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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Camping Down-Under: Observations on Australian RVs by Kees



          Thirteen years ago when we visited Australia for the frst time, we rented a small camper van, a Toyota Hiace. It had well over 400,000 kms on it and every time we made a left turn the microwave fell on the floor. No airconditioning and since you are sitting on top of the engine in that van, it roasted your behind pretty good. So this time we decided to spent a few more dollars and get a larger, newer camper wth airconditioning and a large bed over the full width of the unit. We initially rented from the Cheapa company (the name should have warned us) but when we checked their reviews on Trip Advisor we found nothing but negative comments from previous users. So we changed to Britz and have been very very happy with their unit and their service, all first class. We used a broker to help us select the company (see Website: www.ausandnztravel.com) and were very happy with their services. You do see numerous rental companies that have units on the road. Not only Britz, but also Maui, Apollo and Kea are well known brands that are first class. There are several other rental companies that cater to different clientele and budgets. Make sure you check Trip Advisor before you rent anything!!

The rental units are mostly similar RVs to the ones you find in North America. Many class C motorhomes, small class B vans and many which would be classed as a large class B or a small class A. That is the one we now have, a Mercedes Sprinter fully camperized.
In North America there are more and more companies which use the Mercedes Sprinter (5 cyl. diesel) to build their motorhomes because it gets very good mileage for such a large unit. We are averaging 20 miles to the gallon, or about 8 liters per 100 kms. They drive well, however when you meet one of these famous road trains on the road (trucks that are 55 meters long and have 74 - 84 wheels) you better hang on to that steering wheel because you get hit with their draft pretty good.

The rental companies also provide many 4x4 camper units and that is a very good idea in Australia. Our (2 wheel) unit was only allowed on paved (sealed) road and as a result we had to forego visiting some National Parks or interesting sites because those would require us to travel down a dirt road (unsealed). A couple of times we  needed to travel 10 -12 km on unsealed roads just to get to a campground and these Sprinters  are not build for rough roads, that became obvious rather quickly. Next time we visit Australia we will get a 4x4 camper. A little more expensive to drive probably, but at least you can get everywhere you want to go.

The gas (petrol) here in Australia is a little more expensive, the cheapest diesel was $1.64 a liter but in the outback we paid as much as $2.20 a liter. You do have to be careful not to run out of gas because gas stations might be 250 km apart, however signs do warn you about those infrequent services and you would be pretty stupid if you did run out. Many people, especially those travelling the dirt roads in the Outback, carry extra jerrycans with fuel.

There are several other type of RVs on the road here in Australia and in campgrounds (caravan parks). First of all you see more types of trailers (called ‘caravans’ here) than I ever did see in North America. Many of them look rather low-slung when they go down the road, however as soon as they are parked a 1 or 1.5 foot pop up comes up that allows standing room in the trailer but allowed for less drag while going down the road.
Then there are the ‘camper caravans’, which we call tent trailers.
Another type we don’t see much of in North America is the ‘camper trailers’, these look like small utility trailers when being pulled behind a vehicle, but when folded out they become almost regular tents. And there are a few 5th wheels and even fewer large Class A motorhomes. The big Marathon, Prevost, Country Coach, Bounder etc. that you see in North American parks are rare here in Australia. You do see ‘slide on campers’ as they are called here, those are our pickup campers. And then something I have rarely seen in North America, the ‘roof top camper’. These are, usually small, tents that are carried on top of the car and which fold out, on top of the car, to a regular tent for which you need a ladder to get into it. It keeps you away from the snakes and spiders, but it seems a little awkward.

Since most of Australia is well endowed with a lot of sunshine many people use solar panels to charge their aux. batteries. Since the Caravan Parks can be rather expensive (we have paid between $32 and $52 for a site) many people stay in places where there are no facilities (dry camp). Especially the snowbirds (called ‘grey nomads’ or ‘silver seniors’ here) often dry camp for several days and then come into a Caravan Park for a night to replenish the drinking water, dump the grey and/or black water and get a decent shower. The facilities in these Caravan Parks are generally first class with laundromats, kitchen facilities and anything you can think of.
There is a major debate going on in the country between proponents of dry camping and the Caravan Park owners, who of course loose income if a grey nomad camps a few miles away in the bush while he has empty stalls. Several local municipal Councils have gotten into the act and decided to pass an ordinance to not allow dry camping within their boundaries. Or they are camper friendly and provide cheap (or sometimes free) camping spots for tourists.

All together we are very much enjoying the camping experience in Australia and I am already plans for our next trip down under!

http://www.britz.com.au

5 comments:

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  4. Very informative post on camping. I hope I can find the time to do camping this october. It would be awesome and I am getting excited just by reading this post. Guess I'll bring my inflatable car mattress with me then.

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  5. Nice post and you describe all attraction very well. I must add one site where you could be get good information about Campervan Hire Australia

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