Ultimate Motorhome Holiday Competition Entry

Submitted by Jillian Kiely of Australia
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July 2011: A Campervan Odyssey

With hubby and our youngest son visiting family in Ireland, I decided to take our 9 year old son, Sean, away on a bit of a road-trip. Just the two of us, the open road, our sleeping bags, some two-minute noodles and our trusty 2 berth CheapaCampa Campervan. We were lucky to get an automatic Volkswagon for our trip which made it so easy for me. Being a first-time campervan driver, I was a little nervous about driving something so much bigger than I was used to but this van was actually as easy to drive as a car (as long as you remember that it’s a realllllly looooong car when you’re going around corners). Although it was July and a little on the chilly side we were still looking forward to our camping adventure.

 

Day 1: We picked up our Campervan from the Apollo depot near the Domestic Terminal and set off on our Campervan Odyssey. It was a wrench to drag ourselves away from idyllic Roselands but we steeled ourselves and hit the road.

 

Day 1 (still): We arrived at the Big 4 Holiday Park at Umina Beach all set to hit the giant jumping pillows. Well we would have if it hadn't been lashing rain. Not to worry though - there were loads of very cute, friendly and very plump ducks who came to visit us at our van while we watched a DVD in air-conditioned comfort and waited for the rain to stop. Our van had a toilet and shower which was a brilliant way to avoid leaving the warmth of the van for late-night loo stops or road-side public toilets (bleugh!!). I would definitely hire a van with these facilities again. I have to admit that I was a little worried about having to empty the toilet cassette as I was fearful of what I might find there (shudder). When the time came to actually do it, it was painless and not disgusting at all. There were special docking stations at all the parks we stayed at. It was fortunately a very hands-off experience. It also helped that the little sanitising packs that we were given when we hired the van were an extremely bright blue liquid. Things don’t seem nearly so disgusting when they are incandescent blue.

It was so easy to hook the van up to power and water and to empty the grey water tank. I had absolutely no difficulty doing any of these by myself. The parks we stayed in had points specifically for the grey water hose and it was simple to roll up and stow away when not in use.

Day 2: Umina Beach. The rain stopped and we decided to explore the Holiday Park. Umina Big 4 has a brilliant resort-style heated pool and mid-winter or not, Seanie ended up swimming - who would have thunk it?

So Seanie had a long swim in the pool, we went for a walk on the beach, had a play at the playground and finally a bounce on the jumping pillows. I rock on those things. Graceful as a gazelle you know.

Day 3: Went for a run first thing in the morning before we headed off. Although it was fffff-freezing I couldn’t resist it with a running track like this. Yes, they are my footprints!

Day 3: Off to Newcastle next. Took the long way up the coast and stopped at loads of great places along the way. We got to Stockton mid-afternoon. The van was a breeze to drive whether on the highway or the smaller, narrower roads. We were staying at the Caravan Park at Stockton Beach. Nice and clean amenities and just a short ferry ride to Newcastle. First, some frisbee on the beach then we walked down to the wharf from the caravan park and caught the ferry across to the city. We saw a movie and had an early bite then back across the river and early to bed – big day planned at Treetops Adventure Park the next day.

Because hubby was off overseas, we were trying to do our holiday on a bit of a budget we tried to limit eating out. We did our own breakfast and most dinners in the Van. It was really comfortable and the table was easy to fold away to make into a bed. The cooking was so easy on the cooktop in the campervan. We picked up supplies from supermarkets as we went and didn’t try anything too elaborate. There was heaps of storage and the van was already supplied with all the essentials like crockery/cutlery, washing up gear and pots and pans. It was great. I confess we did have a lot of 2 minute noodles, sausages and spag bol but we countered that with lots of fruit.

 

Day 4: Treetops Adventure Park is highly recommended for adventurous kids (and adults). Better if you're 10+ and over 150cm tall though as you get the run of the place and can go on the really high levels but still good if you’re not quite tall enough (poor Seanie). Next we went to Fighter World at Williamtown which was much better than I expected. What a top day. Highlight of the trip so far though was watching Sean ditch his Nintendo DS and run around the caravan park with a random kid using bin bags as kites. Awesome. To Dubbo!

Day 5: Arrived at Dubbo after a 6 hour drive (speed limited by the 100km/h winds buffeting the van most of the way). I took it easy and the van never missed a beat thankfully as it was a little hairy at times. We had to pull off the road numerous times to let some of the biggest trucks I have ever seen go past headed to or from the big mines in the area.

It was a wee bit chilly to put it mildly. Booked into the Big 4 Holiday Park at Dubbo. Plans made to go to Western Plains Zoo the following Day.

Day 6: Brrrrrrrrrr it was freezink. Western Plains Zoo was great though and we kept warm cycling around the 6km circuit twice. We saw plenty of animals in very impressive surroundings. Back at the park and straight onto the giant jumping pillows. Now that I'd seen a gazelle in the flesh I've decided that I'm far more graceful. They'd be all hooves and antlers on a jumping pillow.

We had dinner at the club (a short walk from the Park) then back for a DVD at the van. The DVD player was a total Godsend when it was so cold out. Not that I would have been out at night painting the town red with my 9 year old in tow but it made potentially long nights fly by. We decided to watch every Harry Potter movie in preparation for the final instalment which had just been released at the movies.

Day 7: Visited Dubbo Gaol in the morning.

Then we headed off to Forbes to stay at the Big 4 there. On the way we stopped at The Dish at Parkes. We also discovered that the Planking fad may have finally gone too far.

Unsurprisingly there was much bouncing on the jumping pillows when we arrived at Forbes. (Obsessed much?) . Forbes is very pretty - a fairly small town. We didn’t have an awful lot of time to see places of interest whilst we were there unfortunately. That night it got to minus 5 - thank God for the air-conditioner in the van or we would have frozen!

Day 8: We headed off for a walk into town to wander around the local shops and grab some lunch While we were in town we did a spot of op-shopping (much to my 9 year old boy’s delight– ha!). I managed to pick up a genuine Prada skirt for $1 from the Salvos Shop. It can’t get much better than that!

We headed off to Bathurst early afternoon. It’s was a good drive through Orange which is a beautiful city. That is going on our list of (many) places to go back to.

We booked in to the Bathurst Big 4 for 2 nights. We deliberately chose to stay predominately at Big 4 parks because I thought it would be safer for a woman and a child travelling by ourselves and you can count on the quality of their amenities. They are also very family friendly and there is always play equipment there (including jumping pillows at most places – yay!). We made good use of the ping pong table in their games room.

Day 9: It was raining (again) so we decided we would take it easy and head into Bathurst city for lunch and a movie and not go adventuring too far in the van. We had a good day walking around town all the same.

Day 10: Back home to Sydney and to unpack and return the van. I was pleasantly surprised at how far we could go on a couple of tanks of diesel. I thought the fuel costs were going to be much more than they were.

This was definitely one of the best holidays I've had. Seanie reckons it was his best holiday ever which is a big call.

Since last winter we have been blessed with another child, a little girl. Now that there are five of us, we are definitely planning another Campervan Odyssey, although this time we will need a bigger van!

A good friend just moved to Alice Springs. I’ve been thinking it would be a brilliant opportunity to combine a visit to see him with our next Campervan trip. Can’t wait.

 

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