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Why I always hate the first week of camping 

My non-camping friends when I tell them we’re going away with our campervan and toddler: 

“Oh how relaxing, have a lovely holiday!” 

 Is it relaxing?  Some of the time. 

Is it a holiday?  About as much as backpacking is a holiday.  Or a stopover in a random city.  It can be the time of your life.  It’s an experience.  It’s the essence of travel.  But relaxing?  Mmmm not all the time. 

 I just don’t think these people who truly believe you are away having a relaxing holiday have any idea of what you are doing in that van most of the time. 

The amount of times I’ve been on the road and have had the thought pop into my head, if today was a normal day at work I’d be having a better day.  Why?  Because sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it would have been much easier to just stay home. 

But it’s not bad, it’s just different. 

And I always need a week to get into the new schedule of campervan travel.  My mind needs a week to move down a gear from normal everyday 15-minute-timeslots to get-shit-done to ‘this task is going to take a lot longer than it should but that’s ok because you don’t have much else to do anyway’.  And eventually I’ll get to that place where I start walking slower, stop wearing shoes and read whatever crap I can find just for something to do. 

Sure you have more time, more time to sit on the beach, more time to read a book or just talk (the beauty of not having a TV) more time to spend with your loved ones.  And let’s be honest, these are the photos we’re putting up on Facebook.  But it’s hard in the beginning because everything takes longer in a campervan.   

Need to wash your dishes?  If you’re staying at a campground you’ll have to work out how to get your dishes to the camp kitchen, then wash them oh so slowly (all the while thinking about how much you love your dishwasher at home) then dry them, then get them back to the van, hopefully without dropping a knife on your foot.  Or a clean dish in the dirt.  But let’s be honest, doing dishes in a camp kitchen is a camping luxury.  Try doing day old dishes in 40 degree heat in a tiny sink with only cold water.  Oh and the water tank is kinda low so you need to RATION that stuff, do NOT waste it on rinsing dishes!   

Have a baby, or toddler, or child under a certain age who might sometimes have a tiny accident in bed or in their pants or in their clothes or on their favourite beloved blankey that then urgently needs to be washed?  This presents another issue while camping.  Doing the washing.   

Been to Europe?  You’ll find yourself walking a kilometre to reception to pay for a token to take to the laundry room (that you need a key for, also from reception) that houses the washing machine, instructions definitely not in English.  It’s probably going to rain just as you’ve finished hanging the last towel on a spare tree branch nearby.  Ah, the luxuries of home that we take for granted. 

And I haven’t even started on the real issues.  The two weeks of uncharacteristically bad weather, cold weather, rain that doesn’t stop, no phone reception to find your camping spot, no map (Melways are SO 90’s!), nowhere to fill up clean drinking water (thanks Kangaroo Island), sick husband or cranky toddler (cranky husband and sick toddler are another good combination).   

Crescents Head campground in campervan

Oh and we can’t forget my primary camping hate – noisy camping neighbours.  So paranoid am I, I won’t camp within 100 metres of another person – OK slight exaggeration but I do search for surrounding P plate cars and then leave the vicinity if there are any, even if we’ve just taken 30 minutes to check in and set up. 

So why do I do it?  Why do I love it so much?  Why do I spend my working days selling and building campervans, my holidays and weekends living in campervans and my nights watching movies about people in campervans?  I’ll tell you why.   

Because those people who have no idea what we DO in a campervan really have no idea. 

They’ve never had that feeling of elation when you roll up at an isolated, pristine and completely empty beach on a perfect summer’s day. 

They’ve never opened their eyes in the morning, opened the curtain and had the feeling of gratitude that you’ve slept IN a beautiful rainforest, on a breathtaking clifftop, the list goes on. 

They’ve never tasted tea or boiled eggs eaten on camping chairs looking over the clifftop, into the forest, watching the sunrise, with the wonderful feeling that there are no other human beings on earth but you.  When the most beautiful places in the world are your doorstop it doesn’t even matter if you forget the sugar for your tea or salt for your eggs. 

They’ve never felt the lightness that comes with only having 2 Tshirts to choose from, no reason to look in the mirror or comb your hair, no housework to do but sit outside. 

They’ve never had the feeling of freedom that you get when you’ve got your van packed and you set off down the road to check out the next beach/town/it doesn’t really matter because you don’t need to book accommodation because you’re like a tortoise or a snail or a gypsy and you are truly free because your home travels with you.  

What can you tell someone whose about to buy their first campervan?  Well it’s the same as having a child really.   

It’ll be hard at times, but it’ll be worth it.  It’s a different way of living, but once you’ve done it you would never go back to the old way.  And although sometimes you’ll be angry and frustrated (at the teenagers with loud music at 4am) the other times it’ll be so great you’ll never want your journey to end.  

