We are back, returned from our sojourn in the NW Pacific coast of the USA and the Rockies of Canada and it is always nice to be home.
For those first few precious weeks in returning you see things through different eyes. The skies in Aus. are so blue here, the nights so dark with a spray of a million brilliant and familiar stars overhead. The air is so crisp, a welcome and familiar crispness given that it is now mid winter, even if it is similar to the summers of the NW in America.
Everyone drives on the ‘right’ side of the road here too and turning corners is less of a hazard. The Man has taken to switching on the windscreen wipers instead of the blinkers but that will soon pass. I do laugh every time he does it and he is determined to overcome this habit he has formed.
There are a few things I will miss that we found during our journey, the least of which is the company of good friends but I will also miss the bottomless cup of coffee at the roadside diners. Actually I will miss the diner but reacquainting myself with the Aussie pub lunch will not be a hardship.
Did you know that there were much fewer Maca’s and Tuckey Duck over there than over here… that was a revelation. Their outlets are also much less visible and less intrusive, some downright tacky. We have let this fast food faction run amuck here with too free a hand and too great a cost to our smaller Aussie businesses, obviously.
I loved the variety and friendly atmosphere of the American diner vs the uniformity of the fast food franchises. I have also come to dislike the hamburger and those highly processed foods that dominate the US hospitality industry both over there and here. I have also seen the consequence of their prevailing presence here, through fresh eyes and it is not pretty, nor of much benefit to anyone but the multi-national business concern.
Leaving all this aside… way too early in the morning for that convo’; we are now presently camped up at Taylors Arm (not a fast food franchise in sight happily). It is a small and neat little township on the central coastal region of NSW and it is truly a delightful freecamp.
Taylors Arm is not only an excellent alternative to Coffs Harbour but it is a delight on its own and I adore ‘The Pub with No Beer’. The story goes that it once ran out of beer due to local floods… this is a problem that many of our NSW coastal fringe towns suffer in their rainy season. Whether or not the pub has beer should be a curiosity you can discover when you visit but the place certainly deserves its iconic reputation and is a delightful spot to visit.
Coffs Harbour, as a stop for the freecamper is a ‘don’t bother’ zone and we are avoiding the place at the moment even though we have business in the area. It is not at all friendly to freecampers and you could say without a doubt and without prejudice that the place has become downright hostile. Once, decades ago it was a delight for the travelling public offering freecamps and catered accommodation but no more… now it is all business and bucks.
There is a faction of business people in Coffs that has sufficient influence in council to introduced fines into Coffs for anyone wanting to visit and not wanting, or able to pay their costly fees to use their holiday parks. We don’t need their facilities as we are self-contained and can camp independently very comfortably. Plus we are not on holiday here… this is our lifestyle.
We are part of the freecamping demographic of grey nomads and we have chosen this lifestyle. It does not include, nor accommodate costly use of caravan parks, particularly when fees are hiked during holiday periods even if you can find a comfortable spot where you aren’t living on top of someone else. Despite popular belief we do not have an endless money supply, we live on a budget from necessity as do most freecampers and we need to carefully monitor and control spending.
Coffs Harbour does very well with the holidaying public and that is fine. But not all caravaners and campers are on holidays. So they no doubt will miss out on the freecamping demographic of Grey Nomads that is custom all year ‘round, due to greed of a few. This too is fine… their caravan parks are in general overpriced and cater to families on holidays.
Not all campers require these facilities that caravan parks generally provide and quite frankly I could think of nothing worse than being cramped up in a camp with a million kids running amuck. I love families but I don’t wish to cohabitate with them, nor with transient ‘permanents’ in close quarters. Give me the bush anytime.
These investors will make their monies on these caravan parks, they will hike the camping fees to leech families at school holiday time, a common practice and this is their business. They are after all Holiday Camps and they care little for other businesses in general who would profit from the demographic of the Grey Nomads. There are of course some excellent van parks, commonly inland and those that have organised entertainments for their constituents. Such as ‘happy hour’ and weekly entertainments around a common campfire. These places, such as Clermont Caravan Park in Qld, are well known and appreciated.
Off-times, caravan owners who do not cater much to the needs of Grey Nomad but to families on holiday, will try to convince everyone and anyone that everyone who owns a van or tent must use their caravan parks… sorry guys. There are many caravan friendly towns out there that actually enjoy the freecampers custom because they welcome us at all times and they value our patronage. They sensibly offer a mix of freecamp and caravan park.
This local faction in Coffs is the like of which would insist (given that they own the restaurant) that a pensioner or a person on a fixed income eat only at their restaurant and pay highly for the privilege, purely because the pensioner eats. The comparison is acidly accurate and the local grocer suffers this in the loss of sales. Anyone would think that caravan parks are the only business in town, or the only important business possible.
There are many places that welcome freecampers and enjoy their patronage. Places such as Taylors Arms on the Central coast region of NSW and some wonderful camps on the Burnett in central Qld… along with hundreds of others all around the country. Coffs Harbour is one of the exceptions, which suffer for their council’s decisions to fine freecampers at every opportunity, even those using rest areas during the daytime. You can learn more on the RV Unfriendly Towns Facebook page.
Anyway back to our return out amongst the gum trees… I do love the Aussie bush. Trees are lovely… and their presence brings something to your life that is invaluable. Our visit amongst the Redwood giants of California is an indelible memory but my eyes and senses began to long for the wild and often tortured shapes of the gum trees and the Aussie bush. I yearned for the soft olive greens and the rich colours of the barks found in the bush. I yearned too for the crack of bracken underfoot and the fierce cooking fires which the Aussie bush woods produce, giving us all the more reason to be sparing with our wood use.
An endless scape of pine forests is beautiful, but they are featureless in their uniformity to Aussie eyes. At least they don’t plant their pine forests in tiresome rows as they do in Aus. but I missed the tangle of the Aussie gum trees and acacias. I missed the raucous call at dawn and dusk… I missed the quick rise of dawn and fast descent of the sun in the evenings.
We discovered that fur trees or pines, in their endless sweep up mountains and down valleys, bring an optical illusion to the eye. It’s an illusion the like of one you see when you look into those 3D pictures and the scene quivers and it is very disturbing. I tried to capture this illusion and in part I succeeded in the pic here so that you could see what I mean.
There are many things that I learnt to appreciate about Aus. and this perhaps is the most valuable thing about travel to far reaching places… the appreciation you gain of a home, which you realize is part of you, part of your very essence.
Australia … It’s nice to be home. You can find out more about positive Freecamps at the Free Camping Australia Facebook page
Jan is an Australian author and writer. You can find our more about her publications at her official web site. Be sure to check out the reader discounts there.
Read the full travelogue of Jans adventures in the e-book ‘The Rockies and the Greater NW USA’ now available at Amazon for just $US1.99