On the Wallaby - December 2005
It's that time again - Christmas just
around the corner, presents to buy, cards to send to friends
and rellies, summer holidays to plan and bigger trips to dream
We met so many new friends during our travels this year and I'll
take this opportunity to wish them the compliments of the season
from both of us. And if we met you at caravan shows or at the
groups I visited as guest speaker or through the pages of 'Caravan
World' then we send our warmest greetings to you as well.
Even that bane of my life, Murphy, has an occasional lapse and
something good comes from his shenanagens.
An example was this year at Fletcher Creek on the lonely Lynd
Highway in Far North Queensland. I'd given the built-in step
a fair clout when BM put a concrete curb in the way as I turned
a corner in Charters Towers and as a result the door didn't want
to open or shut and besides that the fly-wire door had broken
a couple of hinges.
As I was administering a few hefty thumps to the step with the
big hammer I carry to knock in tent pegs, a lady came to the
nearby creek for water. "Would you like Bob to come down
and give you a hand with that?" she asked. "Yes please,"
I replied and in a few minutes when Bob arrived, we also had
another Bob, their mate Terry plus Pauline, Anne and Sandra all
watching Bob number one who soon had the door operating properly
again. Such friendly folk and all three couples were members
of a caravan club so we had plenty to chat about during the happy
hours we shared with them over the next few days.
Funny place to buy a telly!
Earlier in the year I'd bought a second hand TV to replace
our old set that Murphy had finally destroyed beyond economic
repair and the 'new' set was very fiddly to tune.
I was asking a fellow I met at a bush camp at St Lawrence, about
his satellite dish and he happened to mention he'd bought a new
flat screen TV/monitor and now had a surplus Sony Trinitron for
sale. I went back to his van that night and after discussing
everything in the world except the telly we finally got around
to negotiating a price. "That's delivered of course,"
I said. "That'll be another $10!" Don replied with
We were at the other end of the camp so I did appreciate the
free delivery next morning although the set was much deeper than
the old one and needed to stand on a couple of pieces of wood
to give it clearance.
It's going well Don - and the picture is great.
Esk - yet again
Did I mention that we met up with a group of friendly travellers
at the Esk Caravan Park who were there enjoying a get together
as members of an Internet caravanning forum? They were having
a ball and invited us to join them for dinner at a local hotel
- the one with the horse drawn transport to take you from the
park to the pub to beat the booze bus! The poor old publican
was just filling in on what looked like a quiet Sunday night
when suddenly about a dozen or so couples arrived out of the
blue wanting a meal.
During the next few days we got to know some members quite well
including John and Bev who have a new caravanning and RV forum
up and running called Touring Oz and you can find a link to it
on my website (www.caravanning-oz.com) plus a picture that's
not very flattering of John and me with lovely Glen Rock in the
That's John on the left - not the good-looking
chap on the right!
I've joined the group and there's heaps of
useful information being shared all the time on the forum. You
can either take part yourself or just 'lurk' and take in all
the knowledge and opinions.
Don't eat too much Christmas pud or you could end up like those
gentlemen in the picture!
See you down the track in 2006,
On the Wallaby - November 2005
I've had some rude things said about
my anatomy at times, especially from doctors, but that didn't
prepare me for what a policewoman told me in Charters Towers
earlier this year. "Excuse me sir - but do you know your
bum's sticking out?" she asked when the police car pulled
I relaxed when I realised she was talking about the back of the
caravan. I'd spotted the parking space a bit late and hadn't
had time to reverse and park a bit more tidily. She drove off
with a happy grin as I had a second stab at parking the outfit
- this time with my "bum" tucked neatly in!
Don't you love those caravan friendly towns with prominent signs
directing you to spacious caravan parking areas. This is particularly
welcome when you have supermarket shopping to do on the way to
your next stop.
If you stay in caravan parks all the time this doesn't happen
but, in common with thousands of other campers, we like to spend
time in National Parks, State Forests and the like where generators
are allowed. The more expensive ones are whisper quiet and annoy
no-one but some of the older models were rowdy beasts and in
my opinion it's anti-social to use these near other campers who
are there because they like peace and quiet.
It was our misfortune to park next to one of these noisy contraptions
in a rest area recently and I took a photo of it so that I could
use it as an example of what NOT to buy if you are in the market
for alternative power.
