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Is Van Life for Me? Part 2: Toowoomba to Childers

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

In the last post, I talked about my reasons why I needed to make such huge life changing decision. In this blog I will share my experience of hiring a van, the first week of the December school holidays and my first time experiencing van life. The plan for the trip was to try and experience what it would be like living in a van full time, to visit beautiful and interesting places during the day and to Free Camp at night to keep costs down. I also wanted to learn the how to drive, park and learn the heights and restrictions of a van.


Day 1

Toowoomba

I dropped my car at my sons place and along with my grandsons they took me up to Toowoomba to finally pick up the hired van, a Mercedes Benz Sprinter Conversion.

Paul the owner was very patient with us all being there and carefully explained everything about the van. I asked my son to film as I went around with Paul and ticked off the checklist, so if I forgot something I could watch the video later, which I did! The van was quite large and I had never driven a van before. 4WD's and small trucks yes, but not a van. I actually felt really comfortable. Even though I look so small driving the van. The funniest thing was at the first T section! I couldn't find the indicators! I was automatically looking for them in the same place as my ute! It was something I should have checked before I started driving, but I just wanted to get home, pack the van and start my journey.


Packing the van in 35 degree heat!

The plan was, instead of taking all my stuff I wanted to take in the van up to Toowoomba, I would take the van home and pack the van from there. I would do the reverse coming home, unpack and clean out the van at home, before returning it via the service station. What I had not planned on was that I would be coming home late morning, on a very hot day! Packing the van became an exhausting chore in the 35 degree heat. A really bad idea. After an hour or so, I ended up just throwing what I needed into the van instead of packing everything nicely. I decided that I needed to get to my first overnight stop, over 3 hours away, during daylight and once there I could sort out my belongings in the van.


First stop, Gunalda Rest and Camp area

For most of the way I was driving on a road that I was very familiar with as I have a friend that lives in Kilkivan. This gave me a chance to get used to the feel of the van and the best way to drive and manoeuvre it. Paul had said to me that many hirers complained that the draws would open going around a corner, yet he had driven the van to Cairns and back without a problem... The challenge was on! She drove like a dream and I found her really easy to drive, remembering that she was a van, she was 7 metres long and almost 4 tonnes.

Gunalda Rest and Camping area, north of Gympie was also a familiar safe place for me and that was the reason I had decided to make it my first overnight stop. I had stayed there before overnight and felt quite safe. I also knew the facilities there. I arrived at Gunalda and drove around and around to find the best place to stop. Paul had said that with the solar set up, the van needed to be in the full sun to work, so parking under the shade of the tree was not a good idea. I noticed when I was packing the van that there was not any levellers. I was not sure how level the van had to be. In some vans, the fridges and the gas stoves will not work if the van is on too much of an angle.


The fridge in the van ran solely on solar. I am not sure if that made a difference, but the fridge never stopped working. The gas also worked. I did notice that Paul when he was showing me the gas bottles had left it on, and I had driven all the way there with the gas on, a big NO NO according to my research and quiet dangerous, I ensured that every time I drove after that I turned the gas off before I drove.

When I finally found the perfect spot, I familiarised myself with the inside of the van, sorted out the things I would need, made a quick salad for dinner, made the bed and settled down for the night. It was a fairly peaceful night and I slept quite well other than waking up in the middle of the night starting to worry about the staying within the kilometre allowance.

The following morning I woke early, just after dawn. I made a cup of coffee and my first breakfast in the van, which was hard as my toasting rack did not work. I decided to relax and take in the beautiful natural features of the countryside.


Day 2

Hervey Bay

I packed up the van after breakfast, re adjusted the map directions to Shelly Beach and off I went. Having driven the van for hours the previous day, todays drive was fairly short by comparison. I know Hervey Bay fairly well, so when Google Maps wanted to take me in a different direction, I knew the direct route and I knew the best spot to park.

Where I was heading was my favourite place at Hervey Bay and I was really hoping that I would be able to park the van there, because that meant, when I get my own van staying there for the day would be achievable.


Perfect! I managed to park in the exact spot that I wanted. This spot was beyond perfect, a coffee shop across the road, next to the park with toilets, showers, tables and walkway. Right opposite where I parked and only a few metres walk across the grass, was the entrance to one of the best dog friendly beach I have visited.


I couldn't wait to go down to the beach and swim in the ocean. Usually the ocean is so calm here, but with the storms off shore, the ocean was quite rough but it did not stop me taking a long awaited dip in warm waters of Hervey Bay.

The beach was not very busy, so I loaded up with my bag, phone and GoPro and I found a nice spot, where I could sit quite comfortably. For some reason, this is the only beach I have ever been to that I did not worry about body image. Being over weight I often cover up when I go into the ocean for a swim. When the waters are calm I love to come here and just float in the ocean, but not that day. The ocean was the roughest I have ever seen it! Nothing was going to stop me. I still went in.

I spent a few hours on the beach soaking up the sun and swimming in the ocean. I went back to the Van and sat for a while, had a nice cold ice block and a salad for lunch. A lovely lady, who had also been swimming at the beach, introduced herself and we had a lovely chat about retirement, superannuation and van life. She was meeting a friend for coffee and invited me along, I did think about it, but I just wanted to enjoy where I was. This beach, even rough, was one of my go to places for tranquility.

The storm clouds were off shore and I did not want to miss a minute of the sunshine. I did not want to let the day end so I went back to the beach and sat in the lovely, but fairly rough warm water. I could see the weather was starting to change and the storms where heading inland, so mid afternoon I decided to drag myself away from one of my favourite places and head to my next over night spot, Childers Rest Site, only a few kilometres north west of Hervey Bay and directly west of Woodgate Beach, my next destination for day 3.


Childers

Arriving at Childers was an easy drive and just off the Bruce Highway behind the shops was two Free Camp areas. Site 1 was had everything you would need, toilets, water, dump site, picnic tables etc. It even had an electric spot but I think that was so you could recharge electric cars. This site had long parking bays suitable for cars towing a caravan and larger bus motorhomes. Site 2 was opposite and was just a patch of grass without any facilities but you had more room to pop out your awning, table and chairs. Because I was driving a van, which is fairly small in comparison to some of the big rigs and combinations on the road, I decided I would park in site 2.

The storms were rolling in all around us, so I tucked the van in a corner, hoping the building might protect the van. I tried to dry the wet towels whilst the sun was still trying to peak through and I charged up the EcoFlow via the solar panels to try and keep the battery full charged. I caught up on my social media, video chatted with family, before making some dinner. I felt surprisingly safe parking here the only thing that made me nervous was the constant severe weather warnings coming through on my phone for large hail and severe storms for Childers! When the sun went down, I made sure I packed everything away, adjusted the Maxi Fans and watched a movie to take my mind off of the impending storms.

Thank you for following my journey.

Up Next! Is Van Life for Me?

Part 3: Woodgate, Storms and a unexpected race back home.

I would love to hear from you. Where is your favourite place at Hervey Bay? leave a comment below...


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Disclaimer

This blog is intended as an information only. Any opinions given are not meant to upset or insult anyone. Information given is correct at the time of publishing but may change at any time. Travel Adventures Australia or the author in no way accepts responsibility and/or liability for the facilities, actions and services of individual operators mentioned in this blog. In no way does Travel Adventures Australia or the Author endorse any specific venue.
































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