26 Oct – 26 Jan
We had a huge list of necessary and desirable modifications to prepare for the mother of road trips. On the mechanical side was a complete ‘birthday’ service, exchange of all fluids, belts, a suspension rebuild, 7 new tyres, some auto electrical work (immobiliser, reversing beeper), a 4.5m wide roll-out awning, exterior sealing, a massive new battery bank (4 deep cycle gel batteries), an inverter, LED lights, a new indoor/outdoor sound system to cater for our audiophile tendencies, bike rack, and much more.
There were also several interior modifications that were necessary to make the vehicle more user-friendly. We greatly improved the ample storage facilities inside the camper, reconfigured some of the cabinetry, added 3 super duper pantry cabinets with pull-out wire baskets and an ‘office’ compartment that can safely accommodate laptops and associated gear. In absence of a cassette toilet, we integrated a chemical toilet next to the shower, concealed under a seat (yes, the throne.)
And then there were aesthetic considerations. The décor was ‘redone’ as we didn’t warm to the colour scheme and furnishings – the dark blue faux marble formica on the walls, the Aztec inspired colourful upholstery, the 2-metre long cushions in the seating area (that made accessing the under-seat storage area like wrestling with a giant octopus) etc were crying out for attention.
These, along with a host of other changes, needed to be fine-tuned, planned and budgeted (haha!) in the lead-up to Christmas and implemented within 10 weeks so we could transition/relocate when our apartment lease expired.
Once the mechanic was finished (we went to Queensland Diesels and Diagnostics, who did a superb job), we got onto the specialist caravan-type work. Unfortunately, however, the company we chose based on their online reputation (Caboolture Caravan Services) proved an utter nightmare and delayed us by more than 4 weeks. They were a curious lot, akin to the team at Fawlty Towers (but minus the entertainment factor), they were very costly, excrutiatingly slow, didn’t know the meaning of ‘communication’, and made a massive mistake on the roll-out awning which had to be modified, completely rebuilt and reinstalled.
Thankfully the remainder of the work progressed well. Maybe something to do with the fact that the bloke and I did most of the rest.
My piece de resistance was the seat cushion design and upholstery which vastly improves the interior and makes the seats (and access to under-seat storage) infinitely more practical.
The timing was more than just a little too tight for comfort though and the last two weeks before D-Day were frenetic. We were still working on the modifications, packing up the far too many possessions that made up our household, arranging practicalities such as storage for aforementioned possessions, interviewing removalists, and trying to sort out the various bureaucratic hassles that surface with the prospect of having no forwarding address. Oh, and I practiced for and sat my MR licence in a couple of spare moments, making yours truly a bona fide truck driving Sheila.
It was an extremely trying time and a few things made it even more trying, such as the removalist’s truck – and the booked storage unit – turning out to be too small for our stuff. Also, in a possibly misguided fit of frugality, we had arranged to do the exit clean of our large apartment ourselves. The time we’d set aside for that collided with the extra time we needed to relocate our possessions and assist the removalists. Lastly, there was also the weather; the non-stop deluge to be precise. The heavens opened in inimitable Queensland fashion – and they didn’t shut for 5 days and 5 nights.