It’s been awhile since my last post on the bowerbird blog, the main reason being that the bowerbirds are all on vacation! Actually, I am sure they are still very busy with bowerbird things, it’s just us who are on vacation. We have switched gears just a bit, but still living in the A’Van camper trailer and loving it. We have changed camp grounds a few times in the last two weeks, but since we have been staying at two world famous surf destinations, Noosa and Byron Bay, our routines have generally been to get up before the sun, go surfing, come back “home” mid morning and work, work, work till about 3-4:00, then back to the surf break for a late afternoon session. This works out ideal for the work part keeps us out of Australia’s burning midday sun.
Most of my work lately has been in drafting plans for the house we are going to build. The bowerbird research is on hold for a few weeks. We have a deadline of the end of January and must have everything ready; quite the daunting task for the planning department we are dealing with is very thorough and wants no stone left unturned. Sheet after sheet of architectural documents are rolling off my outdoor work station. I constantly move my little table and stool around to remain under the shade of the nearby trees. I use a box of pasta to hold down various papers so they don’t get frazzled by the breeze. I sharpen my one and only pencil with a carpet knife and since I don’t have an architectural rule spelled out in feet and inches, I use a standard ruler and crunch lots of proportional calculations on my iPod. Slowly, the drawings are coming together.
Working and living in a caravan park is actually a pleasant way to spend the year. It’s been four months now and we are staying at our eleventh caravan park. Each one has its own attractions. There are many similarities which I will list the big 10:
1. We get the water we need from an outdoor tap and bring it into our camper trailer one bottle at a time.
2. Our living room is as large as the sky and when it rains, it’s wet, and when the weather is glorious, it’s amazing.
3. Our bathrooms and toilets are always someplace else, usually huge and clean with hardly anyone around.
4. We typically do the dish washup at the camp kitchen and not in our little camper trailer for it is just easier that way where we have big sinks, hot and cold running water, and often a dish-rack.
5. The ground is usually very flat and it takes mere minutes to set up our home (unless we are also putting up the canvas annex).
6. Sara and I each have our own cubby for our clothes and a bit of counter space for personal items like iPods, books, or day packs.
7. I always sit on the right side of the table, Sara the left, and junk up the seat nest to me any way that I wish during the day!
8. I always fold away the table at night and make the bed while Sara performs the reverse magic in the morning.
9. The back of our car contains a bin for field clothes, a bin for surf related stuff, and a job box with maps, insect repellents, first aide gear, pens and paper, etc.
10. We always cover the bucket of trash with a plastic plate and the rubber snake; keeps the brush turkeys out!
There are plenty of other things that are similar, but let me list some differences that we have seen.
1. Most of the time we have electrical power and don’t have to rely on using the propane option for running our little fridge (plus, electricity allows us to use the microwave and the electric tea kettle as well as charge up all our electronic devices).
2. About half the time we are camped close enough to the ocean to hear the waves rolling along.
3. Sometimes we have really interesting neighbors that turn into friendships, but other times we just do our thing and let the world roll on by.
4. No two sites have the same ground cover; it varies a lot and we have had for our front living room dried and smashed grass, concrete, gravel, lush grass, sand, and packed earth. No matter for we bought a bit of landscaping fabric designed to place on the earth and it feels great on the bare feet!
5. No two sites have the same types of trees and shade. Most the time we have been lucky and had a site with a few trees, occasionally, we have been in the forest, and rarely have we been in the full sun. In this climate it really helps to have some shade around.
We have met the occasional grey nomad couple who have sold their home and invested everything in the nomadic way of life, jumping from caravan park to caravan park. As grand as it’s been, I wouldn’t want to do that for I have far too many ambitions as far as making things and I do feel a bit hampered here in not have a nice shop to putter around in. But for this year, our goal was to spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors and so I can live without lots of materialistic projects for the time being.
I’ll end this post with an amazing story that all came together by us staying at a caravan park four years ago. Sara and I had been doing errands in Byron and we stopped at a little sidewalk cafe and were staring at the outdoor menu when a couple about our age sitting behind us, having lunch, said that we should definitely have the “such and such”. After a short conversation we left them to finish their lunch, but before we got away we mentioned that we were staying at campsite number 70 at Clarks Beach.
That evening when we got to our camp, there was a note on our tent, from Penny and Bruce, inviting us to dinner at their house! We took them up on the offer to get out of the campground and had a really nice time with them and some of their Australian neighbors. Most vividly I remember tales of a local snake catcher who would come around on call and remove unwanted vipers and other reptiles from your attic, garage, or even underneath your house. One python was so long that he sent his young apprentice underneath the house to grab it by the tail and then he grabbed the kid by his feet and drug both boy and 15′ snake out and into the sunshine!
Over the last four years we probably sent Penny and Bruce one or two emails just to stay in touch a little bit. The other day, Sara sent them a short message saying that we were in town and that we should get together for a cup of coffee at the Top Shop. They replied and sent their mobile phone number. Well, here’s the amazing part of this story (finally)! This morning after surfing a bit at The Pass we headed over to the Top Shop to refuel with a bit of a surfer’s breakfast. While parking the car we got out the phone and tried to make a call to them, but the phone was dead. Rats! Well, we went into the cafe and got in line to order some food and coffee. One of the baristas delivered a couple of lattes to the counter and yelled for Bruce. The couple right in front of us said, “Yes, that’s us.” I looked at Sara and she looked at me and then I said why don’t you ask them if they are Penny and Bruce. So she did and guess what, they were! So our four year gap evaporated in an instant and we spent the next half hour catching up with them. One could never have planned that reunion to the precision that it did with all the working technology in the world! For us it didn’t matter that our phone was dead.