Intermezzo : our life as ‘Outback Nomads’

Many of you probably wonder how we live in our car… And how we cook and keep a household running on the road.

Let’s start with the most easy part, sleeping. Inside our car a huge mattress is placed, including two pillows and a duvet. Around all windows we have curtains and the back window has a mosquito net, which proves to be a real comfort at dusk. Why did the gods create these horrible animals? Mosquitos and flies are things I’ll probably never get accustomed to by living in a natural environment! Even at writing this, my iPad is covered with a myriad of insects enjoying the light. (and by typing this text, a graveyard is created because my fingers often hit some of the creeping ones)
This interior makes camping along the roads an easy task… Park the car, prepare the bed, climb inside and close the curtains. Outsiders can hardly know someone sleeps inside. What a comfort! And with the real bedclothes it’s comfortable sleeping, even for someone as tall as I am. Our Janis is a really big one.
If we want, we can use a tent hidden in the cars interior and we also have a tent to arrange at the back of the car, especially comfortable with heavy winds. But we don’t need any special equipment to go sleeping. Mostly we arrive too late at a campsite we don’t spend time at placing our tents.

Cooking goes also quite easy, with a small butane gas fire and a couple of dishes, some spoons, numerous plastic jars in different formats and some pans, our meals are quickly prepared. Ilse proves to be an excellent road cook, she has always ideas about what to make with our supplies. Because of the heat, the lack of an adequate cooling system – we just have an excellent esky – and extremely high prices for fruit and vegetables, we cannot take that much fresh food with us.
Basically we take dry stuff… rice, spaghetti, spirelli, rice noodles, crackers, milk powder, tuna, canned vegetables and so on. Along the road we buy fresh supplies, like carrots, onions, cauliflower, cheese, bread,… to combine with the basic dry nutrients. If we are lucky we can find a farmer who sells veggies at reasonable prices. Last we bought a watermelon piece, in that heat a real party dish!
We also carry some spices and prepared sausages to spice up the meals.
Part of the car is reserved for water, approx 35 litres on a standard trip. We use that for everything, cooking, drinking, washing,… So this needs to be refilled quite often and sometimes we really need to regulate our supplies carefully.
Upon arrival on our campsite we place our table and chairs at the back of the car and start to prepare a dish. In some situations we use the picnic tables along the road or prepare a meal at the gas barbecues at some camping areas. Sometimes at a camping a real kitchen is provided, but we’re mostly somewhere unseen.
Inside the car there is also a box with things like silver paper, plastic bags, dustbins, cleaning liquids,… The necessities of every household.
On our roof rack we carry some good pieces of wood for a campfire and a full set of fishing gear is provided. However none of us really knows how to use it… And the idea of beheading and cleaning fish makes our stomach turn. Perhaps if our budget runs low, this equipment can save us from starvation…

Washing ourselves is much harder. At many locations we use public showers – often only with cold water, at some campings showers are provided and otherwise we use natural sources like lakes or beaches.
We carry also a solar shower with us, but we didn’t use it yet, especially because sufficient water supplies are not always that easy to find. Only cleaning our tooth is a daily routine!
The laundry we can do at some campings, what we mostly do in bigger cities. Drying depends on where we find some lines, but we carry a couple of ropes for that purpose with us, so all we need are some good trees to attach them, an easy task in the bushes. Our clothes we take in two separated boxes, one for clean clothes and one for the laundry. What we often forget, is that campsites allow laundry only within certain hours, so we miss these regularly…
Toilets can be found everywhere in nature or at some public spots, depending of the location…

