CAN YOU CARAVAN???

I have always gone to the local outdoor leisure shows and watched from afar as my friends climbed in and out of the many different styles and makes of caravans.

The two biggest obstructions for me not to enter have always been the narrow doors and of course the ground clearance, which required the use of steps to get into the body. Peeking through the narrow door has been the sum total of my experience with caravans. Caravanning and camping has always been such an economical way of seeing our beautiful land, and if you do have an accessible unit, then you would be better suited to travel than having to research which accommodations actually do have facilities that suit your needs.

Due to my desire to caravan I was pleasantly surprised and delighted when I received a call from Johan Meintjes, a quadriplegic who lives in Pretoria. He had always wanted to caravan, but after many phone calls to the various manufacturers he found out that they weren’t interested in modifying any of their options for the disabled.

That is until a friend contacted him about a company situated in Randburg, who has a caravan franchise which does various conversions to the interiors of caravans, creating broadcasting units, a mobile dentistry and a mobile AIDS testing unit.

Loftus Caravan City is run by three brothers, Woody, Neil and Joel who offer a diverse array of both new and used caravans and they are backed by an experienced crew running a large workshop. This is the outfit that was going to make Johan’s dreams come true. As he is single and therefore doesn’t need too much space, he chose a new Gypsey Romany 4-berth caravan, which has a pop-top roof.

Its basic layout is that of a double sleeping area at the rear, the “kitchen” and then two single berths to the front. There wasn’t much to adapt with this layout, just the door which had to be widened, and a removable ramp fitted to get in and out. With the extra width door, the one single berth had to be shortened, both the base and the cushions and the forward large window to the side of the door had to be replaced with a smaller one. So now it is effectively a 3-berth. Loftus’ master cabinet maker, Charlie Bimray made sure that this was done with such professionalism that the caravan looks like it has arrived from the factory this way.

Now I know that most of you out there who have done any outdoor activities are asking: “What about ablution facilities?” Most caravan parks do not have accessible ablution blocks. Well this was the first question I asked Johan. He has decided on a portable shower and loo which will be set up outside the caravan next to the large fitted tent area, which acts as the “daytime living area”. There is a special cupboard below the double berth which stores the porta loo.

We had long discussions with the Loftus brothers as to other configurations for those who would want their loo within easy access during the night. There are certainly caravans on the market that do have the configurations that have a shower and loo inside, and Loftus Caravan City are prepared to assist with making any configuration accessible. They are also looking into the option of approaching the manufacturers for a shell and the various components to make up the interior as they come in units, so that the caravan could be set up to the individual owner’s needs.

Of course, the most important factor of this entire project has to be cost. I was again amazed at how little the conversion cost. With the work and ramp it was under R8 000. New Caravan prices start at about R57000 upwards, but one can pick up a second hand one from as little as R18000. Porta loos are about R3500.

Johan has assured me that as soon as he can get some leave, he is going to start visiting the various caravan and camping spots and will send me regular report backs as to their accessibility.

Should you want to purchase an accessible caravan, or have your existing one converted please contact Woody Loftus at Loftus Caravan City (011) 792 1456 or email info@loftuscaravans.co.za

Columnist Photos