A little love story with Hire a Kombi
Is there anything better than a love story?
Especially one that transpired from one life changing phone call, the restoration of a kombi and two people falling in love. The result, a beautiful family and a thriving business with their fabulous fleet of kombis. We adore George and Alyce of Hire a Kombi and have been avidly following their journey when they moved their kombis to a perfect pocket in the Bellarine Peninsula.
We asked Alyce to share with us their love story, how Hire a Kombi transpired and how you can involve their kombis in your wedding or honeymoon plans. We think you’ll find it’s hard to not get swept up in the romance of this fun and fabulous pair.
In Alyce’s words…
When I tell people about how we created Hire A Kombi it’s hard not to get a lump in my throat and tears, as it’s been quite an adventure for George and myself.
When I look back on my life, I feel like I wanted a kombi as soon as I saw one when I was a child. As for George, he realised his love for kombis a little later in life after making it his job to find his passion and live it. We both are known for having a heavy foot so perhaps kombi’s have always been our calling.
Our story begins in 2010 when I finally made the decision to sell my RAV4 and either run away overseas or do what my heart really longed for and buy a kombi.
Based in Queensland, I began searching day and night for months on end when finally, a kombi popped up in Diamond Creek, Victoria. I was familiar with the area as my sister lived there, so I called the seller – who happened to be George and I share my dream of travelling Australia in a kombi.
The conversation didn’t quite go to plan with George saying, ‘I’m sorry my kombi’s inappropriate for that kind of trip because it’s not a camper’, I was disappointed and when back to the drawing board.
A few days later I was surprised to receive a phone call and George on the other end of the line saying, ‘I’ve got a camper in my shed but I was going to keep it to start my business one day, however I feel like I should restore it for you’.
He was renovating a house to sell at the time and had no time to restore a kombi for me but as I soon learned that wouldn’t stop George, nothing ever does.
I flew down to Victoria from the Whitsundays to look at his 1978 white Baywindow Camper. It didn’t have wheels or an engine but when I sat in that dusty old driver’s seat I couldn’t hide my excitement!
I was buying that kombi and I was calling it Applejack.
This was in the month of June and he had to have Applejack to me by September as I only three and half months to travel before I needed to be back at work.
While I didn’t know George from a bar of soap, I instinctively knew he had my best interests from the moment I saw him. He was like no one I’d ever met before.
We spoke on the phone nearly every day leading up to September. I was on his case about getting things done on time with Applejack and I loved his voice. He was so lovely to chat to.
I recall calling him one day and asking. “did you get Applejack painted?”
He said, “Alyce I fell off my roof today.”
I said, ‘oh no, are you ok and did you manage to get my kombi painted?”
I was not letting him off the hook and I’m sure neither George nor myself ever imagined that I would still be cracking the deadline whip in our Hire a Kombi business today!
George set off on his 2600km test drive in Applejack from Melbourne to Bowen in September 2010 and said he had his friend ‘Fu’ with him.
I thought he said ‘Sue’ and I remember feeling disappointed because I wondered if ‘Sue’ might be his girlfriend.
I started asking questions about who this ‘Sue’ was and much to my relief it was his male friend ‘Fu’. I would later learn that I wasn’t the only one having crazy thoughts. Little did I know, George had spoken on the phone to my dad a few weeks before arriving as Dad was extremely concerned about me travelling the whole coastline of Australia alone in a kombi. George explained the kombi was in great shape and not to worry and said ‘Alyce will be fine and you might just have to let her go’.
Dad said, “oh that bloody Alyce she will probably never get married” with George replying, “don’t worry I’ll marry her.”
When George eventually arrived with my kombi Applejack I gave him an almighty hug. After a few days of teaching me mechanicals I was on my way to the Northern Territory and George was on his way back to Victoria.
We both felt really sad leaving each other but I was on my journey of a lifetime.
We spoke daily about how Applejack was running and although I had no major issues I knew I could count on George to get Applejack and I safely home, after cruising over 35,000 kilometres of bitumen.
Applejack and I drove from the Whitsundays to Darwin solo. I was then joined by my childhood friend Kristy and we cruised across to Broome, down the coast to Perth, where we parted ways and I followed the south coast across to beautiful Esperance and then the Nullarbor.
As I neared Victoria, George and I were both excited to see each other but I was questioning what to do next. Follow my head, my heart or the nearest dirt road.
Applejack was put on the hoist in George’s workshop to get some TLC before the big trip back to Queensland and I was dreading going back to reality.
It wasn’t long before I was back in the van and making my way down the coast deciding what I should do. Did I love George or did I love George because he gave me Applejack?
My beautiful boss Jane piped up with her wise words and said, ‘Alyce just go for it’.
So, I jumped in the van and did some more decision making while fruit picking, and some more soul searching while dancing at Blues Fest and before I knew it I was on George’s doorstep.
He had helped some German backpackers find a regular van while I was doing my trip, so on their return they stayed so he could help them sell it. In exchange for George’s help, one of them built our website in exchange for a bed.
In September 2012 Hire A Kombi started with one kombi and by Christmas we had two, and it just seemed to grow from there. I watched George work day and night through rain, hail and mud refusing to give up on his dream of hiring kombi’s.
We found that while George was restoring kombi’s for people it was so hard for us to hand over the keys, we tend to get attached. So it made a lot of sense to give everyone the kombi experience by hiring them out, so we could keep our colourful friends.
Hiring campers was our passion but we started to get a flow of enquiries for weddings so an eight-seater was added to the fleet.
Over the years we have waved our kombi’s goodbye on their adventures for camping, weddings, honeymoons, photoshoots and campaigns.
From the outside looking in, it may seem like a dance in the daisies, however spend a day with us and you might need to book yourself into a meditation session afterwards. It’s stressful and I take my hat off to George for his dedication and determination to soldier on throughout the night to ensure our kombi’s keep going the distance.
Most vintage car owners wouldn’t hand their keys over to a mate, let alone strangers who crunch the gears weekly.
We watched a video today that a customer sent us of their trip last year and it gave me the thick throat feeling again and I think it is because we really care about our vans and what they bring to people’s lives. My trip in Applejack was like nothing I’ve experienced before. Such delight! So, knowing the effort in getting them on the road, keeping them on the road and the happiness we can give is incredibly rewarding.
We really love living a simple life, giving locals and travellers from across the world the opportunity to see a little slice of our country in our kombi’s. The joy in them when they return makes the hard days’ worth it.
We work from our little farm on the Bellarine Peninsula with our children Mae (4 years old) and Kim (2 years old).
My favourite part of my day is having a cuppa with George at night. I then look forward to the morning when George comes in with a coffee and we take a deep breath before tackling the day ahead.
We are really grateful that we work together and we are extremely thankful to all our couples who hire our friends – those newly married couples, the families going on adventures in a camper and the love birds honeymooning under the stars.
You’ve read their love story, now see their wedding – click here for George and Alyce’s fun, festival vibes.