I was scheduled to do a presentation for my work to a forum in Newcastle on a Monday so decided to make a holiday out of it and take Little Lucy on her first trip.
After Justin practiced reversing and parking for a few minutes, we headed off on the Saturday morning in his old beatup ute (which he loves). The ute swayed a bit on the way when going over 100 kms per hour. It was only later that we found out you’re not supposed to go over 90 kms per hour in a caravan. Whoops.
Justin had a Desi Arnez Jr (Long Long Trailer movie with Lucille Ball) moment when he tried to park the caravan in the assigned space at the Holiday Park. It was a bit tight because there was a light pole right in the middle. And he just couldn’t get it to go in strait. Professional vanners poured out of their huge caravans to either watch or give advice. Justin got a bit flusted and distracted with voices coming from different directions. I was busy giving him hand signals. In the end he got it almost there, and we positioned it by hand – its a very light van so was easier that way. Phew. First attemps are tense.
Stockton Beach was beautiful in a stark, industrial kind of way. There’s a long breakwall which we walked down in the morning and evening that opens to the sea from Newcastle harbour. Massive – I mean absolutely huge – cargo and tanker ships pass through the heads. So close to the breakwall you can almost reach out and touch them. It’s fascinating watching the tug boats maneouvre these machines-on-water through such a narrow channel. Night and day, the ships go in and out – honking their loud horns as they pass the heads. You can see the ships queue down the coast in the distance – we counted 10 at one stage. The ships are mostly Chinese – picking up their black coal from mines in the Hunter.
Days were warm. Nights chilly but warm in the caravan. Nights were punctuated by the sounds of ships passing through the harbour constantly. I was startled awake one night when a passing ship billowed its horn at 3 am.
We still don’t have any water in the van, so we washed up in the communal kitchen. We met quite a few people there – mostly miners who live in caravan and wives visiting them on the weekend. Everyone is very friendly and happy to talk. I’m not much of a chatterer but Justin was in his element. It wasn’t long before he’s waving to people like he’s lived there all his life.
There was an old fellow and his old dog in the caravan next to us on his own. Justin got to chat to him and found out his wife had died four years ago – after 46 years of marriage, but he still likes to go away to the places they often visited. I thought it was a great way for older people like him who live alone to meet other people and not be so isolated in their own home. But he’s situation pulled my heartstrings – especially when I spied his lone figure and dog going for a walk along the break-wall in the evenings. Maybe his wife joined him there at that time at the end of the day when the tide turns.
It’s cozy in the van with a cup of tea first thing in the morning.