Gordon and Sandra enjoy free camping … and so does their cat, Cody

There are a wide variety of reasons why grey nomads finally decide to retire and hit the open road … but Gordon Robertson is probably the only one who did so because he contracted malaria!

Having spent much of his career living and working in such exotic locations as India, the Philippines, China, and Indonesia, it was in Myanmar where Gordon caught the much-feared tropical disease.

Retirement, a return to Australia, and a grey nomad lifestyle soon followed. Gordon and wife Sandra – and their beloved cat, Cody – now love nothing better than to get out into the Outback in their much-loved pop-top caravan.

The couple are no strangers to the open road having been avid free campers throughout their 55-year marriage.

Travelling with a cat

“We have had many campers, caravans, buses, and a Mercedes motorhome that we did a big trip in in 2009,” said Sandra. “We have so many wonderful memories and I will always remember us sleeping all alone in a brand new tent at the dig tree at Nappa Merrie in 2011 … and we then had so much fun and laughter trying to repack it!”

The Robertsons say their list of favourite places is a long one … but includes Fern Pool at Karijini, the sculptures at Lake Ballard, the Pinnacles, Noccundra, Innamincka, Birdsville, the Burke & Wills Dig Tree, Undara and Quilpie.

Having bought a home base in Katanning in Western Australia several years ago, Gordon and Sandra will soon be selling up and moving to Queensland to be closer to family members. And going with them, as he always does, will be Cody the three-year-old cat.

“We taught Cody to travel as a kitten and he has a sixth sense when we are getting close to home,” said Sandra a while back. “Katanning has a huge truck roundabout and, when we get to it, Cody knows we are home and starts with the feet on the dash and gets all excited.”

Although their feline companion means they can no longer visit national parks, the Robertsons wouldn’t have it any other way.

“He is a docile cat and we have left him for long periods of time alone, only to come back and find him still asleep,” said Sandra. “He loves to stay up all hours and watch the wildlife at night through the van screen door.”

For all the joys of caravanning, the couple still gets upset by the amount of toilet paper in the bush and rubbish they see all over Australia … and by crackdowns on free camping.

“One huge trend we have noticed is the amount of travellers living on the road and free camping, either by choice or because they are homeless,” said Sandra. “We find it a struggle on the aged pension, so we are limited to short trips now but, as long as we can drive, we will try to go somewhere … and we are so very grateful for free camping.”

  • Do you travel with a cat? Does the joy it brings outweigh the ‘hassles’? Email us here to share your thoughts.



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