Have caravan, but cannot travel
While they long to get their brand new caravan out into the wild, camping out at home has brought tremendous joy to this Melbourne family during lockdown 2.0.
Lockdown 2.0 has brought many home deliveries to our front door, none better than our shiny new caravan. She's big and beautiful and primed for adventure. Pity we can't take her anywhere.
Five days after Victoria was declared a state of disaster, our wanderlust-on-wheels snuck (legally) across Melbourne's city limits and into our driveway. And there she remains. A 22-foot semi off-road Franklin Razor with more bells and whistles than a school athletics carnival.
We got Frankie in the nick of time. She arrived a day after the Franklin factory shut, as stage four restrictions tightened the shackles on the world's erstwhile most liveable city. For its citizens, the lockdown has unleashed a new wave of misery - mandatory masks, curfews, homeschooling and a ban on travelling more than 5km from home.
We are kids who've been given the keys to the fun park, but aren't quite tall enough to ride. For now, Frankie rests on a patch of concrete in the shadow of Mt Weatherboard, aka our family home. So exclusive is our free camp in Melbourne's eastern 'burbs, you won't find it anywhere on WikiCamps.
While we long to hitch up and get the van rolling (she's a pricey garden ornament), camping out at home has brought tremendous joy during an otherwise wretched time. Pity our neighbours on our first sleep-out as our three kids chortled feverishly into the night - packed into their bunks like a box of AAA batteries. Excitable little fingers opened cupboards and drawers, fiddled with windows and poked at buttons and latches (ok, my husband and I did too).
We slurped on steaming bowls of spaghetti bolognese that misted the windows, played Uno around the table and cracked the mysteries of new fandangle gadgets. The caravan has become a cubbyhouse for our newly minted Razor Gang. It's also an office, classroom and parents' retreat.
We have camp chair sundowners in the driveway (much to the amusement of masked passers-by), read books, watch movies, talk and tinker. One night, an Indian takeaway transports us to Darwin - our imaginations carried away by aromatic spices redolent of the city's markets.
At night the five of us shoehorn into the master bed and watch YouTube clips of other families' caravanning adventures we long to be ours. In the morning, we wake to birdsong. We could be anywhere. We push open the blinds envisioning vistas of Pindan dirt, glittering seas or mountains folding down from the heavens. But all we see is the neighbour's carport.
Dreams of our Aussie "half-lap" in 2021 seeded long before the pandemic hit. I'd done the full lap as a kid - 11 months all up - and was keen to relive the experience with my own brood. We bought our van at a caravan and camping show in March. It was the day after the Grand Prix was spectacularly cancelled. We inspected the van on the Saturday, closed the deal on the Sunday and national bans on mass gatherings started on the Monday. By Tuesday we were wondering what on earth we'd done.
As the months passed, infections dropped, restrictions eased and we started cautiously entertaining plans for an inaugural road trip to Queensland. We would pick the van up from the Ian Grant's dealership in Traralgon, in Eastern Victoria, and spend a couple of nights at the caravan park next door getting acquainted with our new beast.
Instead the van came to us and has yet to touch our tow ball. We had an hour-long handover via FaceTime and the rest has been trial and error. When do we finally get away (let's play by the rules, Melburnians), we're expecting a crush at caravan parks and campsites. Van sales are booming, so says the driver who delivered ours.
"The industry's gone bloody mad. People can't go overseas for a while so they've gone mad for vans".
Oh well. There are more than 870,000km of roads in Australia. That's enough bitumen for everyone.
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Originally published as Have caravan, can't travel