Not enough space to swing a cat...

>> Saturday, 24 May 2008

It’s a scary moment when you realise that you can run through almost your entire morning beauty routine without looking in a mirror. Does that mean I’ve finally given up battling the march of Time? Or does it just mean that we are cruising up the Sunshine Coast of Queensland in a motor home, and I’ve been using campsite shower facilities for the first time in around 20 years?

It’s the latter – for the moment, at any rate.

Now, for any of you who have picked up on Boy #1's long-standing interest in all things Crocodile Hunter, you will be pleased to hear that we have finally made it the Mother Lode - Australia Zoo.

Let’s be honest, the zoo is one of the main reasons we made this trip in the first place, so we couldn’t miss that out. Boy #1 was very excited about our visit, although it transpired when we reached the zoo that he was expecting ‘Princess’ Bindi (his words, not mine – probably related to the enormous poster of her wearing a tiara at the ticket gate) to greet us in person, and when I explained to him that today was a school day in Australia and that was where she would probably be, he asked the following, pertinent, question.

“Why do they put her on all the pictures if she’s not going to be there then?”

Welcome to the deceitful world of Marketing, my 4 year old son... (I can say that, by the way, since it was my bread and butter for so many years...)

In brief, we picked up the van in Brisbane on Tuesday and since then have luxuriated in the sun on Noosa beach, visited The Zoo, pounded the highway northwards towards Agnes Waters, not made it that far (but it looked so close on the map), and settled on Bargara as a stop instead. We are now in Coola Beach, having visited Rainbow Beach on the way, and are heading for Cairns by plane tomorrow. It's been a busy few days. And, whilst I've been mainly pleasantly surprised by camper van living, I'm quite glad it's almost over.

It's been a novel experience for us. Husband has done all the driving since I was foolish /smart enough (delete as you see fit) to forget my driving licence. It’s a decent enough size, which is to say not very big, and is full of cunning little ways of saving space and ensuring that glasses etc don’t get smashed whilst we are bombing along the Bruce Highway. They don't work, by the way; we are two wine glasses down already – must have been the emergency stops we had to make to avoid the traffic jams when going too fast...

Unsurprisingly, Boy #2 has switched allegiance from the 4 x 4 we were driving in the Flinders ranges to this momma, and now his only desire is to get behind it’s wheel whenever we stop. Thank heavens we didn’t go all out and sort ourselves one of the road-kings we’ve spotted in a couple of the camp sites we’ve stopped over in; think Robert de Niro’s character’s Winnebago in ‘Meet the Fokkers’ and you’ll get the picture.

We've seen vans with extensions that telescope out when stationary, some with satellite tv, and others with awnings as big as ballrooms. Of course most have their own welcome mats, and hot and cold running bbq’s are compulsory. I even saw one with it’s own car-port and a retractable aluminium clothes horse attached to it. Some of these babies have left us feeling quite inadequate, I can tell you.

A big drawback though is how awful it is to empty the waste and loo containers of the van we’ve got; with anything bigger, I can imagine you need to get Dyno-Rod in to do the job for you when you want to sort out the toilet. Well, I say it's a drawback. I don't really know, as at the last count, it was actually Husband who has done all the dirty work. (I may be a feminist but I'm no fool). Thank heavens for my gorgeous man... In any case, since most of the serious roadsters we've seen seem to be inhabited by ‘Grey Nomads’ – not my term, one that another OAP used disparagingly about other people of his age who take trips longer than his – I can imagine that those toilet facilities - and the emptying of them - can be very important.

And there are some other factors that you might want to consider if you are looking at this type of holiday yourself. One is that if you are not the driver, you become a sort of in-flight stewardess, at your children’s beck and call when they need a drink, drop their blanket, or start fighting with each other over who has the annoyingly movable table pushed into their knees. Most of this happens in whatever sized vehicle you’re in of course, but if the Boys are sitting 8 feet away from you, you can’t just turn around in your seat and sort it out; it necessitates the sort of unseat-belted swaying progress (at an average speed of 65 mph) that would have any health & safety officer reaching for their notebook. However, as Husband reminded me smugly from the driving seat, this is my punishment for forgetting my driving licence...

The second drawback is that since it is in fact Winter here (ha!), whilst the days are warm and balmy at around 25 deg C, the evenings are just that bit too parky to sit outside in whilst the children drop off to sleep. What that actually means is that the Boys – in particular, Boy #2 – can hear us moving around. He has been taking full advantage of this, sticking his head out of the curtained off ‘shelf’ they are both sleeping on, shouting toddler versions of obscenities, growling like a lion, snorting like a pig, and generally being so frustratingly, adorably, cheeky that we are at our wit’s end to know how to deal with him.

