Tips when hiring a campervan

2 berth Endeavour Camper

Note: I am not receiving any benefit from any company I may mention or whose logo may be visible on my blog. This is the vehicle I chose after researching and planning my four week trip for two plus aged people from Brisbane to FNQ. [Far North Queensland, for non Queenslanders.]

Things to ask yourself, and anyone else planning on travelling with you, BEFORE you seriously research campervans, motorhomes and companies providing them:

  1. What’s my tentative itinerary? You’ll need a good idea of this so that you can book the most suitable vehicle and decide if you are going to make a round trip booking or a one way booking. Identify places you would like to explore and how many days you might stay there as well as how many kilometres you might travel on a day along your route.
  2. How long will I need the campervan or motorhome for? [Your answers to Question 1 should help answer this question.] Longer term hires and also early bookings trigger discounts.
  3. What’s my camping style? Am I going off road? What type of camps might I use? All chain tourist companies, independent camp grounds, bush or farm camps or free camps or a mixture of all of these? You’ll need to know this to decide the type of vehicle, 4WD or not, toilet and shower on board?
One type of figuration of the Mercedez Benz Sprinter 2 berth

Once you have given the above suggestions some thought, you are ready to research the types of campervans or motorhomes available and the different companies providing them. They all have the same or similar vehicles. Obviously I got a deal that I was happy with from Apollo. However, although I booked online, I called the company first to talk about the interior configuration that I wanted and I was happy to see that, on pick up, my request had been granted, either by specific action or the luck of the draw! For me, the advantage of the above configuration was that the driver’s seat swivelled so that we could use the table behind it and do away with the one provided to be used daytime at the back. This meant that I could leave the bed made up- very much more convenient, especially as I was the sole driver and a couple of times pulled up at a rest area to have a short snooze while my husband had a cup of tea. There are storage spaces under the bed. Our two camp chairs slid neatly into one side. The extension power cord, water hose and drainage tube fitted under the centre part of the bed during travel. The folding outdoor table fitted neatly between the bed and the back door.

Having the bed permanently made up did pose some accessibility issues regarding a couple of the cupboards [ plus aged spines and knees] however that was solved by putting groceries in zip supermarket bags and sliding them under the front of the bed.

Now for the REALLY important part!

You now have a good idea of your itinerary, duration of your hire, pick up and drop off locations, type of vehicle and companies you’ve decided to engage with for quotes.

The REALLY important part is the FINE print. What’s included but especially the different tiers of INSURANCE. My decision was to go with the company’s low level insurance which incurred a $5000 refundable deposit from my credit card BUT to take out DOMESTIC Travel Insurance with RACQ getting a member discount and apart from windscreen and tyre insurance, covering me and my husband for everything, including pre existing medical issues, from the day I purchased it. This solved the issue of booking early without a cancellation policy and was way cheaper than the company options.

The extras I included with the company were windscreen and tyre insurance, cleaning and fuel refill. Yep! On the third day on the road a wide load vehicle threw up a huge stone and caused a star puncture in front of the driver’s view. As we’ve had this experience many times when travelling in our own campervans, this was almost expected. I would never go without windscreen insurance, or tyres for that matter.

Other tips:

A toaster was provided. We bought a cheap electric jug to use when on a powered site. We forgot to take our Aldi induction cooktop. Sigh!

We were picking the vehicle up from our home city so I swapped the doona, pillows and towels for our own and added useful extra tea towels and cooking utensils. [My husband is a fussy chef even when on holiday.] I had a washable mat for the inside of the camper but an outside one would have been good, especially as we spent a significant time in the red earth and dry areas.

We also left our Australia Camps book at home and missed it when looking for free camps and rest areas. The Wikicamps app was fine when we had connectivity however we spent quite some time in the bush.

Leichhardt Lagoon – a bush type camp near Normanton. Great stay there.

