With nearly one-third of all Trakmasters built over the past 20-odd years in the hands of its 584 members, it’s not surprising that the Trakmaster Caravan Club always draws a good crowd to its annual gatherings.
This year’s round-up, which took place in Omeo in the Victorian High Country, was no exception, with 93 Trakmaster caravans and pop-tops dating from the early 2000s to the latest Pilbara Extreme Anniversary models circling the Omeo Recreational Ground.
What is different about any Trakmaster Club rally compared to most other caravan club gatherings is that there wasn’t a 240V power lead in sight. ‘Trakky’ members are an adventurous lot and most are proud to travel off the grid. And they do so in relative comfort in large pop-top or full-height offroad vans averaging 5.5m (18ft) in length. About 20 per cent of the members present at Omeo were on to their second or third Trakmaster.
“Many people purchase a Trakmaster from word-of-mouth recommendation," explained club secretary David Collins. “But after living with their first van, they decide to build or buy another Trakmaster with all the features they would really like for all the trips that they find themselves doing.”
Prior to gathering at Omeo, attendees needed to pre-book a range of special activities that included a range of 4WD tag-along tours to popular Victorian High Country tracks including Blue Rag and Wallace Hut. There were also ‘foodie’ events that included dinner at the award-winning Nullamunjie olive grove near Swift Creek, and lunch at the spectacular Paynes Hut restaurant in the shadow of Falls Creek at Mitta Mitta. Those who simply wanted to kick back had a bewildering choice of other in-camp activities including photography, snakebite, CPR and diabetes workshops, while the klops competition – a close cousin to lawn bowls and petanque – provided keen pre-happy hour entertainment.
The relationship between the manufacturer and the club has always been close, with Trakmaster founder Russell Seebach running outback adventure trips for owners of his caravans for several years before instigating the formation of the club in 2003.
“Many members are lifelong friends,” David explained. “And, as we all have much the same mind-set, everyone in the club gets on.”
Members at Omeo came from many parts of Australia, some travelling the long way to Omeo in pre-arranged tag-along groups of up to half-a-dozen vans. Then, when the fun at Omeo was over, a number headed north to Corryong to enjoy the annual Man from Snowy River Festival before heading home.
Regular Caravan World contributor Colin Kerr and his wife Prue made the longest trek, from Yunderup, WA, in their Trakmaster Nullarbor, slightly shading Alf and Carol Schmeider, who towed their Kimberley from Bundaberg, Qld, and Gary and Cheryl Coad, who came from Adels Grove, even further north near Lawn Hill Gorge, in their Nullarbor.
Some met up before heading to Omeo. David and Jenny Thomas hosted several members at their Strathbogie, Vic, property before undertaking a meandering six-night convoy through central Victoria via Benalla, Mt Beauty, the Bogong High Plains and Falls Creek, before arriving at Omeo.
However, you don’t need to cross the Continent – or the Alps – to meet fellow owners if you belong to the Trakmaster Club. In between annual gatherings, members have a choice of many small group trips to popular and remote inland areas of Australia after posting their intentions on the club’s online noticeboard.
Pre-trip gatherings are then organised to ensure that everyone gets on, with members with different skills (local, mechanical or medical knowledge, etc.) encouraged to travel together as a self-supporting group.
The club is not at all ‘blokey’, according to Marilyn Davidson, wife of past president Murray, with a 50/50 male/female representation on the organising committee.
“We all come to the club with a broad range of interests and backgrounds, but with a common love of travel,” she said.
And while most club members have generally been successful people in their former lives, not all are wealthy. “Members range from those who can barely afford to buy a van, to those who could buy and sell the lot of us,” said Murray. “But the beauty of this club is that you’d never know and it doesn’t matter when you’re together, miles from anywhere!”
A feature of club gatherings like this one is what they put back into the local community and, at Omeo, attendees raised a total of $7300 through attendance fees, an auction night and the gold coin donation for towball weighing. This was distributed to local organisations including Omeo District Health, the local CFA, the primary school, the historical society, community access radio, the local Lions Club and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Meanwhile, continuing its rolling change of state format, next year’s annual gathering will be in March at Warren in the central western plains region of New South Wales. Surely the pressure is on members to top 100 vans for the first time in the club’s history? “With such an accessible central location and the popularity of the latest Pilbara models, it’s a hope,” David admitted.