Any suggestions on where in a camper van you can find a naughty step?


Expatmum 24 May 2008 at 15:22  

On the roof I'd say, although they'd probably enjoy that too much! I must admit I'm usually thankful that the Ball & Chain is 6'4" and claims he wouldn't fit into any camping bed. Whenever I get the urge for the outdoors, this brings me back to reality nicely!

aims 24 May 2008 at 17:45  

Trust me when I tell you that emptying the toilet is far better than not having one - or as we do - a portapotty. I envy the bigger models when we pull up and have to carry the potty over and tip it out. Trust me on this.

Grit 24 May 2008 at 23:37  

Look on the bright side. At least he is irritating while you are surrounded by Australia. He could be irritating while you are stranded in a layby on the A5 waiting for the RAC. So chin up! (And I'm sure when I visit your blog I can hear kookaburras call. Ahhhh.)

Nora 25 May 2008 at 04:42  

I was going to suggest the roof also, but maybe you can just tie him to a tree instead. Oh no, that would be too cruel, wouldn't it? He would get eaten by a dingo or something.

On campsites in The Netherlands you see fathers walking to the toilet facilities with potties in hand each morning. It is something they do, heroically. It seems to be the man's job. They have the constitution for it. Women are too delicate for it.

Adventure Togs 25 May 2008 at 09:09  

Sounds like an experience, to say the least! My friends in Oz has just bought a camper van and emailed us some photos - maybe we'll wait until the kids are all grown up before we visit!

Retiredandcrazy 26 May 2008 at 10:57  

What a trip. I have loved riding along with you.

Frog in the Field 26 May 2008 at 19:30  

Naughty step? Well furthest away from the steering wheel as possible of course!!
Traffic jams on the Bruce Highway? It must be all the Papparazzi travelling with you that's causing the trouble!

Nunhead Mum of One 26 May 2008 at 20:39  

Sounds as if you're enjoying your Ozzie adventure!

Naughty, I'm with Expatmum on the whole roof thing but only because Mac doesn't like heights so it's more of a Terror Step than Naughty one.

The last time I put mascara on without the aid of a mirror I nearly took my left eye out....

Samurai Beetle 26 May 2008 at 22:10  

I find that camping removes all feminine vices due to practicality.

Are there photos coming soon???? Some of us have only experienced the outback in Outback Steakhouse!

jeanie 27 May 2008 at 00:29  

Hey - I could have offered you a cuppa, as I live in one of those stops you mentioned!!

As to the naughty step problem - well, I must say this worked for my aunt - Side of the road.

To avoid CPS allegations I do not in any way endorse this method - but it scares the proverbial out of them and makes for meek and mild travel companions.

Not a camp at night offering, but another thing that worked for long car trips for me was the accelerator being proportional to behaviour. Car won't go with badly behaved kids...

Potty Mummy 27 May 2008 at 04:27  

Hi EPM, my Husband too is on the tall sice (not to boast but I think he just pips yours to the post at 6'5"), but unfortunately that hasn't stopped him this time. However, what the uncomfortable bed couldn't do, I think the smelly loos in the campsite may have achieved. I don't think we'll be camping again any time soon...

Aims, so you have a camper van? And don't worry, I totally trust you on the portapotty thing. Just as long as I don't have to find out for myself.

Grit, good point. As for the kookaburras, would you believe that whilst we've seen plenty, we haven't actually heard any yet?

Noortje, yes, we are definitely delicate flowers. At least on the loo thing, anyway. (It's a shame that this heroism doesn't always extend to men using the loo brush back home though...)

Hi AV, thanks for the visit, and not sure they need to be green up. Just a little older than 2, I would say. (But that's just my experience)

Hi RC - and it's not over yet...

Hi Frog - well, perhaps they might be if I hadn't stayed anon. Unlike some people with pink wellies I could mention...

NH Mum, I know what you mean. I actually gave up on the mascara for the few days in the van - but don't worry, I'm fully make-up-ed up again now. (When I say 'full' however, I am referring only to eyeliner and mascara. Rather like Dulwich Mum, I have the skin of a 14 year old girl. Hummmm)

SB, femininity is not a happening thing right now (that may have something to do with the boys racing into the bathroom the moment I dare to shut the door). As for the photos, we may have brought technology with us, but not enough to transfer shots from camera to lap top. Maybe one day.)

Hi Jeanie, the problem is that the 2 year old doesn't yet get the being left behind thing (or alternatively, and more likely, knows that I would never dare actually do it...) Ah well, we'll manage.

Tattie Weasle 27 May 2008 at 11:29  

Would have definatley said side of the road..however when I offered this as an alternative to The Littlest he just grinned and said: "Wowee!" I don't quite think he got the point.....

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