Some final information that may be useful when on the road:

We travelled a total of 5,363.3km starting on a full tank and then purchasing 453.82 litres in total during the trip. The tank was half full when I returned the vehicle. We almost ran out of diesel when we were too lazy to fill up early, believing signs saying that fuel was available in two places along the route. It wasn’t – sole pumps closed – and we spent an anxious 40 km using the “reserve” fuel but thankfully making it to the service station. I calculated that we had done 660km on a full tank.

Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park, in the Northern Territory, Australia, is 106km from Darwin whereas Kakadu National Park is 305km by the Arnhem Highway. Tourists short on time often choose Litchfield over Kakadu for this reason. Compared to Kakadu, Litchfield is very compact, has mostly easy bitumen roads, several water falls where you can take a dip – once they have been checked and resident crocodiles removed after the wet season. If you are reasonably young, or older but fit, there are several walks that could easily add some lovely lazy days to your stay.

Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls – crocodile free swimming in cool clear water. Notices do indicate that care should be taken at all times though! These fearsome animals do make their way back.

Termite Mounds, Litchfield National Park

In Australia “white anting” is used as a verb to describe a person who uses subterfuge and underhand tactics to bring down another person. Recently I heard one of our recent former leaders described in the social media as “the greatest White Ant – er of all time.” I offer no personal evaluation of that comment, but merely report it as an illustration of how white ants feature in our landscape, environmentally and politically!

Actually, the termite is known as a “white ant” because its skin is so thin that you can see through it. This thin skin also means that it is so very sensitive to the sun that, as the region receives a massive rainfall during the summer months each year, it needs to build its mound above ground level. Also, in order to capture optimum conditions it builds its mound with a North-South orientation thereby ensuring that one side is always in the shade.

Termite Mounds, Litchfield National Park

My question as to why these termite mounds were called “magnetic” was explained at the Information Board. The mounds are made by the blind worker termites so the scientists tested a theory that they did not use the sun to align the mounds North-South but instead had an inbuilt magnetic compass. To test this theory the scientists, artificially changed the magnetic field. The termites then realigned their mounds North-South.

Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park

Driving around Litchfield National Park is easy with flat stretches alternated with low rolling hills. We were on one of the flat stretches when we came across the sign pointing to Florence Falls. I was somewhat puzzled as there seemed nowhere for water to actually fall and neither had there been any sign of water. Down the road we went . . . and heard . . .water! To get down to the pool there were a hundred steps. It looked like a lot of fun below!

While I enjoyed our day in Litchfield, especially the dip in the croc free water, Kakadu wins its top placing in my must return again list.

Nourlangie – Kakadu

The best way to understand and appreciate the ancient culture of this land is to engage with a local guide. Here, in Nourlangie, we gained a greater understanding of Aboriginal culture and to appreciate in a more informed way, the deep connection the First Peoples of this land have to it. Contrasted with other world ideas of ownership of the land and the drive to maximise its “value”, we saw that, to the Aboriginal people, the land is a living entity that could be said to own them. We saw their deep and abiding belief that they must respect, revere and protect it or it will suffer from neglect which will, in turn, have severe repercussions for them. As I listened and looked around I had visions of the destruction caused by mining in many parts of this continent.

Nourlangie Rock

Nourlangie, the anglicised version of “Nawurlandja” is the name given to the larger area while the lower areas are known as Anbangbang. The upper part of the rock is Burrungguy. The smoke in the photo above is from a naturally occurring fire near the Anbangbang shelter.

Nourlangie Rock

This area, with extensive woodlands, wetlands, creek and cliffs offering plenty of food opportunities, would, in ancient times, have been home to many people.. Artefacts and implements uncovered when layers of soil were excavated in the 1980s indicate that the caves were in use 20,000 to 60,000 years ago. Aboriginal people say that this area was used by the Warramal clan, traditional owners of the land and also by the Badmardi clan who came down from their higher areas to get food from the billabongs and woodland areas. The Warramal clan has died out so the Aboriginal owners from neighbouring areas have taken on the job of caring for this area. This was explained to us by our young, proud Aboriginal guide.


At Anbangbang, the rock paintings have several purposes. some tell cautionary stories which encourage the keeping of clan rules while others depict celebrations.


