This week has involved a new experience for me – hiring a campervan. It struck me as the most cost-effective way to “do” Kangaroo Island, a scenic wildlife hotspot off the coast two hours’ drive south of Adelaide, being only slightly more expensive than a car to hire, and allowing very cheap campsite accommodation without buying a tent. A bit of online research back in the UK led me to Jucy, a kiwi company whose vans are distinctively green and purple. So nobody will be missing me as I tear up the South Australian highways!
The van I ordered sleeps two and is essentially a Toyota people mover with the boot converted to a sort-of kitchen, and the back seats able to be folded out into a bed. However I was given the next model up the range, which is the same with the addition of “the penthouse”, a double-bed sized canvas sleeping pod on the roof, accessed via a ladder. So I’m sleeping up there and have a “lounge” below, consisting of a table and two seats – one of which is covered in my stuff. I can see how this sleeps four, but I’m not sure how you’d get all their gear in as well! It’s surprisingly comfy up in the penthouse, though was chilly last night – glad I thought to bring a hot water bottle.
The kitchen is pretty clever too – there’s a little fridge, butane stove, water tank and sink, and a full set of pots and pans, all provided. The only trouble is that is takes a very long time to boil water in a pan on the stove. Currently half an hour and counting… it’s 8.30pm and I fear it’s going to go dark soon, and I’ve not cooked the sauce yet!
My travels in the van have so far taken me to McLaren Vale wine region, where I spent the last two nights, and I arrived on Kangaroo Island this morning. Yesterday I left the van parked up at a caravan park while I pottered about some local wineries on a hired bike. And, unlike on previous Australian wine tasting escapades I’ve done, I could order some for delivery… winner! It’s famously Shiraz country, but I also tasted some lovely rosé and whites, though some of the white was shipped in from the same companies’ Adelaide Hills vineyards. On Wednesday, I was taken to lunch and for a bit of a tour of the area by Angie, one of the lovely team I did the Overland Track hike in Tasmania with – fortuitously she lives very close to McLaren Vale and has Wednesday afternoons off. It was a lovely day, and vastly better than Day 5 of the Adelaide test, which would probably have been the alternative had she not suggested meeting!
This morning I got up early and drove to Cape Jervis, at the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, a place of interest only as the point on the mainland from where the ferry goes to Kangaroo Island (known in these parts as KI). A straightforward (though riotously expensive) 45-minute crossing later, I arrived in Penneshaw, at the eastern tip of KI. I’ll be back in Penneshaw on Sunday night, so I headed away along the South Coast Road, towards the more remote western end of the island.
I’ve read this before, but KI is a lot bigger than people expect – about 160km from end to end – and is the third biggest offshore island. The main roads are good (but quiet – so delightful to drive along!), but you only have to turn off them to be on a dirt track. Via lunch on a beautiful beach I had to myself, a trip to see a sea lion colony at Seal Bay, and a meander along a quiet river in a hired kayak, I’ve stopped for the night at Vivonne Bay, which is maybe 90-100km along the south coast from Penneshaw.
The council campground has evidence of five other groups and is pretty quiet. I didn’t have to book, just rock up and put my credit card in the parking machine and pay $17 (£10). In London, that might get me two hours’ parking, here I get all night with access to loo, shower, BBQ and sink. Glad I’m not in a tent though – the ground is very hard and gravelly with no grass to be seen! Tomorrow I’m going to camp right up on the north western corner of the island in the Flinders Chase national park, for the princely sum of $16!
So far, I’m loving the van and the freedom it gives me, and will definitely look at campervan options again for future road trips.