Crescents Head campground in campervan

Top Camping Spot Review – Badgers Creek, Healesville, Victoria (Healesville camping!)

The Yarra Valley has always been a favourite for this Achtung Camping pair pre-baby.  Now with child, things have changed slightly.  Undoubtedly one of the best attractions of the Yarra Valley are the wineries – from which we were only able to visit one this time with toddler in toe and spend the rest of our time in Healesville camping.  But we chose well, TarraWarra Estate had the most beautiful grounds and architectural buildings we have ever seen.  It doesn’t matter if you are a beer drinker, the grounds here and amazing restaurant plus modern art gallery have more than something for everyone.

Healesville itself has become a bit of a foodies hotspot and we were impressed when walking into the Healesville Hotel or Giant Steps however the high price tags that accompanied the not so impressive meals left us with a bit of a bad taste in our mouth at the end.  All in all we think $7.50 as the going rate for a pot of beer in all places we visited to be a bit stiff.  Yes the amazing beer garden and décor at the Healesville Hotel made up for the stiff drink prices but we still couldn’t stomach a second night eating here after paying $35 for average mains the night before.

The campground – Big 4 Badgers Creek is about 5 minutes drive out of Healesville and unfortunately the 45 minute walk with no footpath along a busy dark road was too much for us to brave on foot.  As per the majority of Big 4 Campgrounds, the facilities were abundant and so was the price tag – we paid $55 a night in an off peak period, for a non powered site.  I do not want to know what a powered site costs over Christmas.  If you are going to make use of the tennis courts, games room, small pool, brand new showers and toilet block, kitchen with massive flat screen TV and playground then maybe it’s worth it.  We cook in our around our van and didn’t make sure of anything other than the toilets and playground so it wasn’t worth money for us.  Please note also that there was an outdoor WEDDING hosted IN the campground the Saturday night we stayed, complete with MC and 50 odd drunk guests.  When I complained about the noise the next day and the ridiculousness of hosting a wedding next to people with kids sleeping in tents the staff member said the owners were trialing it as it was something they wanted to do ongoing in future.  This was enough for us to say, never again Big 4 Badgers Creek!

Location – As most know, the Yarra Vally is amazingly close to Melbourne and even from Geelong the 2 hour drive was worth it.  We’ll be back, but next time we’ll be checking out some bush camping!

Badger's Creek campground

Badger’s Creek campground

Badger's Creek campground

Badger’s Creek campground

Badger's Creek campground

Badger’s Creek campground

Badger's Creek campground

Badger’s Creek campground

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

Top Camping Spot Review – Cumberland River

This is undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking spots to camp in Victoria, with shear cliffs framing a river upon which you can camp on it’s bank.  The perfect beach is only a minute walk away (although you need to cross the busy Great Ocean Road so take care with children!).

There are a number of walks starting from the campground, ranging from 30 minutes return to full day walks.  We loved the walk to Jebb’s pool which was close by and a great place for a cool, shady swim.

The campground – although the setting is world class, the campground leaves a little to be desired – showers are 20cents for 5 minutes, which we woudn’t mind, however without knowing this before arriving you have to be lucky to have enough 20 cent pieces with you for showers each night.  Worse still the reception was also ‘out’ of 20 cent pieces for the 3 days we camped here.   A problem as the closest place to change money is Lorne.

There is VERY limited power and running water at this campground, which didn’t bother us however it might if you are not ready for a self sufficient stay.  All in all, our biggest issue with the campground was the lack of shade/trees and that the camp spots were mostly just dirt and not grass covered – making it hard to keep things clean.

Location – Cumberland River is about 10 minutes drive past Lorne, and 2 hours and 10minutes from Melbourne.  The distance and amenities make it great for a long weekend.

HELP! I’M CAMPING AND THE WEATHER IS BAD FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE

We’ve been stuck more than a few times with only a week or two of cherished holiday time, a campervan and BAD WEATHER.

So what to do when your stuck camping and the weather is bad? Will you stay or will you go? As weather predictions are often wrong and I’m sure you chose your current destination for some great reasons, you might want to stick it out a few days before you make the decision to bail for good and head somewhere dryer/warmer.

