We’ve been on the road for almost eight weeks now so we’ve had some time to have the occasional conversation along these lines …
A: Isn’t it weird that they do X in Australia?
B: Yes, but they definitely do Y better than the UK.
Here are a few of the things we’ve commented on. Please note that these are purely our observations, not criticisms or universal truths.
- In Australia we’ve learnt to park next to the slab rather than on it, which is what we’re used to doing in the UK. For the benefit of non-motorhomers, when you park in a caravan park your pitch usually has a power supply, a drinking water supply and a concrete slab. At home we park on the slab because if you park on the grass and it rains, you’re in danger of getting bogged down. You open your motorhome door and step out on to the grass and put your table and chairs out there. Here, certainly where we are at this time of year, there is a lot less chance of rain so you park next to the slab and that makes a nice stable base for your furniture and BBQ. Neither is better; they’re just different but we had to be told the first time we checked in to a park!
- The Aussies have public amenities sussed. Every time we park the van, whether it’s in a national park, by a beach, at a point of interest or in a town, we’re rarely more than a few hundred metres from a clean, well stocked loo. If anyone in the UK with any clout in these matters is reading this, please take note. It’s such a relief, literally. (We found the shower and toilet block in the photos below in Emu Beach (QLD) painted beautifully by Simon McLean.)
- Another thing that we’ve really appreciated over here is the RV Friendly Town program. Towns which are included in the program have to provide parking in the town centre for RVs (recreational vehicles); short term, low cost overnight parking; access to drinking water and a free dump point (for emptying our toilet cassette and/or our ‘grey water’ from washing up / cleaning teeth / showering). We probably never felt a need for this when we were motorhoming in the UK because camping anywhere other than a caravan park (legally) is much more difficult there than it is here in Australia, so we’ve never been anywhere where we couldn’t use a dump point or fill up with water. We’ve made use of them several times here when we’ve stayed overnight at free camps or sites which have required us to be totally self-contained or which have limited facilities. Brilliant, and an example of how well Australia is set up for campers. It really is a national pastime here like we’ve never come across before.
- As a ‘but’ to the previous point, we’d really like to see more recycling at campsites and caravan parks. We see recycling bins on the streets and outside houses, and at the beach we’re urged to Take Three [bits of litter away] For The Sea, but when we park up and try to separate our recyclable rubbish from the trash, we’re told there’s no recycling because it’s too expensive or because it’s ‘not done in this area’.
- However, we do think Australia is a very clean place in terms of litter, graffiti, etc. We first noticed this on the trains in Sydney and on the Gold Coast when we were at the Commonwealth Games and haven’t stopped commenting on it since.
- Road signage is great here. Very clear. Much better than in the UK. A German traveller we were chatting to the other day commented on the same thing.
- And drivers are generally very patient. No flashing of headlights, tooting of horns, or sticking up of fingers (except you, Mr Rusty Ute of Rockhampton), either in towns or on highways. It makes being on a road trip a lot less stressful than it might be. (But one thing we’re puzzled by is why, at the end of an overtaking lane, the vehicles in the left lane have to merge with the right lane. Shouldn’t it be the other way round so the fast traffic slows down to meet the rest?)
- But the use of language on the TV is much more colourful than we’re used to at home, particularly during daytime and early evening shows. And subject matter is a lot more relaxed too. We’re not surprised that Gordon Ramsey gets away with swearing on Masterchef before the watershed (Is there a watershed?), but we’re a bit taken aback at some of the stuff we’ve heard on Studio 10 at just after 8.30am. And as for The Project and Have You Been Paying Attention …
- We weren’t quite prepared for how much love there is for the Royal Family and how proud Australians are of any connections they have to them. We didn’t watch Harry and Meghan’s wedding and don’t have any strong opinions about her dress, but we’ve learnt to keep quiet about that!
- This has turned out to be more of a list than first thought, so here are a few more quick ones:
Why can’t we buy alcohol in a supermarket? Weird!
We haven’t come across a push-button shower at a campsite or caravan park yet. Yay! These are very popular in the UK and so frustrating!
We haven’t had to pay to park in any towns yet. Yay again! Other than in retail parks, that’s pretty unusual at home. (Actually, between writing this and uploading it, we’ve paid $3 (£1.65) to park in a city centre for the day!)
One of us in particular is disappointed not to see more ‘local’ chocolate bars instead of the same ones we can get at home. But the same one is delighted to see so much Turkish delight and coconut flavour ice cream!
I’m sure we’ll make a few more observations as we continue our travels. Stay tuned!