Wouter Erasmus and his adventurous family are hitting the road again. As always, Wouter made sure he had just the right caravan for the trip.
We South Africans embrace camping as a cultural pastime. We enjoy spending time in the bush, sitting around the campfire at night, gazing at a star-scattered sky: it defines who we are!
My attitude towards camping and caravaning was revisited when the principal at my daughter’s pre-primary school implored us, ‘Parents, you must take your children back to nature. I say it again: take them back to nature! Let them play in the sand!’ We began to embrace a wonderful community, enjoying this truly exciting pastime hand in hand with our kids. In March 2012 we took delivery of a new Fendt 465 Bianco, fitted with a Fiamma awning and a Dometic air-conditioner. Our new travelling companion enchanted us with its pure luxury and unsurpassed craftsmanship. In the heat of Africa, the Dometic air-conditioning unit efficiently kept the interior cool. With night-time temperatures plummeting to −10°C on our Afriski adventure, the underfloor heating kept us cosy and comfortable in the snow-covered mountains.
We choose to travel the southern tip of our continent exactly as our European counterparts explore theirs: long distances and exciting destinations! For them the Alps and Pyrenees, for us Chobe’s colourful birds and wildlife, while all that is man-made plays second fiddle to the natural splendour surrounding us. Camping – albeit Camel man-inspired, and in the comfort of a luxurious Fendt caravan – is an unbeatable adventure. Our Fendt 465 was standard-equipped with an Al-Ko suspension system and shock absorbers, and proved stable and reliable to tow on most of the roads we selected for our journeys, not to mention the stability it offered in extreme windy conditions.
While on tour last year, I pondered the need for a more elevated axle and strengthened chassis to compensate for my careful nature. However, it certainly wasn’t an adjustment required for the roads on our 2012 trip, which took us through Chobe, Caprivi and Etosha. Imagine touring to Malawi in a Fendt, or camping in the Serengeti with a Dometic air-conditioner purring in the background!
I surrendered to my desires, ordered the new Fendt Saphir 560 SKM and presented TravelStar, the South African importer of the Fendt range, with a wish list that would turn the Saphir into a luxurious touring companion somewhat more suited for long-distance travelling on our continent. Fendt Saphir 560 SKM AR (all-road) The result: a Fendt 560 SKM with Continental WorldContact 4×4 tyres! The standard Fendt 560 is bolted on a galvanised Al-Ko standard chassis system. The first 80 mm raise was achieved by engineering an aluminium frame that was bolted onto the caravan’s galvanised chassis system. The aluminium frame was extended to reinforce the rear of the caravan, acting as a skid plate for the rear end. A further 50 mm of height was attained by fitting the bigger tyres on steel rims. The standard shock absorber and braking system were retained. The already enormous standard nose cone of the caravan was modified to cradle the big spare wheel, along with two five-kilogram gas bottles – and anything else really.
Beneath the 140 x 200 mm double bed in the front of the caravan, the standard 45-litre water tank was removed and replaced with two 60-litre tanks with a linked gravity feed. The easy-read water level indicator was calibrated: a reading can now be taken with a press of a button in the kitchen.
A 20-litre Hansen gas/220 V geyser was fitted in line with the standard 220 V Truma heating system, thereby allowing the luxury of a hot shower even in a campsite that lacks a water supply. The standard 140-litre slimline Dometic 220 V / 12 V / gas fridge was retained. With a flick of a switch – or, rather, the turn of a key – the caravan’s ability to function without our beloved mains electricity is achieved by the two 102-amp deep-cycle marine batteries. The caravan is then fully operational – with the 12 V LED lighting system and the 12 V water pumps working from the batteries and the rest on gas – except for the air-conditioner. This well-designed caravan boasts a bunk-bed layout for the kids. In the kids’ sleeping area, the beds are fitted with individual reading lights and a soft blue night-light. The concertina-like folding door partitions this room off as a private space if so required. I simply love the permanent dinette: it can be an extra bed, if necessary – though I can’t foresee that ever happening in our family!
An integrated sink and three-burner gas stove from Dometic form part of the preparation area in the bigger-than-standard caravan kitchen. The roof-mounted air-conditioner is fitted over the axles and is the proverbial cherry on the caravan cake. An electric Dometic awning with wind sensors will be fitted to the caravan for our Chobe tour in August. On a recent Swadini test trip, shelter outside the caravan was provided with a standard Isabella tent. This tent should rather be described as a ‘tenting-system’: it’s big and it took us quite a while to master its inner workings!
No, I don’t see myself heading to the Van Zyl’s Pass in northern Namibia with this Fendt caravan, nor do I see it as an off-roader. However, it can take us off the tar onto the odd gravel road, if needed: so the gravel road to the Spitzkoppe near Swakopmund will not be a no-go zone any more. Deteriorating tar roads will be traversed more easily. With the dustproof capabilities of our previous Fendt, the 465 Bianco, thoroughly tested on the gravel roads in the Etosha – the place is covered in dust – I foresee that our upgrade to the Fendt Saphir SKM AR will give us a delightful travelling companion for years to come.
Please join me on my adventure and post any comments, questions and advice below.
I look forward to hearing from you all!
– Wouter Erasmus