Thursday, June 5, 2014

My First Ever Mobilehome Experience, and I'm Loving It!

Ever since I read about Australia mobilehome self-drive tour featured in The Star few years back, I have put this into my bucket list. (Hmm..... to be more accurate, I think it started with Mickey, Donald and Goofy's Trailer short clip decades ago)

Anyway, during last round of Air Asia promotion, I found cheap airfare that I cannot resist, and Australia immediately bypass all the other countries in my "Must-Go" list and became my 2014 destination.

I love my mobilehome!!
It's easy to handle (power steering, manual transmission), it has lots of storage space for driver (I have cap, handphone, tumbler, specs/sunglasses, manuals and brochures with me all the time and still have lots of empty storage space), it has almost every necessities (except washing machine, of course) a home needed, and much more comfortable than I imagined.

I love this mode of travel. I love the flexibility. I love the fact that we can stop anywhere, anytime. I love the closeness of travelers because you have to always work in a team. I love the great views (and changing views) every time you look out of your windows. I love the fact that everyone can be a nomad :)

Since mobilehome is not popular in Malaysia, and I have friends that wish to know a lot more details about a mobilehome, I decide to share my first ever mobilehome experience here.

First of all, let's look at the interior design and layout of a mobilehome.
We booked a 6 berth Cheapa Campa. It's a Ford (My dad asked about the brand of the car when I touched down at Penang. I couldn't answer so I did a quick search before I blog about this). It is 7.7m long, 2.3m wide and 3.5m tall.
There are 2 dining areas, which both can turn into a double bed. Another double bed is placed at the top of the driver's seat (as shown below).
The tiny cell between the 2 dining areas is the shower + basin + toilet.
The kitchen comes with 3-burners gas stoves, a refrigerator, a sink, and a microwave. Oh, and the cabinets are full with cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery.
There are two air conditioning/heating systems, one in the front seat just like any other cars, one at the center of the mobile home.
There are also built in cabinets at 3 sides of the car interior and under the sofas so we have lots of storage area.
All the windows can be opened, and are covered with insect screens.

View of the kitchen from driver seat

View from the dining area at the back of the mobilehome

The smaller dining area, just behind the driver seat

The bed above of the driver seat

3 burners stove. Close the cover and you get flat top

View from the bed at the back. (3 sides windows)

Small window at the bed above of driver seat (still, with great view)

Can I actually camp anywhere I want?
Legally, no, not really. Each countries and states have different rules about parking your vehicles at roadside / parks etc so you better check before you decide (or if you don't mind doing it illegally and get some officers knock on your door at 2am)

Is it feasible? Yes. This mobile home comes with dual battery and 2x4.5kg gas bottles. Refrigerator, TV and DVD player all run on the battery that charged while driving. The hot water runs on gas. The only things that can't function when the car is not plugged in are the air conditioning / heating system, microwave and plugs. You can still cook and wash and sleep (can't charge your hand-phones though). The mobile home also come with a 100 litre water tank.

So you can camp anywhere you want as long as you can cook without the microwave, if you can live in the room without air conditioning / heating system, and if you can live with that 100 litre water (or you have other sources of water).

Is it safe? Well, at least I felt safe. Just lock the car and be cautious.

So how and where to shower, poo poo and wee wee?
Just go to the toilet, obviously. :)
The toilet design is pretty cool. Picture on the right shows the normal position when you can use the toilet bowl.
When you are not using, you have to switch the knob (look carefully at the knob next to the toilet bowl) to close position so that your car won't get contaminated by the smell. When using, just switch the knob to open position, do your business, flush and switch back to close position again.

When you need to brush your teeth or wash your face, you can just fold down the basin. The basin use shower head as water tab so there is just one water outlet for wash and shower.
However, we try our best to use the public toilet whenever we can to reduce the frequency of clearing the toilet cassette.

So the waste water (including 'something else', you know) just flow out from the mobile home?
There is a waste water tank with 100 litre capacity to store the water from sink, basin and shower. You can discharge the waste water (I think Australian called this "grey water") at the designated caravan parks or roadside stops.
For toilet, there is actually another separate portable cassette. You need to put the toilet chemical into the cassette waste tank. The toilet chemical is for killing bacteria, use a biological action to break down waste material and mask any smell. Of course, you have to make sure that you dispose the "black water" only at the designated location!

I forgot to take photos of the cassette so here I share a video from Youtube:

Do I need to bring amenities?
Well, it depends. When I rented the mobilehome from Apollo, I bought a 'Value Pack Coverage' which came with liability reduction, free one-way fee, linen and bedding kits, extra driver, camping chairs and table. So we have linens, blankets, bath towels, pillows and pillow cases. (The Apollo worker that served us was a 1-week-old employee, and he forgot to give us the Welcome Pack which supposed to include mini shampoo and conditioner, soap, sponge, dish-washing liquid, matches, salt and pepper, coffee and tea and sugar sachets).
Make sure you get the camping chairs and table. You will regret for not having meals outdoor.

Is the space big enough to stay comfortably?
Well, to be fair, 4 of us stayed in a 6 berth mobilehome so you can't take my word as sole reference. Besides, 4 of us are pretty small in size :)
This mobilehome is with walk-through design. 4 of us have no problem preparing food and cook together.
Because we have one extra double bed, we converted one of the dining area into a double bed permanently during our rental period, and we still have one dining area to use. Hence, we save the headache of converting every night.
If you park at powered site campervan park, everything works as if you are staying in a tiny studio apartment.
Taking from my bed above the driver seat. Look at all the cooking utensils and food!

Do you face any difficulties to operate the mobilehome?
Well, to be honest, there are so much to learn! We spent almost 1.5 hours at Melbourne Apollo Rental just to learn the details, inside and outside!
Windows must be close all the time during driving; Passengers are not supposed to walk around while driving and must sit only at the front dining area (well, this one we never followed); Clean and waste water tank level must be checked frequently; Need to switch on the water pump before use; Gas must turned off (outside of the car) when not in use; Disposal of grey and black water etc.

Converting the dining table into a double bed

Learning to operate the side awning - I'm dying to use this but got no chance to.

Learning to open and close the gas tank supply

Any other tips?
Well, make sure you keep EVERTHING in the cabinets before you start your journey. We imagined that HT and ST can slowly take their time to arrange the stuff while I drive. We were so wrong! Goods flew everywhere. Both of them having difficult time saving all the stuff and ended up having car sick.

I missed the mobilehome trip already......

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