The price of a hot shower
Good connections make all the difference when it comes to modern camping appliances.
It’s amazing how friendly people can be, or, at least, how friendly you think they can be.
And when they’re waving and calling out, you quickly get right into the swing of things, smiling, calling out inane comments like, "Yeah, it’s a pretty cool camper," and, "I’d love to take you camping too, but I don’t have enough spare room."
Stuff like that really makes the locals feel like you’re one of them – until you realise they’re waving because you’re dragging half your gear along the road.
This recently happened to us, or chiefly, to our poor mate Beery, after he’d packed a fancy instant gas hot water outfit for our trip. It looked the real ants’ pants and both Mr and Mrs Beery love a good, long hot shower. Their bathing paraphernalia outsizes our kitchen larder: we all reckon if they spent less time loading and unloading all that hardware, they wouldn’t need as many showers.
By the time we stopped, we’d found the unit looking pretty second-hand, after having done a good 50km up a rough dirt road dangling from the end of the gas hose. Beery said he’d only used it twice but it was the best little shower east of Perth – well, it used to be, anyway.
It seemed the spot welded bracket wasn’t really designed to survive those ‘tough Australian conditions’ so often bandied about.
Beery reverently interred the remains into the pick-up and headed off in a real lather that only left him wanting another shower.
On hitting phone reception, Beery got on the blower to the Queensland guy acting as an intermediary to the industrial giant in China which made this wonder of mobile hygiene, and explained the dodgy nature of the mounting bracketry. He was pleased to hear that the rep would stand by his product, and that, yes, others had similar encounters, ensuring the units would be re-engineered.
"If you want to send me back the damaged unit I’ll send you a new one," he offered.
But with the vast majority of ‘the damaged unit’ spread along a dirt road somewhere to the north-west, the best Beery could do was send in a few photos of what was left on the end of the gas hose. This satisfied the claim and, a couple of days later, a new unit appeared on a special delivery to a town they were passing through.
Several weeks later, we rolled into another campsite and there was Beery, all setup with his shiny new gas heater mounted to the camper, with two big bolts passing through its top lip and the spot welded mounting bracket alleviating any fears of the two parting ways again. He’d found a camping spot near a tap in the local showground for access to all the water he could want. Down at the back of the camper stood the shower tent, all hooked up. We were invited to inspect the new arrangements. Politely, we told him it all looked cool and we got on with the business of setting up our own camp.
Despite the fact that the previous week had been gloriously warm, we’d been over-run by one of those blistery, early spring breezes that only Antarctica can throw up, keeping us on our toes and breaking out draft skirts and end walls to try and stay warm. Everyone was mooching about in jackets and jumpers.
About sunset, Mrs Beery declared she was ready for her ablutions and disappeared into the camper, to emerge a few minutes wrapped in a towel while Beery headed round the front to turn on the gas. He then headed to the back to turn on that tap and all seemed to be working as planned, with Mrs B indicating from the interior of the shower tent that she was enjoying the new setup mightily.
Then, just as Beery was strutting about, patting himself on the back, came a cry from the interior: "There’s no water. I’m all covered in soap and shampoo and there’s nothing coming out of the shower head. It’s freezing in here. Do something!"
Beery led the charge to the front of his camper. Ready hands dived for the temperature dial, until he remembered there was no water. He disconnected the hose at the gas heater and water gushed out, wetting him and many around him. So there must be a blockage beyond that point.
"Hurry, will you, there’s a crust of ice forming on me in here," came the plaintive cry.
"Yes, dearest," Mr B assured her, mumbling to himself, "Maybe if there is a problem with the unit the water doesn’t flow?"
There certainly didn’t appear to be any heat coming out of the top and, when the dial was rotated, it seemed to lock. What should have been an easy problem to diagnose was becoming a dog’s breakfast as the cries for assistance from the agitated and ice-bound Mrs B rose in pitch.
Beery dived to disconnect the hose fitting just outside the shower tent and water gushed out of there, further soaking him in the deepening gloom and ice-chilled wind.
So, there was water there, but no heat. Someone loosened the clamp on the gas bottle and lifted it. "Hey, Beery, this gas bottle’s empty," he called.
"Hang on dear, we’ve found the problem," the anxious Mr B called out, as he scrambled to remove the gas regulator off the empty bottle and attach it to the spare. He turned on the gas and called, "How is it now, that ought to be working?"
But there was no heat, no clicking of the self-starter, no roar of the gas jet, only the roar of "What are you talking about? There’s no water, no heat, only icicles!"
The helpful soul who’d checked the first gas bottle did the same with the second. "Hey, Beery, this bottle’s empty, too."
"I’m sorry honey, we’ve got problems out here. You might have to towel off now and get dressed."
Even rugged up in long pants, heavy socks, long sleeve shirts and jackets all of us were still feeling the cold on that bitingly cold evening. We all quietly tiptoed off to find other occupations and leave Beery to his fate.
After a phone call the next day to ‘The Man in Queensland’, a full open heart surgery was performed on the unit, which fixed a couple of minor problems, a drive into town filled the gas bottles, and a blockage in a hose corrected the water supply issue and Mr and Mrs B got back to enjoying their showers.
The rest of us walked up to the block at the back of the hill. It seemed much safer, and warmer.
Check out the full feature in issue #95 December 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.