“We’ve always loved caravanning. We used to take the kids on holidays in a caravan when they were growing up. So, when they married and left the family home, it was a natural step for Jean and I to take to the road”, says Pete.
Pete and Jean, both in their 70’s, have now been “on the road” for over a decade. And they love it! “We spend about 6 months of every year travelling around the country”
From Cape York to Broome, from the Freycinet Peninsula to Coopers Creek, they have travelled far and wide. “And, we never get tired of it or bored. There’s always something new to discover, even if we’ve been to the same place before” says Jean.
And then there’s the friends they’ve made over the years. Friends they constantly keep in touch with, arrange to meet up with again at favourite water-holes. There’s Jim and Crystal who share their love of Coopers Creek up near Tibooburra where Pete and Jim try their luck fishing for Yellow Belly in the creek. “One of the best tasting fish around” says Pete. Other friends such as Jack and his mate Bill who have been Grey Nomads for about 20 years. Both in their 80’s, they have no plans to retire anytime soon. “As long as the coppers let me hold a licence, I’ll keep going. It’s a fantastic life. What else am I going to do? Sit in a pub down the road from my tiny flat in Melbourne and wait to die? I’d rather meet my maker sitting under an old gum tree on the banks of an outback creek bed.” This attitude is common among Grey Nomads and is what keeps many of them going.
However, there is also the adventurous streak in most of us too. “there’s always something new to discover” says Jean. “We never tire of it”.
Last year, Pete and Jean travelled to Western Australia to see the famous wildflowers. “They were amazingly beautiful” said Jean. “Fields and fields of them. And all the different colours. They seemed to go on for miles and miles. It was staggering in their beauty”
“We set out from our home in Concord, Sydney in July. Travelled to Mildura across the Hay Plain through the never-ending grape vine country of Cowra, NSW. Set up camp at our favourite camping ground just outside Mildura where we stayed for 2 nights” says Pete. “We’ve got to know a few publicans in our travels so we always feel welcome when we return. On our second night there, we shouted ourselves to a pub meal. Some of these country pubs still cook great country meals. And, they don’t charge city prices.”
Pete showing off his favourite pastime at Cooper’s Creek
“After two days in Mildura, I said to Jean, time to hit the road so we set off for our next stop at Glenelg in Adelaide.”
They only stopped the one night in Glenelg before heading off again for Ceduna on the shores of The Great Australian Bight. “It was fantastic when we got our first sight of the Southern Ocean. Great rolling waves breaking relentlessly against the cliffs. We love the camp sites beside the sea, wherever we go. The salt air seems to do something to you. Sort of clears away the cobwebs.” said Jean.
However, mindful of their ultimate destination and they still had a long way to go, they set off after one day at Ceduna for their next stop at The Nullabor Road House. “We do about 200 kilometres a day. That’s enough. I do all the driving these days. Jean has developed a bit of a back problem. I don’t mind, I actually enjoy being behind the wheel. However, I have learnt to pace myself. Anyway, we’re not really in any sort of hurry, are we, we’re retired. And we’re enjoying it” said Pete.
Once again, Pete and Jean stayed only one night at Nullabor, but not before stopping at the Head of the Bight to see if they could catch a glimpse of the many whales in the area just off the coast. It’s a breeding ground for them. They then set off again for Kalgoorlie in the WA goldfields. It’s a fascinating place with loads of history. Very colourful. The town is full of miners who all work in the world’s biggest open-cut gold mine. They work hard, and they party hard. “So, we don’t hang around the pubs in this town. It can get a bit wild some nights. We’ve learnt from previous stays and from stories from other Grey Nomads.” said Pete. The Grey Nomad network is very useful. We all stay in touch with each other giving tips on what’s going on here and there. It’s very handy to have this contact. It’s also good to know there are people out there who can help when needed. “We’re like one big happy family” says Jean.
