On crossing a border in Africa where our trailer was subjected to much scrutiny, the border of cial said with a puzzled look, ‘You live in this box, sir?’
We started looking at off-road trailers after years of using a rooftop tent on cab, then a modi ed two-wheel-drive garden trailer which pretty much went where we went, through bush and river, until it became overwhelmed with what its owners expected of it. After scrutinising all the off-road trailers on the market at the time, we found ourselves in Heidelberg, where we easily located the Conqueror factory and met director Thinus de Vries, who gave us the nuts-and-bolts info we desired and showed us around. These guys are experts and we can’t recommend them enough! Being on a budget, we carefully discussed what was needed in addition to the trailer shell and an excellent chassis, axle and wheels. We ordered the tted kitchen and booze cupboards and the fridge slide, and elected to do the rest ourselves …
A trip to Tuli Block, Botswana, was only weeks away, so, with little time, we decided to alter only one thing at that stage, making a locker on top of the trailer and under the rooftop tent. This was for two reasons: to heighten the walk-under space/changeroom under the opened tent, making it safer for Ian to pass without sustaining head injury, and to provide useful packing space for tables, chairs and other katunda (stuff). On packing prior to departure we found it quite dif cult to lift crates into the body of the trailer over the let-down counters, which were 58 cm wide – they would have to be modi ed.
The best way to test anything is by on-site or living-in evaluation, which in this case was initially done on that trip to the Tuli Block. Once the camp was pitched on the banks of the Limpopo, ideas for further Heidi modi cations came thick and fast. After we were raided by a troop of baboons, clever chaps who knew exactly what they wanted and where to look for it, we realised that it would be prudent to have a double shell of security so that when the counters were down, there would still be an impregnable layer around the trailer.
The kitchen and drinks cupboards were tted on either side of the trailer. We moved the booze cupboard to the kitchen side, and the area remaining in between the cupboards was suf cient to t an extra locker to carry kettle, pots, spices and such. This effectively closed the kitchen side of the trailer. The area beside the fridge at the rear became a custom-built pantry with a vegetable rack plus two sealable plastic drawers for food. The side where the booze cupboard used to be has become the loading area and the let-down counter was adapted to drop a full 180º. Measuring the available space after the fridge was in place for travel, Ian designed a tted drawer shell that would take six custom black trays. These slide in and out with ease, each tray having a whiteboard section for marking its contents. We sewed a changeroom tent, which is threaded into the runner beneath the let-down rooftop tent and pegs down securely, so we have place to hang clothes and keep shoes etc. out of the way of animals. To close Heidi’s changeroom side, we built a his & hers swing-out clothes cupboard, which effectively secures the trailer when in place and ts neatly in the changeroom tent when in use. LED lights in the kitchen, changeroom and tent provide good illumination.
We found an old rally awning and decided to utilise this on the trailer, simply tting it to fold in for travel after being rolled up tight. A PVC cover straps around this for travel. Ian also made screens and a large, lightweight waterproof that can be hung in inclement weather. Another smaller modi cation that makes all the difference is the wooden rack that ts onto the nose cone and lifts to become a drying rack. A really useful addition to the tent is the shelf that hangs from the side pole and holds the morning brew of coffee plus radio, books and lamp. Our two-plate gas stove slides into slots on the inside of the booze cupboard door, while the paper towel holder reverses to store inside the same door.
Lastly, Heidi’s camp kitchen: this is simple in the main, but has allowed delicious meals to be cooked when truly in the bush, where I prefer not to use gas. We use four iron poles with hooks, a ploughshare with detachable legs, potjie, kettle and bucket. This works really well: we simply make a re in the ploughshare, hammer three poles around the re, place the remaining pole at the desired level across the uprights and hang a pot of stew over the re or heat water by standing a bucket on poles placed horizontally. Voila: Heidi, our home on wheels