Fellow travel bloggers, you know the feeling when you think “God what am I going to write about this place?”. And it dawns on you that that is the very story.
Spring 2018, Somewhere in West Gippsland, Vic
Our caravan club September Muster had been planned for Griffith in Southern NSW but was quickly changed to nearby West Gippsland when most members voted not to drive north when they’d only just returned from up that way in their long winter travels. The selected caravan park had been a charming spot when visited nine years earlier.
A few members were wandering about Gippsland in fine sunny weather and slowly making their way to the muster. We, on the other hand were at home tripping over the caravan contents stashed all over the house while we waited for a diesel heater to be installed in our van.
Woody had contracted an annoying cough and I say annoying because it got worse each night and he kept me awake for a week, barking and sweating profusely. Then I started to feel a little odd…
Needless, to say the diesel heater was installed and worked a treat. Goodbye to cold nights when free camping and hello to luxurious warmth. Thus, we packed hurriedly and set off to catch up with mates camped at Loch Village. Which I might add is only a little over an hour away from home. Woody continued to cough loudly and I must have looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. The new heater though performed beautifully.
On to the Muster only a short distance away and a world away in ambiance. Even the manager’s house at the front gate looked as though it should have been demolished it was so cluttered with junk. I can’t use one member’s description of the place as your hair would curl at the thought that such a sweet grandmother would use such language. Friends who had arrived earlier insisted that the park had been given ‘a once over’ in anticipation of our arrival but the lawns although mowed were untrimmed and trees were hanging dangerously over caravans. Our ‘site’ at least had some concrete to drive on and an old piece of matting that was being slowly consumed by mud and mother nature. Driveways were rough gravel with no guttering. The Camp Kitchen had apparently been ‘cleaned’ yet a peculiar and unpleasant odour lingered even when we left the windows open. A once attractive stone fireplace and BBQ pavilion was open to the elements. To top it off most of the cabins were occupied by permanent residents and the police had been called to their late-night brawling.
Yet the view from our window was picture perfect. A country lane, trees bright with blossom, lush emerald green paddocks and dairy cows, drifts of spring flowers. As pretty as a picture when residents weren’t walking past.
We made the best of things, toured the area and tried hard not to concentrate on the shortcomings, like the used condom left in the Men’s toilet. At least the residents were taking care not to increase their numbers.
Then the rains came. A cold snap across the south of the state pushed by strong winds brought rain, hail and sent temperatures plummeting to 4 degrees (feels like 1˚, thanks I didn’t need to be told). The poorly grassed campsites turned to a muddy quagmire and water pooled around our doors but Gee our heater worked well.
At Happy Hour while we clustered about the fire in the stone pavilion the ‘management team’ decided to replace the fluorescent light tube, great timing guys. We had planned a communal ‘finger food’ dinner in the smelly Camp Kitchen but dashing between our caravan ovens to the camp kitchen carrying trays of hot food whilst sloshing through ankle deep mud and icy rain proved to be more like a Cross Country Run as there was no lighting in the park. To make matters worse, being a trifle unwell I had brought along a packaged tray of Spanokopita that according to the ‘Canadian Greek’ instructions was to be placed on its cardboard tray in the oven. Which, as I soon discovered does not work in a gas caravan oven as the tray quickly caught fire. The diesel heater continued to work well though.
The rain, hail and cold remained throughout Sunday but thankfully we escaped the caravan park to spend the afternoon at a fine winery at Loch. Quite a few members just gave up and either went home or returned to the freedom camp at Loch. The rest of us clustered in the still odorous Camp Kitchen for a last Happy Hour, though I’m grappling to remember much as the dreaded lurgy had seriously taken hold but we later curled up in the warmth of 26˚ in the caravan and watched TV.
Monday morning although fine but with more bad weather forecast and still feeling poorly we packed up and headed for home having given up on our plans to tour Gippsland for a few weeks. Oh, and as we left one of our group received a phone call from a relative in the Justice system who wondered why we were staying in a park that is used to house recently released offenders.