By the time we had finished - 1,126 km later - we were all pretty whacked and with butt pains. If we were to take this journey again, I would certainly allow at least six or seven days.
There are many stunning spots along the way and things to do and see. But we had only four days to make the journey and around 300km to cover each day. With children, we tried to make frequent stops or time the driving around when Kobra would take her naps. Sometimes this meant passing by towns we would otherwise have stopped at and looked around. In truth, I underestimated the length and time of the journey.
For the economically-minded, you may want to consider doing it our way. We opted for a relocation vehicle return - that is a rental vehicle that has been driven one-way and needs to be taken back to its original location. Although it is often advertised as 'free', it isn't. Still, it's cheaper and more enjoyable than flying.
Usually these deals crop up at the last moment, so I kept tabs on several websites before landing a 4-berth Toyota Mobile Home with standbyrelocs.com.
It was really simple to book. I saw the vehicle I wanted (which matched the dates available for me) and telephoned. I did most of it over the phone, received confirmation and details by email and turned up on the designated day to collect the vehicle.
Considering that flights from Sydney to Melbourne are around $250 per adult, our total outlay came to around $400 for two adults and two children.
This included hiring a baby seat for $30, a Sat Nav for $10 per day and reducing my insurance excess to $100 from $1,000 by forking out $18 per day. We also received $150 worth of petrol free (make sure you keep your receipts), which meant my share of the fuel costs came to approximately $100. The other significant outlay was for powered sites at camping grounds, which ranged from between $35-$40 per night. And camping grounds along Princes Highway are easy to find.
The relocation staff were very professional. Zenchai and I took the bus and then train from Five Dock, Sydney, where we were based, to Mascot, where we collected the vehicle. While the paperwork was being processed, we were given a mini laptop to watch a video about how the camper operated.
Zenchai and I drove back to Five Dock to collect Jamie, Kobra and the luggage and then we were on our way, targeting Lake Tabourie as our first stop, though it took us a long time on a Friday afternoon to get out of Sydney.
We arrived in Lake Tabourie just as the sun was going down and the campsite reception was closing its doors.
It was a fantastic spot, which only really became apparent in the morning, when (after a fairly rough night sleeping - temperatures dropped dramatically) we saw the ocean and the river. The way they combined - with the bright blue sky - reminded us of our time in Piracanga, Brazil.
On that first night we made a makeshift dinner (protein bars Jamie had made before the journey, plus some toast and a protein shake each) and then got the camper ready for bedtime.
For two persons these campers are perfectly adequate, but with four it's challenging, especially when you have two lively kids dancing around (as you can imagine after being couped up) and more luggage than available room.
Kobra tipped over a tub of dried mulberries and then her protein drink spilled all over a cushion. Then Kobra knocked Jamie, while she was devouring some coconut yoghurt, and that ended up over Jamie and the furniture. Needless to say, our first evening was one of serious adjustment.
Although the camper came better equipped than many apartments we had rented, it was tight for space once the bedding was down. Kobra tripped over my foot at one point and hurtled down the gap by the sliding door. Zenchai was up and down the bunk ladder, thinking he was in a playground, and trying to build with cushions.
We finally got to bed around 10pm - Jamie and the kids down below while I squeezed myself - literally - on to a shelf above. With barely enough room to turn, I somehow got through the night and dragged my aching body out in the morning, yearning for the nearby toilets (nice and clean), while the kids still slept, of course.
For the children the campsite was great also, not just for playing on the beach and by the water, but because the facilities for young ones are outstanding. We gave Zenchai and Kobra time to burn some energy in the playground before we departed.
Back on the road, with Jamie and Kobra in the rear and Zenchai beside me as my navigator, we headed for Pambula Beach. We were lucky with the weather the whole way. It had been raining in Sydney when we departed, but became progressively brighter as we headed towards Melbourne.
At the end of the second day we reached Pambula Beach with enough daylight for the kids to play while Jamie prepared dinner. Again, the facilities were first class and we had the added attraction of wild kangaroos EVERYWHERE. So, too, were kangaroo droppings!
Although the camp staff said to keep away from the kangaroos and pay them little attention, I couldn't resist being fascinated, so the morning after our arrival - this time Zenchai slept up top and I joined Jamie and Kobra down below - I took the kids for a closer look. The kangaroos weren't afraid. They even came sniffing around our camper - for food, of course.
Each day was a quest for balance and co-ordination - giving the kids enough play time and preparing meals while they did so. Ideally, though, we'd have stayed a day or two at each camp site or gone into town to see what was on offer or spent more time at the beach. And the surrounding areas offered great trekking and outdoor pursuits. The options were endless.
On day three our intended target was Lakes Entrance. The roads were long and mostly straight. We passed through a pretty town called Eden, famous for whale-spotting and I wish we'd had time to visit the Killer Whale museum. Eventually, we stopped for lunch by the water in Mallacoota, which is a 20km detour off Princes Highway but well worth it. Everyone, except me, of course, napped as we passed mile after mile of national forest. Road signs warning against tiredness were everywhere. Often we seemed like the only vehicle on the road.
By the time we reached Lakes Entrance, we had a few more hours of daylight remaining, so we ventured further, to make our drive on the final day less daunting, and stopped for the night in the town of Sale.
It was another chilly evening. This time we all huddled together in sleeping bags to keep warm and got up early, with frost on the windscreen, in readiness for the remaining 200km.
We made it ahead of schedule. I dropped off Jamie and the kids then headed into Melbourne to return the vehicle, get my deposit back and then, by train, find my way to the family for the beginning of the next chapter of our journey.