Nabulwinjbulwinj is a very fearsome spirit for women. He knocks them out with a yam and eats them. I couldn’t find out why it was that women were at risk or how they could avoid this fate. Whatever the reason, this must be one of the cautionary stories.

Lightning Man – Namarrgon

Namarrgon is a very important creation spirit who, even today, creates the violent thunder and lightning storms that bring the lifesaving rains. With his lightning band looping through his left ankle and through his head and hands down to his right ankle and with his thunder cracking axes on his elbows and feet, his appearance would be electrifying.

Lightning Man’s wife is Barrginj [Barr-jeen] and she is important because she is the mother of the Alyurr, the grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are important because in creation time they gave the Aboriginal people their language, beliefs and structure of their society. The Alyurr are amazingly beautiful blue and orange grasshoppers, rarely seen today, but appear just before the wet season when they call to their father, Lightning Man, to bring stormy relief to the people and the parched land.


There are many stories about the spirit ancestor, Namondjok. Our guide explained that Aboriginal laws dictate whom people may or may not marry. In Aboriginal law, one sister does not necessarily mean one’s sibling but includes first cousins on both sides of the family and some other less clear relationships. Namondjok broke the clan laws by marrying unlawfully and was punished by being turned into an estuarine crocodile. Other clans tell the story that Namondjok is an ancestor who lives in the sky and is seen only at night near the Milky Way.

Namondjok’s Feather

After Namondjok married his sister, she took a feather from his headdress and placed it on the rocky outcrop to show others what they had done. She then became a rainbow serpent.

Anbangbang billabong

Anbangbang billabong is a kilometer or so from Nourlangie rock. The circular walk was closed because of crocodiles so we enjoyed lunch at one of the picnic tables. While sitting there peacefully I reflected on how resourceful and resilient the People had to be to live successfully in this beautiful but sometimes difficult environment.

Ubirr, a spiritual place

 Ubirr, forty two kilometers from Jabiru, is in the East Alligator region of Kakadu National Park, and borders on Arnhem Land. This is where I had the most profoundly moving experience of my life. Here’s my story of this experience.

Ubirr is the traditional lands of the Bunidj, Manilagarr, Murrwan and Mandjurlgunj people. Our guide, a young Aboriginal man who lives on his traditional land, quietly met us at the beginning of the track and so began this deeply moving experience for me, my husband and adult son. What knowledge, humility, respect for his country and people, what patience in dealing with thoughtless questions this young man displayed. His dignity and maturity was an example to all.

An inspirational young man sharing his people’s stories

At the end of  his presentation when I asked if I could take his photo he said that he wanted one with me. Although I prefer to be the other side of the camera I could hardly refuse. I show it now, at the beginning of my story because this young man had a profound effect on me that day.

It was with pride that he explained that his clan was represented on the Land Council that was ensuring that his country was being respectfully cared for and being shared with all who came to explore it and to learn about its ways. He said that one of his clan was a member of this Council and that one day his own turn would come to take on that responsibility. I am sure that he will do a great job when his time comes.

What a spellbinding story teller he was! Most of the large group were captivated with the images he evoked with his soft, thoughtful language and careful indication of where to look to see the characters he was describing. The stories he told were of a cautionary nature, illustrating why the people needed to abide by the clan laws and what would happen to them if they didn’t. As he talked I realised how important these laws were for the survival of the families who were reliant on nature to provide for their every need as well as to guard against the dangers their country held for them.

One area was an outdoor classroom area where children were taught the laws of their clan and the land.


The photo above is a painting of Mabayu. You can see his spear, dilly bag and spear thrower. His story is a cautionary one about the consequences of sneakily taking something that does not belong to you and it was told something like this. I will try to tell it as it was told to us.
One day Mabayu was fishing near the East Alligator river. It was a good day. There were many fish and as he caught each one, he placed it carefully on a pile on the river bank. A greedy person was watching this and, when Mabayu was not looking she crept up and stole all the fish. Mabayu came up from the river and saw his fish were gone. He went looking for them and smelled them cooking on a fire in a cave. He hid and watched all the people eating his fish. That night he blocked the entrance to the cave with a big stone and all the people were shut inside. No one could get out. Not one. So, behave properly and do good behaviour. Don’t take anyone else’s fish.

