By the end of September we had the van 95% ready and decided a week away was necessary to test everything out. We settled on Cotter Dam near Canberra, partly because we wanted to see Floriade (which was a bit of a disappointment) and also because Carolyne had booked me in for a four wheel drive & recovery course run by Getabout Training. So after getting everything packed and Andy checking and double-checking the new Tekonsha P3 brake controller – which incidentally is fantastic – we headed for Braidwood via South Nowra as we had taken the Pajero that way when we went on our fateful first trip in the car – the one where we were run into by the idiot driver.
The car and van handled very well and the Pajero had no problem coping with the weight of the van which was what we hoped. The 3.2 turbo diesel has ample grunt to handle the 2400 kg van and being a little heavier itself means the setup is stable at speed. We found a lovely spot looking down on the river at the Cotter Dam Reserve which is a well-maintained camping spot with nice clean amenities block and very friendly and helpful rangers who operate an honesty system for the reasonable $24 a night for two people with water but no power.
The recently purchased (from eBay) 160W folding solar panel array was quickly set up and delivered plenty of charge to get the batteries topped up in no time. We had decided on a folding setup rather than a van roof mounted arrangement because we figured we would prefer to try and camp in the shade wherever possible to avoid the heat!
We discovered that the larger loo cassette in the Ranger (we were used to the smaller size one in our old Coromal poptop) would easily last us 4-5 days – provided we limited the ‘number 2s’ as much as possible – but the spare cassette will be very handy when we are camping well away from a dump point. This is something we will have to just see how it goes next year I guess! All I know is this – 15l of ‘stuff’ sure is heavy and thank goodness for the wheels on the cassette!
Sleeping in the van was great too. Carolyne had cleverly made up some silver foil-covered foam ‘blocks’ that fit snugly into the roof vents in the main cabin and the shower/loo ceiling so that in the morning it stays nice and dark if we decide to have a lie-in. They also help a lot to keep the summer heat out and (we hope) the winter warmth in.
All in all, a great success and we were sad to leave and head home as we had really started to enjoy our brief ‘time on the road’. Still a good taste to what’s to come as well as a list of things to fix and add!