"Serves you right," I hear the 'stop free-camping'
lobby shout. Unfortunately for them, the number of people reducing
costs by spending some nights in free or cheap camping spots
is growing very quickly and we have been delighted this year
to see a number of councils providing free or cheap facilities
We saved money and thoroughly enjoyed free bush camping up north
in Dalrymple Shire. The only facilities were flush toilets, cold
showers and running water in the creek. Before going there we
had spent time in the lovely Outback Oasis caravan park in Charters
Towers and done a heap of shopping including fuel in the town.
No charge for night two
Broadsound Shire is also to be commended for their traveller
friendly approach at St Lawrence while at Biggenden we discovered
a caravan park that is a council enterprise and gives you the
second night free if you fork out the princely sum of $15 for
the first night. That includes power, a concrete annexe slab
and clean ablution blocks.
This is the sort of basic caravan park that is needed right around
the country and who cares that it's out in the bush and the kookaburras
wake you at dawn with their unearthly racket. Beats generators
There will always be caravanners and RVers who prefer upmarket
caravan parks and there will always be a need for the facilities
these parks provide. However there is also an ever increasing
number of us who like to spend part of our time away in cheaper
places with far less facilities.
We do live in a free country after all and with a continent as
vast as Australia there has to be plenty of space for us to park
our travelling homes overnight without incurring huge charges.
It annoys me when people with vested interests suggest that we
are doing something to be frowned on. It makes me wonder if they
have ever done an extended trip with a caravan or RV themselves.
It also annoys me when I discover I've been getting less than
I thought for my precious dollars. Did you realise that 'Swap
and Go' lpg cylinders are now only filled to 8.5kg? I didn't
notice a price reduction when they dropped from the previous
9kg capacity! When you get the modified cylinder re-filled elsewhere
you still only get 8.5kg.
See you down the track,
On the Wallaby - October 2005
Gertrude is very happy! We were camped
in a National Park and I'd taken her up and down a very muddy
unsealed road many times and she was filthy. "I'll give
you a nice wash when we get to Bowen," I promised but somehow
that hadn't happened and she was beginning to doubt my truthfulness.
However a kind gentlemen on the next site
to our's offered to wash her in exchange for a copy of 'Australia
Calling'. How could I resist an offer like that so Gertie got
her wash and David got his book.
Did I mention that 'Gertrude' is our faithful
AU Falcon station wagon? It all started with, "Come on Gertie
- you can do it!" when our XF Wagon was faced with a particularly
steep hill with our 2.3 tonne, 20 foot Scenic caravan on the
back. All our vehicles since then have rejoiced in the name of
'Gert' or when we are being exceptionally formal, 'Gertrude'.
"What do you eat when you are on the road?" My
'Ask Lionel' segment on our website brought this question from
a lady recently. She said fruit was no good as you have to give
it up at border crossings, sweets are bad for you and chips are
fattening! My reply did mention that Quarantine Stations are
pretty far apart so we sometimes munch on apples and I suck Werner's
Original Butterscotch when my energy starts to flag.
Lifesaving passing advice for 'vanners
Vince - a very concerned outback-based driver - sent me the
following email and his advice could make the difference between
life and death for someone towing a caravan or driving a motorhome
on outback roads
This is not a question but some advice for your clients. I have
in Western Queensland for the past 15 years as an employee of
organisation. I travel from Mt Isa to Cunnamulla, from Torrens
Birdsville and on all the roads in between.
I have noticed, particularly during the last two years, an increasing
of knowledge on behalf of RV drivers and caravans in general,
on the correct
procedure to use when passing oncoming traffic on single lane
These are by far the most dangerous for larger vehicles. One
thing you learn out
here very quickly, whether you like it or not, is that might
Always give the road to the larger vehicle. The mighty triple
comes first, then the B double, then the flat top truck, then
the Caravans &
RV's, then me in my ute. Using this principle I have survived
with nary a
scare let alone an accident.
Vince then went on to describe three separate
incidents that could have resulted in major accidents - and in
each case the 'culprit' was a southern driver who didn't understand
the commonsense driving protocols used in the outback.
