“Hello, do you mind if I set up camp next to you?” I awkwardly asked. There was a group of campers with a couple of motorhomes and a gazebo taking up quite a bit of space and I didn’t want to intrude. There was only me, my bike and a small tent, but still, I wanted to be polite.
“Of course you can!” One of them said. “No worries at all. Come join us for a drink when you’re done.”
People in Tasmania are so friendly, I thought to myself. I’d been cycling for a while now and pretty much every place I’d camped there were people thrusting food and drink at me. I sure as hell wasn’t complaining.
Questions were fired at me when I joined them shortly after. Where was I from? Was I on my own? Where was I going? Why was I cycling around Tasmania? I sipped on the beer they’d given me. I’m from the UK. Yes, I’m on my own. I was going to Hobart. No particular reason, just fancied trying it (especially after spending 4 months in Asia eating too much rice and drinking too much beer).
They called themselves grey nomads. They were all retired, and met up a few times a year to camp, drink wine, eat good food and relax. They’d been friends for years, one couple now living in Tassie and the other living on the mainland. They’d seen each other through marriages, holidays, children, deaths, houses, holidays and pets.
“Sorry, our dinner is ready now.” One of the women apologised.
“Oh, no problem at all. I need to sort some stuff out anyway.”
I was in my tent faffing around when I heard a “knock knock”. I opened the zip and came face to face with a steaming plate of hot food. Chicken in a mushroom sauce, potatoes and veges (it was so good, I still remember it). Given I didn’t have a stove so dinner was usually a tin of tuna and some crackers, and it’d started to drizzle, this was like getting a giant Easter egg with a hug when you’d been expecting one solitary mini egg to be thrown at you.
I took the plate back about an hour later, and they’d decamped into one of the motorhomes because it was raining and quite cold. You can guess what’s going to come next, right?
They invited me in, and I sat in the warm (they had a heater, how darned luxurious) with cups of tea eating home made chocolates. Of which I had many. Gotta keep the strength up for the cycling right?
I stayed there right until it was time to go to bed, and crawled into my sleeping bag that night feeling like a purry contented cat, sure to sleep well. I was as full as Fully McFullface and punch-drunk on chatter, laughter and the kindness of people.