My apologies to anyone who doesn’t live in Australia, because I don’t know if this occurs anywhere else in the world, but it is very common in Australia. Baby Boomers, usually those aged sixty and above, hitching up their caravans and heading north for winter.
Of course, in the Northern Hemisphere, only people who were barking mad would head north for winter, but in the Southern Hemisphere, especially in Australia which has a large proportion of its landmass located in the tropical zone, people head north to follow the sun.
Tens of thousands of retirees head off at about the beginning of May when the cold starts to take hold in the well-populated south of the country and begin the long trek for a stint up north.
The three most popular places for winter migration are North Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia anywhere above the town of Carnarvon. These migrations aren’t for short two or three week breaks, the Grey Nomads, as they are commonly called, head off for months and thus equip their vans for a long stay in their home away from homes.
The roads heading north are a bad place to be when the annual migration is on, because if you are in a car that is unencumbered with a heavy trailer you just know that you are going to get frustrated as the nomads potter along at eighty or less on a road where the limit is 100 or 110 kmh.
They don’t just tow a caravan, there is normally a boat stashed away somewhere as well, and some of the rigs, which generally consist of powerful SUV, generously proportioned van that is crammed with three months’ worth of stuff, and the boat and its fishing gear are worth large fortunes.
Comfort, of course, is a big consideration when you are older. Every van has a large satellite dish, because you are going somewhere remote so you have access only to satellite TV; most have shower/toilet facilities on board, full kitchens, large annexes and the outdoor living gear. Many have solar panels which supply power in free camping areas where there are no facilities.
Some people will move from place to place a few times, but the majority will get to their favourite spot and will stay put. Most of the permanents not only stay at the same caravan park year after year, but demand the same plot as well, and have the same next door neighbours for years at a stretch.
There are two main topics of conversation during these multi-month sojourns – fishing and weather. Fishing is how you supplement your food stocks and for many it is a daily pursuit. Weather is important because they have headed north to escape the cold, and if the temperature drops below twenty or, God help it, if it rains, then the whole expedition has been ruined. Which in a way makes it better, because the nomads have something to grumble about, and if you can have a good moan then you feel you are in Nirvana.