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  • Ken Hay

Travels With My Caravan

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

©2018 Murphy’s Law In Caravans Ken Hay

Last Friday, at the start of the Western Australia Day long weekend, a mate and his lovely lady partner went caravanning. Both very experienced at the caravanning game as were the half dozen friends and relatives that went along too. (With their own vans and vehicles of course.)

They had chosen a place on the beach about 100ks north of Perth. Not difficult to access with caravans but it had no power or water. Not a problem to this intrepid band – every winter they spend about a month in each other’s company on a station up near Exmouth at a beachside site devoid of any modern conveniences.

All went well until they left the Indian Ocean drive on the short, dirt track into the camp site. Along the way Murphy made his presence felt and suddenly the fan belt in a near-new 4x4 gave up the ghost and fell to pieces. This is a very nasty thing to happen especially in modern 4x4s because the fan belt is about a mile long a drives not only the engine but also the alternator, water pump and goodness knows what else. It was one of the other blokes - not my mate’s 4x4.

So the team sprang into action, (they have had a fair bit of experience at this sort of thing), the busted belt owner got on the phone to RAC and the vehicle distributor. (Stroke of luck that they had mobile phone connection.) My mate put his van on site, unhitched and went back. They managed to unhitch the van from the busted 4x4, hook it up to my mates 4x4 and he took it in and put in on site.

The RAC tilt truck turned up in due course , winched the busted vehicle aboard and drove off.

The ladies, by this time, had gathered around one van and settled down to fortify themselves against the gathering dusk and cold with sips of cab sav or similar. My mate’s partner had waited patiently and, as soon as he returned, she asked him for their caravan keys. She had a unique way of describing, on the phone to me, the look on his face as he slapped his pockets over and over – it conjured in me an image of a New Zealand rugby player doing the haka - and the realisation sunk in that Murphy had struck again. Yep – the caravan keys were on the kitchen table at home!

Occasionally, but not often, Murphy experiences a passing flash of tenderness – as he did then. There was another participant in the outing who had been delayed getting away from work and had let them know. They rang him and he agreed to go to their place and get the keys. This involved ringing their landlord who very generously agreed to go down and open up the house, get the keys, lockup and give the keys to the late comer. That all worked well.

In the interim, of course, my mate could not access his own beer, wine or spirits so enjoyed the generosity of his mates. But he is pretty good at that at any time. His partner enjoyed a nice hot shower in another van and borrowed a heavy woollen jacket to keep out the cold.

The keys finally arrived, my mate flashed up the gas to his hot water system and waited for it to heat up. And he waited, and he waited, and he waited – but then again came the realization that Murphy was lurking around somewhere. No hot water. He reckons he had a cold shower but I very much doubt that. Everything else seemed to work in his van and there was nothing else they could do but eat dinner and have few relaxing glasses of red wine to wash down the meal his partner had prepared. (She is a really good cook.)

Next morning he, and one or two others, fiddled about with the gas and the hot water system and this and that and that and this all to no avail. Then Murphy announced his presence with a very loud bang – the hot water system simply blew up! No other damage done – just some dirty black smoke deposits around the HWS vent. It was a near new system installed only a few months ago and had worked well on previous trips.

He was a bit sparse on the details of what they did over the weekend. But did ring me soon after they got home on Monday. I asked him how the trip went, “Oh real good, mate, real good. You should have come with us.” Then I heard his good lady in the back ground, ensuring I could hear her, loudly telling him to tell me the truth. Then it all had to come out. And there was the bit about one of the other blokes who decided to slip into town for the paper or something on Saturday morning and found both batteries in his 4x4 flat as tacks. Doubtless there is more to tell yet. It will all come out in the wash. Meanwhile I look forward to the outcome of his quiet chat with the people who installed the new HWS.

Post script: He tells me he had no problems getting a replacement HWS installed under warranty.

Murphy’s Law In Caravans © 2018 Ken Hay



This epistle was written in 2012. I thought it an appropriate introduction for this category of my blog. Others, both old and new will follow in due course.

Travelling is wonderful and we prefer to do it with our caravan towed behind our Land Cruiser. Last January my wife and I drove from home, near Perth, to Geelong to attend the wedding of a daughter. We stayed in Geelong six weeks all up and thoroughly enjoyed it. We have done a lot of caravanning around Australia without significant problems. But, any form of travel entails risks of some sort or other. Murphy will strike whenever and where ever the whim takes him.

