So what did we think of the campervan?

Over the past 7 years, we have travelled on motorcycles around the world and in Australia, in a four wheel drive camper in Australia and Southern Africa, a car and camping equipment in Scotland  and a 7 meter long campervan with bells and whistles in Queensland.  The last one being the most recent and only time we’ve travelled in this way.  I’ve had a dream to travel long term around Australia for some years now so after the most recent experience is a good time to review the pros and cons of each mode.

Motorcycles with camping equipment – in our case, 3 man tent

Pros

  • Total independence
  • Always clean and safe
  • Everything has its place and easily packed
  • Cheap accommodation and meals
  • Can pick remote and quiet spots

Cons

  • Long or hard days’ riding make camping at the end of the day harder
  • Limited space for fresh food and water
  • Exposed to the elements (including evening mosquitoes and flies)
  • Limited space in the tent to keep riding equipment away from elements
  • Awkward to get dressed in the tent
  • Limited recharging capabilities
  • Ground can be uneven/sloping making for an uncomfortable night

    Some days are just exhausting

     

    Remote camping – bliss

     

    Remote camping – more bliss

Motorcycles without camping equipment

Pros

  • Travel lighter
  • Minimal packing in the mornings
  • Can travel anywhere
  • Can dry out riding clothing overnight
  • Easier to do hand washing
  • Can recharge all cameras and devices in hotels/motels

Cons

  • Have to stay in hotels/motels = cost
  • Beds may be uncomfortable
  • Have to eat out = cost
  • Cheaper places might not be the quietest
  • I miss not camping!

    Our recent 3 day trip with just those 2 panniers of stuff.

Car and camping equipment

Pros

  • Can go anywhere the car can go
  • Can take as much as on 2 bikes 
  • Can share the driving

Cons

  • Can’t be quite remote enough
  • Ground can be uneven/sloping making for an uncomfortable night

    Our car was born for country roads

     

    Our week end cabin, the old village school.

     

    Cosy evening by the fire

    One of our camping spots in Scotland – so serene

4×4 camper 

Pros

  • Total independence
  • Consistent sleeping comfort 
  • Can carry more clothes
  • Can carry more and fresh food
  • Can travel anywhere and be as remote as one wants
  • Easy to boil water/cook
  • Can eat out of the elements
  • Can keep devices charged
  • Can share the driving

Cons

  • Roof top tents can be tricky in high winds (as happened to us in Namibia)
  • Some campers might mean cooking outside (with the flies, heat/rain)

    Surrounded by wild animals – the night symphony of animal sounds is unforgettable

     

    In our wild camp spot in Botswana

     

    This where our rooftop tent folded itself over us in Namibia so we spent the night in the driver’s cab. A most memorable night!

     

    The downside of the central desert of Australia when the flies are desperately thirsty and go for your eyes and mouth.

     

    In one of my favourite places, Docker River, Australia

2 wheel drive hire Campervan

Pros

  • Consistent sleeping comfort 
  • Can carry more clothes
  • Can carry more and fresh food
  • Easy to cook fresh meals
  • Can heat/cool main cabin when plugged in
  • Can eat out of the elements
  • Easy to pee in the night
  • Can recharge all cameras and devices
  • Can share the driving

Cons

  • Need to find powered site every 3 days
  • Cannot drive on tracks/dirt roads
  • Have to empty toilet and refill water every 3 days
  • Length and height constraints 
  • Packing sleeping area time consuming before moving off (the bed is made by placing the table top and some planks over the storage cupboards and moving cushions to make the matress)
  • Storage not that easy to access
  • Powered sites feel like being in a car park
  • You take more than you need and end up filling the storage space!

    Farm stay off grid in Central Queensland

     

    “Car park” camping in a commercial camp ground

On our last trip, we had the opportunity of talking to people travelling with different modes of transport and sleeping arrangements:

  • Motorcyclists staying in cabins/hotels
  • Motorcyclists with Elite camper trailer with Queen size bed etc etc
  • 4×4 towing large caravan
  • 4×4 towing offroad (dust proof) campertrailer
  • 4×4 with home made sleeping arrangement 
  • Campervan with bed that did not have to be collapsed and remade daily

They all had some great features and and tips and more pros and cons.

I think ultimately, the choice will depend on where you want to go and what comfort means to you.  Can you guess my favourite?

