In October 2019, I organised a Let’s Go rental motorhome and spent a week with members of the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) at their 34th national rally at Elmore in Victoria.
Anyone who has been to a New Zealand Motorhome Caravan Association (NZMCA) rally will know what they are all about, and the Australian event is similar, but there are few differences, too. For instance, the CMCA National Rally runs for seven days, whereas the NZMCA event goes for just three or four.
Bigger travelling distances is one reason for longer get-togethers, but it also means harder work for the organisers. The Elmore Events Centre was an excellent site for the 769 motorhomes/caravans/fifth-wheelers and the 1300 or so members who turned up. About 240 volunteers were there to ensure it all ran smoothly, and all did a great job.
What made the Elmore site excellent is that all could get a powered site. Additionally, it was very flat, so walking or cycling around was easy. A weather bonus - there were not too many of the windy and dusty days that are so often a rally feature. In recent years, there has been a change at CMCA rallies - a growing number of caravan owners.
For many years, the rally was dominated by motorhomes (it being a motorhome club) and a few fifth-wheelers but, these days, associate members with caravans also join in. Away from Elmore, there were tours to the Bendigo and Echuca/Moama regions, along with activities as diverse as wine tasting and visiting a camel farm.
Onsite, things were busy, and it was challenging to fit in everything. There were seminars on any number of topics - everything from bus conversions to solar panels/lithium batteries on the RV front, along with lifestyle items such as understanding enduring power of attorney/wills.
Apart from the seminars, craft activities catered for every skill or hobby, and there were workshops on just about everything, from sharing the road with trucks to 3D printing for beginners.
At most of the rallies, one keen member runs rock and roll dance classes, and they always seem to be popular. This year was no exception; the building allocated for the dancing didn’t appear large enough when I looked in.
The ‘Poet’s Breakfast’ is another regular rally feature and, even though this year’s required an early start, each day seemed to draw a crowd, and a surprising number of amateur poets demonstrated some entertaining talents. The local Lions club cooked the breakfast, and the smell of bacon and eggs accompanied many a poetic rhyme.
CMCA members always like to support charities and, at Elmore, a special day was dedicated to the McGrath Foundation, with a Pink Up The Rally Day. The McGrath Foundation was started by former Australian bowler Glenn McGrath and raises funds so that all those with breast cancer can have access to a specialist nurse.
Rally participants were invited to put on something pink for the day and dress up their motorhomes in a similar colour. It was a fun day, and some club members are clearly imaginative. In New Zealand, the major RV shows at Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch have an RV rally at the same time.
This doesn’t happen in Australia. Instead, there’s usually a trade stand with several exhibitors, both large and small. Some rallies are better than others, and this one was impressive.
Avida, Avan, Jayco, Kea, Suncamper, Sunliner, Swagman and Wirraway (most of those names should be familiar to Kiwi readers) all had something on display, and equally interesting were the smaller traders with plenty of advice for all. The volunteers on the ‘Tag and Test’ stand, checking electrical power cords, always seemed to be busy.
At any CMCA rally, some things are fixtures. The ‘Disc Bowls’ competition is one of them and is played with considerable enthusiasm over a couple of days. Even though it was particularly hot on the first day, the event was still keenly contested. ‘Happy Hour’ is another of those institutions, and everyone picks up their chairs and heads off for a few drinks their friends.
For a busy RV journo who needs to catch up with a few people in a limited time, it’s a useful opportunity to go visiting on a bike, remembering of course not to have too many drinkies on the way around. As I moved around, the general vibe was suggestive of a successful rally and, judging by the number of smiling faces during the days and evenings, that was certainly the case.
The next national rally will be held in Gympie, Queensland, from 27 September to 4 October 2020 for any NZMCA member (using reciprocal membership) interested in attending. Organising a rental motorhome out of Brisbane (it’s about two hours’ drive north to Gympie) is unlikely to be difficult, and you could see a bit of Australia at the same time.