Sunday, May 17, 2015

A camping we will go

Just 3 short years ago if you had said that I would find pleasure in camping, or that as a part of our retirement journey I would be camping I probably would have laughed and said "you have to be joking".  I hadn't had a lot of experience with camping in my life except the school trips and the really cheap tent experience in my late teens, and to be honest I hated each and every one I went on. I had made it my life's ambition never to camp - to me 3 days in a 5 star resort was more of a holiday than 3 weeks camping.

So it's a strange feeling in my mind that here I am less than 3 years into retirement and I find I love the camping experience and now look forward to our next trip and spending money on being able to camp in a better environment.

We did start our retirement with a relocation van (looking for cheaper ways to travel - and this sort of set the ball rolling)  if you missed my blog on that here's the link  The Relocation Van Blog, at first I thought I enjoyed it so much because it provided just so much freedom and given we had only just retired it was such a great feeling to just be on the road, no plans other than to be in Cairns in 7 days and travelling with very little - just shorts, t's and thongs - it felt so good after years of constraints.

Now being settled in the new home and after our big trip around Australia  we started thinking about what we really want to do, yes we love the overseas travel and we love our cruising holidays, but you can't do this type of travel on our sort of self funded retirement money all the time - and we want to be able to pack up and go when the desire strikes, not planning for something in 3 months time, be more spontaneous in our adventures and to be able to do things more regularly.  So you have guessed it, we have bought ourselves a new pop top camper van.

Our first set up - well nearly setup!
Given we have limited space in our new house to store a van we had to be quite succinct in what we wanted ie:  we only have a limited width and a limited height we can go to - in our travels the most common van we saw were the Jayco Pop Tops - more than any other type, brand or style and those that had them seemed to have the best of all worlds - not too big, but with the convenience of internal sinks, beds, lounge areas and dining areas,off the ground, easy to tow and easy to setup.  So a few months ago we started on the journey of looking for our new home away from home.

Like all buying decisions these days, we try hard to take our time and do our homework - looking at as many possible options we can see - to ensure we are getting the best bang for our buck - so given we knew exactly what we were after (we hired one for a weekend first to make sure we did like them) and also to ensure it would fit into the limited space we have, and yes it was for us.  We searched for second hand ones to begin with and then soon found that most of these where of a similar price to a brand new one, so we did elect to buy a newbie (beautiful).

We have spent the last 2 months now just packing and going when the weather appears to be good (although that really hasn't worked out so well given our current weather patterns of late), but this hasn't fazed us at all, because one of the reasons we wanted a pop top caravan was so we were not limited by rain like we were on the soft floor/roof camper and it would appear we could possibly hire ourselves out as drought busters.

So yes we have experienced a lot of rain (in 3 trips over 300mm), but at the same time we have been comfortable when it was raining, we have had the luxury of being able to get inside and keep dry as well as be off the ground (which was a great thing in these types of situations).  We have been learning how to get the van up and down quickly, getting everything in its rightful place and establishing our living while away - so while the weather hasn't always been on our side (although in some places it was perfect), we have learnt about our new van which has been great, and so far we love the thought and of course the doing of just going - lets go!.


Our first trip was to South West Rocks - about half way between Brisbane and Sydney and we had a great camp site on the mouth of the river - it was a fantastic camp site with a ensuite (we always try to get an ensuited site if we can), on large sites and in a beautiful environment.  It took us a bit longer to setup than we originally anticipated that first time as we had to remember how to do everything and of course it was all new - but we got there and the first day was magnificent - sunny and warm and just so lovely to be sitting under our annex in the shade having a chat to people feeling pretty chuffed, but that night the heavens opened to 140mm of rain - but guess what - we didn't care and not one drop of water in the van and the site was still dry around us because of the annex (the things we didn't have before).  Overall it was a great first trip and we really enjoyed ourselves.  We did only have 3 days here though because of the rain - but that is what this is about, we don't have to be away for weeks now, more regular trips for shorter periods of time.  Derek of course continued on his winning way in the metal detecting stakes and had a fantastic time.


Next we decided to head into country NSW at this time of the year the Armidale area is so beautiful with its Autumn leaves and we had another lovely camp spot and after a few lovely days here we headed for Stanthorpe - I love Standthorpe and there is so much to do there at this time of year with the wineries, lovely town center, bush walks etc (check out my Stanthorpe Blog for more info on this area).  We headed to Storm King Dam rather than the town parks because we wanted a more bush camp site and the caravan park here didn't disappoint, with exceptionally large sites complete with fire pits (absolutely necessary in Stanthorpe this time of year as the days are beautiful, but boy can the nights get cold), right on the dam and boats, bikes etc to hire - we will be going back here again.  Once again our trip was cut short by RAIN another 200mm in 2 days so it was a wet pack up which was also good to experience.


A few weeks back home - still getting things in their rightful places in the van so each time we go out the experience gets just that bit better, more organised and easier to setup, then we headed off to Rainbow Beach (I haven't been there for probably 35 years), again the Rainbow Beach caravan park is fabulous with views to die for, the weather was glorious for the 3 days we were here - but unfortunately we had to pack and go because we hadn't booked and on the 4th day we were told they where fully booked - bugger.  Headed up to Bigara Beach just of Bundaberg for a few days there (probably wouldn't go back here again, really not much to do and no beach as such so a little disappointing), but again we got to do the pack up and set up in one day and this is so helpful in learning how to use your van so we were not really all that upset.


We are now getting ready to take off for the Winter though, heading North for the sun and hope to be away for 4-6 weeks (this is sort of what we want to do, short trips during the year and then 1 longer trip in the Winter months).  We feel we now have everything in the right spot in the van, have all the things we need for a comfortable trip and we feel confident in the setup and pack up process.  At this point in time we feel this has provided us with a lot more travelling opportunities at a more affordable price and while we love where we live it is still nice to get away.

We are loving the Jayco Eagle, it suites us to a tee, it has all the comforts of a big van (sink, stove, fridge, lounge, dining and 2 beds - one queen and one double as well as an electric awning - we are hopeless with annex setup so with a push of a button we have our awning up and out with no fuss). Its easy to tow and you can still do the normal speed limits and now we have setup a few times we are doing this in about an hour from pull in to sitting down having a coffee under the annex, we could probably do it faster but we like to get everything out properly first up.  We are enjoying our small jaunts when we get the urge to move which is good, and yes we have been taking Teddy (but he really doesn't enjoy himself all that much - but we can take him if we want to so that is nice as well).

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