Like a turtle, we carry our accommodation on our back. It’s a wonderful way to travel because we have no restrictions due to towing. We are comfortable, can get out of the dirt, have a refuge from the weather and most importantly wherever the car can go, we can go. There are no extra registration fees, no extra wheels or maintenance and less weight.
If we stop somewhere for more than a couple of nights we can put the Trayon on legs so will still have the freedom to use our vehicle.
Kevin and I have always loved 4WD camping holidays. We have had other types of holidays too. Backpack hiking in New Zealand and Tasmania, trekking up Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa and cycling in Holland but our Australian camping holidays are our perennial favourite.
Over the years our style of camping has sporadically changed. We started off sleeping under the stars in swags. There is something awesome about waking in the middle of the night and being able to see the stars. Our big double swag was warm and toasty and was carried on the roof rack. I did worry a little about creepy crawlies and on one occasion we could hear wild donkeys braying nearby and Kevin got his shot gun out the car and put it under his pillow. Just in case. I slept in the car that night. The drawback is there is nowhere private to retreat too or get changed and you live in the dirt.
When we had kids, we got a bit flasher and progressed to a camper trailer. It was great for a couple of years but it was a more time consuming set up and pack up procedure and all our gear was under the bed in the trailer. We found the more space you have, the more stuff you bring. Then we had the extra expenses associated with towing. Registration, tyres, broken trailer springs to fix and the limitations on where we could go.
A bit later we decided to go back to keeping things a bit simpler, carry less ‘stuff’ and purchased a canvas touring tent instead. It was a bit crowded with all five of us and you can’t see the stars in ‘chateau de canvas’ but served us well for a couple of years. It was big and bulky to carry though and a bit of a pain to set up and fold up every day.
Then we decided that it was more fun camping when we kept life really simple. So we went back to swags; five of them, one each, all lined up on the roof rack. We travelled all the way from Cairns to Broome this way, with mosquito nets. What a sight we were. We would line up our swags between two trees and tie a rope from tree to tree to hang our mosquito nets. These weren’t hardy outdoor mosquito nets either. They were the coloured indoor variety. Bit silly now when I think of it. We must have caused a few laughs on the way.
Anyhow when we finally got to Broome we splashed out and purchased 5 little mosquito dome tents. These were brilliant and served us well for many years. We were still sleeping in swags under the stars but had the protection of a fly screen tent and our own individual ‘chateau de flyscreen’. More work for me though as I usually ended up rolling up the kids swags as well as my own as they couldn’t roll them tight enough.
Eventually as our kids got older, the thrill of camping with the old folks became a burdensome chore and Kevin and I started leaving the older two at home when we went for short jaunts. On one of these trips we spent a week at Lawn Hill Gorge with our youngest son, Riley. We were camped at Adeles Grove with our three little mosquito domes and our gear spread out all over the ground around them, living out of boxes, feeling dirty.
Then a 4WD Landrover ute pulls in to the campground with a white box on the back, a bit like a smoko van. It was a Trayon. They flip open this box to reveal a little canvas house with big windows and 5 minutes later they are sitting on chairs under their verandah enjoying the serenity. I was a bit envious and I was intrigued. My curiousity got the better of me eventually so I casually made like I was walking past to get a better look. As luck would have it, we had a chat and they invited me up the stairs to have a look.
It was awesome. Inside was a double bed, a table and lounge chairs, lots of storage cupboards, a gas cooker that could be moved outside, a 90 litre upright fridge and a kitchen sink with a proper tap connected to a 110 litre water tank and pump. This was camping in style but still keeping it simple. All this was on the back of a ute; in a box. I went back to Kevin and said “we are so getting one of those when it’s just the two of us”. So we did.
That was it. Decision made. We saved ourselves at lot of comparing, analysing and confusion at Caravan and Camping Shows and in hindsight it was just one of the best decisions we have ever made. Those impulsive gut based decisions usually are. It was a bit more costly than a swag of course but we figured that it would be a long term investment that would reap dividends. And it has. We absolutely love it. Finally we have close to the perfect set up.
We have had it for 4 years now and done a few long trips as well as lots of weekend camping forays. We travelled from Cairns to Tasmania for 6 weeks and the bonus is that it’s the same price as an ordinary car to put on the ferry. Makes going to Tassie very attractive compared to the exorbitant cost of towing a trailer or caravan.
So now on the ‘big trip’ the accommodation part is easy for us. We know we can easily head up the Roper Bar Road, up to Mitchell Plateau and take the dirt track from Karajini to Mt Augustas and live in complete comfort with our house on our back. Just like a turtle (but a bit faster). We nicknamed it our royal swag. Its simple like travelling with a swag but oh so much flasher…..