May 14, 2010
For the last week, I was supposed to have been taking it easy. It was a vacation after all. My plan was to drive up the Eastern coast of Australia and see stuff along the way. Rather than simply renting a car and doing the hotel thing, I figured I would try the camper van approach. The benefit would be that I could stop where I wanted or stay the night in a caravan park. It turned out to be exactly like and nothing like what I expected.
Its definitely true that one has, well, different choices when it comes to deciding where to sleep. I don’t want to say more choice because it turns out that that is not quite true. A lot of the places you would like to stay for the night have signs saying no overnight camping. So the main places you are left with are the rest areas along the Bruce Highway. But guess what? They are scary places.
In the day time, they are just fine. For a quick toilet break or even a brief nap, they do just the trick. But for an overnight sleep, they are downright terrifying. The problem is that when your camper’s curtains are closed, you have no idea what is going on right outside your window. Although its probably quiet and still, your mind (OK, my mind) is racing…thoughts of the many ways some crazed trucker is going to rape and mutilate me. When I stop and think about it, I realize thats just crazy talk, but when the eyelids start to close, all logic goes out the window. Thats the time of dreams, or in this case, nightmares.
Every cracking branch is a dingo about to rip me to shreds. Every rustling leaf is the bouncing step of a rabid kangaroo. Every truck leaving the rest area just dropped off an insane knife-wielding hitchhiker looking for his next free ride.
I survived the night and I am here to tell you about it. I only tried it the first night, and then used caravan parks every night afterwards. Now you might be thinking that I should have tried caravan parks from the beginning, and that was my intention. I ended up not having any choice about the matter that first night. You see, Australia likes the idea of roaming the country in a camper. But the people who run the caravan parks would rather you not bother them by using their services.
That first night I stopped at a reasonable time based on previous travels in other countries. I pulled into 3 different spots, big and small, but all were closed. It was 10PM and every hotel I passed still had a light on, but the camp sites were all shut. And its not like I just barely missed their closing time. They had been turning away new guests for at least FIVE hours. This had a significant impact on how I would be spending the days of my trip.
I had planned on doing tourist things during most of the daylight hours, then put in 5 or 6 hours of driving until about 10 each night. This plan would have worked perfectly had I been in a car and stayed in comfortable hotel beds each night. But because I was carrying my bed with me, I had to blow the best hours of the day on covering the miles to get to my ultimate destination.
I ended up seeing much less of the country than originally planned. If you are thinking about doing the same thing, stop and think about what you are going to do. Think about how much time it would take to relaxingly cover that amount of distance. Now because Australia is so against the touring camper, you are going to double, or even better, quadruple the amount of time it will take. The added benefit of taking that much time is that the camper van approach might actually make financial sense compared with driving to hotels because if you have only a week, its definitely the more expensive route.