For me one of the highlights of travel are the people I meet, over a glass of wine or cup of coffee, or just in the car parks or rest areas. They share their stories, pass on interesting places they have seen , comment about camp sites good and bad they have stayed at. This is the grapevine of the road. I love it.
After picking up Matilda the first 3 nights I stayed at “freebies”. Great for when you travel on a budget.I find the people who use these camp areas tend to be friendly and approachable, down to earth types, “battlers” is the term used in Australia.
They are living a dream, some have sold everything they possessed to buy a caravan or Winnebago RV vehicle and are constantly on the move, others just rent the family home. Some are retired, others are following work around the country. All are modern-day gypsies and have interesting stories to tell.
First night back on the road I stayed at Blue Water rest area (we stayed here before, click here if you want to check it out) Here I met Tony and his new English partner Babs. They had met in the Congo, Africa where they had both been on a mining contract. When it finished they decided to come to Australia and work in the mining industry here. They are both highly qualified, Babs is a geologist and Tony a mineral scientist and trainer. I was amazed when they told me they couldn’t find a job here after sending countless CV’s. They are now, reluctantly, taking up an offer from Malaysia. Many overseas countries will, gladly, employ them.
Now that is a worry, Australia is so dependant on the mining sector, even a slight downturn will affect the economy. They told me mining appears to be slowly going into decline. As workers leave they are not being replaced, the industry seems to be in limbo waiting for the election to see who will be the next government.
In the meantime Tony, who is an Australian, is proudly showing Babs his country before they leave for the gold mines of Malaysia in the new year. They say they will, hopefully, be back in 2 years when the Malaysian contract ends.
Next night I stayed at Toomulla Beach, the free rest area is right on the beach front, lovely sea breezes to cool us both down after the trip up to Paluma.
As I settled in, Paul, in the next caravan, came over “You on your own?” he asked “bring your seat over and meet Sue”. So with glass of wine in hand I joined them.
Newly retired they had rented their house in Mackay and with no set itinerary,they planned to wander around and see the country. They had a horror story about their first lot of tenants. 3 guys who did a runner and left the house in a terrible mess. They went back, cleaned it up using the bond money, now they hope the second tenants are better behaved.
They had a similar story, from a different perspective, of the mining industry. Mackay is a mining town but workers are moving on as jobs in the industry dwindle, therefore Paul thinks next year they may have to drop the rent as consequently the tenant numbers are dropping.
On the other side of me 3 free spirits were sleeping in swags under a tarpaulin thrown over a rope stretched between 2 trees. With tattoos, dreadlocks and hippie clothes Nat, Shannon and Josh had been to Cairns to witness the “awesome” (their description) solar eclipse. They busked their way around and had a great juggling and fire stick routine. I watched them as they practiced their art. Josh was teaching Nat who had only just started, but already was good at it..
“What next?” I asked. All 3 had various plans for travel over seas. I gathered they were just friends travelling together.
Next stop was Home Hill. This is the town were I had that HUGE “Taste of the ocean” meal.
Home Hill really caters for the traveller. In the centre of town they have provided a comfort stop, not only toilets but spacious shower rooms with hot and cold water. After the cold outside shower, behind the toilet block at Blue Water and no shower at Toomulla, there I just had a lick and promise in a bucket inside Matilda. This shower had controllable pressure from gentle to invigorating needles. After a hot day on the road when the temperatures reached into the 30’s and the humidity is rising, it was shower heaven. They have also provided a stainless steel camp kitchen with BBQ plates and a sink for dish washing. they have thought of everything, there are even power outlets for all of todays electronic gadgetry. All these amenities and it is a free rest area. Oh I didn’t tell you the parking for the vehicles is along the back street with the Bruce Highway on one side and the train tracks on the other!!! But hey, it is free…
After my big meal at the pub I joined 4 male back packers clustered around the power point, all of us sharing the outlet with our computers. The 2 german guys watching movies, the dutch guy surfing the net and the Maltese fellow came across with a huge plate of sausages, about 20 of them, he had just BBQed and he devoured the lot with bread and smothered in tomatoe sauce, then checked his e-mails, as for me I did a post on my blog. We all sat in companionable silence.
The temperatures soared on Thursday so I decided to go into a caravan park and onto a powered site so I could use the mini fan to cool the van down.
O’Connell River tourist park is a favourite we have stayed at several times. At $20 for a powered site it is good value and this time I found he also provides free WiFi. So under a tree in a shady spot, right on the river bank with a comforting breeze cooling me down I made the most of the free WiFi.
My new neighbour, Chris came over to say hello and we had a chat. They have a comfortable van and awning that is home and they travel around following work. At the moment her husband is working on the road works in this area. She said the works are extensive all over Queensland at the moment. I guess this is the ongoing clean up after all the natural disasters of 2010/2011. A number of travellers, that have been through them, have warned me about them. Oh well will just have to wait and see. I had considered going on the inland road, but at this time of the year it is hotter inland so I will take my chances with the coast road…
So this is just a small sample of the cross-section of interesting people I meet on the road. Every ones story is different but all are interesting. I find I am never lonely, even when travelling alone….