The Accidental Grey Nomad
Wendy Harmer is best known as one of the greats of Australian comedy, although her ‘funny girl’ reputation possibly outshine what has been a truly remarkable career.
Wendy started out as a journalist, broke into Melbourne theatre comedy and ended up becoming a national star in hit ABC TV comedy series of the late 1980s. Her success is even more noteworthy when you consider she overcame a speech impediment in early life and went on to thrive in the cut throat world of Sydney breakfast radio for more than a decade. She was even the first woman to host ‘Television’s Night of Nights’ the Logies!
Throughout all this time she’s been an avid writer, publishing some 20 books for adults, kids and teens. Her most recent venture is in web publishing www.thehoopla.com.au. As she describes it; “The Hoopla is an online news and magazine site for a community of wise, warm, witty and wonderful women.”
Growing up on a farm in rural Victoria, Wendy has a deep love for the Australian bush. She became a Winnebago owner ‘by accident’ and is now passionate about helping make Australia a paradise for RV owners.
Did you go camping or caravanning when you were young, if so where, can you tell us about it.
We camped a lot when I was a kid. I can still remember Dad swearing when he found a tent peg missing when he was raising the huge old cream and green canvas tent which must have weighed a ton!
We lived in central Victoria, so most of our trips were to the banks of a river somewhere – the Campaspe, the Goulburn or the mighty Murray – in the hunt for the elusive redfin. We were definitely an inland tribe – no beaches for us. The Grampians were also a favourite spot. There was a little caravan for a while too – hardly big enough to turn around in, so we four kids slept in the annex and laughed ourselves silly way into the night, that’s when we weren’t terrified at the creepy sounds coming from outside the canvas.
They were great days, no doubt about it.
Do you ever camp or go caravanning today – if so do you have a favourite place?
Some years ago I bought my father a Winnebago as he was living alone, in his 70s and a bit bored with life after he had sold his farm. It was a lumbering beast of a thing with a shower, toilet, microwave, DVD player – all the bells and whistles. Something I thought I’d never be seen dead in.
Dad loaded up his mate Meggsy and I don’t think we saw him for about four years! -Except for the odd postcard from an outback town we’d never heard of. Best money I ever spent. These days Dad has Parkinson’s disease so the Winnie came back to me and I became an Accidental Grey Nomad. My husband, two kids and I blart off whenever we have the chance. We have done lots of travelling in it – perhaps most memorable was the New Year’s Eve we spent on a bank of the Snowy River, far, far from the madness of the Sydney fireworks. We took the Winnie over to Tassie and one night camped in the grounds of the Hobart Casino, another in the Launceston Botanical gardens – good sites being hard to find.
These days my kids are teens and would rather stay in a hotel with room service! But the Winnie is still trundling along and my husband and his mates – all keen surfers – use it to chase great waves up and down the NSW coast.
Based on your experience, do you have any tips for campers, must do’s and dont’s?
I’ve ducked under the dashboard as we’ve driven the Winnie into a remote campsite and been sniffed at by “eco-campers” as a redneck in a Big Rig -then watched in horror as the tentdwellers chop down trees for the camp fire and dig holes in the ground for bush dunnies. Meanwhile, in our motorhome, we cook over the gas stove and the water we use to wash dishes, shower and flush our onboard loo has been hauled from Sydney. Do it right and the motorhome has a minimal impact on the environment. Like most responsible motorhomers, we’re careful to leave only tyre
tracks after our adventures.
The loss of great caravan park sites to permanent cabins is to be lamented. Why not just stay in a hotel? More should be done to support motorhome drivers – more sites, more dump points for black and grey water. There’s an opportunity here for Australia, the largest, most spectacular island on the planet, to become a paradise for road adventurers.
Do you still like to get out and explore Australia, what’s high on your travel list?
I very much want to take the van on a trip to the Flinders Ranges. Been number one on my list for some time now. I love the dry, desert country the best. As I said, I’m from the inland tribe and love the broad, flat expanses of Australia, the red soil and the vast vault of sky from horizon to horizon. And I’d love to go back to the Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park – it’s probably my favourite place in the world. I experience a profound sense of peace when I’m there and for me, Uluru has a sense of spirituality I haven’t experienced, even in the finest cathedrals of Europe.
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