An attack of campervan envy | Bushwhacked, November 10

I get a bit bewildered by some of the caravanning/motorhoming rigs we see on the roads these days.

Oh, they’re astonishingly comfortable and very impressive and it’s a sure bet that their owners love hauling them into remote camping parks and setting up for the night assured of a great night’s sleep. No doubt about any of that.

But have you seen what these things cost? One of those big motorhomes which pop up in TV ads every 14 minutes can cost more than $200,000. A posh caravan which expands into an apartment larger than my first flat can cost $150,000 – and then there’s the $80,000 four-wheel drive you need to pull it about.

You could stay in a nice motel for 2250 nights – about six and a half years – for the same outlay.

But … but, I have to admit a terrible thing: van envy.

Mrs Whacked and I love chugging around the countryside in little, old and cheap campervans. But I’m starting to wonder about the cost/benefits of this.

First came Kevin, the early 80s Mazda camper which had been homemade by a very skilful couple. It cost us next to nothing and took us through some interesting and challenging parts of Australia before spectacularly handing in its chips earlier this year.

Then came the son of Kevin – Henry – a 21-year-old Ford Econovan. Unlike Kevin, this was professionally built and had much in the way of civilised stuff – a microwave oven, a fridge, stove, a proper bed and dining area, a wardrobe, cupboards, a working cassette player (!) and a roll out awning attached to the roof. Well, it used to be.

The first big roll out took us up the Murray Valley Highway to Balranald in NSW. But the wind was gusting at 120kph, directly on our nose and poor Henry was punching along at a glacier-like speed.

The damn thing would get hit by occasional side gusts and changed lanes almost without warning.

Somewhere south of Swan Hill there was a strange banging sound and other motorists urged us to pull over.

The wind had got into the side awning, lifted it out and chucked aluminium struts all over the road. Old Henry was panting along the highway with the fabric awning waving behind like a mini version of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

I recall seeing a campervan sticker which said: “Really? You think it should be fast when it has the aerodynamics of a brick?”

And another which was designed to be stuck on the back: “You think I’m slow now? Wait until we get to a hill.”

Old campervans are very cool right now, but they should come with warnings. One should say: “If you’ve been out camping under the stars with your daughter and son-in-law and the bottles have piled up as you experience the million-star rating, please make sure you have entirely emptied your bladder before fighting your way into the fold down bed. Scarring of elbows and bruises may result from emergency exits.”

When you’re lying on the gravel, saying Ouch very loudly, those mega motorhomes seem alluring. Yes, yes. You could buy 27.5 Henrys for one of those postcode-sized motorhomes, but the view of the night sky, the riverside walks and the companionable warmth of making damper over a campfire is still just was wonderful.

Well, I’ll stick to that argument for now. Mind you, if I happen to find a stray quarter mill, say, tucked away in the Cayman Islands …

WAYNE GREGSON