For some time we have enjoyed the comfort and convenience of travelling in the Coaster but it didn't let us do everything we wanted and
certainly couldn't go off road.
We didn't want to get rid of the Coaster but we wanted some way to travel to those harder to reach places. The answer seemed to be an
off-road camper trailer.
There were a lot of them for sale so it was time to do some research and see what people were saying about the different brands.
It didn't take long to figure out that many of the cheap imported camper trailers were ending up either abandoned in remote places
after the draw bar broke, or back on sale very quickly due to the many faults and problems that occurred.
The answer was to look for one that had been made in Australia and eventually we found one that had been manufactured in Melbourne by
Camper trailer on the 4x4
It was a 2008 model, old, but not too old and we reasoned that if it hadn't broken in half in the past few years then it should be good
for a while yet.
It cost only $6k and we thought that was ok considering what came with it. This isn't the page to see all that info so if you want to
check out more about the camper itself, please check out our camper trailer page.
Anyway we got things ready for our first test trip and waited patiently for a few days of fine weather to give us the opportunity to
do a test trip.
The weather wasn't 'playing ball' but we found a break of a few days and decided to head off anyway. What would a test trip be without
some variable weather thrown in?
An early start saw us off and driving up through the hills past Jarrahdale and on to our first destination
(Gnaala Mia campsite) at Dryandra Woodland.
We had decided to stay at the new campsite and in retrospect, this wasn't the best idea. The new campsite wasn't the most attractive
area and was strewn with fallen timber and very little green under storey.
It was a warm day with bright blue skies and that was very welcome until it was time to set the camper up.
Gnaala Mia campsite
One of the support poles had separated and I didn't notice it until I was part way through the set up. Unfortunately, to get the
pole back together, I had to pull down everything I had put up and it was very hot and suffocating under the canvas while I flailed
around trying to get things working properly.
Some time, and some considerable swearing later the camper was up and the awning out.
It hadn't been the easy job I had encountered doing a test setup in the back garden.
The rest of the afternoon was spent getting the rest of the gear unpacked and ready for use. It wasn't looking likely that the
camper was going to be used for much stop-start touring but then that hadn't been the main reason for buying it.
The campsite setup completed
The following day we were booked in for a night-time tour of the Barna Mia animal sanctuary. We had the whole day to kill
before the tour at 6:30pm and began exploring the woodlands including the little village where a number of buildings are for hire
We checked out Congelin Dam and the older campsite at Congelin. This was quite a lot more attractive that Gnalaa Mia and had us
wishing we had chosen that as our campsite instead.
Dryandra Village cabin
The day was pretty warm and when we got back to the camper in the mid afternoon, it was a case of staying outside under the awning
rather than cook in the main living space.
We prepared an early dinner and then made our way out to the animal sanctuary. There was an initial talk about the sanctuary and
the types of animals in the Dryandra Woodlands and then a walk around the large enclosure that is used to protect the native
species from any feral pests such as foxes and cats.
It was quite interesting and we got to see a number
of animals but as the light source for viewing was infra-red lights, any photography was also
Animals at Barna Mia
The drive back to camp in the dark was something of a novelty for us as we hardly ever go out at night any more. On the way to
the sanctuary we had seen an echidna crossing the road and were hoping for some animal sightings on the way back but it didn't happen.
During the night the first of the rain arrived and it set in for the whole day.
We did go out looking for wildflowers and still managed to get some photos by dodging the heavy showers.
Dodging the showers
Wildflowers in the woodland were still plentiful so we had no trouble finding a large number of different species.
The rain didn't let up much so after a drive out to Lol Grey picnic area we for lunch, we called it a day and made our way
back to camp.
Steak, baked potatoes in butter and fried eggs were on the menu for dinner, all cooked on our fire pit with some charcoal.
It is so much easier doing bush cooking with charcoal rather than having to find and gather bush timber. In many places
(like Dryandra) you are no allowed to take fallen timer anyway.
It was a COLD night but we had a few sleeping bags so as long as we stayed wrapped up, it wasn't too bad.
The rain finally cleared and we spent the next day driving to areas in the woodland we hadn't seen yet.
There are a number of different information stations along the drives in Dryandra and each depicts a different set of
plants and animals that can be seen in each different region of the woodland.
Dryandra Woodland information shelter
The two highlights of the day were spotting a goanna warming up on the road and being able to get a few nice pictures and
also finding a lovely meadow of wildflowers that were almost as impressive as ones we had seen much further north.
Dinner was freshly cooked noodles with pork and prawn and during the cooking, we discovered that there were some serious
deficiencies with the way the kitchen is set up. We will have quite a bit of work to do to make sure that we have a 'chuck wagon'
style cupboard set up to make it easier to locate ingredients and utensils once we have the camp set up.
We needed some supplies so we went into Narrogin (34km) and while we were there had a look at the court house museum.
Dorothy spotted some home-made jams for sale and couldn't resist buying a few as there were many different varieties to choose from.
We filled up some water containers and then went to have a look at the Foxes Lair reserve on the way out of town (on the Williams road).
I had been to the reserve many years ago but hadn't done much exploring and I was surprised at just what a big area it is.
There are a number of walks and different areas to see.
On the way back to camp we took a small detour to Contine Hill where there was once a fire tower. Today there is just a picnic
area and a lookout over the nearby farmland.
Woke to rain, rain and more rain. There was no hope of moving to another campsite in that weather so we resigned ourselves to
spending the whole trip at Dryandra.
At least the camper was getting tested in different conditions and we had the chance to really test everything out and to work
out better ways of doing various tasks.
Dorothy thought she was coming down with the flu so we decided to start packing up and get ready to head home the next day.
The rain had stopped for the moment but it was due back in a couple of days so it was either go now, or wait at least another 4 days.
We had the morning free, so we took the opportunity of one last exploration to Pingelly and then a little further east to Tutanning Reserve.
Tutanning is quite a large reserve and a little hidden away but it is worth exploring as there are a number of tracks to explore.
We got a few more wildflower pictures and then headed back to camp to begin the process of packing up everything we didn't need
for the next few hours.
Packing up took about three hours and some considerable effort. The camper isn't exactly easy to pack or unpack, so in our view
isn't really suited to stop-start travelling.
We will undoubtedly get faster as we get more used to it but we will continue to use the Coaster for any trips involving many
stops and use the camper for just one destination trips.
There were no major dramas and we found ourselves back in suburbia about lunch time.
The camper had turned out to be very comfortable despite the wet, cold weather. There are a few additions and modifications we
want to make but it is probably about 99% ready for a longer trip next year to take the boat, camp by the beach and do some fishing. That was the main reason we purchased it anyway.
The new solar system worked perfectly. Despite 5 very overcast days and camping among trees, we had no power problems at all.
The weather and dust proof regulator was just what we needed as sometimes the solar blanket was attached to the car and other
times to the camper.
The solar blanket
The solar panels are easy to use, very portable and everything fits into one simple package. At present we couldn't be happier
with it. There is also the possibility that we will take it along on Coaster trips as we use a LOT MORE power in that and the
extra grunt this system will give will come in handy.
If we ignore the weather and Dorothy's flu, it was a pretty good trip.
Updated October 2018