The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Jan­neke Hall Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

Once again this year, with gusto, prepa­ra­tion and plan­ning, we join the mot­ley mob united by the de­sire to get away from the de­mands of ev­ery­day life, and pack up to fol­low the road.

We search for that elu­sive, just-right camp­ground or car­a­van park.

We trawl the in­ter­net, fol­low tips from fel­low trav­ellers and book ahead or hope for the best and just front up.

Also on the road are those in­de­pen­dent souls who, dis­dain­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion and com­fort, or es­chew­ing the cost of reg­u­lar car­a­van parks, pre­fer a free camp site. This could be un­der a tree near a bridge, in a coun­cil show­ground, in the shadow of a moun­tain range, or miles down a rut­ted, sandy track to an iso­lated spot by the glo­ri­ous, wild ocean.

Th­ese sturdy folks will be driv­ing an equally sturdy four-wheel-drive and be equipped with ev­ery­thing needed to be in­de­pen­dent — un­til even­tu­ally needs dic­tate a day or two in civil­i­sa­tion, to wash clothes, stock the pantry and re­plen­ish water sup­plies.

Part of the ap­peal of car­a­van­ning for me is it acts as a great lev­eller. All sorts can be found on the road, and all are wel­come — so long as the rudi­men­tary rules are ob­served. So, cheek by jowl, you will find an an­cient pop-top (that would be us), a 10m-long Jayco with an elec­tronic wind-out ex­ten­sion for the “liv­ing room”.

Be­side us may be a Win­nebago, one of those im­pos­ing mo­tor homes sit­ting high on the road, all bells and whis­tles in a sin­gle unit — no te­dious hitch­ing and un­hitch­ing to be done.

Or maybe a snappy lit­tle Britz camper­van with slid­ing doors that go slaaaaaaaam in the night (and in the early morn­ing as well). We heave a sigh of re­lief when they leave. Usu­ally young and ag­ile, they have lit­tle time to lose.

Then there are the tents: on the ground, or perched im­prob­a­bly on a car roof, or fold­ing elab­o­rately and neatly, small trailer.

One way or another, dif­fer­ent and yet the same, we rub along for a short time. We ex­change sto­ries at bar­be­cues, share the per­sonal spa­ces of bath­rooms, maybe cook in com­mu­nal kitchens, then go our sep­a­rate ways.

Di­verse as our rigs may be, what we share is more than what sep­a­rates us: the love of the open road, and the fris­son of find­ing the un­ex­pected around the cor­ner. Camp­ing, whether in a tent or car­a­van, camper­van or flash palace on wheels — is there any hol­i­day more quintessen­tially Aus­tralian?

The urge to fol­low the road, the al­lure of dis­cov­er­ing for our­selves the mag­nif­i­cence of this vast, ma­jes­tic land we call home — this is part of liv­ing the Aussie dream. How lucky are we. like a puzzle, from a

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