Sunday Herald Sun - Escape
Rollin’ with the ’rona
Have caravan, can finally travel – wheels trump wings in the Covid era
Three months, seven days and about 25 minutes – that’s how long our shiny new caravan sat languishing in the driveway when coronageddon came knocking. The pit dunny that was 2020 had already put paid to our overseas and interstate travel plans and then, just as we dared contemplate an adventure closer to home, Melbourne’s disastrous second wave took hold.
A house on wheels isn’t much chop when you can’t get it mobile. And when you’re banned from venturing beyond five kilometres from home, it’s a cruel tease. A fancy-pants cubbyhouse cannibalising the front yard that shalt not be moved.
We bought Frankie, our 22-foot Franklin Razor, back in March, the weekend Australia got sucked onto the ’rona merry-go-round. She was delivered in August, the day after Melbourne went into hard lockdown and became the very definition of a stayvancation.
We would camp out every weekend, three kids packed into their bunk beds like AAA batteries, and fantasise about waking up to vistas more scintillating than the neighbour’s carport. We’d drink sundowners in our camp chairs at day’s end, nodding to masked passers-by and joking about the local wildlife (our black-as-night labradoodle is endemic in these parts).
When the shackles came off in November, the ring of steel separating Melbourne from the regions lifted and we were finally allowed to hitch up – feeling like the most seasoned non-caravanning caravaners this side of the Murray. The van had been a joyous distraction during months of kill-me-now home-schooling and anxiety-riddled uncertainty (hint: travel writers need to travel to eat), but we’d been so wrapped up in our “Covidnormal” caravanning bubble, we’d almost forgotten about the end game. That is, towing this three-tonne beast. On the road. With cars. No training wheels.
If you’re familiar with the colour of the inside of a disposable mask (I’m looking at you, Melburnians), you’ll have some idea of the shade of my husband’s knuckles as we made that inaugural journey down Maroondah Highway to Healesville. Our maiden trip was quite deliberately only 45 minutes from home. We’d calculated it should involve no more than half a dozen turns (until Google Maps intervened), and if it all went pear-shaped, there’d be no scarcity of wine to calm the nerves. Hello, Yarra Valley.
Despite some first-time jitters, it all went swimmingly. My husband backed the van into our site without us getting divorced, the kids were soon fanging around the caravan park on their bikes, and we could finally breathe – sucking in lungfuls of air perfumed with eucalyptus and sizzling snags.
Now that we’ve lost our van virginity, our sights are set on a big half-lap in 2021. So are everyone else’s. With our international wings clipped, caravans have been selling like loo rolls in a pandemic and demand, coupled with the lockdown in Melbourne, where more than 80 per cent of vans are manufactured, has resulted in long wait times.
“A lot of them (caravan deliveries) are now pushed out until May and June,” says Caravan Industry Victoria president Michael Peebles.
Second-hand caravans are also hot property. Caravan Camping Sales says November 2020 listings sold almost twice as fast as those in November 2019. The roads sure are going to be busy this year.
Now that we’re experts, our advice is to not get a caravan. All that freedom of the open road, beachside campsites and salty sunsets – you really would hate it.