Osprey Rock near Eco Beach Broome
Along the way, they stopped at the Madura Road House at Fraser Grange, about half-way to Kalgoorlie. After staying just one night at Kalgoorlie, they headed up the Eastern Highway towards Perth, intending to stop at a caravan park where they’d stayed on previous occasions. Just outside the city. However, when they arrived they found it full. Not to worry, the owner simply called around and soon found a spot at another park not too far away. “People in this business are always friendly and go out of their way to help.” said Pete. The new caravan park was not far away though. Once again, they wanted to keep on the move intending to get to the wildflowers at their peak showing. It was now mid-August and spring was in the air. The wildflowers would be starting to poke their noses through the turf. So, on they drove. Next stop Geraldton. They were now midway between Perth and Broome. The country was starting to change. The land was very flat but the scenery was wonderful. They travelled up the highway talking all the way to other Grey Nomads who were all on the same journey. They arranged to meet a couple of friends, Sam and Chrissie, at Kalbarri that night. When they arrived, the others were already there and had reserved a van spot next to theirs for Pete and Jean. They had not seen each other for over a year, so the reunion was full on. They swapped stories all night over a shared dinner, jointly cooked in both vans. Pete had bought a leg of lamb in Perth and Chrissie supplied everything else. Potatoes, pumpkin, peas and gravy. Pete and Sam raided their in-van cellars for a couple of bottles of wine and the night became very joyous. Cooking in the modern vans these days presents no problems. “It’s just like cooking at home in my kitchen. A bit tighter, but everything’s there.” says Jean.
Niagra Dam in Menzies
The next morning, all four intrepid travellers decided it was such a nice place and there was plenty of lamb left over for sandwiches. There were now wildflowers all around them. Kalbarri is part of the fabulous Kalbarri National Park which attracts scores of visitors, especially at this time of the year, mainly for the wildflowers. They all stayed there for 3 days and nights before heading north once more. They were joined that night by yet another Grey Nomad couple who they’d all met before.
The next morning, bright and early, all three rigs pulled out of Kalbarri and headed for Denham. They were now close to the famous Monkey Mia where dolphins come right into the shoreline and play with the tourists. They had all been there before “but we never tire of watching these fascinating animals.” said Jean. They now knew they were only a day’s journey from Broome
Broome is such a bustling town these days, a big change from its earlier life as the pearling centre of Australia. These days it is a vibrant tourist destination. Cable Beach which runs along the foreshore is almost as famous as Bondi. Well, not really, but it is well-known the world over as the Tourism authorities have done a good job spreading the word. And, at this time of the year, Springtime, it is busier than normal. People come from all around the world, not just Australia, to see the wonderful, colourful carpets of flowers down south.
“We pulled into our favourite caravan park where we had taken no chances and had booked before leaving home.” said Pete. Sam and Chrissie had also booked in advance and joined Pete and Jean. They also noticed that Jack and Bill were parked in the same campsite. Tonight promised to be another big reunion.
After a joyous evening, where tall tales were exchanged in true Aussie fashion, all three couples went in search of the sights of Broome. They didn’t have far to look. “There’s lots to do and see in Broome” said Pete.
Pete and Jean always take lots of photos as both reminders of their time out here but also to show family and friends. Jean uploaded them onto their computer and attached them to the regular emails that she exchanged with their two adult children and their families. Other friends and relatives were also on Jean’s mailing list so a large number of people were thrilled by the fabulous colourful landscape surrounding Broome.
Broome plays host to many, many visitors throughout the year. However, Spring and the wildflowers are especially busy. But the floral landscape is not the only attraction of this intriguing town. There’s Cable Beach, the new hotels that have sprung up around town to cater for the high-end rollers who visit, shopping in the busy town centre, and so on. Pete and Jean stayed five nights in this tropical location, meeting up with a whole host of new and old friends, all of them Grey Nomads. “It really is a tight-knit community” said Jean. In the past decade of travelling the highways and back roads of Australia, we have made hundreds of contacts and made many friends along the way. Being a Grey Nomad has really enriched our lives. But it’s always good to get home again and catch up with our two children and their kids, our five grandchildren. Pete and Jean headed off in an easterly direction.
Follow the travels of Pete and Jean in subsequent editions of Go 55’s.
Main Picture Pete & Jeans new car (Mitsubishi Triton) and caravan at Wentworth Valley