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Published: December 2nd 2015
Last couple of days
The last days of our van rental we made our way from Cooma, across the Victoria border and towards Melbourne. We reached a place called Cann River and stopped for lunch. I opened the slide door on the side and it fell off in my hands! I spent an hour doing a temporary repair to get it to stay attached to the side and then drove onwards, very carefully and with an eye on the side mirror constantly.
The roads in Victoria are quite dull as they are mainly forest-lined. This is nice at first but an unbroken line of trees blurring past the window does get tedious after a while. We limped on to a lovely holiday town called Lakes Entrance. This is the beginning of the Lakes National Park. Here we stopped for the night in a small but well equipped campsite called Echo Beach Tourist Park. We had a swim in the pool and in the evening went for a sunset walk down the beach. Next morning I called the van hire company and they called back a few times. Eventually the owner of the campsite came out and said he was
formerly a mechanic and would take a look at it for us. He made a good temporary fix and we were on our way.
We stopped in the town for an icecream before driving on to our next stop, Venus Bay, about 150km out of Melbourne. This turned out to be an almost completely deserted seaside village, with a huge, empty campsite. We were one of only a couple of campers to arrive. We took a short walk on the beach and that was all we did there. The place was a bit eerie and we were glad to move on in the morning. That was our last night in the van. Packing the van and cleaning it in the morning was made very complex by a sudden prolonged thunderstorm. We got drenched.
Dropping off the van
Dropping the van off was an interesting experience. Firstly, I had checked the water level in the morning and it was fine. However, as I was driving the light was coming on. At first I could control this by slowing down to below 100kmph however, the maximum speed was getting lower the further we went. I checked
the engine again but it wouldn't take any more water.
With one eye on the temperature gauge I crawled into Melbourne. The traffic was heavy and I had to concentrate so much that I didn't see much of the city. Lindsey unerringly guided us to the depot to drop the van off. Strangely, this was just an ordinary looking mechanic's workshop; there were no company markings at all.
We went inside, not sure we were in the right place. There was no one at the desk. We could hear raised voices coming from the next office so popped our heads around the door. They saw us but it was another five minutes before they acknowledged our presence. When they did, one of them came out and went into the repair shop. The other was screaming expletives after him.
The foul-mouthed guy then turned to us and we told him why we were there. We told him about the issues we'd had and he shrugged until he remembered that he'd seen an email about the door falling off. After that he got quite friendly and also began giving the van only a cursory inspection. However before he could
start inspecting the van I had to move it. The place it needed to be was occupied by someone else who was just moving off, but not before the man had had a long chat with him whilst I was waiting to move the van. After about 10 minutes he just disappeared inside without saying anything. I was left holding the keys and not knowing what was going on. I followed him and he told me I'd get the full deposit back. I was relieved about this but was hoping he'd say some thing about compensating us for our troubles.
I left the office, glad to have handed back the complete liability of a van but shocked at the complete lack of customer service and professionalism. We emerged into the rain, which had just started heavily, and waited for our lift. What Went Wrong
We had quite an adventure in our van. Whilst some of the things that happened were inconvenient at the time we generally laughed them off and we have quite a story to tell now. The main things that went wrong for us were as follows:
• Door fell off
stove didn't work
• Key broke in lock
• Chair broke
• Engine problems
• Passenger door didn't seal
• Window catches didn't work
• Wrong manual in the van
Tips for Novice Campers
We knew hardly anything about camping or living in a campervan before we left. Here are a few things we learned which the complete novice may find helpful.
• Ensure that everything has its place and return it EVERY time.
• Keep a bag of toiletries by the door that can just be grabbed as needed.
• Plan ahead - ensure you have everything out before making the bed or other complex manoeuvres.
• Make room somewhere for a dirty laundry bag.
• Use the toilet whenever you see a good one.
• Carry useful small items such as insulation tape and paracord... used creatively they will be useful for minor repairs.
• A Swiss Army Knife is an absolutely indispensable piece of equipment.
• Understand the priority for what devices need charging when you're on a powered site. Ensure that something is charging always.
• Turn the fridge down when driving, this will minimise the power it draws and make it last much longer.
• Get some battery powered push-button LED lights.
• Freeze-lock bags are really useful for all manner of things.
• Use Eco-friendly detergents to minimise your impact On the environment.
• Do some wild camping, that's where the best experiences happen.
• Remember that no problems are truly as big as they seem and you will get through... relax and try to enjoy the experience. If nothing else it will give you a good story to tell friends and family.
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