This article appeared in the June 2010 issue of the ‘Caravan & Outdoor Life’ magazine:
Our First Caravan
The first caravan we bought was a 1983 Gypsey Caravette 6, with more wood rot than a rainforest. We paid R8000 for it in 1996. It was a six berth, with the double-bed at the door in front and two single beds at the back, with two bunk beds over them and a bedside cupboard between them. There was a wardrobe and a stove (with oven, oh, the luxury of it!) but no kitchen sink. It had lots of floor space.
We quickly found having our bed right by the front door was not a good idea with three kids, because what kid can ever close a door behind them, right? I didn’t enjoy the feeling of general exposure to the camp-site, so André started with the Great Caravan Project.
He removed the bunks at the back, moved the bedside cupboard to the side by the wardrobe, and made a permanent double-bed at the back. The caravan was now a comfy two-berth, with a permanent bed for us, and a permanent dinette in front. André also installed a sink and extra grocery cupboard next to the stove.
Meantime, I got busy throwing out the curtains and cushion covers, and making new ones in cheerful colours. It was a lot of fun re-decorating our holiday home!
The kids were tossed out to their own tents, where they were able to make as much mess as they liked. Our son had a little two-man tent, which his sisters called the ‘troll-hole’ – the girls shared a four-man tent – did you know a four-man tent is only a two-girl tent?
So – fully prepared, we set off on the Grand SA tour in 2001. Our kids had been arguing against learning Afrikaans in school – in true Natal fashion, they felt ‘Afrikaans is a dying language’, so we decided it was time to broaden their education. My father always did say travel was the best education (I missed a lot of school growing up).
We traveled to Kimberly, Upington, Augrabies, Springbok, Port Nolloth, Clanwilliam, Cape Town, the Garden Route, Craddock, Aliwal North, Golden Gate and home via Winterton.
On a quiet back-road heading into Winterton, a driver coming towards us fell asleep at the wheel – he missed our Microbus, but hit the caravan. His car destroyed the side of the caravan. It was only André’s driving skills that kept us on the road as the caravan fish-tailed wildly, otherwise we would have rolled. We were all unhurt, the other driver too.
That was the end of our caravan. The insurance paid out the little it was worth, which we used as deposit on a brand-new caravan, but you know what – it never had the same character!!