Caravanning and RVing in Australia


Travelling with Murphy

Chapter 16

Most of our run-ins with Murphy have taken place while we have been travelling ­ usually while we have had a caravan on tow behind us. 'Caravan World' readers will know of some of these antics already.

Murphy took a hand on our first trip across the Nullabor ­ known as the 'treeless plain' although the 'true' Nullabor stretches to the north and isn't the bit you cross as you travel from the eastern States to Western Australia. Despite this many people sport bumper stickers stating they have crossed the Nullabor.

The road to the west was unsealed for many hundreds of miles on the South Australian side of the border in those days and our hired caravan kept breaking window catches and letting in the thick red dust. This was bad enough, but then Murph decided to make it interesting by causing a two-litre bottle of orange cordial concentrate to burst. The sticky cordial mingled with the red dust and then seeped into the bedding that had come off the bunks due to the roughness of the road.

We were already hot, tired and dirty so a bit more discomfort was taken in our stride and we breathed a collective sigh of relief when we eventually came to bitumen again. Nowadays lovely air-conditioned roadhouses are to be found every couple of hundred kilometres and the road is sealed all the way.

We had a lovely time at the Apex convention in Perth although our friend didn't behave all the time. When I got completely bushed very late one night following some very sketchy directions to try to get back to our caravan park but instead ended up heading south on the Kwinana Freeway, Vi and our daughter Jackie went to sleep saying, "Wake us up when you get home!" 

We took lots of photos on that trip including great pics of the quokkas on Rottnest Island and continued 'snapping' on the way home along the coast to Mt Gambier. It was there at the Blue Lake we discovered there was no film in the camera ­ both thinking the other had put in a 36-shot film. Oh you blighter Murphy! 

Many years later, he did a similar thing to us when we were taking school photos at a place called Cunnamulla in Western Queensland. On a particularly busy day with two schools plus a preschool to photograph before moving on to the next town that same day, I took all the classes and the staff group at the Catholic school only to discover to my horror there had been no film in the camera! It was very late when we arrived at Charleville that evening.

On another trip to the West we decided to visit some wineries in the Margaret River area and as we were a bit pressed for time, we left the caravan on the back of our little Nissan Pulsar and headed for the beautiful LLeuwen Winery where they often have orchestral concerts in the summer months. The way into the winery was by a gravel road through the vines and when we came to a steep descent, Vi queried how we would get back up. "No worries," I foolishly replied ­ hoping like heck it was in fact no worries! I should have known better!

Having tasted a few nice drops, we headed back to the hill and although I got up as much speed as I dared and then changed down like a budding racing driver until, in first gear and lifting the foot to maintain traction, we eventually came to a halt a few feet from the top of the hill. " What are you going to do now?" Vi asked. "Reverse back down," I replied. "I'm getting out," was her rejoiner quick as a flash ­ and she did! Backing down was another thing and as soon as I eased the brakes, the back wheels turned but the front ones stayed locked which gave no control whatsoever and the outfit headed for the edge of the road. Murphy of course had dug a ditch and the caravan wheels slipped into it making it impossible to move either forwards or back.

Fortunately the vineyard foreman and his offsider came by and rescued us with a tractor ­ although to this day I'm puzzled as to why he made me go down the hill backwards on the end of a chain when he could so easily have towed us over the brow of the hill. Apparently the hill was usually no problem but they had graded it the previous day and left the surface loose.

Just about as far away as you could get from Margaret River in Western Australia is the lovely Far North Queensland settlement known as Grasstree Beach. It used to be the preserve of a wild donkey called Jacko but he went the way of all donkeys and the local council no longer allows camping on the foreshore ­ quite unrelated events but both sad to relate.

We used to often spend time there and one day when we arrived with our new solar panel on the roof of the caravan, we were naturally anxious to have the van in the sun. 

After parking the outfit we realised a couple of palm trees would shade the panel so decided to move. The car was in loose sand and wouldn't move so I tried to unhitch to get into a better position but unfortunately I wound the jockey-wheel up too far and the screw thread inside it became damaged. We had a hydraulic jack so I jacked the van up with that to let me undo the jockey wheel to try to get it to screw back into the thread. I had to take it apart for this and Murphy ensured that all the little ball-bearings in it dropped into the sand where they were very, very hard to find. Vi meanwhile was dying for a cuppa, but dare not go into the van while it was perched precariously on the jack and had to wait a considerable time until I had been to the local garage and borrowed some tools to repair the damaged thread. It was not our best Saturday afternoon I must say.

Not long after this we needed new tyres while camped sixty kilometres north of Mackay at Cape Hillsborough National Park and drove into Mackay to get some fitted at the local Bob Jane store. Next morning Vi came back into the van and asked, "Should there be a piece of wood sticking out of your tyre?" I'd staked a new tyre while we were collecting some wood for a camp fire on the way home. When I tried to put the spare wheel on, it wouldn't fit ­ someone (Murphy?) had replaced the spare with an earlier model wheel. Fortunately the caravan had the same wheels as the car and by using the spare from the van we were able to get back to Mackay, buy a new wheel for the spare and get the puncture mended.

I'd started writing for Caravan World by this time and the other day came across a letter I wrote to Joan Green, the Editor, in February, 1992. One paragraph read: "Murphy is still active. I put a spoonful of Bonox in a mug the other day and gave it 80 seconds in the microwave. It would have been much better with water as well! I raced around trying to find the burning smell while the spoon turned blue and the mug developed radial cracks where the spoon rested."


Chapter 17