.  Plus a freezer would’ve been mega useful.  Also like to see management put in fly-screens – the flies were dreadful.
  • Bathroom facilities spacious and very clean. Showers cost $1 for 3 mins (they’re on tank water so this helps limit overuse). However, no benches available to place gear after exiting the shower. And what’s with women who fling toilet paper and sanitary bags around the cubicle?  Why?  

ONWARDS WE GO

After hiring two cars at the airport and doing a big grocery shop in Geelong (yes, we bought far too much), we arrive quite late at the campground.  Hence a mad dash to sort out backpacks, buy shower tokens, locate the kitchen and toilets, put away groceries, and chow down on a 10pm dinner while swatting flies.

Through the night we hear koalas grunting – they sound like snorting grunting pigs.  If you haven’t heard it before, it’s a very startling and possibly terrifying noise … particularly if you’re in a tent.  Between the koalas and various noises inside the cabin, no one slept terribly well.

To cap it off, Bimbi Park have a chicken run.  I actually like chickens – they’re fun to draw – but roosters crowing at some ungodly hour before dawn see me fervently dreaming of a shotgun.  Those foul fowl would’ve been roasting with sweet potatoes the next night if I’d had access to something lethal.

See next post for day 1 of the Great Ocean Walk.

Making the most of a timeshare

About 25 years ago, I bought a timeshare.  It was a truly stupid financial decision and one I’ve kicked myself more times over than can be counted.  Now I’m now longer working full time, the moment has come for some serious payback.  Here’s how I’m achieving this …

Here’s the costs

First there’s the initial cost ….

In 1990, a week in a timeshare was worth A$9-10,000.  This amount was enough for a small deposit on a flat or cheaper home.  So to compare with a value in 2016, I figure it’s the equivalent of about A$40,000.

In real terms, the timeshare was worth about $2,400 but timeshare sales people with their magically misleading calculations, infrastructure and incentives to entice you to part with your dough all have to be paid for.

Hence the huge markup and over-the-top profits the industry made (and still do).

Here’s the math, and don’t panic because it’s very simple:

a                             52 weeks x $10,000  = $520,000

So, in 1990, was a 2 bedroom unit in any resort worth $520,000?  Not on your pickled gherkin.  Absolutely not.  In 1990, that unit would’ve been worth about $125,000 on a very sunny day.

Then there’s the maintenance fee …

Each year you get slugged a maintenance fee for your week (or credits or points).  And yes, it’s a disproportionately huge amount to what you actually own.

For example, I own a holiday apartment in Queensland.  The body corporate fee plus additional maintenance is $5,000pa – that’s $96 per week.  But the fee for a week at the timeshare this year was $770.  How can it be worth $674 more?

And the cost to exchange …

You’ve bought the timeshare and now you want to stay in a resort that you don’t own.  Time to fork out some more money to exchange your week.  Generally this costs between $119-150, depending on who you use.

Selling a timeshare

I could sell my week, but unfortunately I will NEVER get back its real value, let alone what I paid for it.  Even now, if you purchase a timeshare (be it points, weeks or credits), I’m incredibly safe in saying you can kiss most of your money goodbye.

Right now, my timeshare is worth A$1,500 – on a very optimistic day.  In reality, I’d be lucky to get $1,000, if I could sell it at all.  It’s been this way for decades and it will not change.

Payback time

So having spent precious money on a timeshare and realising it’s fairly pointless trying to sell it, how do you make the most of it?

Here’s how I’m getting payback for all that lost money.

  1. Use your timeshare – you’ve forked out a maintenance fee so you might as well take your week. You’re wasting that money if you don’t use it. If you can’t use it, rent or sell the week to friends or family members.
     ..
  2. Make the most of bonus weeks.  The timeshare company should send you an email with a list of resorts available in the next couple of months at cheap rates. This is easier if you’re not working full time and can be flexible with where you stay. We love bonus weeks.
     ..
  3. If you’re invited to a timeshare presentation and you’re promised a good deal for a meal, a cruise or a new dressing gown, take it up.  Assuming you have time.  I occasionally do this for payback and inevitably learn something in the process.
    ..
  4. To spend your timeshare week in another resort, put in your exchange request as early as you can.  Timeshare presentations can be sneaky and misleading when it comes to the strength of your resort’s trading power, and so the only real way to get in is to beat everyone else to it.
     ..
    It’s annoying because you have to plan so far ahead (2 years or more) but apparently this is the best way to get what you want. Personally we don’t work that far ahead so we frequently miss out … then use AirB&B when caught short.  We love AirB&B.

