Travelling off the beaten track there are a few different types of people you meet. All equally as interesting.
First there’s those I expected to meet. The “bushies”.
Like the couple we met the other night and shared their campfire. They travel a lot and have done so for years.
They told us stories of travels across all parts of Australia – the Canning Stock Route, Birdsville Track, Cape York Peninsular, Savannah Way and other routes unnamed. Doc, being a country boy at heart, loved it. He’s travelled a few of those tracks himself so they swapped stories.
We sat up half the night, feeding the fire, having a few drinks, and discussing the merits or otherwise of different campsites, camping set ups, and 4WD vehicles. These are blokes who can always find a screw or a bolt the right size, or failing that cable ties and tape, in their toolbox to fix any mechanical problem. (If they lived on farms they would have an endless supply of fencing wire and panty hose.)
The women are just as capable. They can set up a tent to house 6 people, watch the kids, and cook a gourmet meal on the campfire. All at the same time. If necessary, they can drive a b-double through the wet to bring in supplies, and have probably done so.
Bushies don’t waste words, but once you get them started talking they can be droll and quick witted even if slow voiced. “Yyyyeah. …. I know that track.”
Then there are the hippies. Like the hippies of the 60s & 70s, they tend to be younger and have lots of young children in tow. They often have dreadlocks and wear colourful, tie dyed clothes. But unlike the hippies of the 70s they don’t drive combis, but have moved onto Landcruisers. They also have “real” jobs and travel during holidays.
And hippie children are almost always happy. You don’t hear them crying much at all. Like the ones next to us in the campsite tonight. Two families, five children, with the kids all laughing and playing together, until they all went to bed and straight to sleep just after dark.
Even now, first thing in the morning before everybody else is up, the kids are sitting in their tent playing quietly together.
Maybe it’s because they never have to put clothes on, or because they’ve always got somebody to talk and play with, or maybe it’s because their parents aren’t totally stressed. Whatever it is, it seems to work.
Grey nomads are another big group of travellers, though the further off track you go the fewer of them there are. It’s hard to tow a caravan along the Old Telegraph Track up to Cape York or along the Canning Stock Route. But at other places you meet lots of them.
Most grey nomads are very friendly, and very generous. They’re out to meet people and enjoy themselves, and they aren’t giving up many luxuries for it. They always travel with good wine and are happy to share a campfire and stories over a glass or two.
And then there are the boys who are travelling just so they can say they’ve done it. They’re either complete pains in the arse or hysterically funny and great company. Often both at the same time.
And whichever group they fall into can depend as much on your mood as theirs.
Of course, these are all generalisations and you meet lots of great people (and some not so great) on the road. Like now, when we’re camped outside the only mechanic’s shop for hundreds of miles.
There’s a line up of 9 cars all waiting to be seen, and being the outback, it will all happen in good time.
So the only thing to do is break out the wine, sit back and talk. We might be here for a few days yet.