My family are the quintessential novice campers. Being involved in the space for a number of years, I understand the pros and cons of the different travel approaches, the lifestyle decisions people make buying or renting products, but I thought it was time to put these theories to the test. And what better place to start than an epic trip commencing in Darwin?
We landed, bags everywhere with all the ‘essentials’ for my daughters, Harriet (six) and Georgie (three), my wife and her mum. At first glance, I was stoked with the capacity of the Maui River as I had wondered how the five of us and those bags would fit into a six seater!
A few minutes in, after some expert guidance from the rental team, I was getting into the groove of dos and don'ts for my motorhoming adventure. My biggest concern was tackling the red dirt roads of the NT outback: I quickly learnt I wasn't allowed on them laying rest my fears of road-trains or collecting a wild buffalo.
Packed and ready to go, we rendezvoused with our travelling companions who had made the journey to Darwin, 4WD with caravan in tow. I had never quite understood the by-play between owners and the RV envy spoken around the campfire, but within 10 minutes Trav and I had inspected each others' “rigs” and were justifying the benefits of our choice.
For me it was pretty simple, having obtained my LR license, I felt confident handling the Maui six-seater, which you can drive with a standard car license. On the other-hand, I had no idea how to tow a caravan, let alone how to hitch and unhitch. For Trav's family, there was more appeal in exploring some of the offroad attractions like Gunlom Falls so renting wouldn't have filled their bucket-list needs.
ON THE ROAD
As we travelled from Darwin to Kakadu, Kakadu to Katherine and then back up to Darwin via Litchfield, our adventures were the same yet different. The motorhome provided peace of mind, ease of set-up each evening and a simple driving experience. And even though it required an LR license to drive, I felt like I was commanding a car, albeit a noisy and heavy one. The caravan provided a more engaging outdoor living experience with the barbecue and the ability to shut the door and go (no packing up beds) – and unhitching for a trip to the shops had its appeal.
Ultimately, and probably for most people visiting that part of the world, our trip to the NT was less about the mode of transport and more about the experiences we had. We have captured lifelong memories from a trip, which saw us swim with crocodiles witness Indigenous culture first-hand, be awestruck by the sheer scale of the landscapes and meet some colourful characters who make the destination all the more appealing.
Would I do it all again? Yes. Motorhome or caravan? I think my next trip would be the van, if only to capture those remote parts of NT which you hear so much about.
The challenge is the two-week trip up and back from Melbourne, so to hire a 'van out of Darwin would be perfect now I have my towing legs.
HITS AND MISSES
- In bed in 10 minutes from park brake to pillow
- No hitching up
- Fit five in the van with plenty of space
- Three double beds
- Easy to park
- Straight off the plane and away within an hour
- Missing out on Gunlom, one of the must-do places accessible offroad
- Noise in the cab
- Packing up the bed every morning
- Getting to the supermarket
- Limited outside living. I would have loved to fire up the barbecue.
Weights and measures
- Base vehicle Mercedes-Benz
- GVM 4490kg
- License Standard car
- Engine 2.2L turbodiesel
- Length 7.1m
- Overall body width 2.38m
- Passengers/berth 6/6
- Air-conditioner Yes, 240V
- Water tanks 82L (fresh), 82L (grey)
- Cooking 3 gas, 1 electric
- Ensuite shower/toilet
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #573. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!