Location: South Africa/Australia
Date: July 2011

July 31, 2011. I've been getting a bit lazy lately so I decided to go for a walk around the block - a habit I really need to cultivate. Half way around I spotted a Winnebago parked by the Manning River at Taree so, being partial to a bit of a chat, I wandered down there. After taking a few pics, I said g'day to the bloke relaxing inside the motorhome. A few minutes later, his wife popped her head around the corner and joined the convo. And that's how I met Pru and Mike. I was standing at the driver's door window while they were seated at a table just behind the cab.

It was a gorgeous day, sunny and not a breath of wind. The glassy surface of the Manning reflected Martin Bridge and the clouds like a mirror... the perfect spot to enjoy a cuppa before heading off to Newcastle on their way back to Sydney after spending a month touring the Queensland coast. I mentioned that I'd just bought an old Toyota campervan and that I intended to travel Oz once Das Busse was fit to go... that it was my "project". Pru and Mike have been traveling Oz for many years. In their younger days, they roughed it in tents but now they enjoy the luxury of the Winnebago. They've already done the big round Australia trip so these days they settle for a few weeks to a month at a time traveling to various places such as Queensland and Victoria's east coast from their home base in Sydney.

They mentioned crossing the Nullarbor and how fascinating it was. Rather than trying to cross it quickly, they took five to six days, taking side roads and camping overnight along the way. They said the countryside was fascinating, and couldn't understand why so many people were in such a hurry to cover as much distance as possible. They said there's a lot to see and discover, and it's worth taking your time. Mike also said that wireless phone and internet coverage was quite good even in remote areas when near a main road. The Winnebago is fitted with solar panels, air-conditioning and carries a portable generator. Oh yes... and there are lots of wild camels roaming the Nullarbor... sometimes becoming victims of speeding road trains.

Tasmania is another place Pru and Mike recommended... a very beautiful place to visit and discover, and very friendly towards travelers. We talked briefly about the trip across Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, and how that is also part of the adventure. In fact, Mike used the word "adventure" quite a few times as he talked about traveling Oz.

When I quoted a young traveler from Sweden I met a few months ago as saying "do what you can while you can", Mike said touring Oz was more a matter of health than age, and that he and Pru had met quite a few gray nomads in their seventies and eighties, as well as young families with kids. He said there are lot of travelers "out there" and that campers regularly formed small communities - safety in numbers. Pru said they had only one bad experience when a bunch of teens rocked their van at night - silly young kids. Otherwise, public camping grounds were quite safe and friendly. The Winnebago is self-contained so they rarely stay at caravan parks... too expensive for one thing, and who the hell wants to travel Oz to see tennis courts, swimming pools and golf courses?

One time they visited Lightning Ridge and met a wonderful character there... an author who visited the town some years ago and decided to stay. They said country people are very friendly and approachable, much more so than city people. Also, there are lots of fellow travelers to meet, not only Aussies but people from England, Germany, France and other European countries. Not so many Asians although there's been an increase in Chinese visitors lately. Asians mostly travel in organized groups anyway because of the language barrier. Also, the high Aussie dollar (currently at 1.10USD) is keeping some tourists away. If I remember correctly, they said you don't see many Americans but occasionally meet Canadians.

By the way, when I first spoke to Mike I noted his cultured accent. I thought he might be Engish at first, but changed my mind... he's more likely a well educated Aussie. He'd need to be worth a few bob as well... those Winnes don't come cheap. Anyway, it was very nice to meet Pru and Mike. "We might see you again on your travels," they said before heading off to Newcastle. Click here for the photo album.