I love remote camping but sleeping in a tent is getting less comfortable as we age.  While in Australia, we are very unlikely to hire a monster campervan again but are glad we tried it.  My favourite mode would definitely be a 4×4 camper although nothing beats the feeling of being on the road on bikes, so that would mean bikes with no camping equipment… Luckily, we both feel the same. But that is not going to happen for some time now.  We are glad we seized the opportunity when we could.  Stay happy and safe everyone  🙂

– Anne

Grey Nomads perhaps?

After last week’s two wheeled adventure, we are swapping motorcycle jackets for camping chairs and air-conditioning. We will become, for three weeks anyway, novice grey nomads. We have hired a self contained camper van to explore central Queensland.

Has the lure of the Grey Nomads lifestyle has finally drawn us in? Are we abandoning our two wheeled lifestyle forever?

Not really, Anne found an opportunity to rent a camper van at less than half the normal price, due to COVID-19 causing interstate and overseas travel restrictions. Why not try it out. We will have hot and cold running everything and are taking enough food, clothing and possessions to last us until Christmas.

We collect the vehicle, a little later than planned, as they wanted to change out a couple of tyres at the last minute. New tyres are always a bonus when you hire so worth the wait. Anne confidently navigates the 7+ meter long vehicle back to Manly keeping close behind me in the MX-5. It takes an hour to load the kitchen sink et al onboard, remembering that we need to ensure that we must put everything away properly to avoid a cacophony of sound at the first corner.

Our new Mercedes Benz parked outside home.

A COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane is making news and there may be travel restrictions, usually with a couple of days’ notice, so since the outbreak is on the other side of Brisbane, we feel it is safe to travel and we are off. We have never had a Mercedes Benz before, and even though the model is a Sprinter Van we can tick off another of life’s “objectives” achieved.

Up past Toowoomba on dual highways and we are over the dividing range. Last week we did 800 km / 500 miles in three days and this is a small smudge mark in the bottom right hand corner of our detailed Queensland roadmap. At the end of day one we are half way across one of four panels of a map that only covers the bottom half of the state! Queensland is a very big state.

Our first night is spent at the Chinchilla weir. This is a free local council campsite, maximum two nights, and we score a great spot overlooking the weir and with the aid of another camper with an additional outdoor extension cord we are able to access mains power. First item on the camper van list – “add extra outdoor extension cord”. The camper van comes with one, but we have three more sitting at home. Proves that we have much to learn.

A happy camper on sunset first night out.

Great spot by the weir, pity about the lack of morning sun.

Smart Camper vans positioned for the morning sun.

We also learn that, in winter at least, it is a good idea to find a spot that will catch the morning sun to warm you up on a cool winter’s day. Luckily, thanks to our helpful fellow camper, we can switch the heater on in the morning! We may as well make the most of the luxuries this camper van provides.

Along the Warrego Highway, we see signs, a couple of large construction/maintenance camps, of the huge coal seam gas (CSG) industry that has grown up here in the last dozen years or so. As an industry and region that I last worked in more than fifteen years ago, it is amazing to see the changes on a scale that we could not have contemplated in our time. Out of sight from the main roads, thousands of wells now dot the landscape all suppling CSG via pipelines to Gladstone where it is cooled into Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) for export to Asia. Passing though Injune, we can see the new local businesses that have sprung up with the growth of CSG.

Injune Aerodrome. Unchanged in 15 years. This is the terminal.

For those that remember, the road to Fairview CSG field is now tarred.

As we head north of Injune we are watching the smoke from a bush fire move to the right and left as the road meanders towards the fire, near the Arcadia Valley. Finally around a corner and the fire flames are almost upon us. It is probably controlled burning, but as we pass some flames from a small grass fire near the road, for an instant we feel the radiated heat of the fire, through the windows. A small reminder of what many endured earlier in the year during the horrific bushfires, seemingly almost forgotten now by the onset of COVID-19.

Roadside grass fire north of Injune.

Close to Carnarvon George we come across a memorial to a WWII crash in which a US Army Air Corps C47 came down in an electrical storm on a flight from Darwin to Brisbane in 1943 killing all on board. It reminded me of the military graveyards in Malta where many of those who died were from disease, illness or accident, even in wartime.

Memorial to the C-47A crash near Carnarvon Gorge.

We have never been to Carnarvon Gorge before, and a fully tarred road greets us, not 13km. / 8 ml. of dirt to cover. Dirt roads bring dust and as we and others have found in the past, dust tries and will find a way into your vehicle.

Walked two kilometres, climbed up over 100 meters just to get 4G connection for this blog entry.

– Anthony