We were going to stay a bit longer in Geelong but the storms in Melbourne, and developing around Geelong, persuaded us it was time to go. Thoughts of going up to Coffs Harbour, to visit another daughter,  were dashed by the weather and resultant floods.

We left Saturday morning 6th March with more than the occasional tear shed (by the others of course not tough old Granddad). First night in Mt Gambier after an excellent days travel.

The plan was to then spend a week in Port Elliot but yet again the weather turned foul and we went to Adelaide. Bad blue! Long weekend and first three parks booked out. Bucketting down rain. We finally got into a park south of Adelaide and spent two days cooped up in the van while the tempest raged around us.

Then to Port Augusta and Ceduna – no dramas. Two days in Ceduna then a trouble free run to Eucla. We devoured all of our vegies, and stuff that can’t be taken across the  border into W.A., in a nice old cook up that night. The last remaining tomatoes were grilled and eaten on toast for breakfast.

Decided to go to Norseman in one run from Eucla. Early start, brew at the top of Madura Pass where I took photos (see my Art) before having a brew and lunch at Caiguna.  At Balladonia we stopped for a cappuccino and an ice-cream. The temperature was rising and got to about 36 but all was going well until at about 1630 and 50ks short of Norseman, everything, including the engine, shut down and the trip rapidly  turned to mud!  Fortunately, I was able to let the rig coast off the highway onto flat ground and stopped. Bewildered, I opened the bonnet and was dismayed to find  the engine hissing and everything covered with pink stuff. We had  lost all the engine coolant and it had obviously and literally hit the fan. OH WHAT A FEELING!

Mobiles phones – no signals. Managed to persuade a couple of young blokes in a ute to stop and they agreed to take a message for RAC  into Norseman. Then we waited as the road trains roared past, one after the other, in both directions. The sun set and the mozzies came out. We had no idea if those blokes had passed on our message. Then, at 1900, the RAC truck loomed out of the blackest of nights. No mucking around. Unhitch the van and winch the Cruiser up onto the truck. Hitch the van to back of truck. Chuck Mau and Ken into the cab and roar off  into the night and  dodge the camels and kangaroos all the way into Norseman.

“Can you drop us off with the van at the caravan park, mate?”

“Nuh! Can’t get me truck into that park even without a van behind – big tree right at the entrance. Drop you and van and Cruiser outside our workshop.”

And that was exactly what he did. He failed to mention that it was to be, literally, in the middle of the very wide main street of Norseman. And that was where we spent a sleepless night but not before we got the fold-up table and chairs out and had dinner and a few drinks – smack bang in the middle of the street. A bunch of locals turned up and stayed to chat for a while – even took some photos for us.

Sunday morning  the RAC mechanic turned up, diagnosed busted spigot on radiator top tank. As expected he announced it couldn’t be fixed in Norseman.  Then began some haggling with the RAC in Perth and their agents in Norseman. I was informed that they would take the Cruiser to Kalgoorlie – the nearest Toyota dealer but would not provide me with a hire car or accommodation – despite my policy clearly stating they would. Accommodation was not a problem – we had the caravan but couldn’t tow it and didn’t fancy spending any more nights camped in the street.  

Then the tow truck people very kindly gave us their small Ford sedan to drive to Kalgoorlie and keep as  long as it took to get the Cruiser fixed. The Cruiser was again winched onto the tilt tray and the van hooked on behind and they set off to Kalgoorlie. We booked a site at a caravan park in Boulder and the van was delivered there – right to the site.The arrival of our van in the caravan park behind a truck with the Cruiser on the tray aroused considerable curiosity  by the inhabitants. I had to relate the sequence of events half a dozen times and was given a dozen or so conflicting  pearls of wisdom on how best to deal with the circumstances.

 The Cruiser was delivered to Toyota first thing Monday morning. They informed us it required a complete new radiator which, as feared, had to come from Perth but they ordered it and assured us it would arrive in time to be fitted Tuesday. And so it was but the Cruiser was not roadworthy until five o’clock. During the afternoon heavy rain and thunderstorms descended upon Kalgoorlie and persisted through the night.  This made it a bit awkward to pack up and get everything ready for an early start on Wednesday – but we managed and got away at 0730.

We had a brew at Southern Cross and lunch at Corrigin – opposite the Etamoga Pub - and arrived home at 1530 without further event and two days late. Murphy had struck but, fortunately, not with vengeance and we managed the problems. The episode has shaken us out of complacency about the risks inherent in travelling. And as for, "Oh what a feeling." yair, well!

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