From Here to There

So we’ve decided to do it, and know when, but HOW are we going to get the 4 of us comfortably around this vast home land called Australia?

Since 2001 our trusty Subaru Forester had been reliably getting us to all sorts of holiday locations. It’s done all we’ve asked of it, including going places most people wouldn’t dream of taking such a vehicle! It’s not a real 4wd we hear them whine. Where do you think you’re going in THAT, asked the Bribie Is. ranger pulling us over before the beach cutting last September…

We love our off-roading and camping holidays, having visited many parts the Victorian highlands, as well as many locations in SE QLD. The sandy coastline (eg. Brisbie Is. and Fraser Is.) being our most popular spots recently. It has been a good vehicle for us, but for an around Aus trip it is small and has limited towing capabilities.

Forester crossing King River, Buffalo National Park
Fording the King River, Buffalo NP; one of many alpine river crossings conquered. My darling wife waded through icy cold alpine water to take this photograph!!!

 Then we have our custom camper trailer/caravan, that I designed and built from scratch myself; chassis and all. It was only finished (to basic usable lock-up stage) last year! We have used it several times already, and love it. Small, compact and lightweight to tow (for a solid walled caravan/camper), yet it opens right up so we can lie in bed with the sides and back open, and feel as though we are still outside. However, it was designed with trips of up to a few weeks in mind, not 6 months! The camper only sleeps Nicole and I, with the boys in 3 second pop-up tents. For this trip we considered roof top tents, mounted on either the camper or car. We decided we could live in this arrangement for 6 months, but it would be a squeeze.

Forester, camper and campsite at Bribie   Forester and camper on beach
New homemade camper, opened   New homemade camper another view

The clincher came when I took the Forester and camper over the weighbridge at a local metal recyclers. The camper weighed 600kg almost empty, which is incredibly light for a camper/caravan like this (most caravans are well over 1000kg). The worry was the total weight of the Forester and camper together (GCM). I worked out that once the 4 of us were in the vehicle, we’d legally have about 85kg spare loading capacity! For all our water, food, clothes, camping and sleeping equipment, 4wd equipment etc etc. In other words, no chance! We’d be way over the rated limit of the Subaru… 🙁

With the Forester clearly out of the equation we began considering alternatives. A bigger 4wd for instance. But our camper is still quite small and cosy for a 6 month trip, so we’d be wanting a larger caravan as well! That makes two things to find, buy, register and depreciate over time. It would be nice not to have to tow too, so we moved looking at big 4wd vans. Briefly Delica’s and the like ,but soon realised they are no bigger/better than a 4wd, so then we moved onto commercial Iveco vans and the like. The 4wd versions of these were tough, solid and capable offroaders, but as comfortable to drive as an old noisy truck! Then we’d have to do our own basic motorhome fit-out, so we kept looking. We even test drove imported 4wd motorhomes on Isuzu trucks from Japan! I scoured Ebay, Gumtree, trading post and other websites for every 4wd van, bus and motorhome on the market! Regardless of which way we looked at it – choice, comfort and $’s – 4WD motorhoming was shocking in all respects. Does an extra $10k – $80k, just for 2 extra traction wheels, really make sense??

4x4 canter off gumtree
Awesome vehicle, but for $135k it’d wanna drive itself as well!

Reading the experiences of others we realised that 6 months is actually a pretty quick trip ’round the block. There’s so much to see and do – far more than we’ll have time for. This led us to finally consider a, ahem, cough, bog standard 2wd. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that we can hire a landcruiser for a 4wd side trip – if we feel the need.

Suddenly, we had sooooo many options to choose from!! We visited quite a few motorhome dealers one week, but didn’t find much that appealed. Then on the way home one day we dropped into a local dealer, and had a look at a 6 berth Talvor. It had plenty of space (two seating/living areas), a layout that really appealed to us, and everything we needed including seating and sleeping for up to 6, fridge, shower (heated water!), toilet, aircon, cooking etc. I was impressed with the quality of the build – better than the Winnebago we had just looked at earlier! Nicole was ready to buy before we even went for a test drive! Driving it was a pleasure – just as easy as driving a car, but somewhat wider and longer. Plenty of get-up and go – similar to the Forester actually, thanks to a modern fuel efficient 2.4L common rail Turbo Diesel engine.

So did we buy it? Nope. I don’t rush things….

Instead I went back to computer and researched the brand and found that Talvor/Apollo are based in Brisbane and also sell direct to the public. New and ex-rental. To cut a long story short, within a week or two of compromising on 4wd, we had put a deposit down on a 2007/2008 6 berth, direct from the motorhome manufacturer!

Now, that time frame might sound normal to most people, but you need to keep in mind we’ve been looking for a property/home to buy, on and off, for around 4-5 years now! Out of the hundreds we’ve seen, the two that Nicole liked, I didn’t…. The two that I put conditional contracts down on, Nicole didn’t like!!  🙂  So to find something in about a week that we both liked, seemed kinda…. odd? Nice, yeah nice! Miracle? Marriage saver? Nah, surprisingly not needed! We’ve always loved each other heaps, despite Nicoles housing taste shortcomings  😉

New motorhome at dealer Our new motorhome at dealer

Unflattering and not very detailed pics, but the best I have at the moment. She’s still at the factory, undergoing final preparation for hand-over (a few little things being fixed up), final service etc. Pickup is next week, planned for Wed! We got it at a good price, with the plan being to resell on completion of the trip. I expect to get pretty well all our original outlay back in a years time. That’s assuming of course that on our return we can agree on a house to live in – otherwise we might be motorhomers for life! 🙂

8 thoughts on “From Here to There

    • Motorhome is not big enough for all of us! But hey, happy to catch up with you both on the road – how does meeting up in the Kimberleys sound? 🙂 You’ll need that back of yours in good condition Sean!

  1. Hey Simon and Nicole. This looks like the start of a truly awesome adventure. Looking forward to following your blog.

  2. This is going to be an awesome adventure for your whole family, love your blog idea. Thanks for inviting us to see parts of your journey whilst you are travelling.

  3. Gday. I am in the process of building my own camper trailer. The one you built looks fantastic. I have so many questions!

    Firstly what materials are the walls made out of?

    And what sort of hinges did you use on the big awning style doors?

    • Hi. Aside from the steel frame, its all ply. Fixed walls and roof are 7 or 9mm (can’t remember which), the doors (all the moving bits) are 12mm thick. All from fairly light weight marine ply. The hinges are just SS butt hinges, welded to the steel on one side (width trimmed with an angle grinder), screwed to the ply on the other. Removable pins, so I can take all the doors off without having to unscrew the hinges (which would degrade strength of attachment).

      Hope that helps. Enjoy building your own!

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