Consoling yourself

  1. Timeshare companies say you should think of timeshare as a holiday which you’ve paid for in advance.  Personally this doesn’t make me feel better because I pay for all accommodation in advance anyway, but you might find comfort from it.
    ..
  2. Timeshare resorts actually provide great amenities such as kitchens, washer/dryers, and are often more spacious than other resorts. Some are even quite luxurious, particularly if they’re new or recently renovated.  When you compare with the cost of a hotel, motel or similar resorts, it often works out you’re getting a good deal.
     ..
  3. Use bonus weeks or points offered by your timeshare company. They can be used over a weekend, to house your friends for a period of time, or to add another week to an area you’re visiting.  Now we’re retired, we use bonus weeks as much as possible as we travel around.  It’s great because you get to stay in nice places you didn’t know existed.
     ..
  4. If you use points, you can also:
    • exchange for airline tickets, hotels, travel packages, cruises, amusement park tickets
    • rent part of your points
    • rent more points from the exchange company or another owner to get a larger unit, more holiday time or a better location
    • save or move points from one year to another

For more thoughts on timeshare, see my post on timeshare tattle.

Timeshare tattle

I bought a timeshare about 25 years ago.  If you’d like to know my thoughts on this method of having a holiday, read on …

So what’s a timeshare?

I’ll start at square one so those who don’t understand the concept of timeshare can get a grip on it.

I’m not an expert, and although I’ve owned a timeshare for a long time, the industry does change its offerings from time to time in order to suck more people in.

So there seems to be a couple of types of timeshares:

  1. Purchase a week or points at a particular resort, then either stay at that resort for no further monies, or pay out more dollars to stay at a different resort.
    ..
  2. Purchase points or credits in a timeshare entity, then stay at whatever resort you want for however long your credits allow you to. Some resorts chew up more credits than others, so the length of time varies depending on the quality of the resort.

There’s more permutations to these options.  For example, you can select a particular week in a year (such as in school holidays) – this will inevitably cost you more.

Initial costs

What you fork out is going to vary.  Listen to the sales pitch, then leave and do your research.  A secondhand timeshare is inevitably going to be much better value than a new one.

The credits game

Last week we attended a “Tweed River lunch cruise for $5 if you attend a Wyndham timeshare presentation”.  Over two hours later we walked out a lot wiser and slightly bemused at the hideous prices quoted for ‘credits’ in a timeshare.

For example, they took one look at our travel budget and decided to offer their special Top Quality option – about $80,000 for 4-8 weeks of timeshare.  The trouble with credits is it’s tricky to do the mathematics to find out what a week is actually worth.

Whatever way you look at it, I would never entertain the option of buying brand new credits.  If you’re interested, suggest you buy them secondhand.  You’ll save a lot of dough.

In truth, we only went to get the cheap river cruise – part of my payback scheme!

Maintenance fees

For every week or bunch of credits you own, you’re going to get lumbered with a yearly maintenance fee to cover management costs, maintenance and general upkeep.

The amount varies depending on how new the resort is, so don’t fall for the “it’s only $300 a year” because in a few years as the resort ages and maintenance is required, it’ll miraculously jump to $500, then $600, $700, $800 …

Then surprise surprise, special levies begin to appear to replace the pool shade or broken equipment, or add 16 new air conditioners because management didn’t think about putting funds aside (yes, I’m just a tad bitter).

You can’t get around the maintenance fee or special levies.  You have to pay it or you can’t use your timeshare.

What can you do with a timeshare?

Stay in your resort

Pick an appropriate date, book it and go. Should be no additional costs although I can’t guarantee that.  Some resorts slug you a further amount (eg. $20) to cover utilities such as electricity.  You can probably take a guess as to what I think about that.

Generally you can stay a weekend, mid week or for an entire week – depends on what you’ve bought.

Stay in another resort

For those who own weeks or points, you go through a separate company such as Holiday Concepts, RCI or DAE to stay at a different resort.  In my experience, they charge up from $120-150 for the privilege.

I do not recommend RCI unless you own a timeshare through Wyndham Vacation Resorts.   Wyndham bought out RCI a few years ago, and consequently RCI is valueless to anyone except Wyndham members, who get the pick of resorts and timeframes.  The rest of us get the dregs, and there’s not too much of those left either.  DO NOT buy RCI membership unless you’re with Wyndham – DAE are a better deal.

