Our journey with the Gecko started as just a dream. After years and years of camping with different caravans, we just couldn’t seem to find one that fitted into what we needed. This is how the idea of building the first-ever Gecko Caravan came to be, and it still is the best decision we have ever made.
After three years of development and building, we had created our perfect caravan. Something robust, strong and durable. A caravan that was manufactured using quality products, was dust-proof, simple to use, and that still had elements of luxury – like the king-size bed and an ‘en-suite’ bathroom. We wanted a unit that would allow us to explore off-road, off-grid destinations, as well as annual visits to the coast to meet up with family and friends, with a modular tent option that could comfortably accommodate visitors. It was built and ready, but we still had not tested the Gecko in the elements.
THE STORY BEHIND THE GECKO – FROM THEN TO NOW
In August 2012, Gecko number 1 set off on its first test-run from Haenertsburg – destination Epupa Falls. We really wanted to test the caravan’s capability and the route taken through Botswana to Windhoek, Windhoek to Opuwo via Outjo and Kamanjab, did just that.
The journey was an adventure! The road to Epupa was definitely not what we expected, with sudden and unmarked drifts and very powdery dust. Epupa caught us totally off-guard with no facilities to buy any basic supplies. The lodge would not sell us ice nor a loaf of bread. They did tell us we could order pau from one of the women in the nearby settlement, and these were delivered to our campsite at 07:00 the following morning, wrapped in a beautiful white lace cloth and still warm from the fire. It was at Epupa that we saw the need for bedside windows in the caravan, which were added to the design on our return to South Africa.
Epupa is beautiful and will remain one of our favourite places to visit. The journey saw us travel through Opuwo, Palmwag, Springbokwasser gate to Skeleton Coast National Park and Swakopmund, before heading to Sesriem and then Canyon Roadhouse. We then came home via the Red Sands in Kuruman.
On arrival home, after a few modifications made, we were ready to launch the Gecko Caravan and production started. Since then, Gecko number 1 has travelled 67 792 kilometres. It had provided us with 337 days of luxury camping, with hot showers every night (no matter where we set up camp) and a king-size bed for a great night’s sleep.
Some of the highlights over the past seven years have been camping in the Kgalagadi, the Namaqua National Park (from south to north), Gatsrivier, Third Bridge Camp in Moremi, Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Tsauchab River Camp (Oerwald Camp via the 4×4 route), NamibRand Family Hideout and Harnas Wildlife Foundation.
The trip up the coastline of the Namaqua National Park is one that stands out for us. On arrival at the Groenrivier gate, we expressed our intention to stay overnight at Delwers Camp and then travel through to Boulders Bay. We received stern warnings from the rangers that we would more than likely not make it through the dune section with the caravan, that it was a long walk to get their assistance – and that it would cost us for the rescue. With deflated tyres, the very thick sand was traversed with ease, and it was at these campsites that the Gecko really came into its own. With no power, water or ablution facilities, we camped with the usual luxury – assisted by solar panels, of course. We camped for three days in this stunning part of our country with only one visitor stopping by. A solitary gentleman in an old Landy came racing up to ask if we had come through the dune section with the caravan. When we replied that we actually had, his comment was: “Of jy is mal, of jy het die hart van ‘n leeu,” before racing off again.
At the Tsauchab River Camp (near Bullsport in Namibia) we had booked in at the 4×4 Oerwald Camp. The staff at the camp’s reception was very sceptical when they saw we were towing a caravan and they stressed that the route was 4×4! It certainly was! The rocky track, with some very sharp corners, proved quite a challenge, but by taking it slowly we navigated the route with no incidents and were rewarded with a truly special, secluded campsite.
We are very proud to say that Gecko number 1 is still the caravan we have used at all our shows and exhibitions. We have continued to make small changes and adaptations, including a change to an integrated, intelligent management system, which controls the complete electrical system (i.e. DC to DC, solar and 220V charging) and the external decals and branding.
We are looking forward to many more trips ahead with Gecko number 1 and are so proud to have another 120 Geckos on the road. Nothing makes us happier than knowing that people are camping and making memories with their family and friends with something that we have designed and built.
MAINTENANCE TO DATE
As is with all caravans, upkeep is essential and, to date, this is what we have done:
• Wheel bearings end play and brake rod checked and adjusted at plus/ minus 8 000km intervals
• Wheel bearings and brake shoes replaced at 49 000km
• Gas shocks replaced at 62 000km
• Tyres replaced for safety reasons after six years, although they still had sufficient tread
This was all done at an approximate total cost of R16 000.