July 20, 2011. Yes, folks, I've cheated again. I pinched a bunch of pics I found on a newsgroup about the very first caravan made in Oz. Tasmania, to be precise. You might not be able to read the text postings attached to the display, so I've transcribed them for you:

1922 Model-T Ford "Woody" Station Wagon. Built in Tasmania, the Woody was used to tow the Bailey family's caravan. According to Model-T historians, the Woody wagon was most likely assembled in Tasmania from parts shipped to Australia from Ford Canada. The original body frame may well have been made from shipping crates. Modeled on American-built Woodies, this vehicle was re-built 10 years ago by the Antique Motor Museum's Martin Morris. Its body construction is now predominately Tasmanian oak. According to experts, the four-seater wagon would have been a 1920's version of today's four-wheel-drives. Model-Ts were very competent off road in their day. Their narrow wheels sank down through mud and found hard ground underneath. The cars were strong too - Henry Ford used Vanadium steel in his axles. The steel was such good quality, the first Australian Sidchrome spanners were made from melted-down Model-T axles. Model-Ts also had a substantial 250mm ground clearance, and the steering gear and ignition were mounted high in the engine bay out of harm's way during creek crossings. The bullet-proof 2.9 liter, 17 kilowatt four-cylinder engine delivered strong torque for its size. The engine and transmission in this Model-T Ford were overhauled in November 1997 and it has traveled very little distance since then. The Woody runs well and was driven here to the show, towing its caravan.

Australia's First Caravan. No records show evidence of a caravan having been built in Australia prior to this rare example of caravanning and camping. It was delivered as a "hunting caravan" and was built by a boatbuilder in the mid 1920s for the Bailey family of "Lyndhurst", a property near Deloraine in Tasmania. The family used it for regular hunting and fishing trips and towed it behind their Model-T Ford Station Wagon. A check of the inside roof will show construction akin to boat building. The Tasmanian Oak frame has then had canvas stretched over it and then this surface has been painted. The small opening windows in the roof show that a lot of thought was put into this design. The two-piece rear door (who said rear-door caravans were a recent development?) gives access to 3 seats/beds, a folding table and a folding seat. There is storage under the seats. A special axle and springs were fabricated along with a semi spring coupling. T-model wheels to match the tow vehicle were then fitted. Earliest records show that Australia's first production caravans were built by R J Ranking in Sydney's Newtown from 1929. The unit is now owned by The Caravan Trade and Industries Association of Queensland.

Click here for the photo album.

July 8, 2011. Strictly speaking, this entry doesn't belong here on the Journal but I didn't know where else to put it. My mate Art from North Carolina sent a bunch of pics of a new South African airline that "doesn't take itself too seriously". I can't vouch for the authenticity of all this, so don't blame me if it's a practical joke. Actually, I suspect it is a joke. But what the hell... it's amusing anyway.

Check out the album here and then come back to this page to read some of the anecdotes. Or you can read the notes first and check out the album later... dozen madder.

Kulula is an Airline with head office situated in Johannesburg. Kulula airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight "safety lecture" and announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported: 

On a Kulula flight, (there is no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced, "People, people we're not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!" 

On another flight with a very "senior" flight attendant crew, the pilot said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants." 

On landing, the stewardess said, "Please be sure to take all of your belongings.. If you're going to leave anything, please make sure it's something we'd like to have." 

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane." 

"Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride." 

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport , a lone voice came over the loudspeaker:  "Whoa, big fella. WHOA!" 

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in the Karoo, a flight attendant on a flight announced, "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted." 

From a Kulula employee: "Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth. To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised." 

"In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favourite." 

"Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines." 

"Your seats cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments." 

"As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.." 

And from the pilot during his welcome message: "Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!" 

Heard on Kulula 255 just after a very hard landingin Cape Town : The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "That was quite a bump and I know what y'all are thinking. I'm here to tell you it wasn't the airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it wasn't the flight  attendant's fault, it was the asphalt." 

Overheard on a Kulula flight into Cape Town, on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain really had to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!" 

Another flight attendant's comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal." 

An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a "Thanks for flying our airline". He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, "Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?" "Why, no Ma'am," said the pilot. "What is it?" The little old lady said, "Did we land, or were we shot down?"

After a real crusher of a landing in Johannesburg , the attendant came on with, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.." 

Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement:  "We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today.. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you'll think of Kulula Airways." 

Heard on a Kulula flight: "Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing.. If you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em."

If you haven't seen the photo album yet, click here.


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