We have been freecamping across two states for several weeks now. The camps have been a delight from Cairns to the Western Australian Border. Those who understand the Outback, who understand the Aussie perchance to tour and explore along the needs travellers have for simple comfort and survival, have ensured that there are rest areas, often well appointed.
It has been quite a dry run through much of the Top End savannah or grasslands… it’s a dry region and still the dry season in the northern reaches of Aus. The Wet season is still a few weeks away, this is before the first of the monsoons are expected to arrive, but there have been camps with water along the way. There have of course been caravan parks too… but we aren’t on a holiday. This is a lifestyle and a means of traveling, often considerable distances and the tariff in many caravan parks preclude their use as merely an overnight stopover. Somewhere to rest your head in your own bed, towing your own home, not unlike a turtle, this all that we require. Somewhere to pull over for the night after a day driving and exploring, where there might be a public convenience of facility or two is nice. They do tend to understand this more in the Territory than on the East Coast but I can say with all confidence and experience that the freecamping demographic is a growing, mobile and active group.
The argument between the caravan park owner, and the freecamper rages in many towns. A large number of country towns however have discovered the benefits of having a freecamp nearby. They realize the custom this drives to their town and they understand that there are freecampers, and then there are holiday-park campers. Sometimes they are even the same and sometimes freecampers, like everyone else, need a holiday occasionally.
I have often said that to exclude freecamping demographic from a town, usually because there is a caravan park owner who has exercised undue influence, is like excluding parks and picnic area’s because there is a restaurant. People will simply take their picnic elsewhere after all it is the picnic they wish to experience, not the restaurant.
Anyway … after weeks of travel across the top and in the dry season we longed for a few things. To swim in clear deep water, to tangle the toes in green grass and to sit under deep shade. A fishing spot would be nice and a tolerance of pups necessary. A good long, strong shower would be a pleasure. It was time for a holiday.
We are hundreds of kilometres from an ocean and a world away from the coastline so we headed in towards a dam, which just happened to be Lake Argyle. This vast expanse of water sits on the WA side of the border between NT and WA, on the edge of the Kimberley. It was originally part of the vast Durack Holding and now the Ord River has been dammed for some years and the remainder of the holding returned to the Aboriginal ownership. The water there supplies the Argyle diamond mine, the township of Kununurra and irrigates vast fertile regions north of its shores in what is potentially the food bowl of Asia.
There we found a caravan park with all the ingredients we were looking for and it was a simple choice to turn a stop that was meant to be for only a few nights indulgence, into a week-long holiday stay. I must say … it has been a delight. Interestingly there is a freecamp tucked in down the road. It’s mostly used by the locals as an overnight stop. Frequented by those who want to access the dam and who do not require the facilities of the caravan park. It is also used by the occasional freecamper I am told and I have only seen it used as an overnight stop once in the entire week I have been here.
It little affects the caravan holiday park at all as most people, usually locals, only stay one night for fishing at the Freecamp and then go on their way. You do need to drive into Argyle Dam and then drive out again. It is not a drive past destination and many understand this.
Having the opportunity to unhook the van and take trips around the Kimberley has been something we have very much enjoyed. It has helped a great deal in the planning for future visits and it has been lovely to chatter to people who also have been attracted to the green grass and deep shade of this remote caravan park. The park has been busy but they don’t crowd the caravans in too closely together and this is one of the main reasons we extended our stay. I have a great deal of trouble sleeping where caravans are crowded together more for profit than convenience. This is one of the reasons we do not stay in caravan parks often.
The pool has been very much appreciated though we did pick the times where there were the least amount of vegemiters duck diving and when it was crowded we often took the pups down to a nearby boat ramp for a swim in the lake. They don’t have the ‘saltie’ in the vast freshwater lake and it is quite safe to swim above the wall. Below the wall the fishing is better, but it is also a fast trip into Kununurra via the fast and now constant pull of the Ord river.
We also took the opportunity to visit family working on a nearby Station, one of those huge Outback holdings which are the size of a European Country and it takes near an hour driving through what is the front yard to get to the home gate. It was a delightful visit. One we will repeat again in time to better enjoy the Station life and even perhaps lend a hand. But then… that is another time, another story. It is now time to head west again towards the Atlantic Ocean and the western seaboard of Aus. … Bring on the fishing!
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