There is no better way to explore a new area than to drive through the cities and countryside in a camper. The freedom of the open road, the slow moving scenery, and the natural habitat within campgrounds makes for an excellent adventure.
When we were first offered a camper van for a week in Australia I was definitely concerned as we knew next to nothing about campers. When I realised it was a large camper and not just a van I was even more concerned. I knew I would be the only one driving since my husband would not be able to drive it because his license is written in Spanish.
The week before the actual trip my mind filled with worries about everything from if I would be able to steer it well enough, to if I would remember how to empty the toilet without making a mess. I will get into more details but the short and sweet of it is that managing this beautiful camper from Apollo Camper vans was so easy to manage that even my 14-year-old could do it all, in fact he did quite a bit of it, aside from the driving of course!
As with everything else on this self-drive holiday with Apollo, the driving was a piece of cake. We had the 6 berth Euro deluxe so it was sort of large compared to a van or a car that I am used to driving. I was shocked at how easy it maneuvered. The turning radius made it surprisingly agile. I had a Ford Expedition that was harder to turn!
There are two things you want to be particularly aware of if you’re planning to hire a camper in Australia. Insurance covers most things on the camper but the two things it does not cover are the two things most likely to get damaged: the overhead and under carriage. While driving it is best to have a passenger and to have both of you maintain an awareness of any overhead situations like bridges, overpasses, and even low lying branches. The clearance on our camper was 3 meters. Equally important is the undercarriage so take special care to go slow when approaching any large potholes or speed bumps. Whatever you think you need for space give yourself a little bit extra and you can avoid causing damage to the vehicle.
Also remember that they drive on the opposite side of the road in Australia. Luckily I was quite used to it after being in Asia for over a year but either way it is easier than you might expect!
The electric and gas
The electric and gas tanks were also a source of concern for me, so much so that I downloaded and saved a video (Apollo provides on it’s site) regarding the basics and ‘how to’ functionality of the lights and cooking in the motorhome.
Again this ended up being very straight forward and easy to manage. Only the cook top itself runs on gas, the rest is electric. We camped four nights and had a powered site each evening. For the electric it was as simple as plugging a cord to the side of the camper and the other end to the plug provided at the campsite. There is an electrical fuse box in the kitchen area all marked and easy to use. Once plugged in just flip the switches of what you want to use and that is it. There is some capability of using the lights from just the charge of the battery and there is also a gauge inside so you know how much time you have left. It doesn’t charge very much and on the charge you cannot use the microwave or the air conditioning. As an aside, the TV will work even while driving, a particularly great thing by my children’s standards.
The gas for cooking is also simple to use. The tank(s) is stored under the motor home in an easy to access compartment. You simply turn the valve on and then flip the switch in the electrical panel to power up the push button to ignite and fan above the cook top. Cook to your hearts content (3 burners provided) and then simply turn the gas off at the valve under the camper when you are done. It can stay on as long as you are not driving, but for peace of mind we turned it off as soon as the cooking was done.
The water tanks
The water system on the motorhome is 3 fold; a grey water waste tank, a sewage waste tank, and a usable water tank for the taps and shower. Both the grey water and usable water tanks have a gauge inside the electrical panel so you can stay on top of how full or empty you are getting. All intimidating at first but all simple to use. This part my son handled himself.
The grey water tank was simple to empty, you just connect the provided hose until it clicked in pace, pulled the lever to open it and the water flowed right out. Of course be sure the other end of the hose is pointed where ever it is appropriate to dump. We found most campsites have an easily accessible area.
The waste water tank was my biggest concern, but it turned out to be the easiest of them all. On the Apollo motorhomes it is a self-contained bin that you remove and roll down (think a suitcase of poo with wheels) to the area of disposal (also offered at most campgrounds). Open the bin at the spout, dump it out, give a quick rinse and place it back into it’s spot. Very little odor and no mess at all. Apollo includes a biodegradable tablet to place in the tank that we found really worked well to alleviate any odors. The tablet plus keeping the lid down helped a lot. Campers have come a long way!
I also encourage people to use the campground facilities whenever possible. By doing that we only had to empty the waste tank every other day.
Using the campground facilities was a huge relief on the camper systems
The tap water tank lasted quite a long time, too, especially since we used the campground facilities for dish washing and showers. We ended up not having to refill the tank the entire 5 days, yet at each campsite we had our own spigot for easy filling. Attach the hoses and wait until the tank is full, easy as that! (The water was not expected to be full upon returning the camper.)
On top of the ease of systems the camper also provides great storage compartments under the motorhome, under the seats inside, and in various compartments around the interior. We also found we could use the overhead bed space as storage for our large packs during the day. The overhead bed compartment has a netting that covers the open space and locks your stuff in so it also is secure and there is no chance of it falling out as you drive. If we were actually moving all the drawers and doors locked up tight so nothing moved around or broke.
Everything inside the camper was made for movement and very well thought out. Remember to keep the camper clean, return it with both grey water and sewage tanks empty, and full gas tank.
By day storage, by night a fun loft
Now you know how easy it is to drive around Australia in a motorhome. Truly, no previous knowledge was needed to operate it. So if you’re planning a trip Australia, we highly recommend that you rent one. It’s an amazing way to experience this beautiful country.
Mary Hickcox- Bohemian Travelers