Our advice for sticking it out:

  • Did you bring some boardgames and a deck of cards with you? If not, go and buy some pronto!
  • Do you have a good book with you? I hope so!
  • How many bottles of red wine did you bring? Go and buy some more!
  • Do you feel like an antipasto platter for dinner with your wine? It will go down very well…and doesn’t require any cooking or washing dishes. A few different types of cheeses, cold cuts, dips and nice bread are just what the doctor ordered in this weather.
  • If you have an ipad, tablet or laptop with you then you really do have entertainment on tap for at least a couple of days in the form of unwatched movies and TV shows.
  • (If it’s possible) drive out of the camp spot and get the paper plus go for a coffee or lunch somewhere in a café or pub close by each day (prevents cabin fever).
  • Check out a map and see if there are any interesting towns or cities within an hour or two’s drive and somewhere nearby to camp. Towns and cities offer LOTS more to do during wet weather than your free camping national park experience.
  • Similarly, have a look if there are any wineries in the region – always a lot of fun.
  • Make a nice bonfire if it’s not raining all the time and toast some marshmallows. Trust me this is almost better than campervanning in warm weather!

Our advice for bailing:

  • Our first instincts when you’re camping and the weather is bad are always to just drive as far North from where we are as possible to escape any COLD we are trying to get away from. But think again before you use this tactic as it often rains more the further north you go, and that ain’t no fun at all. You might also only have a few days and don’t want to waste too much time driving further away from home.

A last thought to leave you with, you’re still in Australia…the weather isn’t really THAT bad…

camping in bad weather

If you have any tips on camping in bad weather please comment below!

For more camping related blogs visit http://achtungcamper.com.au/blog/

 

Our number 1 Australian camping spot is…

It’s the blog you’ve all been waiting for – our number 1 favourite camping spot of all time! And the winner is…..Green Patch in Jervis Bay, NSW.

This oasis is 2 hours south of Sydney, has amazing mountain bike and hiking tracks and the most beautiful beach we’ve ever seen.

Picture white sand, green blue ocean clear as can be with a gumtree framed river running into it.

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The camping is extremely private with each spot being in its own hidden area of lush forest. Facilities include hot water showers and drinking water which make this spot all the more attractive. It’s a large camping ground with areas for groups and many many private camping spots. We weren’t there during a busy holiday period but it was still half full and the beauty of this layout is that you won’t see any other people if you don’t want to.

Oh and did I mention the wildlife? We made friends with wallabies, kangaroos, possums and kookaburras.

Camping essentials – the products you need for your trip

So you’ve looked at caravans and campervans for sale, you’ve bought your mode of transport and mapped out your route. What next? No matter where you are going or what your camping style, don’t leave home without these products!
o 2 x camping chairs (preferably the ones that fold together to store in a thin rod like shape as opposed to those that fold in half or otherwise).
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o A small fold out bench chair/table for your cooker. You can get something like this from any of the camping shops such as Aussies or Rays. They are cheap and have many users including a platform for your cooker when the table’s full, or a third seat if someone wants to join you for dinner.
o A bottle of metho/gas to fuel your cooker.
o Cooking essentials: a pot and pan, chopping board, cutlery and preferably a camping dish set with plastic mugs, cups, plates and bowls. Picnic sets are good for this too,
o One or two nice sized Tupperware containers. Because how happy will you be tomorrow when you find that left over pasta in the fridge!
o A bottle opener.
o Bedding.
o A board game or two.
If you have any other items to add to the list let us know!

Caravan Park Camping VS National Park/Free Camping

We love National Park camping, but that’s just us. We also have a lot of clients who will only stay in the comfort of Caravan Parks and I do have to admit, the lure of a hot shower and a camping kitchen close by to wash my dishes in is often very appealing. Here we detail the highs and lows of each option.

Caravan Parks

THE HIGHS…

  • The social aspect – you are more likely to meet people when you are camping close by and what better way to strike up a conversion then when washing dishes next to someone else in the camp kitchen!
  • The convenience – a hot shower whenever you want, an unlimited water supply and the ability to just carry all those dirty dishes over to the camp kitchen and wash them easily and quickly in hot water…priceless!

THE LOWS….

  • Lack of privacy – especially in busy parks and holiday periods. We hate being too close to comfort to that next group of campers.
  • Noise – backpackers and inconsiderate families blaring their music and drinking one too many beers in the wee hours of the morning. So annoying.

 National Parks

THE HIGHS…

  • Nature – nothing comes close to camping on the waters edge or on a cliff face with million dollar views. To top it off we love the up close and personal encounters with the wildlife; kangaroos, wallabies, possums, echidnas, birds. Just don’t feed them!
  • Privacy – call us crazy but when we go camping we want to get away…from everything! We want to be alone with no one else in sight so we can sing as loudly as we want and run around naked with nobody watching. It IS a holiday after all!

THE LOWS….

  • No dogs allowed.
  • Inconvenience – it can sometimes get a bit tiresome worrying about how you are going to store and then ferry all your rubbish out of a national park. Dito rationing out that fresh water from your tank if you plan on staying in the one spot for an extended amount of time.

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