Monday, 22 June 2009

Our first day in the Camper Van

8.30 am sees us at the Apollo Camper Van depot ready to collect our home for the next 12 weeks. For reasons which I do not totally understand, the price we were expected to pay was $600 less than that in their latest email to us – so we promised to spend the cash back on beer!

The van was still being cleaned when we arrived so it was not until around

Van being cleaned

noon that we were able to set off. Because we were going to be living in it for the next three month, the fitted new rear tyres, gave us extra sheets, towels and other things. The van has already done about 140,000 kms and is beginning to show its age and of course the ones used in the adverts are all shiny brand new but it seems roadworthy enough.

On the way to our first camp site in Kundara (25 kms north west of Cairns), we stocked up at a supermarket and so when we arrived at the camp site, the inside of the van seemed rather full with travel bags and food. Getting enough things stored so we could actually sleep in it that night was a challenge but the van comes with a number of storage compartments on the outside (ok for tins etc but not perishables because they might get wet when we cross rivers) and a variety of storage spaces inside and also in the drivers compartment..

We have rapidly learnt that you have to be very organised and meticulous at putting things away and we have given ourselves about a week to get ourselves totally sorted out. Everything has to have a place and it has to go back there as soon as you have stopped using it - there is just not enough space to be untidy.

Upon arrival at a camp site, the routine is to:

  1. plug the van into the nearest power socket so that you have main power inside the van to run the fridge, aircon and any electrical appliances;
  2. raise the roof so that you can stand up inside
  3. open the fly screens to let some light in
  4. check nothing has broken in any of the cupboards or come unpacked
  5. have a cup of tea

The van is actually larger inside than we had imagined  with a large double bed, a single bed / settee, and fridge / freezer. Although it is equipped for camping out in the wild (something we have yet to do) with an external gas cooker, 40 litres of fresh water, outside solar heated shower, awning, and fold out table and chairs, it is assumed that some of your time will be spent at camp sites on a powered pitch so there is also an electric toaster and kettle. From a couple of nights experience, it seems that many campers use the cooking facilities at camp sites rather than their own in their caravans / camper vans / tents.

If you are staying at an unpowered site or out in the wild, then a separate battery to the engine battery will keep the fridge and lights running for about two days before it goes flat (unless you have been driving to recharge it).

One of the disadvantages of a van this small is that it does not have its own toilet and so if you want to go in the middle of the night, you have to go out to those in the camp (or the side of the road!).

Our first nights sleep was reasonable with only three trips outside (there seems to be some rule that when you should not do something, you actually do it more often) but these visits did give us the opportunity to see the stars – these were amazing, partly because we are in the southern hemisphere and therefore they are different to those in Europe but also because there is little light pollution.

We also saw our first Australia wildlife at close quarters, a wallaby, some

Turkey Buzzard

wild turkeys and a very large spider which seemed to want to jump up our legs (we are mindful however of the advice of Bill Bryson and therefore did not give it the chance).

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