The Jabiru Experience
Finally, it was time for the three of us to hit the road for a month long road trip in Halen, our new Trakka Jabiru. We’d ordered a two seater, so Daisy McCrazy Dale (the groodle) made herself comfortable on the floor between Kathy and I in a harness. With no fixed itinerary for a month we were heading from Sydney to the Murray River, on route to South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, then the Eyre Peninsula returningvia the Great Ocean Road.
Given the choice of a caravan park or freedom–camping, it’s a free camp every time for us. Plus travelling with Daisy meant no National Park campgrounds, so our Jabiru is customised for our type of travel. The beautiful Murray River abounds with free camp sites, and the month of May meant the diesel heater inside or log fires outside kept us immune from the pre-winter coldness.
Travelling the open road in the Mercedes Sprinter powered by a 3.0 litre V6 is very much like travelling in a car, which is no small feat given it is seven metres long and nearly three metres tall. Surprisingly we were only using about eleven litres of diesel per one kilometre, which is pretty amazing when you consider the Jabiru is over four tonnes.
Each day we visited old river towns looking for history, went for long walks and enjoyed the beauty of the Murray. The river was low on water, but it was hauntingly beautiful. Fully, self-contained we didn’t stay long in town, seeking some solitude and the quiet you don’t find in Sydney. Why would you travel any other way? No motel can offer this scenery, no tent offers this level of comfort, and no restaurant cooks a leg of lamb roast dinner slowly while you watch the sun go down with a mandatory afternoon drink in hand.
On the Murray River, we were relaxing but we were also waiting. Waiting for the arrival of our touring partners, the Egans in their TrakkaTorino. The Egans had been companions on plenty of adventuresbefore, but this one was going to cover 8,000kms.
Once the Egans arrived we worked our way down via the Mallee Highway to Victor Harbour for few days of R&R before we headed across to Kangaroo Island.
Victor Harbour is close to the McLaren Vale wine region and the surrounding rural area is beautiful farmland and forest. Wandering around the wine region we were bamboozled for winery choice, and then we stumbled upon White Feather Winery on a backroad. On passing through the main gates, a flock of geese honked loudly to warn of our arrival, and Daisy was left in charge of security inside the van whilst we wine tasted. Owned and operated by the larger than life, ‘Moondog’, the winery makes organic wines and olive oil and it was all really very good. The cellar door has a large open log fireplace in the courtyard, hand carved wooden furniture from reclaimed pier pylons and a resident maremma dog. We learned the winery back story from Moondog over a couple of hours. The wines were more than good enough to plant a couple of bottles in the van wine cellar and some olive oil for cooking and bread dipping. If you are down that way you must drop by for a non traditional winery experience.
On one of the exploration days we landed in the village of Wilunga in the heart of the McLaren Vale region. Not only is there a terrific walk from Wilunga to McLaren Vale on an old rail line, the town has historic charm and the locals are artistic and passionate about fresh produce. The farmer’s market was in full swing so we stocked up on artisan sourdough, local fruit and vegetables plus a range of delicacies. We absorbed this produce into our diet over the next few days, and it was fresh and tasty. We had great fun turning the produce into meals in the Jabiru kitchen. It’s the unexpected encounters like these on a road trip that make it a personalised adventure, one not available in a package holiday itinerary.
Both the Egan Torino and Dale Jabiru set off one morning for the ferry ride to Kangaroo Island at Cape Jervis. We had plenty of time according to my estimates, but apparently I put the wrong address into the navigation so we went in the wrong direction. We only just made it to the ferry on time, and my companions were less than charitable about leaving me in charge again.
The ferry ride to Kangaroo Island takes less than an hour, and the view back to Cape Jervis with its wind farms and the view forward to Penneshaw are both captivating. We crossed the strait along with the other tourists, a truck load of sheep, and a couple of impatient horses, arriving in time for lunch in Penneshaw, a quaint village. Here we learned that the term ‘’mainlanders’’ differentiates locals from visitors.
