I found myself invited to a ‘local ladies gathering’ in a remote town in the Northern Territory where everyone brought a plate of goodies and some even tried to corrupt others with a wicked punch made of several ingredients. I also noted that 99% of the vehicles were a mixture of four wheel drives which I found quite amusing. Amongst an array of laughing women hovering over crackers, cheeses and homemade delectable’s I discovered a stranger who intrigued me so with some of her travel experiences that I found myself sitting next to Helen for the best part of the social do.
Why become grey nomads? How did it come about?
Brian came off a property and always enjoyed fishing and touring. We started without a caravan and stayed in cabins initially but in 1998 we decided to buy a campervan and explore differently. However an old fellow across the road who had been travelling for twenty five years told us not to buy one. He said everyone that starts with a campervan usually always upgrades to a pop top then later on to a full caravan. As a result we invested in a Gulf pop top caravan, Helen explains.
Although our Golf caravan was second hand she was in beautiful condition and we towed her on a trip through Arnhem Land. I recall leaving her at Cahill’s crossing and we took our Toyota Landcruiser with a tent on board for accommodation and headed out to the Coburg Peninsula just after the wet season. Coburg was absolutely beautiful and we only stayed one week not knowing at the time that we could have stayed longer, but at least we had a taste for future reference. We travelled in the Golf for twelve months in total when we decided to change to a Windsor pop top for the following three years. By now we felt we were seasoned grey nomads and knew exactly what we wanted in a caravan so later invested in a custom built Viscount.
At the time Viscount was being bought out by another company and we went through some very stressful times believing we had lost our deposit and were going to end up with no caravan whatsoever. The new owner was excelling in fraud and even appeared on the news which caused us great anxiety for many months. At the end of the day we did end up with the Viscount we specially ordered.
Unfortunately the Viscount reputation was tarnished when the new owner took on building them and our Viscounts chassis had bowed which also caused the inside cupboards to collapse, plus it also went through three different air conditioners so we decided to change again. The workmanship was no longer there, Helen continues.
I could see the anguish even as Helen spoke of the Viscount dealer and could only imagine the stress as they drove the many kilometres several times to meet with the dealer and prove they were not to be taken advantage of.
Later on I had the privilege of meeting Helen’s partner Brian who was busy setting up their tinny for a days fishing trip. I note the Isuzu truck and figure Brian can enlighten me on their current set up and how it all performs.
When we travelled using the Golf, Windsor and Viscount we towed them all with a Toyota Landcruiser which did the job nicely. But now we drive a 2010 model Isuzu 200 truck towing a Regal full caravan. The Isuzu is a 5.2 litre turbo intercooled four cylinder with heaps of grunt; unreal for towing up hills, has air brakes and allows more room for my toys, Brian laughs. And it is actually more economical than our previous Landcruisers.
Helen points out, It is also more comfortable than the Landcruiser utility as you sit as if you were in an actual chair. The cabin area has more room, especially legroom, insulation around the floor area plus the visibility is great. We designed the Regal full van like we had the Viscount knowing once again what we were really looking for in a caravan, both in layout and structure.
Brian continues, We are equipped with a Honda 2KVA generator, 2 x 100 watt solar panels on the Isuzu truck and 2 x 80 watt solar panels on the caravan. The caravan has 2 x 80 litre tanks for water and the Isuzu holds a 200 litre tank which has a pump to assist feeding the excess water into the caravan when needed. We run two 12 volt/240 volt fridges and have more recently bought a 240 volt tuckerbox to save us from the regular supermarket trip which can be too many kilometres away at times.
I’m intrigued and wish to know more. In your twelve years experience of being grey nomads what have you seen and done?
We have done two complete laps of Australia, one clockwise the other anticlockwise. I absolutely loved the Nullarbor and we actually saw the white whale called Ningaloo off the viewing platform. We still haven’t seen all of Australia, so much to see. Tasmania is also absolutely beautiful, says Helen.
We just looked into taking our Isuzu truck and Regal caravan over to Tasmania again but were quoted approximately $6000 because of the overall length of our rig. Years ago with another rig it cost us about $1800. We find it a shame to be penalised by approximately 50cm as we were hoping to spend this summer there tells Brian. But that is how it is when you are a grey nomad; your plans could change in an instant.
We also love fishing so will find somewhere else to spend this summer which is suitable to our interests. In fact one of our fishing experiences was picked up by a newspaper in Bowen. I had landed a very impressive Spanish mackerel and Brian took my photo into the sports store in Ayr. Word obviously got out as next thing the Advocate newspaper contacted me for a story. This part of the newspaper article says it how it was. Helen says.
Quote: “Helen Creevey and Brian Rumble are a couple of those grey nomads who have hit the road and fish their way around the country using their twelve foot tinny. They usually head for the northern parts of Australia in the winter and southern parts in the summer where they fish for squid and King George Whiting.
They were fishing off Bowen when a huge mackerel grabbed Helens bait and screamed off, almost spooling her on the first blistering run. Brian was quick to lift the anchor and Helen was able to slowly regain line as the big fish towed them about for the next 20 minutes. The fish was a whopping 150cm weighing an estimated 50kg.”
Wow! Now that’s a fish. I am also so jealous of your jewfish photo! What a catch! This photo will definitely have to be included in your story, even if it is just to taunt fellow grey nomad fishermen. But overall, would you recommend this lifestyle to future grey nomads?
Twelve years into it, what can we say? I guess that’s proof enough.