He concluded with:
Out of curiosity I have spoken to some tourists in the parks
here in town
and asked them how they would pass oncoming vehicles on single
roads, without fail all answered the same. Pull over to the left,
let the on coming vehicle pass. I asked from whence they had
information. The reply was "from caravan clubs, other van
If the oncoming vehicle is bigger than you,
then certainly the wise thing is to give it right of way but
if you are towing a caravan or driving a motorhome and you meet
a car or ute then stay on the bitumen and let the other vehicle
give you right of way. Dropping off the side of the road with
a van is dangerous and not necessary if the other vehicle gives
you room to stay on the sealed surface.
The other important point he made is that
there are still single lane bridges on some outback roads and
these have 'Give Way' signs that must be obeyed.
I've put his complete letter on our website
at www.caravanning-oz.com as it gives a lot of food for thought
- thanks Vince.
Plenty of Tourist Sites
Wasn't it re-assuring to read the news that there are plenty
of tourist sites - particularly if you travel at off-peak times?
The answer is simple - shiver down south in the winter and go
north when the weather improves!
I wonder why so many travellers are buying
books that list areas where you can stay in natural bush surroundings
with plenty of open space? And why so many people buy outfits
that are completely self-contained and independent of the facilities
supplied by caravan parks?
The site situation is going to get even better
soon as more permanent sites are being turned into tourist sites
as leases expire - or so Ben Yates tells us. I do hope that doesn't
mean we find our house out in the street when we return to our
home in a caravan park from our travels this year! We chose our
lifestyle of living in a caravan park because it's convenient,
releases tied-up funds and is very secure. I would have thought
the guaranteed 52 weeks a year income would have been attractive
for park owners.
Lighten up Lionel
That's dealt with two weighty subjects! You
don't read this column for a laugh do you?
Well, when I turned the telly on the other
day the caption asked; " When is a brown dog not a brown
dog?" Answer: "When it's a greyhound!"
I knew you'd like that.
See you down the track,
ON THE WALLABY (FEB 2001)
Nothing is ever straight-forward when I put things into black-and-white.
Take the business of Falcon AUs and whether they need transmission
oil coolers for towing. First I said I'd fitted one and that
brought a flood of correspondence from people who said Ford had
told them there wasn't one made and one wasn't needed for the
AU. Well that was almost right but then a reader with the same
model Falcon phoned me to say that not only is a kit available
but it's made in Albury by BTR, the people who make the transmission
for the AU. Tony got his kit from Drive-Tech . Ain't life complicated!
Mum had her 91st birthday recently and as a surprise I organised
greetings to be sent to her from caravanners and RV-ers around
the world by email and electronic greetings cards. She was wrapt
and particularly amused by one from a fellow called Howard in
the U.K. who said it was also his cat's fifteenth birthday that
same weekend. 'Flash' didn't want cards but would accept gifts
of small rodents, cheese or fish! In a follow-up Howard said
they had bought Flash a whole whiting which he ate and they had
sung to him. Being tolerant he had endured that! Mum had messages
from California, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York besides others
from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Think hard about this tag that came on the bottom of an email
'"There are three kinds of people in the world - those that
can count and those that can't".
I haven't shed the surplus weight yet but at least it came in
handy when I had to impersonate a certain red-robed gentleman
at a pre-Christmas caravan club rally. None of that old padding
stuff for me.
Sorry if this paper is a bit damp but I've having my usual early
morning sneezing and nose-running allergy attack.
While you are reading this sitting in your shorts and thongs,
spare a thought for those caravanners in the UK who have winterised
their vans till the spring and are shivering as they try to pierce
the gloom to read an article in the February 2001 edition of
'The Caravan' I wrote about 'Caravanning Down Under' and how
many of us escape the winter chills by travelling 'up-north'.
We're about to start our annual pilgrimage to the various State
Caravan Shows and although there won't be the hype associated
with new millennium's there will as usual be a whole range of
new models to drool over, new gadgets to examine and stacks of
information on new and old places to explore.
We always enjoy talking to readers about caravanning - if there
happen to be any complaints I'm quick to duck-shove them to the
editor but now that we've managed to stop the middle pages falling
out we don't get many of those.
For the first part of the year I'll be doing my caravanning the
worst possible way - rushing from home to caravan shows in the
shortest possible time, putting in long hours on the road and
using the van as just somewhere to lay my head at night. Caravanning
should be about relaxing, travelling when you feel like it, staying
somewhere as long or as short as you like and letting all the
stresses of life pass you by.
My friend Murphy has been quite inventive recently. He got into
a sealed carton containing a new musical keyboard I shouted myself.