We were to spend six days and five nights on Kangaroo Island, and we stayed only one night in a caravan park that was included in our ferry fare. The other nights were in Council campgrounds with the other dog owning tourists or freecamping on the ocean. Our tour was in a clockwise direction and we spent the first night in Vivonne Bay. The wind was blustery, and after a walk across to the commercial fishing pier a few kilometres away we had afternoon drinks under a gum tree in the campground. Wayne noticed a scatter of animal manure and commented about the possums around here. I looked up to find a sleeping koala two metres about our heads. This koala stayed around for a couple of days before moving on and it was terrific to be up close to this relaxed little fella.
Warm windy days and cool nights were on offer and the Kangaroo Island Council campgrounds offered power and toilet facilities at a low fee, but the water was rationed a little to see us through the trip. We bounced across plenty of dirt roads over the next few days, visiting wineries (again), the eucalyptus plantation, cheese makers, Kangaroo Island gin distillery and a couple of national parks. I was really impressed by the lack of rattles from the Jabiru camper fitout.
We entered the National Parks one vehicle at a time with Daisy Dog residing in the van outside the park which meant a book reading session or a bush walk for the others. It’s not all princesses and ponies on Kangaroo Island….. it’s a tough island and somewhat harsh environment to survive.
After touristing our way through the seal colonies at Seal Bay Conservation Park we drove to Flinders Chase National Park on the islands south western edge where we saw the Remarkable Rocks, the lighthouse, plenty of Koalas and some stunning Cape Baron geesebefore continuing through to the main town Kingscote and back to the mainland. Allow a week on Kangaroo Island if you are heading down that way, this travel story would be too long to do justice to all the great times we had on Kangaroo Island.
Next we had a decent road trip across to the Eyre Peninsula with Port Lincoln as the destination. The Eyre Peninsula was a long drive on straight roads, the landscape was dry and barren with paddocks ploughed and ready for the wheat crop to be planted once the rain came. The rain was late so there was much conjecture regards the risk to farmers should the rain not arrive soon. The Eyre Peninsula is full of agricultural ports, where sheep, wool and wheat travelled to the nearest town to then be shipped by sea to major cities. The hay-day for the region was the latter half of the 1800’s when the economy rested on strong demand for Australian agricultural produce. Many smaller port towns have lost viability today, with nothing more than the local hotel still trading. The irony that you can still buy a beer and meal in town but everything else was a long drive is hard to reconcile.
These hotels were grand buildings of bold varied architectural styles that look majestic today and allude to the wealth that once abounded. These hotels were the centre of social life for farmers, traders and accommodation for those travelling through. Once you enter beyond their facades, you can absorb the old bars, the high ornate ceilingsobscured with over one hundred years of paint and the walls abound with photographs that make these pubs the unofficial museums of their town.
As we approached Port Lincoln the landscape became greener, the water bluer and we felt some economic prosperity returned. Although a city, Port Lincoln felt like a large country town, where the Torino and Jabiru could wash away the dust and we could stay in the one spot for a few days. On the eastern edge of the Great Australian Bight we hiked, shopped and visited nearby Coffin Bay to experience the famed Coffin Bay oysters. It is well worth a visit to the region and there is plenty to do and see. I admit in Port Lincoln we turned on the Jabiru’s TV to catch up on current affairs and did an open air cinema night with the TV playing a DVD or two facing out the cargo door whilst we sat outsidefor a bit of a change. Funny in all the times I have been in a campground I haven’t seen this done before, but it is so easy to achieve via the forward TV post in the Jabiru.
Once we reached our most western destination we headed back to Sydney via the Coonawarra wine region, then the Great Ocean Road for some winter surfing and then up the coast from Eden to Sydney and back to the daily grind.
At this point you are probably wondering what was the better Trakka to take on the holiday?
It is not a competition - but if it was a competition the Jabiru won it hands down. But don’t tell Wayne I said that, Torino owners can be a bit slow in recognizing the truth when they hear it. There are plenty of ways to find your own adventure but there are none more comfortable, refined and complete than a Trakka. We camped in dust, dirt, rain and near freezing temperatures outside but with always with a controlled environment inside.
Adventure is out there waiting for you, go and grab your own.