I realise that driving up from Cape Town to Kimberley to buy a 40 year old campervan may sound a little nuts. But that’s exactly what we did a couple weeks ago. The thing is, that was actually the easy bit. I mean if we got there and saw that it was actually a rusted old piece of junk, we would have popped in to see the Big Hole and called it a day before heading home.
No, no, no the crazy part of this whole adventure would be if we really bought it.
Why? Well we’d then be committing to driving the thing the whole way down from Kimberley in one day. That’s roughly about 950km. And in a vehicle that was initially built in 1978 and really was only driven properly a couple years back, it might have been slightly over ambitious.
But fell in love with it we did!
And so that meant driving it back down to Cape Town. As we bought it in Douglas (which is about an hours drive from Kimberley) we did the first drive from Douglas to Kimberley to drop off the hire car. It drove like a dream although it seemed to struggle in 4th with a serious petrol smell. Seth had to drive it with the windows down at the risk of getting totally high.
We had a quick pitstop for some food in a random centre while also stocking up on some food for the night. While we were fuelling up our bodies we looked for somewhere to stay for the night. Initially we thought of going about 3 hours out of town but with daylight fading and not wanting to drive at night we settled for the nicest place that we could find. As it turns out it was about 30 minutes outside of Kimberley and as luck would have it, it was a blessing in disguise. But more on that later.
We settled into our new campsite life by plugging in the camper to the power and taking a walk around the site. It was a pretty awesome place with a lovely rive and the best part? Clean and spider free ablutions!!
Using the vintage Coca-Cola bottle opener that must have been put in when the camper was first made, we toasted our warm beers to a successful adventure. It was all going surprisingly well. Everything was just falling into place so perfectly and we couldn’t believe that it was all happening.
It was actually happening.
So when I opened the door and my thumb went numb I just thought, “Jeepers that was weird. Is that the sign of a heart attack? No can’t be. Maybe I was just imagining it anyway.” But then I opened it again and I got a proper freaking shock. The kind where your skin kind of cracks and you jump back in fright. I told Seth and he just kinda like ignored me. He even tried it and there was no effect. But then I asked him to take off his shoes and he tried again only to get a proper shock too.
As it turns out, somehow plugging it into the power had turned the entire thing into some kind of shock box. Every part of it was electrified. So obvs we took out the cable and just made peace with the fact that everything we had would be warm until we got home, as there would no longer be a fridge.
The other problem that we had hoped would have cleared by the time that we needed to sleep was that petrol smell. It was crazy strong. Enough to easily make you high.
We worried that if we slept in it overnight, we’d actually not wake up again. And we like, enjoy living and stuff, so we decided to sleep in the tent again. Lucky for us the camper has mini mattresses in the back area which we moved into the tent to sleep on which was a heck of a lot better than a yoga mat!
The next morning we woke up before dawn at 4.30am.
Now I’ll have you know that under normal circumstances this would never happen. I do not rise before the sun. Ever. In fact I don’t rise before the um, whatever rises much later than the sun. My eyes were red and scratchy and my body was in some kind of shock. But we were still running on the fun and adrenaline of adventure so it’s all good. It’s amazing what you can do in that space.
The plan was to have some coffee (because even fun and adrenaline can only get you so far) and then head out. While busy with the coffee, Seth wanted to check how much petrol we had so we could sort of plan for the next stop. Only to find that the engine was completely dead…
Ugh. so then we had to wait for people to start surfacing at the campsite before we tried to get it jump started. I tried to push it but I think I almost popped a blood vessel in my eye. Then Seth tried to push it and I think it’s just too heavy. Eventually we got someone to come and help us use the cable thingyies to get the battery to work. But then we found out that they black and red weren’t connected to the right sides or whatever. Anyway, it didn’t work. So we called the previous owner who is such a sweet heart. He drove to us with a new battery and a tow bar just in case we needed it later. Then he followed us all the way to Hopeville – which is just over an hour away to make sure that we really were good to go.
And then everything was totally fine!
Optimus was cruising like a dream. We could only get him to go about 90kmph so we knew we were in for a long drive. But it was so beautiful that it really wasn’t that much of a big deal. We were honestly just so glad that it worked!
We stopped every 100km or so to check the petrol and let it cool down a bit.
And although we really wanted to be home by that evening it just wasn’t practical so we stayed over the night in Beaufort West. Which turned out to be a great idea because we could swim off the hot weather, have a proper meal and just actually enjoy ourselves. These showers had a spider, but after a scream it was all sorted out.
We also ended up bumping ourselves up to the Backpacking section of the place because the petrol smell was still too strong to actually stay in it over night. I was not sad that I had to sleep in a real bed.
On our way out of Beaufort West we changed one of the tires because it was just a little concerning. it seemed to have a crack in the side and we didn’t want to risk it. We are eventually going to replace all the tires because they had been sitting in the guys driveway for ages and we think they may have gone flat, hence the cracks in the side.
We were also stopped by the police on our way out and we weren’t sure if somehow we’d be in trouble. You know that panic that you get even though technically you haven’t done anything wrong at all?
Then eventually we made it back home safe and sound!
It was such a fun trip. The kids reactions to Optimus may have been the best part of the whole thing, but we’ll share that in the next post.
This is a video from our trek down, but it’s a long one. Somewhere in the middle is a full tour of the camper so that you can see exactly what Optimus is made of. Please subscribe to our channel for more videos like these and other life things.
An then some more pictures from our trip. I was practising for my photography course so I tried to remember all the things 🙂