Caravanning and RVing in Australia

 

A few more Wallabies

 

 

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 about.
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 a grin.
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 background.

 

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,

Lionel

 

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 up alongside.
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.
Anti-social
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 for travellers.
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 any day.
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,

Lionel

 

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'.
Nibbles
"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

Hello Lionel,
This is not a question but some advice for your clients. I have been driving
in Western Queensland for the past 15 years as an employee of a large
organisation. I travel from Mt Isa to Cunnamulla, from Torrens Creek to
Birdsville and on all the roads in between.
I have noticed, particularly during the last two years, an increasing lack
of knowledge on behalf of RV drivers and caravans in general, on the correct
procedure to use when passing oncoming traffic on single lane bitumen roads.
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 is right.
Always give the road to the larger vehicle. The mighty triple road train
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 lane bitumen
roads, without fail all answered the same. Pull over to the left, stop and
let the on coming vehicle pass. I asked from whence they had received this
information. The reply was "from caravan clubs, other van drivers and
magazines"

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,

Lionel


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 the track,

Lionel

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 again.

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 hard enough.

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 all possible.

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 foot motor-homes.

If you are one of those GMH fanatics gloating over Bathurst Holden wins stop reading right now. This next paragraph is none of your business!

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 before that.

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,


Lionel

 

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