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Published: November 20th 2015
We got off the train at Northgate and I left Lindsey in a café whilst I walked in the hot sun to pick up the camper van. After a few wrong turns I found the address and could see camper vans around but couldn't see the office. I walked around the block and someone directed me back to the front. I tried the one place that looked like it might be an office and it turned out I was in the right place, the branding outside just didn't reflect that. I spoke to the woman inside and she asked me to wait and check to find the right person to serve me who turned out to be busy with another customer. I waited for about half an hour and then it was my turn. We dealt with all of the formalities and then she said "the key is in the van". I was free to drive off but I had to manoeuvre the van under the full gaze of everyone there. That would have been fine normally but as I tried to put it into gear I discovered it was an automatic. Only once before have I driven an automatic and
I almost had an accident when I tried to press the clutch to change gear and got the break instead. I vowed never again. Now though I had no choice. It was a steep learning curve but I got the hang of it quickly. Manoeuvre complete, I then had to find Lindsey. I drove to where I thought the café was but soon got lost. It took me four or five attempts to find the road but I got there. By this time I was getting the hang of the van, or so I thought. I arrived back almost two hours after I'd left, after saying to Lindsey I'd see her in twenty minutes.
By this time it was getting late and we had to head out into Brisbane's early rush hour traffic. It was a little nerve wracking but I was soon confidently driving down the motorway. We turned off in the Gold Coast, at a horrible looking artificial community called Hope Island. Here we found a supermarket and stocked up. This was exciting, we now had our home for the next three weeks and it was full of food.
We continued a short distance until we
reached Fingal Heads. Here was a campsite which we checked into for the evening. We were allocated a pitch near the beach and I drove towards it. At this point I forgot that I was driving an automatic. One of the features of an automatic is that when in reverse it automatically drives... there is no need for the accelerator. I never knew this. I started my reverse park into the bay which was above a three-foot high wall. I suddenly lost control and the caravan jolted backwards. I managed to pull up the handbrake which slowed it down but I couldn't control more than that. This is the first time I've felt completely out of control since I passed my test and I didn't like it. Somehow we ground to a halt. By God's grace we had struck the electricity box and had abated the momentum of the vehicle. I had very nearly written off our camper van on our first evening.
After settling our nerves we pulled ourselves together and started our first evening of camping. By now it was dark. I managed to deal with the electricity and water but not the gas as I couldn't
open the panel to the bottle. Fortunately we had the makings of a cheese sandwich so we had a reasonable first meal. We managed to sort our all of our things and so show our immense backpacks fitted in the van unobtrusively.
In the morning I awoke before sunrise and went to the ablution facilities. On my way back I walked along the beach which was only a few metres from our pitch. I ran back to get my camera as I was witnessing an amazing sunrise.
We excitedly prepared the van for our departure and then set off, not realising that we'd left the sliding side door open. Thankfully, one of the other guests spotted it and let us know. We headed to the nearby lighthouse and here we were excited to see a pod of dolphins swimming backwards and forwards off the coast. We watched for a while and saw them somersaulting in the water. We never expected that!
This is one of the joys of camping, you can be close to all of the natural action and then tomorrow have completely different scenery with completely different experiences.
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