The reason we bought our camper trailer 6 months earlier than our departure date was to give us plenty of opportunity to become familiar with the camper, how we want to pack things, what we might need etc. So we are using any chance we have to get out and get the camper set up. The Easter long weekend presented us with another excellent opportunity to put ourselves through our paces. We decided that this time we would treat it like a test run of the ‘real thing’ – we’d use solar panels, set up the camp loo and gas hot water shower, put the full wind skirt annex up with floor etc, cook in the camp oven. The Whole Hog (fitting!), as it were.
Our destination was Bestbrook Mountain Resort on the Cunningham Highway towards Warwick, Queensland. Even though we booked a few months in advance, many of the places we wanted to go to were already booked out so we went with Bestbrook on a friend’s recommendation. It was a lovely setting – 500 acres of bush land with many flat, open spaces for camping and a creek winding through the property. Unfortunately there is a motor-cross track on the property next door and even with 500 acres of land between you and next door, the sound of those under-powered, two-wheeled lawnmowers zipping around the track was relentless during the day and definitely ruined the peace. The evening sounds were also punctuated by the trucks going up and down the Cunningham Highway so while the area looked picturesque, we were a bit disappointed that we weren’t quite as peaceful and secluded as we had hoped. Oh, and the 2000 other campers also added to the ambiance as well 😉 We were lucky that our camp site was right up the back of the property, well away from where most of the caravans and campers had set up. They were certainly packed in like sardines down the front of the property – I had never seen anything like it before. I wish I’d thought to take a photo because it really did look very unpleasant.
I did a walk through video of our Easter set up…
Bestbrook has a few things to do to keep the kids occupied, which was great for Charlotte. She went on a wagon ride and was kept entertained by the property’s three cattle dogs who regularly jump on and off the wagon as it’s moving along. Charlotte and I both attempted to learn how to crack a whip but we gave up after we cracked our own skin more than the whip itself – turns out, that shit hurts! I have far more sympathy for prisoners who copped 50 lashes now. We then turned our hand to throwing boomerangs. I thought they were kidding when they said “does anyone want the left-handed boomerang?” Turns out, they weren’t and that’s really a thing! Didn’t seem to help me though 😦 Charlotte really enjoyed that and I suspect if we buy her a boomerang she’ll have hours of entertainment while we’re on the road (mental note: buy a boomerang). Milking cows was also on offer but Charlotte was accidentally sprayed with a stream of warm milk while she waited in line and that set about a mini-meltdown so we left the cow milking well enough alone. Instead she jumped on a horse and had a great time with Daddy leading her around a small course. Unfortunately she was too young to be allowed to do an actual lesson or trail ride, but I suspect she’ll be keen on that as she gets older. Butter making demonstrations and damper eating rounded out the activities on offer and made for an enjoyable stay.
As I said earlier, this was our opportunity to set up camp like it would be when we’re on our big trip – so we brought everything with us. Turns out, it doesn’t really matter if you’re going for 5 days or 50 days, you take the same amount of stuff! If we’d just wanted to set up the camper and nothing else, we’d probably be done in 10-15 minutes, add another 10-15 minutes to set up the annex roof and poles. So from go to wo(e) we could have beds set up and with a basic roof on the annex in half an hour. That’s not too bad. But this time around we took a lot longer because we were setting up wind skirts, annex floors, shower tents and the camping loo all for the first time.
(Our rather space-age looking shower tent attracted some attention from some passers by who hadn’t seen a tent like it before. It took Brandon almost half an hour to work out how to set it up and by the end he was cursing and saying we’re buying a plain Oz Trail ensuite tent to replace it, particularly as the Oz Trail ones take up less space when packed up. BUT, after I looked at some photos of the shower tent set up on the Wild Boar website, I came to realise he’d put the darned thing up inside out! No wonder it was causing him grief LOL So he fixed it up and now he’s not quite so negative about it and I suspect it might make its way to the outback yet…)
Also on our list of things we wanted to try for the first time on this trip was cooking on the OzPig and using the Dreampot. We certainly weren’t disappointed by either. It took a while for the OzPig to get nice and hot but eventually we had it full of lovely coals and keeping our toes warm. I popped two little boneless lamb roasts inside the camp oven (lined with foil) and sat that on top of the OzPig, piling coals on the lid as well. Almost 90 minutes later and we had roast lamb, baked vegetables (thanks to Carla) and gravy for our Easter Sunday dinner. Fantastic! The meat didn’t brown or crisp up as much as it does in the regular oven, but the flavour was perfect.
I also used the Dreampot for the first time to cook a chicken casserole. I fried up the chicken thighs first and sauteed some vegetables; I add some liquid to the pot, got it nice and hot and then locked it in Dreampot’s thermal base. Two hours later we had the most amazing chicken casserole. The only problem was we had too much! We bought the 6 litre Dreampot and I think we probably could have done with the 5 litre version. Nevertheless, we’ll have leftovers while we’re on the road, which is one less meal we’ll need to cook so I’m OK with that 😉
Keeping Charlotte occupied while we’re at camp is going to be something we need to consider. There were older girls camping with us this time but it wasn’t always easy for Charlotte to integrate into their games and I didn’t want them to feel they had to keep someone younger than them entertained (although full credit to Charli, Mackenzie, Piper, Laura and Nieve for doing a brilliant job playing with Charlotte). Definitely keen for some tips on how to keep a bored 6 year old entertained! [With this in mind, we recently bought Charlotte a few card games suited to her age group and the Barrel of Monkeys game so she can have something to do while we’re set up for more than a day.] Brandon brought his iPhone-operated drone chopper with him and he captured some good aerial footage – needs a bit of practice with it though 🙂 : ) 🙂
Another thing we trialled for the first time was our solar panels. We discovered that while our panels are certainly powerful enough, we don’t have long enough leads to really have the freedom to set them up in the right place to follow the sun. So that’s something to add to the shopping list. As a result, we were a little under-powered for the weekend (thanks to our 95 litre Waeco fridge/freezer), and we had to borrow a friend’s generator. But that also caused us to consider the possibility that as we are going to be travelling in winter, sunless days are a very real possibility. While we’re on the road regularly, this isn’t a problem as we’ll charge up as we drive. But if we bunker down for a few days in one place (perhaps to see out a storm etc) then we’ll be pushing it to keep the power up to the camper. So Brandon set out looking for a secondhand 1Kva generator to help see us through the dark days (literally more than figuratively I hope!) and low and behold there was a great little Honda machine available on Gumtree in the next suburb. So we’re now the proud owners of a small generator that has put our minds at ease about fulfilling our power needs while we’re on the road.
All in all, our weekend was a tremendous success. It helped us realise a few things we’ll need to consider, it also helped me realise how conservative I’m going to have to be when packing for our trip, and I’m now on the lookout for hints or tips to help with this packing. But our Easter weekend has helped give me the confidence I need to think we might actually be able to pull this off 😉
Stay tuned for our next adventure in May when we take the camper off-road for the first time and head up to Double Island Point for a weekend of beach camping with the Wild Boar gang.