So be aware you can’t always get into the resort you want at the time you want.  You’ll need to book 2 or more years in advance to even have half a chance.

Bonus weeks

From time to time, you can score a bonus week or weekend for a good price.  These are what make timeshare worthwhile.  More about those in making the most of a timeshare.

How do you purchase a timeshare?

I bought mine through a timeshare company and indeed, you can do that too.  But beware, you’ll be paying through your nose.

Therefore I highly recommend you buy a timeshare secondhand and you’ll save a LOT of money.

Do some research on the internet for companies who deal in used timeshares, and check websites such as eBay or Gumtree to see if owners are selling them directly (even better value).  Instead of paying $20-40,000, you’ll pay a fraction of that cost.

Can you sell one?

Yes, you can.  But this is important … you will NEVER get back its value no matter what the timeshare sales people tell you.  You spend your money on a timeshare, kiss most of it goodbye. Forever.

For example, right now my timeshare might be worth A$1,500 on a very optimistic day.  In reality, I’d be lucky to get $1,000.

 

So what’s the point of a timeshare?

I’ve probably put you off owning a timeshare, but it does have positives.  If you’ve bought one secondhand, you’re a step ahead of those who’ve kissed away a lot of money buying a brand new one.

The good things about a timeshare are:

  • you’re forced to take a holiday or you lose your week
  • you get to stay in places you never knew about
  • most resorts are very good quality
  • most resorts have kitchens with everything you need in it
  • most resorts have washing machines and dryers
  • most are located near places you’d like to visit
  • many have programs like pancake breakfasts, whale watching walks, games and trivia sessions etc – many are excellent if you have children
  • resorts are built to be child-friendly
  • use bonus weeks to stay longer (available last minute)
  • use bonus weeks to start getting value (see my next blog entry for more information)

There’s probably more positives and I’d love to hear from other owners who benefit from owning a timeshare.  Always good to balance the equation!

Whaling at Noosa

Although the forecast was for rain, we took the punt it’d stay sky blue and headed off to Noosa National Park headland for a stroll around the headland.

Got there early, scored a lucky car park (always a scramble as there’s never enough parks for the huge number of vehicles wanting to use it), and off we wandered.

The goal today was to find dolphins and maybe a greenback turtle.  Yeah right, my expectations of seeing both creatures weren’t tremendously high.

However, in the first few minutes, we spotted a small pod of dolphins cavorting not far off the coastline. When walking along Noosa Main beach the previous day, another pod of dolphins bounced along close to shore. Swimmers nearby were unaware these magnificent creatures were so close. Today, paddlers and surfers were also unaware of their supreme luck in having these friendly souls weaving amongst them.

We’d forgotten whale season* had recently started and thus were surprised to see spouting and splashing in the distance. So started the humpback whale spotting in earnest.

Loads of locals and tourists walk this trail … it’s tremendously popular. Other than Australian, the main accents today were Kiwi, British, French and German. Between us, we spotted many a whale heading south and together delighted in their antics.

Did you know the humpback whale has two blowholes? It has one for each lung and each lung is the size of a small car … which possibly accounts for the huge lingering drifts of spray they pump out through their blowholes.

Every time a whale breeched – and they’d often do so 3-4 times in a row – there’d be gasps of awe.  I wondered aloud how the Japanese could bear to kill them in the name of “scientific research”, when in reality they munch them as an expensive delicacy.

Dozens of whales went sailing by – some singly or in small groups. We enjoyed each and every one we spotted even though they were away in the distance.

At Hell’s Gate (tip of the national park), a large and lively pod of dolphins dipped around the headland and disappeared into the depths.  The whales were way out to sea so you only the spray from their blowholes was visible.

On the way back, a wonderful treat awaited us. We could see a whale breaching close to shore and hurried along the path to get a better view. Two whales then swam close to the rocky shoreline, close enough for the gathering crowd to see their large sleek bodies from where we stood on the rocks, and hear the noise of their blowholes.

To the delight of all who’d gathered, the whales meandered near us for quite some time before continuing their southern migration.

A very slow walk in the end, but unexpectedly successful. And guess what, despite not seeing a single turtle, we had blue skies the whole day.

whales-at-noosa-dwoodley-1000x707-main

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* From June to November, humpback whales migrate around 10,000km from Antarctica to the Queensland coast where they madly have babies in the warmer waters.