'It's sort of an explosion of pink, it's kitsch heaven!'' vintage caravan enthusiast and owner Lisa Mora, of Maleny (near Brisbane), bubbled to us as she described her vintage caravan ''Betty Page-Turner''. She'll be bringing ''Betty'' to Canberra for next month's Museum of the Long Weekend.
What's more, her pink 13-foot 1964 Sunliner caravan (''I love the bubble shape of it'') will be pulled behind an authentically appropriate car, a 1963 Vauxhall Cresta, which, as we spoke, was being painted the same shade of pink.
And Mora will be a spectacle in her own right she promises, because ''even though I'm younger than my caravan'' she loves to wear rockabilly-era clothes. Her dressings-up are completed by enormous red or pink (depending on her dress) dark glasses with heart-shaped frames.
''They're my trademark.''
Her caravan will be one of about 40 that will travel to Canberra to park and pose on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin from Friday October 18 to Sunday October 20.
One of the 40 is known to have hosted at least four honeymoons (what stories it would tell if only we could find a qualified caravan-whisperer to engage it in conversation!). Artists are working on some of the caravans and one is to be in part a kind of ''olfactory museum'' perfumed with coconut suntan oil and sunblocks, aromas it surely knew when it was tugged to the seaside in the olden days.
Mora's caravan, too, will be worth an awe-inspiring gander. When she found it, she told us with several shudders, ''it was rusted and covered in lichen and mould and it was literally falling apart on the trailer as we brought it home''.
After a ruthless cleansing, in went rockabilly themed fittings and paraphernalia like a ''black and white diner floor and pink pillows with pictures of pin-up girls'' as part of the ''explosion of pink''.
Mora, editor of Vintage Caravan magazine (''When I'm travelling the caravan is my portable office, it's like a cubby house you take with you'') carolled to us that the main attraction of the little old caravans is their ''individuality''. She thinks big modern caravans have a kind of mass-production ''all white and beige'' sameness about them.
Their lookalikeness comes from their being designed now, overwhelmingly, for one market, the well-heeled grey nomads. The old caravans, having been redecorated inside now to suit each owner's whims, in their heydays were designed to have different-shaped appeals to different folk, including whole working-class families or blushing pairs of honeymooners all of whom in the 1960s and 1970s were unable to afford air travel and swish hotels.
Even today, Mora insists, the petite old caravans make enormous good fiscal sense.
''They're about a quarter of the price of a brand new one, they don't have the maintenance costs of a boat (you never have to scrape barnacles off them), and you can park them on pieces of prime real estate [caravan parks in idyllic places] for about $30 a night and you get to sleep on your own mattress that no one else has slept on before!''
Beware, Canberrans of limited means. You'll all want to take a stickybeak inside ''Betty'' and the others while they're here for The Museum of the Long Weekend (the one that's been shaken by four honeymoons is bound to have a special, hard-to-define, soft-core allure). But it's Mora's experience that ''once you've stepped inside one you'll want one''.
Dalgety more than almost-ran
As we never tire of nagging, all thinking centenary-conscious Canberrans owe it to themselves to make a pilgrimage to Dalgety (just two hours away, via Cooma) during this centenary year.
We'll remind you of why in a moment but first point out that if you need an extra excuse for that pilgrimage (and you might because Canberrans are notorious polyphasers) you have one this weekend. 'Tis the weekend of tiny Dalgety's annual team penning and show shear competitions (featuring lots of authentic Men from Snowy River displaying iconic high country skills) followed by the next day's Saddle Up Sunday, a gymkhana-style event for absolutely anyone with a horse or pony. ''Stay for an hour or stay for the night,'' organisers invite. Go to www.dalgetyshow.com.au/teampenning.html for details.
Yes, you must go to Dalgety in this centenary year because that speck of a hamlet is set in the immensity of the Monaro in the spectacular spot that almost pipped Canberra at the post in the race (fingernail-chewingly suspenseful exhaustive ballots in the Commonwealth Parliament late in 1908) as the choice of the site for the federal capital city. In our picture brave senators are making an inspection of Dalgety from the freezingly scrotum-astonishing waters of the Snowy.
It is a magical thing to go up on a knoll behind the village and imagine today's federal capital city of 360,000 souls stretched out beneath you on the Monaro instead of being stretched out where it has wound up. En route, at Cooma take Church Road, which becomes the Maffra Road. It is a scenic route to Dalgety that will give you the deepest immersion in the awesome prairie of the Monaro, where even a big federal capital city would have been just an urban pimple.
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