OK … It is freezing here! The Aussie winter is something again… beautiful blue skies, sun-a-rising and if you can find a spot out of the wind, sitting in the sun, life could not get better but the mornings they are cutting! We seriously need to head north.
There are icy bits and pieces all over the country and snow falling where it should be… and some places where it shouldn’t be. Higgins Storm Chasers is my favourite weather gauge for all things wet, cold and windy. It is a great resource as well as entertaining and a favourite Facebook Page of many and even our storm chasers are collecting pictures of ice, frost and snow from all over the country. In other words it is COLD!
The Man and I are headed north, albeit at a slow rate, but north it is as we want to be where at the very least, it is warmer. We have the added incentive of family up that way and the chance for a visit with the Grandies is too good to pass up.
At the moment we are settled in beside a small creek near Kilkivan in Qld and it is a nice freecamp. It’s early morning and there is frost on the ground out there, even the fur kids are complaining and one won’t get out of bed. The other is demanding cuddles and her jumper and we left it in the car … bugga
There seem to be heaps of caravaners and travellers on the road, many moving between here and there as it is the end of holidays for the kids-set and families are on the move. I know from experience that many Grey Nomads and Freecampers head inland at these times. Not only to make room for the families on the move and the frenzy of holiday parks but because it is much, much quieter.
We found ourselves on the road during this period however, and as the afternoon dropped into the evening we realized that we should have left earlier. On the main arteries into and out of the cities many of the freecamps, rest-stops and even some inviting places were full to brimming with tired drivers and lively families.
At one popular stop we even found some travellers had embarked on a washing parade and they were sitting on the grass contentedly having tucked themselves away into a quieter corner chatting while the laundry was drying. They were a group of young men spread throughout two cars and a van and they did look to be having a good time of it.
The thing is… do the powers that be realize how much the public use and need these accommodating rest-stops. This is a vast country and we have considerable distances between outposts. And what is a rest-stop really…?
Does it, or even should it differ from a place where you can actually rest… ie climb into the back of your car-van-truck-caravan and sleep when you need to. Shouldn’t every rests-stop invite one to rest or in other words… to freecamp for a rest? I don’t know about you but when The Man who is advancing in years, has been towing 3 ton of van along the highway for hours on our way to our intended camp, he needs a sound sleep. A simple rest and a cuppa will often not cut it.
We have noticed that more rest-stops are wearing signs that indicated ‘no camping’. What is the move and what actually does it mean … does anyone know? I would love to hear the definition in the meaning of those signs … the ones with a tent and a red insulting slash through them. We have found some signs that are more descriptive in their intent and I am thinking that it is time the meaning of other signs, less informative, were tested.
We don’t travel with a tent commonly and I have never in my entire time on the road seen a tent erected in a roadside rest-stop, so why did they even bother erecting such a sign?
Australia is a country blessed with land, land that is considered to be crown land or public land even, though there is an argument to be had there with our ‘first Australians’. I have mentioned before the ‘Historical Right of Aussies to Freecamp’, that given by example and historical practice. So where do governing bodies get the idea that it is something that they can dictate about without regard to public safety.
Also, what can be done about people or bodies/groups who erect illegal signs to prevent and discourage freecamping on public ground, often to their own advantage.
I can understand how freecamping can easily become squatting and while I have empathy with squatters, they do and can create havoc and are generally not a caring lot. We are however not talking about this problem. Freecampers are not squatters… they have no intention of staying permanently anywhere. The freecamper is more an adventurer exploring the country, having been given the opportunity to do so.
The problem I have, is with any authority or body preventing the public from staying temporarily on public lands in any one place. This as long as any free campers are camped with consideration to the needs of the rest of the public in general. We are after all ‘the public’ and private commerce should concern itself with private affairs. They should not dictate to the public in general on any matters as their priorities are private commerce and self-interested.
There are rules to freecamping that should always be observed… they are often understood but rarely stated and they are simple and practical rules.
- 1.01 A Golden Rule : Always leave a place better than you found it.
- Take only pictures and leave only footsteps.
- Be considerate of the many wonderful volunteers who maintain these area’s.
- Shop locally, explore the area and be appreciative of the hospitality of those providing freecamp area’s for others.
- Leave your donation towards upkeep where appropriate.
- Do not pinch the toilet paper.
- Do not pinch any wood that might be generously provided, share and share alike. Leave cut wood for others to use if you can. We once came across a codger who gathered all the wood including that left by others and tried to sell it to campers… he was not well liked.
- Wilderness gardening is permitted. However do not pull out plants or cut down trees.
- When gathering wild foods, leave some for the wild animals and birds.
- Do not disturb wildlife or stock… enjoy and protect.
- Do not block access to water for wildlife and stock.
- Small and practical campfires only, where permitted. Use campfire pits where provided.
- Ensure all campfires are doused and drowned. Do not merely cover or bury them.
- Generators to be used only in consideration of others. Do not run generators in the hours of darkness, definitely not after bedtime or 8pm.
- Dogs to be kept under control.
- Kids to be kept under control… teach them respect and manners.
- If there are no bins… take it with you. No dumping of rubbish.
- Observe all signage in regards to the use of public toilets and other facilities. Close that toilet lid!
- Erect no permanent or even temporary-permanent structures. No fences, no boundaries, no permanent shades detached from your van/car or tent. Be considerate of others.
- Respect the property of other people. Do not wander through the campsites of others without permission or invitation.
- Do not camp on public access tracks, roads or at the entrance to stairways or access points and expect others to stay off, or away from these.
- Don’t empty your effluent into public toilets, rivers and drains. Use dumping points where possible.
- If you must crap in the bush… dig a hole, bury it and burn the toilet paper. Little white ground flags are never pleasant to find. If camping for a good few days where there is no public toilet, dig a bush dunny.
- A disposable nappy is not a piece of paper to be discarded after use, so dispose of it correctly or take it with you.
- Do not pollute waterways with soapy water, oils, grease or effluent and do not use soap or shampoo in creeks or rivers. Bathe and wash away from creeks where the soap can filter through ground or sand, well back from the waterway.
- Always be considerate of other freecampers and the general public. Everyone has the right to move comfortably through, and use a public space.
- Do not play loud music or make offensive or intrusive noise and expect not to be confronted about it. This is the common practice of bogans who wish to clear a camp. When this happens to you, call the authorities or police. Often you are on public land and public nuisance is a public offence… You are the public.
- Do not freecamp or camp on private property without permission of the owner.
- Do not use guns, or any other weapon without permission or licence.
- Do not outstay your welcome or the length of time indicated without conference with those in authority.
- Don’t camp on top of other campers, a freecamp is not a caravan park. Treat others with respect at all times and camp within a reasonable distance from others.
- 5pm happy hour is encouraged… say Hi to your neighbour.
An interesting aside is the condition of ‘homelessness’. There are protocols for the authorities in dealing with those who have no permanent residence or address who are in a Public Place and they can be found on the web. With Australia’s current housing along with employment problems more people are living in a homeless state, often in caravans and RV’s as they travel the country seeking employment etc. Caravan parks are a common option, but not always affordable so it raises the question of freecamping. When is it truly illegal? Another discussion perhaps. Shouldn’t being able to camp… or freecamp on public lands be a natural state of affairs, and illegal camping a imposed state of affairs?
Can you think of other points that can be added to this list for Freecampers then make a note below in comments. Help us preserve and protect this wonderful custom of ours. We are luckier than many realise in being able to discover and explore this vast land so freely.
Jan is an Author of both fiction and travel adventures. You can discover more about her books at her Web Site.
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