It started off as a promotion, a competition. It ended in friendship born from a mutual love for adventure and this wide brown land.
Three months before Halloween, I met the lucky winners of the Dometic Follow the Sun competition. I heard their stories, and wrote about them and their hopes for the adventures that were about to unfold.
Getting involved and enthusiastic, even from the sidelines, about a kind of reality competition seemed a bit trite. After all, I wasn’t heading out with them on their adventures. And although caravanning and adventure are already embedded in my heart and mind, I needed something else to really get me on board.
But there was something about this competition that hit a chord with me. Caravan and camping supplies manufacturer Dometic had found the thing that makes any camping adventure just the ticket – the right people.
Despite their different backgrounds and family situations, what bound them together was the fact that they’d joined a small but exclusive band of travellers now known as Dometic Ambassadors. The competition was on only its second run – the first outing was in 2010.
The competition delivered each family a $35,000 prize that included a three-month, all-expenses paid road-trip around Australia, plus a makeover of their vans with the latest Dometic and Waeco products.
I was among the many that saw them in Brisbane when they received their prizes, and I interviewed and photographed them that day. I saw their vans renovated and watched them leave for their trips from the Brisbane Holiday Village. And, like thousands of others, I read their blogs along their journey. Then, after three months, I met them again, this time at the Broadwater Tourist Park on the sunny Gold Coast.
THE FINAL HAPPY HOUR
Halloween was 16 hours old when the finale party kicked off, thanks to Discover Downunder co-host and Dometic ambassador Brooke Hanson. Brooke had joined the ambassadors at several of their happy hours en-route. “They were so much fun,” she beamed, as she recalled dropping in on happy hours at Queensland’s Harvey Bay, the New South Wales town of South West Rocks on the Macleay River, and Bendigo in the Victorian goldfields.
“We had a couple of hundred people each time,” she said. “A fair few sausages were cooked, plus drinks and nibbles.”
Brooke said when she visited the ambassadors’ happy hours, it was great to settle in and chat about their new Dometic products and what makes life on the road more comfortable. Then, from behind her trademark smile, the Olympic champion spelled out the promise of the finale saying, “It’s going to be crazy.”
Headlining the event were the stars from TV’s The Block, Michael and Carlene Duffy who had a great deal of fun with a mock caravan design competition, while celebrity cooks Blair Tonkin and Paul Bullpitt of My Kitchen Rules fame tantalised the taste buds with their version of camp cooking to an audience of around 200 happy campers.
Among the crowd, in Halloween tradition, roaming goblins, witches and ghouls added colour while the kids threw themselves into the celebrations on a jumping castle. Dometic hospitality was on show, with plenty of food and nibbles as the ambassadors shared yarns gathered from three months on the road. A quick quiz insured many caravanners went home with Dometic gifts.
Brooke charmed and wowed the crowd with ease for two hours of old-fashioned entertainment. Tony Briant, the ‘Caravan Man’, was on hand to sizzle some sausages and share his caravanning experience and knowledge.
By sunset on their final day, the new Dometic ambassadors’ duty had come to an end. But there was little sense of duty for they had made many friends travelling and some had stayed with them all the way to the end – the last hurrah.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #534, February 2015. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!