Ain’t no sun­shine, where he’s gone

South, dur­ing the win­ter, iS where the real ‘grey’ no­madS are, aS david Cook diS­Cov­erS.

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS -

We have two good friends liv­ing in Vic­to­ria who turned us green with envy when they told us they were tak­ing their Tvan north to the Kim­ber­ley and the Ter­ri­tory for three or four months, start­ing in May and ef­fec­tively bridg­ing win­ter. Now that’s a neat trip – imag­ine round­ing up three months with noth­ing more press­ing than fol­low­ing the urge of a whim?

But then we re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion from an old friend in Ade­laide, re­quest­ing our at­ten­dance at his 70th birth­day and we thought, “What a great ex­cuse this is for a trip with our cam­per dur­ing win­ter!” This was go­ing to in­volve a jun­ket to South Australia and back, so we fig­ured we’d give the area around the Menindee Lakes, south-east of Bro­ken Hill, a bit of time along the way. We hadn’t been there for a while, and thought it was a good ex­cuse to take it in on our way to see an old mate.

You would think we would have more sense, wouldn’t you? This was mid-July and it was south of the Tropic of Capricorn. I am now con­vinced that this is an area that’s re­ally not fit for camp­ing any time be­tween April and about Oc­to­ber.

As we read of our Vic­to­rian friends’ so­journ through the trop­ics, we packed and left home un­der over­cast skies. Be­fore long, it be­gan to rain, and it pro­ceeded to sus­tain that sort of un­pleas­ant­ness for the next 10 days, all the way to Ade­laide and all the way home again.

We’d originally planned to free camp our way around, but, oh no. If you went off the as­phalt, your ve­hi­cle sank down to the belly pan in the red goop that once qual­i­fied as a desert. We’d seen oth­ers who had suf­fered this fate, so car­a­van park-hop­ping it was, adding a cou­ple of hun­dred dol­lars to the cost of our trip, along with the guilty plea­sures of ac­cess to hot show­ers and flush­ing toi­lets thrown in.

We were rack­ing up 600-plus kilo­me­tres every day – from Sydney to Ade­laide, then to Mel­bourne for an er­rand and back to Sydney in 10 days to al­low for the two-day knees-up at our friend’s place. This meant get­ting into camp at any­where be­tween 5pm and 8pm which, de­spite my hard-core cam­per self, was some­times tough to love.

Tem­per­a­tures were in the low sin­gle-dig­its each night and, if it hadn’t been for the on­board heater, you prob­a­bly would’ve heard about our se­vere hy­pother­mia on the news.

I’m not a fan of the old tra­di­tion of sleep­ing in lay­ers of clothes to counter the weather, as it buf­fers your joints, play­ing havoc when get­ting out of bed and adding need­less com­plex­ity to putting on socks (one un­happy win­ter day, I spent a good part of a morn­ing dis­lodg­ing a parker-clad neigh­bour, who’d wedged him­self in his cam­per’s door).

I don’t know how we sur­vived for so many years with­out a space heater in our old

cam­per, but these are a boon to mod­ern man. They should be com­pul­sory in all cam­pers that are sold or to be used south of the Mur­ray.

RE­AL­ITY BITES

Now, don’t let this start some sort of in­ter­state­bash­ing cam­paign. I quite like Vic­to­ria and South Australia. I’ve spent many a happy hol­i­day tour­ing about and camp­ing in all man­ner of places in those states, but I can now un­der­stand why there are so few peo­ple in those south­ern states in win­ter and why so many of them travel north.

While our friends were jun­ket­ing about in the trop­ics and mar­vel­ling at how warm it can be in July, and how sunny it is al­most every day, we were left shiv­er­ing to the core dream­ing of those long queues into those far north camp­grounds.

Need­less to say, we didn’t get to see the Menindee Lakes, nor any­where else of any great in­ter­est, be­cause we were lim­ited to as­phalt high­ways. But we did get to see the Big Spi­der at Urana, NSW, a rather creepy ad­di­tion to the pan­theon of ‘big things’.

We also saw a lot of wa­ter. It was across the roads, in the pad­docks, pour­ing along every lit­tle creek line, burst­ing out of rivers and fill­ing every farm dam. It lay furtively in lit­tle pools and in great de­cep­tive sheets ev­ery­where you wanted to get out of the car, drip­ping end­lessly from the leaden sky, rolling through in great black storm fronts.

Ev­ery­thing was wet, and the once red and sandy desert around Bro­ken Hill looked like a golf course, with its lush green grass ev­ery­where. The feral goats were eat­ing well, and, I sup­pose, so were the sheep and cat­tle.

The shiny new cam­per came home look­ing very dirty and drab, which would’ve been okay if we’d ac­tu­ally got­ten of­froad, but we did ap­pre­ci­ate tak­ing less than one minute to set up and sim­pler pack-ups where ev­ery­thing in­side stayed dry.

I think next year we’re go­ing to have to join the great so­cial tide that floods north into the trop­i­cal climes dur­ing the colder months. It’s quite likely that we’ll meet our south­erner friends on the way.

De­spite the risks as­so­ci­ated with crowd­ing and high den­sity liv­ing – crime, health prob­lems, anti-so­cial be­hav­iour – it can only be seen as mi­nor prob­lems when com­pared with chilblains, dry rot, drown­ing and rust, which in­habit the south.

It’s me for a sun­burn next July.

WORDS anD picS DAVID COOK

CloCk­wise FRoM ToP leFT: En­gag­ing diff locks on the black­top at Urana was a first for David; Itsy Bitsy, the Big Spi­der of Urana, NSW, proved an un­likely high­light; David had to tread wa­ter and pick a line in or­der to re­fuel at the Lit­tle Topar Ho­tel, NSW; Road clo­sures weren’t part of the plan.

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