Instead of a dozen or so travellers parked up the area was jammed with Grey Nomads, forming a village population of more than 100. Ageing Australia is on the move and sunning itself in the northern winter.
We pulled in late in the day and had trouble finding a spot. We were waved into a space by a friendly couple who introduced themselves as Kerry and Andy from Canberra.
We were a bit worried about Bob on the other side being boxed in by Isabel but Bob wasn’t going anywhere soon. Kerry said he had been there a few months. A woman down the road had been parked up since January, taking advantage of the showers and toilets.
“They are going to put meters on the showers,” said Kerry. “People aren’t putting enough money in the honesty box.”
Everyone seems to be enjoying happy hour. Laughter wafts through the campsites. We had been warned not to camp near the town end of the park because the parties are usually late and loud.
Andy was fascinated with Isabel, checking her inside and out while she was still warm.
After retiring as a house painter in Sydney, he and Kerry moved to Canberra. They didn’t like it at first but now don’t mind it – except for the cold. They flee to Queensland for three months of the year in search of agates, precious and semi-precious stones.
They had been at Agate Creek near Georgetown and were heading down to Miles in search of petrified wood. Andy said he had loaded half a tonne of rocks into his car. They spend the summer months polishing the stones at home. A whole room of their house is crammed with rocks.
As the morning sun poked through the trees a few campers emerged but most sites were dormant. Grey Nomads tend to get up when they feel like it. Kerry and Andy were among the early risers, greeting us like old friends.
They showed us their rocks and talked candidly about their adventures.
“You should see me up at Agate Creek, crawling around on my bloody hands and knees looking for this stuff,” says Kerry. “In the bloody spear grass too.”
She grabs her chest to show us where she had been seriously speared. Andy jigs in mock pain as he demonstrates his worst spearings, gesturing animatedly towards his nether regions where rest what my father commonly referred to as agates.
We leave grinning with fond farewells.
* Photos show Andy inspecting Isabel at Theodore as Kerry tells Tony of their agate adventures.