I have a new home. It is green and has four wheels.
When I first arrived in Australia, I had hoped to rekindle my teenage dreams of acquiring a van in which I could live. My originally dreams were of a VW Camper, but with financial realities hitting home, I began looking for anything that was big and white – or any other colour for that matter. Living in a small town, population circa 5,000, there wasn’t much of a car market for me to choose from and each day I trawled through Gumtree, looking at vehicles located hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometres away.
Then up popped a Holden Jackaroo 4 x 4, born all the way back before the turn of the century in 1998. It was owned by three Italians who were heading east and it looked like everything I wanted. With a little bit of reconfiguring, I visualised a vehicle that not only had a full length bed, but was also capable of reaching the rougher parts of Australia. We traded the car in a pub parking lot and the Italians jumped on a bus, headed for Perth.
To test out the 4 x 4, we took it north to Gnaraloo, a return journey along a dirt track of 150 km. The dirt track wasn’t a smooth dirt track, it was like driving on rumble strips for 150 km and if you took it slow, you bounced uncontrollably, uncomfortably. At around 60 km/h, the Jackaroo levelled out and begun cruising over the top of the ‘rumble strips,’ so that’s how we drove it – fast, given the conditions.
The van immediately proved its worth and helped us reach places that we couldn’t otherwise have gone. There is a part of me that still wishes I was cruising around in an old split-screen VW Camper, but the more practical part of me realises that this new home will enable me to go so many more places.
The first night in the van, we were treated to a beautiful sunset at Three Mile Camp after a day of snorkelling and having not started the bed conversion, I removed the two back seats and folded the three middle seats forwards, leaving a flat space of around 1.5 metres. At 1.83 metres tall, I didn’t find it particularly comfortable.
Thus the van conversion had to begin. The picture here shows the space available with the two back seats removed and the the three middle seats folded forward. My plan was to create a folding platform that would support half of a mattress with the other half being supported by the folded seats.
I made it simply, with hammer and nails, during a single lunch break. Essentially I used seven packers (offcuts I bought for cheap) as the supports for a 1.2 x 0.9 m board of ply. I put one in each corner and three running along the middle. The middle three are connected at the base by a length of two by one timber to stop them slipping. I then added a second piece of ply (1.2 x 0.6 m) which I attached to the first with a hinge. This now gives a folding platform inside the car that allows the car to be converted from a five seater to a two seater with a bed in under one minute. [the ply was warped when I bought it, but I hope this will straighten out over time]
That’s all there is to it. Under the bed there is enough storage to fit six (or possibly eight) 20 litre containers, plus a little extra. On top of the bed frame, we put a folding foam mattress, aiding the quick conversion time. I am surprised at how simple it was to do and how well it works. With the middle seats up and the mattress folded, we can store all our baggage (in addition to the 120+ litres of space under the bed). With the bed down, we can move anything we don’t need to the front seats, although hopefully everything will be contained under the frame. We only have one backpack each after all. And even though the frame is only 1.5m long, the mattress is longer and I slept comfortably during my first night with my feet hanging off the end. If needed, I can fold the front seats back and remove the headrests to provide a little further support for the end of the mattress.
For now, I will continue to spend my time in Carnarvon, working and saving after several years on the road, but I am excited for the day (in a couple of months) when I get into my new home and hit the road, heading north with no plans, no turning back. The music will be playing loud, the windows will be down, and I will have everything I need in my little makeshift home. I dream of heading to the wild, camping out far from everything, and getting to see some of the more wild places of Australia.