Another important part of our camping material are car parts and repair kits. There is a whole manual included about how to maintain the car and we carry numerous spare parts, knowing that we need to be able to help ourselves in the middle of nowhere. But luckily many Australians know our car very well, so help is never that far away when we hear something strange in the inner parts of Janis. If we stand along the road almost everyone stops to ask if we need help and if we ask someone about something, they always make time for help. Amazing to experience! After all, the Australians always seem to have plenty of time. They never look stressed, take their time to answer questions and always looks happy. They hardly ever make overtime – don’t do today what can wait till tomorrow…
Sometimes mechanics even help us with this or that for free. Mostly they give us really valuable information about how we can arrange this or fix that and if they don’t know, they give us immediately information where we can find what we seek.
The whole gamma of necessary liquids travels along. Brake fluid, WD-40, radiator liquid, motor oil, grease,… And also numerous spare parts, oil and fuel filters, spark plugs, fuses, belts and tubes.
Besides we carry some special equipment for the heavy tracks. Two new tyres, two 20l jerrycans for fuel – our beauty drinks about 15l/100km on normal roads, more on the off-road 4WD tracks – a compressor to adjust our tyre pressure after some hard trails and a pair of booster cables.
Some good road maps and travel guides are placed in the front seats, completed with the good documentation of the tourist information bays from all locations and the camp 6 book, with all free camping sites through Australia. And good lamps! Once its dark, there are only the numerous stars and the moon to guide us. Public lights are for some rare moments.
But we never ever miss these, the starlight is incredibly beautiful over here. Without all the light pollution we are almost daily able to enjoy the stars from every angle. Sometimes we combine this with amazing sunsets or lovely moonrises.

A last part of our equipment is a 12V – 220V generator. With this attached to our cigarette lighter, we can load all our electronic stuff, such as the iPad, our mobiles, the external hard drives and the batteries for our cameras. Thanks to that piece we’re almost entirely self sufficient for the power supplies.
The internet and mobile connections are quite poor. Only in cities we have a good receiving, there we can upload our blogs or make a Skype call with the mobile data networks. Once we’re in the outback, we almost never have a signal. Especially in the National Parks and the less inhabited areas internet is poor. At the other hand, once we have a 3G connection, that works extremely well. So it makes us plan how, where and when we can make external connection.

This equipment is very basic compared with the numerous caravans, vans, tent cars and other camper stuff that passes us daily on the roads. However both of us find our car well equipped for a trip in relative luxury during this Australia adventure.
The Grey Nomads here carry mostly huge camper vans with them, sometimes with a small 4WD at the back. Many locals are on the road with their fully equipped 4WD and a small boat behind or on their roof. It’s really amazing to see what camper stuff they have!

During our trips it is very important to keep everything covered… Many times we travel along the ‘dirt roads’, unsealed gravel or sand roads. Along these, we carry a huge dirt cloud behind us or are blessed with the ones of others. As the day passes, the layer of dirt in our car also increases, sometimes we arrive at night as little red guys. Nothing at all is safe for these all-covering layers of Australian sands.
And if we’re on the sealed roads, many dead kangaroos lie along the way, while we keep our eyes on the everlasting long straight lanes. At twilight all kangaroos come out, so it’s a better idea to be on our sleeping spot before that time. We really don’t want one of these on our bumper! At other times emus, cows, horses, sheeps, goats,… cross the roads. Enough (wild)life to entertain us during driving.

And so each of you has now an idea about how we live here between the red sands, the long roads and many animals. Unforgettable about this adventure are the amazing sleeping spots you come along and the natural rhythm of dawn and sunset. The living periods are much more in harmony with nature itself, what brings rest and relaxation!
When we arrive at many locations, the silence is often overwhelming. No electromagnetic pollution, no electricity, no lights… Simply nature in all it’s beauty! The Australians themselves also respect each other a lot, camping sites are almost every time extremely quiet.
We really have a feeling of security! At night we can leave the car open at certain caravan parks, without worries. This makes all much comfortable and gives us real pleasure. At other times – especially when we camp hither or thither ‘illegal’ – we carefully seal our car and are always a little bit nervous.
Another superb thing are the constant sunshine – and when we see a cloud, we can almost every time see where it starts and stops. They cast some defined shadows on the surface. The endless clouds of the Belgian skies lie for some time far far far behind.

Sleep well… We’ll do the same in our camper 4WD.