Do you wanna go on a special adventure around Australia? No mainstream road trip? No Greyhound busses? Forming a little community with people from all over the world while enjoying nature and celebrating life? Well…then you should take part in the Magic Bus adventure. We spoke to Jake – the founder of “The Magic Bus” – and are still inspired by his story…
This blog originally posted on Australia Backpacker Guide.
Jake, you’re the founder of “The Magic Bus”! Can you please tell us something about you?
Ah my name is Jake. I’m 28 now and I was born in Perth. In my late teens i booked a one way ticket to England and spent about 5 years backpacking and working all around Europe. During my time there I had a bunch of different jobs. I was a roady for bands in the U.K, worked in a bar and restaurant in the Greek islands, I ran pub crawls in Amsterdam and managed a hostel in Milan in Italy. I also did a lot of shitty jobs in between as well as trying to see every possible country I could over there in between. The only places I’ve missed are the Baltics and Scandinavia! Hopefully I get a chance to nail them out at some point in the future. After that i moved to South East Asia and worked for a bar. Later as a scuba diving instructor for about 3 years. Also while I was there I spent a fair few months riding a motorbike through Vietnam and Laos and I travelled around Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
On your Facebook page you write: The idea of the Magic Bus is to free camp and travel the roads of Australia chasing the sun. Seeing as much natural beauty as possible as economically as we can…we want to form a little community of friends and travel around partying and getting to know new and interesting people from all over the world. Tell us something about the story of “The Magic Bus”. How did you get the idea?
The idea came to me when I got back from Thailand three years ago and started working in Australia again. I felt a bit empty and disillusioned from being away for so long. I spent about 8 months road tripping and working with my car up the West Coast to Darwin. I got a job, a bank loan and just bit the bullet and bought a bus. In the beginning it was very different compared to now. No one including me really knew what was going on. We just all jumped in from all over the world and started driving. When we got into towns we just made signs that we wore around our neck made out the back of old goon boxes saying “Come jump on the Magic bus! Heading to Cairns tomorrow!” Haha. It was pretty disorganised and money was hard. Really really broke times then i suppose but so much fun all the same. After a year we came a bit known and had a bit of a reputation and it was much easier to get people on. I can’t think of the last time I went out drunk with a cardboard sign, haha.
How often do you usually organise road trips with the Magic Bus?
The Magic Bus is pretty much in constant motion so as long as we have space people can jump on anywhere. We usually start trips from Perth in the winter heading North and in summer we start the trip from either Perth or Melbourne.
How can someone book a road trip with the Magic Bus?
It’s best just to contact us on our Facebook page. We always post our next trip up on the page so if anyone is interested on jumping on board that’s the way!
When you talk about “we” is there a group of people that organise the Magic Bus tours or are you doing it all by yourself?
Nah I started the bus myself. Throughout the years though I’ve had a bunch of various people from lots of different countries help me drive or sometimes just hang on the bus for months so they end up helping me out.
Can everyone take part and how do you choose the people?
Sure we are open to anyone. Saying that though we only have limited seats and we get more messages than we have spots. So firstly we try make the bus 50% girls 50% guys, then do our best to fill it with lots of different nationalities. From doing the bus so long I can also kind of tell from the messages of the people who will really get involved and be an asset and get along with everyone. Which is important when you spend a month 24/7 with each other as you can imagine haha.
Haha 50% girls – 50 % boys! Sounds like the start of many romantic stories. Are there many people that came together in the Magic Bus?
Haha yeah. Lots of relationships… A bunch are still together today. There’s even lots of little magic bus families from people who were strangers when they jumped on and when they left the bus they all got a house together in Melbourne or other cities.
How do you finance all those trips? Do you have to charge money?
Yeah unfortunately it’s quite expensive for us. The bus and trailer with all the cool stuff inside constantly needs repairs and replacements plus all the bureaucratic government licenses and fees. Repayments to the bank for the loan. Let alone fuel and being able to eat. We have to charge something. Right now its $250 AUD per 1.000 kms travelled on the bus. It doesn’t matter if it only takes us 2 weeks or a month.
What is included in the price?
So with that it pays for all fuel, cooking gas, cooking and other equipment, cost of the bus/trailer, insurance and any other expenses that come up with the bus like tyre/mechanical repairs, registration ect. All you really need is yourself and your tent which we can sort out once you jump on. You could just share it with someone or buy a cheap one from Kmart for 20 AUD. We all cook together and so it works out cheap for that as well. Other then that you will only need a bit of money for National Park fees but that’s not too expensive (like 5 AUD entry) then just money for alcohol! We free camp almost everywhere so the costs of living are pretty low…
Do you change the itineraries or is it always the same route?
The places we go and stop do change every time. We run the bus on a mini democracy so we all vote where we go and how long we stay and such like that. Generally in Australia most people kind of want similar things so there are not too many disagreements.
Which one is your favourite itinerary and why?
My favorite trip by far is up the West coast. It’s just so isolated and beautiful. You can go swimming with dolphins, snorkeling with whalesharks and manta rays, see a bunch of sharks and turtles, sandboarding, fishing etc. And in my opinion some of the most beautiful national parks like Karajini.
Did you ever got in serious trouble on one of your road trips with the Magic Bus?
Haha I don’t know about serious. But yeah sure. We have been 300 kms from the nearest town with limited water and had the radiator explode and been stranded for a few days while we had to hitchhike into town and get supplies and parts to repair the bus. But honestly I feel that’s all part of the trip. Sometimes things go wrong but you just solve the problems and move on. A bit like all parts of life really. Later on you laugh about these things.
Wise words 🙂 What was your best Magic Bus moment?
I know it’s going to sound super cliché. But I’ve been doing this for 3 years now. There is just too many to choose from. Honestly the whole rides have just been a blast for me!
Which one is your favourite road trip song?
That’s funny, actually the one that was in the last video for the bus from last trip ‘Tokyo Police Club – Frankenstein’. I have been jaming that song through the speakers of the bus since the first bus years ago. Countless people have made videos of the bus since then but alas I don’t make them or choose the music so it never comes up haha. But yeah that would be the one. Anyone thats ever been on the bus during its history will know my love for it. I may have even destroyed it for some by playing it too much haha!