In July 2020, I started the process of turning a long time dream into a reality — I purchased a retired Fedex cargo van, a Mercedes Sprinter LWB van, with the intention of converting the van into a campervan to travel Australia and join the #vanlife community.

I embraced the challenging task of a DIY conversion to create my dream tiny home on wheels. I had spent 2 years thoroughly researching how to build in what is essentially a large tin box. After 7 months, my Sprinter LWB van was converted into a cosy tiny apartment on wheels and ready for me to hit the road with my dog Malcolm.

My Sprinter camper van setup at Bowenville Reserve in Queensland
Malcolm my 12yo Cavalier King Charles Spaniel living his best life as a van dog

Im fortunate to have been building a photography and design business for many years that can be adapted to working on the road, so while I am traveling I will literally be a digital nomad.

The first couple of months on the road has been a series of catching up with family and friends between Sydney and Brisbane that I haven’t seen for 2+ years. I had been living and working in Brisbane up until having to return to Sydney to care for my dad for the past 4 years as he has advanced dementia, with the last year restricted travel due to COVID.

One aspect of vanlife I was looking forward too were van gatherings — where like-minded people and travellers congregate in their vans to share stories of life on the road. This May, just 2 months into my #vanlife, I attended my first van gathering – the Wizzbanger Bash 3.2.

Wizzbanger Bash 3.2 — Bowenville Reserve, Queensland, Australia

Fun Fact : A van is called a wizzbanger after the sound it makes when you close the sliding door WIZZ-BANG and a caravan is known as a WOBBLE-BOX.

The Wizzbanger Bash was organised by the Wizzbanger Australia Facebook Group. To qualify to be part of the group you must own a Wizzbanger campervan. It’s the 3rd Bash they have organised, unfortunately the 3rd Bash was postponed due to COVID but the second attempt at organising the Bash (Bash 3.2) had us heading out to Bowenville near Dalby Queensland earlier this month.

Bowenville Reserve Campground

The Bowenville Reserve campground offers free camping for up to 7 days on the banks of the Oakey Creek and is suitable for campervans, caravans, motorhomes and tent camping.

The large, level-ground campground offers a mix of sunny and shady areas scattered around the grassy reserve to setup camp. There are flushing toilets and bins which were cleaned and emptied regularly during our 8 day stay. The campground is pet-friendly but dogs must be kept on leash at all times. There is a year-round fire ban so no camp fires.

Bookings are not required for Bowenville Reserve Campground and due to the size of the campground you are almost guaranteed of finding a campsite.

Access to the Bowenville Reserve Campground is 4km along the Bowenville-Norwin Road from the Warrego Highway on a sealed bitumen road but the entrance is gravel. Access is easy in good conditions.

However, the day before my arrival there was a storm and during our stay we did also experience a storm and the outer areas did get quite muddy and not ideal camping conditions, some vans even got bogged. If it is wet, you are best to stick to the main central part of the grounds near the playground and toilet block — this still got a little slushy and slippery under foot but a day of sunshine dried it up quickly.

The access road that crosses the river on the northside of the reserve did also flood, however, the locals in 4WDs were able to drive through without problem but when it comes to flood water, it is always best to get out and test the depth of the water, is it rising, is there any debris in the water and assess the risk before driving through flood water. I was informed by Glenis (another Wizzy) to drive to the right-hand side of the road, so if the flowing flood water does push your car you have a little wiggle room before you reach the edge of the road/bridge.

Bowenville Reserve is a free camp just 20 minutes outside of Dalby, Queensland.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was it going to be a bunch of grey-nomads, possibly hippies … I was pleasantly welcomed by a terrific bunch of part-time travellers and full-time nomads, some grey-nomads and some hippies.

Vanlifers travelled from near and far — from nearby Toowoomba to all parts of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and even a few from Tassie and Perth. We all had a commonality — we travelled in wizzbangers (vans).

There was a wide variety of vans, mostly all white vans, from vans like mine a Mercedes Sprinter to Ford Transits — to every kind of Toyota campervan, Commuters and Hiaces and even VWs.

Some stayed the entire 8 days, others came and left after a couple of nights, while others came then left and returned. The most vans counted were 63 on one night with over 100 people and a number of dogs!

The weather was quite mild at the start of the week, wearing t-shirts around the nightly fire was enough. The morning ritual was waking up around 6am to walk my dog and discovering who was awake with me. Vanlifers slowly emerged with the first task of the day getting coffee on.

One morning I grabbed the camera to capture the morning mood of the camp and the range of vans parked up at Bowenville Reserve. As we know a picture tells a thousand words so Im sharing those photos in this post …

The remains of the previous nights camp fire
The sun rising through the fog
To the far left behind the trees you can see my 2006 Sprinter LWB, but in the foreground is an even earlier model, a white 2000 Sprinter.
Amber’s DIY water filtration setup — pulling water from the nearby creek then filtering it through a series of materials including pebbles and charcoal. The water would not be suitable for drinking but perfect for washing the dishes.

Then a few days into the Bash, storm clouds rolled in.

I amused myself during the storm inside the van by taking photographs through my skylight in the roof capturing some abstract photos.

The next morning we were treated to a beautiful sunrise.

New vans arrived everyday. Some people only came for a few days, while others returned after a couple of days away.

After the rain, the creek began to rise and flooded the road into Bowenville Reserve. We like to think we were flooded in and trapped so we didn’t have to leave, however, there is another road into the reserve.

It was Friday morning and the second last day at the Bash. The temperature was starting to drop and the nights were getting colder as it approaches winter. Mornings huddled around what was left over from the night-before’s fire, some brewed their coffee, others just chatted.

This morning’s conversation was about how much the creek had risen after the rain. There were concerns about the ability to get through to camp, as we were still expecting a campervan that had been held up at the Perth/Adelaide border due to COVID, but were now approaching Bowenville and after such a long agonising drive, didn’t want them to face a flooded road. They eventually arrived via another route to everyone’s relief.

Some people had already gone, while many of us were hanging around for tonight’s festivities — the Hippie party. As I hadn’t prepared my Hippie outfit, I went picking wildflowers to put in my hair.

Getting to Bowenville Reserve Campground from Dalby

From Dalby, drive east along the Warrego Highway (A2) for about 28km, then turn right taking the Bowenville-Norwin Road for 4km. The entrance to the Bowenville Reserve is on your left just after you cross the bridge over the Oakey Creek.

View directions from Dalby in Google Maps

Getting to Bowenville Reserve Campground from Toowoomba

From Toowoomba, drive west along the Warrego Highway (A2) for about 56km, then turn left taking the Bowenville-Norwin Road for 4km. The entrance to the Bowenville Reserve is on your left just after you cross the bridge over the Oakey Creek.

View directions from Toowoomba in Google Maps

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