There is something inherently unfair about Australian caravan parks. The vast weight of the Gronad (Grey Nomads) demographic has caused a seismic shift in the whole concept of caravan parks. Gone is the low-cost lightweight class of single and twin-tents reserved for the backpacker and the cyclist. There are so many ginormous 4WDs pulling trailer/camper/van combinations of gargantuan proportion piloted by a retired population flush from a lifetime of superannuation savings and spared the curtailing flow-on effects of nearly a decade of economic contraction resulting from the global financial crisis. They want powered sites, though can do with unpowered which some do prefer. They want hot showers, sophisticated camp kitchens, laundry facilities and can pay for it. Some of the vans exceed the size of my apartments in Rotterdam, particularly those with walls which extend out from the side of the van when parked, ceilings which raise upwards and temporary patios and terraces creating vast cavernous expanses of unsurpassed luxury. They are not concerned with gravel, dusty and/or stony ground. Ground clearance can almost exceed a meter. Phenomenal. Nothing in Europe comes even close.
An almost universal blanket pricing system has emerged catering to this demographic.
As a cyclist with a tiny single-person Hillebergs Soulo tent my footprint on the ground is less than that of the vehicles the Gronads drive. Yet I am allocated a ‘plot’, a numbered site along a named street in one of the sub-suburbs in whatever caravan park subdivision. Exactly as are the Gronads. It is disturbingly reminiscent of the very suburbs the Gronads believe they have escaped by hitting the road with their mobile dwellings.
And I pay exactly the same price as a vehicle-van combination which must push near twenty meters and weigh in around 7000 or more kilogrammes at the upper end of the scale should they choose the non-powered site. There is a sense of Pythonian ridiculousness of me and my tent occupying such huge acreage. A tiny orange structure next to a thin-two wheeled human-powered vehicle. And it does make a H U G E difference to me whether the ground is gravel, dusty and/or stony ground. Or grassy.
In Walpole I paid 30$ AUD for the privilege to camp in the caravan park. Hamstrung by the lateness of the day I reluctantly agreed. It remains the only time I’ve paid such an amount solely because travelling with Rob we get to split the cost. Otherwise I estimate my accommodation costs would push 600$AUD (~400€) per month for a tent. Collie Colliefields Hotel cost me 40$ for a room. Inside. With a bed, a fridge, air-conditioning, carpet on the floor, free coffee and tea whenever I wanted one AND breakfast.
The vast number of Gronads means they can completely ignore my class of traveller without suffering any financial consequence at all.
Returning to what BCF told me as I scoured Perth for cycling-friendly supplies, “We do not do small”.
Rob laughs at me. But I feel insignificant. Because I am insignificant! I don’t count. I matter for nothing. Thems the prices. Pay. Or go somewhere else. Humph.
Am going to increase the amount of wild camping relative to caravan parks to alleviate my sense of insignificance.
Rob and I try a bit of back way out of Ceduna, to avoid asphalt, recalcitrant traffic, errant vaners and the hassles of road riding. We head down Decres Bay Rd, a gravel road, past various bays and beaches. Decres Bay itself had a triceratops lazing in the shallow water. Not often you come across a full blown dinosaur, albeit in their ‘hidden-in-plain-sight’ mode.
Long, long ago in a place far, far away I plugged the switching power supply of my Goalzero into the Sherpa 100 rechargeable power pack and … nothing happened. Must be the power-point, I thought and tried another. Didn’t work. I went and got another device and found out the power-point works juuust fine. Concerned I test all the connections. Are they in correctly? Yes, they are. I plug the power cord back into the power-point and switch it on.
BAM! goes the switching power supply as a bright orange spark shoots out of it! And promptly shorts out Madura’s laundry. I quietly exit the laundry and neglect to tell the managers.
I do tell Goalzero that their switching power supply has blown up. A bit of warranty-related bureaucracy later they graciously accept that I do not have the original receipt coz I’m on a bike and they promise to send a new one to Ceduna.
I try to get them to commit to sending it now, not in a week or two. Shades of Collie, you see. Kylie of Goalzero is convinced that Ceduna’s post office will only keep a parcel a week. “If you are delayed” she said, “the PO will send the parcel back” and I’m in a pickle. My experience is that POs will keep parcels a month.
I actually arrive in Ceduna the day I told Kylie I would, the 23rd of September. 15 days after the power supply blew up. 15 days after I told them I would be in Ceduna on the 23rd. But there is no parcel for me at the post office. By Friday the 25th the parcel still hadn’t arrived and annoyed by the troubled manager of the Ceduna Caravan Park I leave for Streaky Bay 110 km to the south. The Ceduna PO promises to re-direct the parcel to Streaky Bay. On Monday the 28th of September I received a sms from Australia post telling me my parcel was in Ceduna’s post office and would I please come to get it.
Smoky Bay gets in the way. Originally a lunch stop it so fit the bill for a peaceful-neurotic-caravan-park-manager-free space for a post-Nullarbor crossing rest and recuperation Rob and I spend five nights there. It’s where the Nullarbor blog sections were finalised and uploaded. Where I got my first up close glimpse at the local sealions the Eyre Peninsular if famed for.