He was generous though - it has sixty-five notes and he only
disabled one! It did happen to be a 'C' right where it's used
in just about every tune ever written.
Then the battery-operated clock in the van started playing up
and I decided to buy a new movement as we are rather fond of
it. BM was lurking and when I unwrapped the new movement it wouldn't
fit as there were little ridges in the space it fits into and
when I went back to the shop they told me it was the smallest
movement made! They wanted to refund the money but I get a bit
cranky with BM and his tricks so I got out my drill and little
grinder and removed all the ridges. Not only does it work now
but it has a second hand that wasn't a feature of the previous
movement. I thought that would make timing the boiled eggs easier
but I must have miscounted and BM had the last laugh after all.
That's reminded me - it's breakfast time so I'll see you down
ON THE WALLABY (MARCH 2001)
They say that time passes quicker the older you get and I fully
believe that. If you have one of those pill containers marked
with days of the week you will know what I'm talking about. No
sooner have you put a fortnight's supply of morning and night
pills into their little compartments and the container is empty
The only better measure of time speeding by is the deadline for
'Caravan World' - it seems to come with increasing frequency.
If your caravan has been residing in the back yard during the
previous month and been used purely as a motel room for visitors
then it's a bit hard to talk about life on the road but there
must be a lot of things I haven't talked to you about if I think
I thought I was on to something that would interest you all when
I saw an electric caravan mover advertised in a UK caravan magazine
brought for me by my caravanning cousin who spent a few days
with us recently to avoid the freezing English winter. I fired
off an email asking for details and before they could reply there
was the full story in 'Caravan World' written by Peter Lawson-Hanscombe.
It looks a good unit and there should be a market for it if the
price is right. With the current state of our dollar the imported
price could put it into the 'when we win the lottery' basket.
I did get details of an American unit a while back but as it
only worked on 120 volts AC I didn't bother writing it up.
Talking about the English winter, apparently quite of number
of UK caravanners still caravan when the snow and ice are about.
They have trouble keeping their water tanks, pipes, pumps and
drains from freezing and a suggestion I saw today was to put
a fish-tank heater into the water tank! I'd be putting the heater
inside my jumper and drinking hot mulled wine while the water
could please itself and freeze if it wished. I've seen what it
does to the bottom of boats so refrain from drinking it if at
My Stateside friends have a better idea - they head for Florida
or other warm southern States in the winter although some of
them brave the harsh northern conditions with nothing but their
built-in gas furnaces and double-glazed windows to keep them
snug while they watch their satellite TVs in their little 44
If you are one of those GMH fanatics gloating over Bathurst Holden
wins stop reading right now. This next paragraph is none of your
A reader rang the other day with some information about AU Ford
Falcons developing high oil consumption and his problem related
to a faulty CV valve in the engine management system. OK - stop
right there - I don't have a clue what one of those is either
but apparently it fixed the problem.
Holden people welcome back.
These new cars can frighten you. A little thing that looked like
a spanner suddenly lit up on the dashboard the other day right
next to the kilometres readout. It took me a while to work out
that it was telling me it needed its 50,000 kms service.
Having had three letters in the same day's mail from a certain
Senior Sgt Ritchie of the Victoria Police each telling me he
would love me to send him money for alleged driving offences
( You ALWAYS say 'alleged' and never admit that you really were
doing 67 kp/h in a 60 area!) I was a bit wary when No 2 grandson
asked me to tow his boat to the ramp as he wanted to go fishing.
I was a bit concerned because I knew the trailer lights hadn't
worked the last time I towed it. Sure enough - no indicators,
brake lights or tail lights. Reasoning that I needed the money
more than Snr. Sgt. Ritchie, I took the trailer home after launching
the boat and spent the day working on it. I fitted a new trailer
plug to replace the rusted out and verdigris covered unit that
was on it and then joined all the broken wires where the lamps
had fallen off plus fixing the lamps securely to their backing
instead of all the insulating tape that had been doing the job
I bore you with all this because there are plenty of caravans
getting around with faulty lights and their owners must not follow
the little ritual we use whenever we go for a trip - short or
long. Vi stands at the back while I check tails, brakes and indicator
lights and then, as we start to move off, I apply the over-ride
switch to test the electric brakes. I was worried when testing
the indicators one day and she said, "Yes they're working
- no they're not - yes they are!"
I jest of course but if she sees this I'd better start running.
See you down the track,