Somehow that quote by Dickens from A Tale of Two Cities springs to mind when I think of Katherine and The Boab Tree caravan park.
We like to stay in the bush and offbeat places but now and again we pop into a caravan park. Katherine didn’t have much to offer in the way of unpowered sites but The Boab Tree looked pretty and the guys in the office/shop/café/bottleshop were super friendly.
Not so happy were the chaps at the boom gate the next morning. They were gloomily trying to repair damage by backpackers revelling in the age of foolishness; later in the pool former pro golfer Len Thomas (above) was revelling in the best of times in the age of wisdom.
Backpackers trying to explore Australia on the cheap are causing a few problems, especially in the Northern Territory. Sneaking into caravan parks and national parks and escaping without paying after using the facilities is one of the common tricks.
At The Boab Tree, three young people had whipped in and forced the boom gate up so they could throw up a tent and have a shower before getting thrown out. Unfortunately they wrecked the mechanism and Katherine does not have a surplus of boom gate repairers.
The trio, at least one probably from Brazil, had tried the same trick at the caravan park down the road. A day later the NT News carried a story about a young Italian tourist being attacked in Kakadu. She was whacked on the leg and her hire car stolen. The News the next day had her in the clanger waiting to go to court: she invented the story because she had crashed her car and couldn’t afford the excess.
A few days later a couple of young French blokes were in court. They had run out of money so simply walked into a supermarket and ate what they fancied before leaving past the checkout. The News showed a picture of them pretty happy as they left court with a warning.
Our high prices – many foreign tourists complain Australia is the most expensive in which to travel – and low penalties seem to have made Aussie travel a bit of a game for backpackers: see where you can cheat because if you get caught they will feed you in the watchhouse and let you go. Pay fines? Don’t be daft.
Back to Dickens’ best of times and the age of wisdom: That was epitomised by retired pro golfer Len Thomas who was revelling in, and lavishing praise on, the pool and every other aspect of his caravan trip around Australia with his wife Sally.
He reckons she’s a better golfer than he is now. “I can hear the ball land now when I hit it.”
At least, I observed, his ears are still good.
Len spent 17 years teaching golf in China and crossed clubs with legends such as Bob Charles, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. He played the last round of the Australian Open in 1966 with Arnold Palmer “but that's all in the past now.”.
As the sun went down, Len came visiting with a fine wine in his glass and a fine line of conversation. We were sharing a sundowner with the neighbours from Canberra. His enthusiasm was so infectious that when we called it quits Mrs Canberra, who had appeared a bit standoffish, embraced both Tony and I with something close to fervour.
We didn’t see the neighbours in the morning but Len was around bright and early, leaving his address in case we ever make it to Dunsborough, south of Perth.
We may just do that Len.