Caravan showing pop out sleeping, solar panels. (Annex folded up)
Caravan showing pop out sleeping, solar panels. (Annex folded up)
Contents ready to load. (Kitchen sink out of picture.)
Contents ready to load. (Kitchen sink out of picture.)
Dog included
Dog included

Certified and certifiable

On Monday Carmel and I did our towing course. Towing a caravan requires to to forget almost everything you ever knew about driving a car. When you turn, you wait until the rear wheel of the 4WD is level with the curb (or witch’s hat if your are lucky, or petrol bowser if unlucky) before you begin to turn. Your brain is screaming that you are out to far but when you look back, the van only just makes it.

After a brief how to connect and disconnect your van, the first tricky exercise was to do a doughnut (a tight circle ending up where you started) with the van attached. Except for the fact I was fully focused on mastering the skill, I should have taken a video of the car park with 5 vans all reversing in circles. Anyway, once you get a feel for it, it is quite straightforward. Now I know what to do when the Apaches attack and ride around us in a anti-clockwise direction (or is the clockwise in the southern hemisphere). But the purpose is to know how to hold the van in a smooth motion and it is used when reversing into a van spot.

Note to self.

  1. To move the rear of the van to the right, turn the wheel to the right.
  2. To reverse into a lot, mark up a pivot point of two steps out and three steps in the car direction of the corner of the caravan
    1. Drive the car straight so the first “a” of Expanda is level and arm distance from this pivot point
    2. Full lock minus a half in the wrong direction.
    3. Reverse until you see the second penguin
    4. Stop and go full lock minus a half in the right direction
    5. Reverse keeping the second penguin aligned with the edge of the car.


Stickers maketh the holiday.

When I was little, I often got a sticker book to start off the holiday. I recall a book of the Battle of Waterloo with beautifully attired French, British and Prussian cavalrymen as stickers. I arranged then in a hopelessly tangled melee. I think my brother got a sticker book of an airport with jet aircraft. These he arranged so as to loose the bowels of even the most hardened air traffic controller. The stuff of holidays.

20150512_104414This holiday actually needed stickers on the van – as part of the Tow-ed course. This little beauty requires me to be over 7.5 metres  in length. The  caravan is 6.5 metres on its own, so I am a shoe-in! With it, I can turn left from the right hand lane, which I joyfully did on leaving Sydney.

The next cool stickers went on the front of the van. lf you look carefully, you will see a Firefox on either end of the van and two penguins in between. (You may need to tap on the image to get a close up. )

20150512_104458When you are reversing the van, you turn to full lock the wrong way and reverse slowly until you see the SECOND penguin. Then stop and turn full lock the right way. Then reverse slowly keeping that second penguin in view. If you see the second Firefox, stop and go forwards as you are about to jack knife.

20150512_104517This last sticker means Gnu is not Unix. Once you get started with stickers, it is hard to stop!


Tips from a veteran camper

One of Carmel’s work colleague sent these. They look very good:

  • Make sure you buy good stuff at the show – you get what you pay for and you don’t want something to fail at precisely the wrong moment.
  • A lead light that you can plug into the car and also 240v power is a good investment.
  • Make sure the chairs are comfortable as you will be using them lots.  If it gets really cold you can sit on a newspaper which will give you some insulation.
  • Take a beanie – nothing worse than a cold head.
  • If you are planning on doing lots of walking in gorges etc look at buying some sort of shoes heavier than runners and a good hat or two.
  • Make sure you take a set of extra belts etc for the 4WD as they sometimes get damaged and again you don’t want to get stuck.
  • Make sure you take clothes that are easily washable and not  too good (ie you don’t want someone pilfering off the line doesn’t happen often but does happen depending on clientele) and lots of $2 coins for the washing machine
  • Take more pegs than you think you will need.  You can use them for lots of things.
  • Have a stash of tinned vegies and never travel with no food (and more importantly no wine)
  • If you have a good size freezer it might be worthwhile cooking up a few meals (you can freeze in glad bags flat for space and ease of defrosting) so you have something up your sleeve in case you arrive tired with a case of can’t be bothered.
  • If you forget to take something out to defrost the car bonnet is good to defrost with when you stop with the heat from the engine.  Many a time I’ve taken something out of the freezer and sat it on the bonnet!
  • You might have to resort to buying wine in casks (eek yes I know) but you will get used to it.  Bottles tend to break on rough roads.  Beer bottles don’t tend to break as much but just in case better to buy in cans – you don’t want stale beer through the car.
  • When we were in Broome there was a push to stop selling cask wine over a certain latitude so we had a few well washed milk bottles to decant wine into if we went somewhere rough.  We bought up their whole stock at that point just in case.
  • Some aboriginal communities are grog free so make enquiries as you go along and some need permits.
  • Some of the borders you can’t take vegetables across and WA you can’t take honey into – I think you can look up a website.
  • If you come across campgrounds with Wicked Campervans in them lock up everything – that was our experience anyway.  They are full of English tourists who smell generally and take over the camp kitchens etc and leave them like our kitchen sometimes.
  • There is a book you can buy called Camps plus a number which lists free camp sites along the road.  Some are quite good others not so, usually have grey nomads in the them saving money.  We used them a lot as they are sometimes in beautiful spots and the people are friendly.
  • Use campground BBQs etc – very little washing up – always a plus.  Generally really good in QLD and NT/WA.