We have been strangers to the road since last April.
It was then, a few days into what should have been a journey along the Great Ocean Road and on into South Australia, with return via Broken Hill … it was then that Sue’s troublesome back wrought havoc. The six day return trip – one day driving, next day resting – gave us time to realise our camping life was past tents.
In the months that followed, the camping trailer was sold but the compensation was more than financial. The buyers were a young couple with two under five. Our camper trailer would give them the chance to experience a life they had always wanted and to grow their children in the Australian bush. The tail lights winked conspiracy as the tires left the drive the last time. I won’t admit to crying but as Lloyd Bridges once said as an episode of Sea Hunt closed, there must have been a lot of salt in the air that day because my eyes misted up.
What to do?
Clearly, we had to face the possibility that we were about to be reclassified but that terminology – the one that used the adjective “grey” – seemed pre-emptive for youngsters like us. Never the less, it was hard to avoid our need for less work, more comfort and taking living arrangement with us which could support, even pamper, Sue’s back.
So here we are. Nine months later, after a strangely coincidental gestation period, parked a few hundred metres from the beach below Indian Head, in Crowdy Head NP. Twenty four hours after arriving, its hot outside and reasonable inside. Whatever breeze wanders past, finds lots of reason to come in and offer solace. Sue can rest her back on a mattress which is the replica of the specially chosen and then built one at home. The only thing it lacks by comparison is size but it’s still big enough for us not to crowd each other at midnight.
I’m writing from inside an Avan Cruiser – the Cruiseliner without the storage box on the draw bar. There is cold beer in the fridge and cold water in the underfloor tank. There are two burners to cook food. There is a solar panel to recharge the battery every day. There’s plenty of storage. There’s even a sound system which plays my iPod favourites (all twelve thousand of them). Yes, it’s a solid body, solid roof caravan. The only canvas is in the awning outside but it took less than ten minutes to set up from engine off to kettle on.
We’re towing it with a new Subaru Forester, 2.5i-S. The old Forester gave us six years and 195,000 kms which included three months to Western Australia and back and four weeks up the Queensland coast as far as the Daintree. There may have been one or two other places in between. There was never a choice other than the model. It’s our fourth Subaru and third wagon and in just a few days, there is little in the way of disappointment. It was slow up the hills coming across the Oxley Highway to Port Macquarie but there is 1000kg on the back and some of those hills are climbs. Who’s in a hurry, anyway?
We made a few stops.
At Apsley falls, we popped the roof and walls up and boiled the kettle, drinking of tea without the annoyance of flies we could hear droning their complaint outside. The Falls were dry – the first time I have seen them in that condition – with nothing by stain to convince onlookers that water usually plays its part. It was high thirties in the sun, so we didn’t dawdled.
A late lunch at Stockyard Creek or The Big Bend, was a comfortable hour spent most reminiscing about stops here in the past, funny events and being amazed at how versatile and easy to use our Avan was.
The afternoon became long and the last leg into Laurieton and beyond to Kylie’s Beach dragged and we were both glad to finally be completing a circuit of the camping area in order to choose a spot. There were several friendly waves which was encouraging and we chose an open area on the inside of the camping circle which allowed me to face the Avan to the north and keep sun on the solar panel for most of the day. It was a handy back up but probably unnecessary. The battery alone would last our stay without too much trouble.
The rest was trouble free and so easy by comparison to camper trailer days. I must be relaxing my hold on youth because I enjoy those luxuries which soften my exchange with life these days. I may well be conning myself but I figure I’ve walked lots of hard yards, so I’ve earned soft grass and comfortable chairs and constantly cold beer.
I treated Sue by cooking our steaks on the portable gas cooker outside and we dined in the cool of the early evening after the sun had departed and then met the neighbours and found some points in our lives which concorded.
I slept so well.