Wheel adventure on the cheap

Cruising interstate in a motorised palace is the only way to drive your dollar, writes Dan Goldberg.

WHAT Relocating a motorhome, which is mumbo-jumbo for driving a large truck - replete with up to six beds, a kitchen, dining table, microwave, toilet, shower, television and DVD - from point A to B.

WHERE Motorhome companies need people to relocate their vehicles between major cities.

HOW MUCH One dollar a day. No, that's not an error. Nor is it a scam. Rather, it's probably the greatest way to travel this sunburnt country. We took a six-berth Winnebago (think hotel on wheels) from Sydney to Melbourne. It usually costs $350 a day to hire during peak periods. But it can be yours for $1 a day (some companies have the temerity to charge a whopping $5 a day). We also were slugged $26 a day for insurance. So our five-day adventure cost a bank-busting $135! Flights for four of us back to Sydney were courtesy of frequent-flyer points, though the taxes came to $141.12.

WHY Three major reasons: first, the global financial meltdown. If you're downgrading from a fancy resort holiday or an overseas odyssey, this is an awesome, adventurous and alternative vacation that won't break the bank.

Second, this oversized island is a driver's dream and there's no better way to experience it than by motorhome. And the best part? With a decent five-day deadline, we simply beach-hopped down the coastline, soaked up the sun and revelled in the unpredictability of our travels.

At Jervis Bay, for example, we found ourselves inside Booderee National Park, where we frolicked in the emerald water at a beautiful beach named Green Patch.

On the Sapphire Coast near Merimbula, we saw a sign to a fun park called Magic Mountain. We took the turn ... and the children took to the water slides with gusto.

At Genoa, just north of Cann River, we turned left towards Gypsy Point and Mallacoota because we suddenly remembered someone mentioning it as a hidden gem. Forty minutes later we confirmed the rumour.

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And so it goes. Every turn - and every wrong turn - brings with it the possibility of a secluded beach, a secret lagoon, a concealed cove. We got lost at Batemans Bay. Then we stumbled upon McKenzies Beach and realised we were not lost at all. We had just discovered a desolate beach.

This, then, is the essence of travelling by motorhome and the final reason to go: it is one of the rare times when, to borrow the old axiom, a holiday is all about the journey, not the destination.

The only point about the destination is in the fine print of the contract: if you fail to deliver the motorhome on time, you will lose your bond (about $1000-$1500).

There are two catches, however: first, it's a one-way ticket. Getting home is your problem. But look on the bright side: who wants to travel, say, from Sydney to Melbourne, then drive all the way back? Second, you've got to be flexible with your dates and prepared to wait until virtually the last minute to secure a vehicle.

Two tips: check the model and year of the truck. The difference lies in the details: a flat-screen television versus a chunky monitor; leather seats versus cloth upholstery; a sparkling toilet versus, well, a not-so-sparkling one. And when they say they need the motorhome relocated within three days, say you can only do it in five.

FREE STUFF First and foremost, the sights - beaches, bays, breathtaking vistas. And sounds - crashing waves, kookaburras at daybreak, gum trees swaying in the breeze. The smell of the ocean and of eggs sizzling on the stove less than two metres from your head. You also get bed linen and towels and a kitchen stocked with all the basics - even a plunger coffee pot.

ADDED BONUS Most companies pay between $100 and $150 in petrol for a Sydney-Melbourne trip. As one agent put it: "You get a cheap way of getting around Australia and we get a cheap way of getting our vehicles around Australia."

DETAILS Kea Campers, (02) 8707 5500 or keacampers.com; Apollo, 1800 777 779 or apollocamper.com; Britz, 1800 331 454 or britz.com.au; Maui, (03) 8379 8891 or maui.com.au; Around Australia, (02) 9875 3609 or aamotorhomes.com.au. You must have a standard driver's licence and be 21 or older.

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