‘We’ve had six amazing years on the open road’

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Grey nomads at Isisford
Barry gets ready for a fire at Isisford.

After suffering a couple of health scares in 2011, Jenny and Barry M reasoned ‘if we don’t do it now, might never do it’ … and so they hit the open road.

The following six years have been jam packto ed with adventures, friendships, unforgettable experiences and a truckload of challenges, but they wouldn’t change a thing.

Aged 60 and 57 at the time they sold their Perth home for an endless grey nomad adventure, the couple had loved their many previous caravan ‘holidays’ … but this was a completely different kettle of fish.

“We bought a satellite phone for emergencies but have used it once in six years for some blood test results as it is too expensive for regular chatting,” said Jenny. “We were also concerned about regular blood testing for warfarin use so bought our own testing machine and strips – expensive but gives piece of mind when we are not near mainstream medical facilities.”

After an extended stay near Maryborough in Queensland, the novice grey nomads fell in love with free camping.

“There is nothing like sitting by a campfire which draws fellow travellers and like-minded people over for a chat,” said Jenny. “This is the best place to learn about other great campsites and people’s experiences.”

The couple stayed on rivers they had heard about at school like the Paroo, Cooper and the Thompson, caught some fish, hit some tracks, shredded some tyres, and lived the life.

But they also needed to supplement their finances.

The scanned the internet for backpacker farm jobs and were happy to accept low wages because they generally included meals.

“Luckily, I’ve been a hotel cook and cleaner and Barry is familiar with farm machinery so we have had no trouble finding work mainly at seeding and harvesting time,” said Jenny. “We have gone back to these same farms to work in following years and made lifelong friends.”

In 2013, they went to Pardoo Station in the Pilbara for a six-week stay and stayed more than six months.

“Mostly I cooked breakfasts for up to 60 construction workers, then did evening meals when regular chefs took holidays,” said Jenny. “Barry did caravan park maintenance and the weekly stores runs to Port Hedland about 140 kilometres away and helped with cattle mustering … again, some lovely friendships made.”

Even the 43 degree days in October were all part of a wonderful experience … at least until the air-conditioning in the caravan failed.

Besides the wonderful experiences – like working on a sheep property at Katanning, beef farming in Albany, helping at a cattle station near Burdekin Dam, and milking cows on a dairy farm near the Great Ocean Road in Victoria – there have also been challenges, like getting seriously bogged at Isisford and needing to be pulled out by  a local farmer and his tractor.

And, in 2015, on a property near Burdekin Dam in Queensland,  a horse tried to eat the bonnet and side panels of the couple’s car.

There have also been medical dramas. Barry was hospitalised with Q Fever in 2013, then he contracted shingles. The couple has also had to seek emergency attention for a moth in an ear at Isisford, a dislocated shoulder at Narrabri, and a badly sprained ankle at Karratha.

Rather than dwell on their misfortunes however, the couple prefers to count their blessings.

All of that’s just part of life, says Jenny.

Barry and Jenny have recently moved into a unit in Victoria but will be heading north to help out one of their ‘farm families’ in June.

“Our days of ‘big’ travel are probably over but as we say ‘all plans subject to change at short notice’,” said Jenny. “After all, our favourite song is: ‘We’re on the road again’.”

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