Australia 2010

A circumnavigation (with risks).

Australian Travellers.

There are lots of differences between travelling in Australia and say South America.

  • You can understand the language (mostly).

  • There are very few police checks and no demands for bribes

  • Credit cards (EFTPOS) are accepted absolutely everywhere.

  • There are lots of caravan parks and resorts.

  • You drive on the left.

  • Australian drivers are generally patient and courteous.

But the biggest difference is that in Australia there are an estimated 60,000 people driving round the country towing caravans!

There are also many tens of thousands of people in 4x4s with swags, tents, trailers, off-road caravans and demountables, not to mention a fair number of people in motorhomes.

Before considering the different types Australian traveller and their vehicles it is useful to look at Australian road conditions. Aside from the normal types of road found in Europe and elsewhere, Australian roads can be divided into four broad categories.

Good tarmac roads that just go on for 100s of kilometres with nothing but the odd roadhouse.

Good graded gravel roads that just go on for 100s of kilometres with nothing but the odd roadhouse (and the odd dusty road-train).

Bad dirt roads that just go on for 100s of kilometres with nothing.

Yes that is a road, it's part of the tourist "Savannah Way" and the next habitation is 90km away.

Most of the 60,000 people driving round Australia are "grey nomads".

"Grey nomads" stick to the tarmac or good gravel roads and drive big 4x4s with a caravan in tow. In general they are not in hurry and have been on the road for months if not years. They travel from one camp site to the next camp site. At each site they unload the contents of the caravan into the awning (microwave, second fridge, bread maker, washing machine, kettle, electric organ, rotisserie, hair dryer, dog trimming table, ironing board (for gutting fish), canoe, collapsible boat etc.)

They connect their caravans to electrical power, mains water supply and drainage. They generally spend their time sitting under the awning talking (loudly) to other grey nomads and drinking beer.

They do not seem to visit the local attractions (they did that last year).

Standard "grey nomads" have single axle, "on-road" caravans often with a "pop top". More adventurous nomads have "off road" caravans (often called 4x4 caravans). These are considerably more robust, have good ground clearance and a good departure angle. (This type of caravan is not found in Europe.)

A small (but apparently growing) proportion of caravans are "fifth wheelers" based on a large "4x4 ute" or even...

...a small truck.

These vehicles are not suited to off-road conditions. Neither are most of the coach and bus conversions. This one is 4.3 metres tall and with a departure angle approaching zero. The trailer contains a 4x4, a boat and several(?) motorbikes.

In outback Australia motorhomes are relatively rare (compared to caravans) and most of them are hired rather than owned. Very few motorhomes are 4x4 and those that are are usually very small.

There is obvious enmity between some caravan owners and the main motorhome club (so much so that we have removed our membership sticker!) Most motorhomes tow a small car and/or a boat.

Although Australia would seem an ideal place for a 4x4 "expedition campervan" like Man we have seen very few. Most of them are below.

This commercial 4x4 motorhome is based on a Mitsubishi Cantor/Fuso.

This rather fine home built campervan is based on a Ford F250 Ute.

This commercial demountable (or "tray-on") is mounted on a 6x6 (or 4x6) Toyota Hilux flat bed.

This 4x4 MAN chassis with a fine coach built camper on it (registration number "mañana") was towing a small Jeep (registration number "mañana2").

The Australian solution to what type of vehicle to take on a serious "off road" trip is not a 4x4 campervan (like Man) but an "off-road camper trailer", a type of vehicle not found in Europe.

This one creates a fold-out tent just off the ground, with a sleeping area in the body of the trailer.

This one has a large elevated sleeping area with a "pull out" kitchen.