In years gone past the Australian Sundowner was a wanderer who arrived at dusk seeking work, usually the promise of work and in turn was given a meal. However when the sun rose the next day the promise of work never eventuated as the bloke had usually moved on during the early dawn. Or… another meaning was for the 5pm happy hour drinks.
Sundowner’s in today’s world are usually still old men who are past working usually. Although in their day they often worked hard and enjoyed the 5pm happy hour tipple with wives who travelled with them as Grey Nomads, and who now have passed on, leaving them behind. They are usually jolly blokes, content with life and who spend their time sleeping, fishing or looking after the ‘mans best friend’ and living in a caravan. One that has perhaps seen better days, but now sits stationary somewhere, having got there somehow and is not likely to see much more distance.
Of course some Sundowner’s we have met still get around quite a bit in todays world of young chickies wanting to travel or those wanting to get from A to B. We have met some who have been beaten up by these young chickies… too old or cautious to defend themselves… others who have dropped the young chickie off at the local rail station with enough money to make it back to home base, wherever that may be. Then some who only ever planned on taking young chickie to the next chickie stop, a diversion or an entertainment.
The Sundowner’s I know and love though are those who prefer to ‘Life of Riley’ to that of an existence in a retirement village, or living with the kids. They usually pop over to visit the offspring, even if that means a trip of some thousands of klm’s. There they will settle in the backyard, or in the local caravan park and become something of a temporary permanent. We met one such lovable chap in our recent holiday in a caravan park and it bought to mind the issues of the different ways we all will cope with retirement and our imminent aging. I think I would too choose to be a Sundowner.
Lets call this lovely old bloke, John. John has travelled for two decades or more and lost his wife a year or two ago. Over their years travelling they at first explored widely and then settled down to a weather pattern. This was winters in the north with child no.2 and summers in the south with kidette no.1. It worked well and now he is on his own he annually moves between two caravan parks near his kids. John is so well known in his caravan park of choice in his southern sojourn that they have actually named a site after him, this in the caravan park. He has been instrumental in the development of this site and others nearby. It’s a wonderful symbiotic relationship he was with the caravan park and one of many years.
It is a pity more caravan parks don’t take on this demographic as a clientele and stop harassing other travellers, to the extent of blocking the development of freecamps for travellers to use, particularly those on the sunrise side of travelling about as Grey Nomads and travellers who are on the wallaby mostly fulltime. Caravan Parks really do need to learn to cater for their market and some towns need to stop blocking the development of other markets. Some towns do cater for RV’s really well, while other towns, well known in the Grey Nomad fraternity, think only of the bottom line in $ particularly that made by their local caravan parks.
There are a lot of towns out there where caravan park owners have gained a lot of say in local Council, often to the detriment of the towns other businesses. It should also be said that you rarely find a Sundowner, on an extended stay, in the many caravan parks who cater primarily for the ‘holidaying’ market, where the tariffs are at the high end, rather than catering for the traveller just seeking a place to hoe-up for a spell.
Another Sundowner who comes to mind is the old bloke we met in WA. He had settled up as a ‘Camp Captain’ at freecamp, one that could be considered remote. He was comfortable, happy and had taken on the care of the freecamp with the support of the Council, given the location of the camp. He did a wonderful job and was a much-loved character. He too had a kidette nearby who he visited often and once more it was a beautiful symbiotic relationship he had with Rangers, Council and the environment. There should be more of this … and less of the bun fight that goes on about Grey Nomads, traveller’s, related to the development of freecamps/rest area’s for the safety and comfort of the travelling public. After all the Grey Nomad, or travelling workers are a entirely different demographic to the Holidaying caravaner.