Grey nomads on the sharp end of a changeable Lap

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Will the Oodnadatta Track be full of traffic jams in the future?

The worsening erosion problem that is taking great chunks out of beaches all the way around the Australian coast proves one thing … the Big Lap experience is forever changing. Veteran grey nomads cannot help but compare the trips they are making now to those they made five, 10 or 20 years ago.

Corrugated dirt roads have become bitumenised ‘highways’; pristine landscapes have been scarred by mining; country pubs have closed; bypassed towns have welcomed grey nomads and flourished; and communications technology advances have made the bush more accessible and safer.

While it is common for travellers to view most changes as being for the worse, the fact is that all of it is just another part of the ever-evolving Australian story. Just as some grey nomads say they miss the adventure of driving the dirt road across the Nullarbor, so too might some farmers have mourned the arrival of the tractor and the loss of the horse and plough.

In a generation’s time, caravanners and motorhomers may look in wonder at information boards at old campsites which explain that travellers used to be able to stay there for free and to light open fires. It may seem as strange to them that grey nomads used to fuel up with diesel rather than electricity as it does to us that settlers drew water from the well rather than turning on the tap.

However, the fact that the Australian story is still very much being written means that we can all still play a role in shaping the narrative. As grey nomads endlessly travel the length and breadth of this country they are in an almost unique position to understand the real Australia. They study the history of the places they visit, speak to those who live there, and they notice what has changed from previous visits.

In Victoria, the Great Ocean Road is facing a major erosion threat with large stretches of beach at Apollo Bay and Marengo being washed away in winter storm surges. In New South Wales and Queensland, the drought is bringing untold hardship to proud country communities. In the Northern Territory debate rages over the high cost of entry into the iconic Kakadu National Park, in Tasmania and Western Australia the battle over the future of free camps rumbles on, while in South Australia multimillion dollar plans to create a luxury tourist accommodation at Kangaroo Island are raising eyebrows.

And in all of these places, grey nomads are travelling and learning. Whether they are helping out at droughtstricken farms, supporting local businesses in struggling rural communities, writing to councils to complain about a free camp closing, or simply picking up litter at a rest area, grey nomads are in their own small way helping to write another chapter in the story of Australia … and they are shaping the Big Laps of those that follow.

  • What are the biggest changes have you seen on your Big Lap? Do you think grey nomads often have a unique understanding of what Australia is and what makes it tick? Comment below.

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2 Responses to Grey nomads on the sharp end of a changeable Lap

  1. You will never run out of finding a spot to free camp or a dirt road to explore in ten life times because there is a lot of nothing out there.

    • Nothing out there? Nothing? Terry, those are the words of a typical ‘city slicker’ who cannot focus on the real aspects of the non-urban Australian environment, not whether you can get to a park with seats and shade huts within half an hour from home. All you need to enjoy the wide open spaces is time to travel it, slowly is best, and a reasonable ability to observe your surrounds, including the big spectacular visions right through to the micro environmental activity going on all around us.
      The greatest threat to both the environment and to our right to enjoy it is thoughtless people who strew rubbish around, damage or destroy lovely locations or the tracks to them, and who create such disgust that authorities close the access to both travellers and locals.
      Nature will change almost every aspect of the environment, over time, and that must be expected. People are able to embrace the environment as nature has moulded it, but we have to put up with the way bloody ignorant idiots despoil it. Sometimes it is ‘just’ leaving their rubbish, or it can be acts of malicious vandalism.
      Terry, there is a lot out there to enjoy, but unless the tossers can be constrained and shamed ( how about a very durable TOSSER plate welded onto their vehicle?) we just wont be able, or allowed to enjoy it.

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