More free camps wanted, plus the inside track on saving kms

What are the competition rules?

Hallloooo Mailbagggerrrs!

Welcome back to another insanely entertaining, crazily controversial and ummmm annoyingly late Weekly Mailbag. Have you noticed as the calendar ticked past the column’s due date …. you betcha. Ron came roaring out of the blocks.

“Where’s my Weekly Mailbag?” he demanded. “I get all shaky if I don’t get to see it … Lol.”

A shaky Ron is no laughing matter however, so let’s kick on with the week’s wild world of words before things get any worse.

“In the latest Weekly Mailbag you ask for any heart-warming stories about van park owner/managers,” writes Jim and Judy. “Sorry but this isn’t one!”

Oh dear!

“On our recent tour on the north NSW coast we were bombarded with loud music while a very large outdoor video screen was being installed about 50 metres away,” the unhappy couple writes. “A person came to our camp to tell us they were going to show an adult movie as there were no children around and we were welcome to come and watch.”

Say what!

“We replied that we thought it inappropriate and that the noise was offensive,” said Jim and Judy. “The person was then identified as the owner/manager of the park and we were told he didn’t care what we thought, the show was going on, and he stormed off.”

Not surprising J&J say that park is permanently off their list. Jeez. We asked for wam and fuzzy stories about van park owners but we came up well and truly empty-handed, I’m afraid. Indeed, as far as the angst over the loss of free camp areas was concerned, it was very much business as usual.

“Grey nomads have only a certain amount of pension to spend weekly,” writes John and Lorraine. “Why should the caravan parks get it all?”

Indeed. The intriguingly named ‘At’ has also had enough.

“We (motor home owners) spend a lot of money to equip our vehicles so that they are completely self-reliant. Now caravan parks want to force us to stay in their parks!” writes At. “We do not need jumping castles, swimming pools, TV rooms, laundry facilities, toilets, showers, etc. yet we have to pay for it. This is ludicrous.”

Okay, point taken, At. But how can we put it in language that everyone can understand.

“It is the same as if you grow your own veggies in your garden and the fruit-and veggie shop wants to force the council to stop veggie gardens and force the community to come and buy from them!” he explains. “Is this a free country or what?”

Gotcha, At.

“I think the councils that are putting in free/low cost sites with limited facilities will see an increase in visitors to their town,” writes John. “Just look at the trends in caravan manufacture … most, other than the very basic models, come with a shower and toilet and there are plenty of options for providing power for these units.”

It is true … but does this mean the end of the traditional van park? Nahhh.

“There will always be a market for good quality caravan parks that offer excellent facilities and also for the full blown resort villages as not everyone likes to do their own thing,”” says John. “And some people prefer what they believe is increased security that comes with staying in a park .”

B&C are equally unsympathetic.

“Why are the council caravan parks on the Fraser coast dearer than the private van parks?” they ask. “That is why they are half empty, We use to stay in Hervey.Bay but not any more … poor caravan parks my heart bleeds for them.”

Clyde is quick to point out that while some towns just don’t ‘get it’, there are others that most definitely do. He cites the example of Home Hill on the Burdekin River in North Queensland, which has been apparently facing something of an economic struggle. “Then one day someone was smart enough to realise that attracting travellers to the town would help the local business community and rescue the town,” writes Clyde.”The Home Hill Comfort Stop was set up and now everyone in town has a smile on their face.”

The Comfort Stop is apparently a small mall between the main street in Home Hill and Eighth Avenue, near the old railway station. “Visitors may stay for 48 hours and enjoy the use of hot showers in an immaculate amenities block, a camp kitchen and even power points for recharging their mobile phones,” reports Clyde. “The facility is top quality and the town is very proud of their highly successful project. They even have a billboard advertising campaign on the highway as you approach the town, proclaiming the Comfort Stop.”

Interesting stuff and, as Clyde says, this is a case study that should not be ignored by the industry.

JB is adamant that travellers should not be dictated to by business owners, in this case the caravan park operators. He believes they are more interested in providing service for the cabin users and are charging in excess of what one can stay in a motel.

“I am absolute 100% positive that the caravan owners association did not at any time seek, nor for that matter did they have any concerns of the opposition that they were promoting against the motel/hotel owners,” he writes. “Yet here they have the audacity to be the first to cry… foul and it is unfair… for free camping as it is affecting their business.”

Hmmm. It’s a good point, JB.

“Well my view is tough … they charge like crazy for us self-contained travellers if we chose to use their park for a little water and power,” he writes. “Nay, says I, we will only use caravan parks when it suits our needs … certainly not their needs.” So there, all you van park owners.

Right then, time to change the subject. Mike probably won’t make too many friends with the dog lovers out there but his views are probably shared by some.

“As an experienced camper and and caravanner (currently camping on the Murray having completed 9000ks of the road trip so far) I am appalled at the attitude of most dog owners in camp spots both bush camping and in caravan parks,” he writes. “I have seen people smuggle dogs into national parks/restaurants/markets/camp kitchens to name a few.”

Okay. As with all things it seems like consideration of others is the key thing here.

“They allow them to bark and can’t see the problem with that. (as one person explained to me in a caravan park ‘he is not BARKING but just saying hello’,” says Mike. “So please, dog owners consider other people that don’t appreciate your dog’s manners or lack of them.”

Jimbo is more worried about crocs than dogs.

“I have made mention on many occasions about this big problem,” he writes. “Three years ago whilst my wife Shirls and I were at Adelaide River, a ranger told us in a very serious tone that the crocs should have been culled years ago but the governments of the day put that info in the too- hard basket.”

“Typical reaction,” observes Jimbo. “Now people are disappearing as quick as lightning.”

Okay, we started with a a shaky Ron and perhaps this week it would be appropriate to finish with a hopefully more tremble-free Ron. Last week, a correspondent outlined the advantages of travelling the Big Lap in a clockwise direction and asked if anyone out there preferred the other way.

“I prefer to go anti clockwise,” says Ron. “I save fuel, because I am travelling on the left hand side the distance travelled is shorter … the inside track is always shorter.”

By George, I think he could be on to something! Is anyone clever enough to work out how many kilometres less you will drive on an ‘average’ Big Lap if you stick to the inside track? Maybe the anti-clockwise brigade are onto something here.

Anyway, Mighty Mailbaggers … apologies again for the Easter-inspired delay to the column and thanks to all of you who took the time and trouble to write in to show you care and that you missed it. See you all next week. Adios amigos … and keep those emails coming.

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