Battle between the clans

Then there was the story of the girl who ate Barramundi at the wrong time, breaking the traditional laws. When she was punished too severely there was a battle between the clans and many, many people died. So, don’t do the wrong thing or many other innocent people may suffer your consequences. A common punishment was to be speared in the leg. This would be life threatening not only because of infection but because the person would not be able to move around to be safe from harmful things or to find food and water.

Barramundi paintings were often done on top of other paintings. We were told that the painting itself was less important than the act in creating it.

Then there were the two Mamarrgarn Sisters who were playing string games down by the river. One of them stood in the water at the mouth of the East Alligator River. She knew how to turn herself into a crocodile, so she did. Then she turned herself back to a sister.
Her sister was watching and she asked, “Can you show me how to do that?” 
So they went to a fresh water spring and the second sister learned how to turn into a crocodile. Then they both changed into a saltwater crocodile and stayed like that. Nowadays there are palms around that spring that grew from the sister’s teeth which they pulled from their mouths and planted. As crocodiles, the sisters always know where their food is because of the large ridge scales on their backs. They are special sensory powers that tell where dinner is, even under water.

Long neck turtle, Kakadu Dreaming story

Another story that held us spell bound until the final words was that of the long necked turtle and the echidna. Here it is, again told as closely as possible as it was to us.

In our Dreamtime a long necked turtle and an echidna were good friends who lived together. They hunted together and shared their food. The echidna had a little one, a baby. One day they ran out of food so the echidna told the turtle to stay and keep the little one safe while she went hunting further away. So she went and the turtle stayed with the little one.
The echidna was gone a long, long time and the turtle was very hungry. After a while he was so hungry he ate the little one. Then the echidna came back with some food.
“Where is my little one?” she asked.
“I was so hungry that I ate it,” said the turtle.
The echidna was so angry that she went to get stones to throw at the turtle. The turtle got spear grass and threw it at the echidna. They had a big fight. After that the stones turned into a shell on the turtle’s back and the spear grass turned into spines on the echidna. 
Then the turtle told the echidna, “I will go and live in the billabong and never see you again.”

The echidna said, “I will go and live up in the escarpment and never see you again.”
They did that. Now, when we eat turtle, we find the little echidna’s bones in the turtle’s throat.

Mimi Spirits

 Some of the paintings are high on the escarpment. The Mimi Spirits were Dreamtime ancestors who were the first to draw rock paintings and taught the people. Some of them entered the rock as paintings themselves and the places where this happened are sacred places, visited only by a few permitted people.

Tassie Tiger – Thylacine

Other lofty paintings record now extinct animals that must have been common to the area. The Tassie Tiger is one of these.

Protecting ancient art

Over the centuries the weather elements have assaulted the paintings with some visibly losing colours. The ridge line visible in the above photo is a resin ridge that guides rain water along it and down the side of the rock face instead of falling down over the paintings, destroying them.

 Our guide told us that only special people within his clan were allowed to do the painting, each one permitted to do only a certain part. He himself is permitted to do only the lines using a thick brush, not the finer details. He picked up pieces of rock that could be crumbled to make a fine powder, sometimes reddish and sometimes yellow. “This here rock powder is then mixed with a resin from a plant so that it sticks to the rock for a long, long time,” he said.

Ancient caves where we saw the paintings and heard stories from Dreamtime

Storytelling finished, our guide had us clamber up some steepish rocks to a small plateau that allowed us to look back at the caves where we had had the privilege of seeing the paintings and hearing their stories.


After telling us that in the wet seasons of Gudjewg and Banggerreng, he travels around the area below by boat, our young guide left us but not before we were thanked for visiting his country and for listening to the stories of his people. As he was saying his last words, I was pleased to see my son make his way down the rocks to shake this awesome young man’s hand and even more pleased to see everyone else do the same. Our time with him was so precious that the usual applause would have been way less than adequate or respectful.