Surely I thought, time enough for my parcel to gently wind its way from Ceduna to Streaky Bay. Surely.
Smoky Bay was delightful. The humble beach-shack-fishing-village appeal not yet taken over by either over investment in mass-tourism, or ocean-front development. Not many people. Great camp kitchen, nice beach, stunning sunsets, access to food, beer and wine, fresh oysters, all good for basic chill-out opportunities. Glad I stayed there.
Warm enough for a swim even. Pelicans always curious as to the benefits of getting close to humans hanging around on a beach.
Awesome sunsets tailored made for sitting on the sand or the grassy bits next to the sand, just to enjoy the spectacle.
Mid afternoon on the 1st of October I roll into Streaky Bay. I go to the post office. There is no parcel for me. Odd, I thought. I show the sms to the post office staff who call Ceduna’s post office to find out what’s going on.
A Max Smith, who happens to live in Ceduna and who collects his post care of the Ceduna Post Office walked into the post office on Monday the 28th and asked “Is there any post for me?” And dutifully Ceduna Post Office’s staff checks in the ‘Smith’ cubicle and said “Yes, there is” and promptly hands over my parcel. Completely legitimately, if you think about it. It is addressed to ‘Max Smith’ after all.
There is a slight look of concern on the faces of Streaky Bay’s PO staff as they tell me this, concerned I am sure, as to how I am going to take Australia Post giving my long-sought after parcel to the wrong person. But I laugh. Heartily. And we all laugh heartily.
Who could have ever imaged this? You can’t script such a story.
Ceduna PO were suitably embarrassed and promised to track down Mr Smith and retrieve my parcel. Two days later I receive it. A brilliant end to a great story.
Rob and I decided on a beer at the Streaky Bay Hotel. Around midday. One beer mysteriously morphed into another. The view across the bay was breathtaking. Am sure that had something to do with it. We get talking with a couple on an adjacent table. Jeff, a man who’s physical presence is equalled by his larger than life personality.
A local fisherman born and bred. Jullie, his wife, comes from generations of Streaky Bay residents. It was they who cleared the vegetation from Cape Bauer for grazing and farming. Fishing figures large in their history. Jenny and Will cyclists from Perth join in. Jeff has just finished a season’s worth of King George Whiting fishing and offers to fillet a number for us.
Evening comes along and I buy some local calamari and prawns. The proprietor throws in ten fresh local oysters. Salads are sourced as is wine and beer and we head back to the caravan park having watched Jeff expertly fillet a large bucket of whiting with a powerful elegance that defiesa his huge hands.
Jenny and Will used to run a roadhouse near Mandurah until they were made an offer they couldn’t resist. Neither looks like the archetypical cyclists, both being kinda round. Regardless they are an inspiration, having taken to cycling and toured Europe, done sections of the Munda Biddi and are now 2200 km into a cross-Australia odyssey. Lovely people. Checkout their blog at:
A consequence of running a roadhouse is that they know how to cook. Will does a superb job in cooking the fish, the calamari and the prawns. The salad refreshing and the wine (a local Chardonnay for me) perfect. We eat the oysters raw and remark that they are perhaps the best we’ve ever eaten surpassing those of Smoky Bay which were also awesome.
Whilst personally I enjoyed more the greater intimacy and simplicity of Smoky Bay, having a large well stocked town at my disposal definitely had advantages. Like half a dozen cafes and restaurants, two supermarkets, at least two bars. And sunsets effortlessly merging social and nature.
One of the reason we decided to stay three nights in Streaky Bay is because temperatures were predicted to reach 38C over the forthcoming days. Another is that the Australian Football League’s grand final between Hawthorn of Melbourne and the West Coast Eagles of Perth was on the Saturday the 3rd of October. The West Coast Eagles are about the only team I remember. Another being St Kilda, who are not doing particularly well. Will and Jenny (more Will than Jenny) are keen West Coast supporters.
Hawthorn comprehensively defeat West Coast even though the latter was during the season the better side having won more games, including against Hawthorn.
In fact the two top teams were both Western Australian. The top team was The Dockers of Freemantle but were defeated by Hawthorn in the semis, much to everyone’s surprise. In doing so Hawthorn, who were aiming to win a third consecutive title, ended the romantic dream of an all-Western Australian grand final being played in Melbourne, where all grand finals are played under some archaic and discriminatory agreement carved out when the old Victorian Football League went national long, long ago.
A group next to us were supporting Hawthorn and we swapped banter during the match especially when it became clear Hawthorn were winning. Graciously we conceded defeat.
Back in the caravan park Gav and his mate (can’t remember his name) turn up. Gav makes and markets his own brand of beef jerky and offered us all some. Very much appreciated since I refuse the buy the Kiwi stuff as it’s not only sweet, it comes from New Zealand. Various Australia producers make beef-jerky so it seems bizarre that I can only buy Kiwi stuff since entering South Australia.
Tomorrow we aim for Baird Bay where the opportunity exists to swim with sealions and dolphins.
Streaky Bay, 3 Oct 2105