My husband John and I often talked about travelling around Australia and then one day I realised hed been dead 26 years and I was no closer to that dream, Ann said.
I dont think I could have done that trip with anyone other than Denise. We brought out the best in each other and there were lots of moments when we felt really confident but there were many places emotionally that brought us undone.
Denise likens their partnership to a winning team on grand final day.
We went the right time in our lives, the right time of year: we performed well, our health was good and things just came together that no obstacle was too great, she said.
Things would happen, normal every day things that would become pretty funny straight away, but we dealt with them. We got bogged once and the spare wheel fell out and I am running down the road chasing after it. Boy did we laugh about that.
The sisters reckon much of their trips success was in the planning and meeting the right people who never once told them not to go. We wanted to make sure we always had enough power so if we couldnt make a caravan park or powered site that night we would not be left in the dark, Denise said.
At Battery World Morayfield, the owner Larry helped us set up alternate power in the camper van and even gave us his mobile number and said if we got stuck to call him no matter where we were. I have to say we did call him once when we were up near Kununurra WA when the existing battery we had in the van gave us trouble. We should have taken his advice and changed over thatbasic battery before we left.
Everything ran off our batteries: our lights, fridge and water so we needed to make sure they were always charged it gave us confidence. So they virtually installed batteries for dummies. They put in an amp and volt metre we could keep an eye on when things were running low and never run out. They changed the original charge system for us, which was a bit dodgy.
We were lucky we always found the right people. There is something to be said about finding the right people to help you. You dont have to be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone.
Battery World Caravanning advisor and franchisee Larry Hargreaves knows a bit about getting out of your comfort zone. His long history with motorcycles has seen him drag race and road trip around Australian on them. He said road trips were all about preparation which Ann and Denise did. He recommended anyone setting off on an adventure to accept the free advice allBattery Worldstores offered.
We are finalists in the National Franchise of the Year awards for social responsibility, Larry said.
That tells you something about how we run our business. I would hate to think someone was holding back on a trip of a lifetime because they were scared to get out of their comfort zone. Thats what businesses like ours are for to keep people going. We needed to know everything was going to be very easy for them. I would love a hundred Ann and Denises to walk through my door.
Ann has no regrets the trip took her longer to achieve and said many moments were made even more memorable because the timing was right.
I did have a lot of trepidation, she said. Denise and I have very different personalities: I put barriers up and Denise doesnt. There were places we would travel and I would go oh I dont know and Denise would say just do it. Like Parrys Lagoon in WA where we drove to a lookout at an old telegraph station left from the war days, and the road to get there was white knuckle stuff. We shouldnt have driven that road! When we got there, this family pulled up in their motorhome. We watched as millions of birds rose up from the wetlands.
Here we were in the middle of nowhere and their mobile phone rang and it was someone from home telling them their pet bird had died. The children were really sad but here they were watching amazing birdlife at first light. It was quite a spiritual moment. To think they got that call right at that time.
Take a seat anywhere
For Denise the trip also gave her a chance to return to a remote Western Australian aboriginal community where she once worked as a teacher a decade ago.
The Kimberley stays in your soul, Denise said. Everyone should get there. It looked like I wouldnt get to meet up with the community I taught because they were displaced because of flash flooding but again fate stepped in or was it our timing and somehow we managed to be in the right place at the right time. We were able to reconnect with both parents and students I had known in the past.
I told you she was more adventurous than me, Ann quips. All those years ago she took off to the outback to teach in remote Aboriginal communities and this trip has enabled me to return with her and see where she lived and the people she taught.
From French backpackers to other mature travellers (no Grey nomads here) the sisters shared many stories making sure the cocktail hour was always observed. And they did raise the occasional eyebrow,
We would meet some other caravanners and they would look at our small van and say so you both sleep in there and wed nod, another well-told story starts to unfold. Then they say are you sisters or what? and wed laugh and say were not or what.
Ann and Denises Aussie trip was one of 2.6 million taken by 55-70 years olds in campervans, caravans, tents and cabins last year according to Tourism Research Australia. This represented an increase of 12 percenton 2010 figures but a staggering 90 percenton 2000 estimates.
New South Wales and Queensland the most popular destinations followed by Victoria and WA and recreation vehicle market research predicts our elderly travellers will produce an industry worth $2.6 billion by 2016-2017 as more and more retirees take to the road. Thats music to Larry Hargreaves ears as he moves his motorbike to the side of his building to make way for a caravan pulling in for some advice.
Fridges cutting out at night and lights dimming after 10pm are two of the most common complaints we hear, he said.
Most travellers wouldnt leave their driveway without checking they have the right battery in their four wheel drive but often fail to pay attention to just what battery they have in their van or motor home.
More often than not because it was the wrong battery for the job giving them unreasonable expectations of the output of the one installed already. They may also have a basic charger that does not adequately do its job.
Everyone is trying to keep costs down and caravan companies may often have installed a basic charger in a campervan ratherthan one that is needed to fulfill a travellers needs. For many people, the charger is almost an after thought and when they upgrade their battery the charger is not up to spec for the size of the battery. Most battery problems occur because of inefficiencies with the charger.
Some may have a wet charger when in fact they need an AGM. You also have situations when in order to save money, people turn off the power when they are not using the van so the battery will need replacing sooner than later and could let them down when they most need it. The best advice to give a Wanderer is having a look at the battery and the charger before you set off.Battery World Storesoffer that service free and we can come to you.
Larry also advised travellers to have a look at their appliances as some older models fridges used so much power it was often necessary to take power from the car battery midway through a trip.
Battery Worlds across Australia offer free advice. Visit www.batteryworld.com.au for your nearest store.
Editors Note: Battery World is one of the unobtrusive major sponsors who keep the GoSee websites in Australia and New Zealand free to users.