The 11th annual CamperTrailers.org Group national get-together went off with a bang in the small mid-western New South Wales town of Gulgong, spearheading a week of hectic activities and seminars as well as social evenings around campfires.
Nearly a hundred camper trailers were parked around the local showgrounds from September 27 to October 2 and, with many arriving early and departing several days after the end, it was hailed by all as the best yet in the group’s 14-year history.
The weather, which started out bitingly cold with blustery winds soon settled into glorious sunny spring days and cool evenings, with only the imposition of a day of over 30°C at the end, taking the edge off the end of the week for some.
The local town was full of hospitality and the facilities at the Gulgong Showgrounds were excellent.
PLENTY OF ACTION
Organised, obligation-free activities were stacked up, with something for everyone, if you chose to make the effort.
There were seminars on lithium batteries, solar and 12V electronics, 12V wiring, vehicle setups for towing, trailer bearing maintenance, LED 12V lighting, tent pegs, first-aid kits, and travelling with dogs and a 12V walkabout. Campers could enjoy organised cuppa and chat stints, Dream-Pot and Cobb cooking demonstrations and even a pamper session.
There was also a kids’ movie night, kids’ craft session and a kids’ triathlon entailing a sack race, three-legged race and an egg-and-spoon race, later embraced by some of the more enthusiastic parents.
Regular tours of the historic Prince of Wales Opera House and the Henry Lawson Centre provided insight to Gulgong’s history including its most famous bush poet, while an auction night headed up by local celebrity auctioneer Bruce McGregor set the scene for bagging a bargain. Campers were also treated to a cracking breakfast put on by the showground society and perused and sampled incredible crafts and bakes, courtesy of the local CWA. Other community events included an explanation of the local sheep industry and a special performance of Lawson’s Mates (with billy tea and damper supper) at the opera house, attended by 130 campers.
Well established get-together traditions were in full force with die-hard fans descending on camp for the highly anticipated trivia night. The annual hardies vs. softies (hardtop versus softtop campers) bocce competition inspired the faithful, while the folding toilet tent competition added haste and front row seats to an already inherently funny act. Camper and caravan walkabouts, meanwhile, left curious minds appeased.
Renewing old friendships, sitting around campfires, looking at new campers and examining modifications to old ones and exploring the neighbourhood proved less formal but no less fulfilling.
TOURING THE GULGONG REGION
The Gulgong region sits on the edge of one of New South Wales’ prime wine producing regions, and many attendees enjoyed a fine lunch while tasting a few drops of the local nectar, especially around Mudgee. Markets at Gulgong and Mudgee were well attended and some of the local riverbanks provided a sensational backdrop for relaxation as the weather warmed toward the end of the week.
Many who attended the meet stayed on after Friday’s closing function to enjoy the delights of the first Gulgong Chinese Gold Festival. With a bush dance on Friday night, a unique parade through town on the Saturday afternoon before the local markets opened, and then camel and sheep races at the Gulgong Turf Club on Sunday there was plenty see.
For some, it was a profitable stay, with Amelia Welsh, daughter of Tvan owner Nigel, converting $11 in entry fees into wins in the Centennial Gift Foot Races scooping first place in the girl’s under 15 ($10), under 21s ($50) and open women’s race ($100). Dad is now pondering that new solar panel.
CHOOSING A DESTINATION
The CamperTrailers.org ‘owners’ usually choose a small town in mid-western New South Wales for their meets, midway between Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, to share the burden of travel. Towns that will benefit from an influx of 250-300 people (and the thousands of dollars they will spend over the week in local stores), with enough shower, toilet and power facilities for around a hundred-plus campers are considered ideal.
The group always partners with a local non-profit association (often Rotary or Lions), which can provide the necessary public risk insurance and ,in exchange, attendees raise money for that group’s charitable activities.
This year’s partner was the Gulgong Showground Society, with the members raising $3300 from the auction night, as well as $302 from the trivia night to help establish a home for the famous Holtermann Collection of photographs of New South Wales goldfields life, including that at Gulgong, taken in the 1870s. Currently housed in the State Library of NSW, the UNESCO Memory of the World Register-listed collection will be transferred to a special museum being established in Gulgong in a heritage building in the main street.
A raffle raised a further $360 for the Showground Society itself.
BEST ON GROUND
The annual ‘Spirit of the Meet’ award went to Brisbane camper Lindsay Jenkinson, as nominated by his fellow campers. The Gulgong Bloopers (aka Boofhead) award went to Newcastle camper Colin Tidey who assiduously adjusted the angle and placement of his solar panel every hour one day until it was pointed out to him that the lead wasn’t plugged into his camper.
One of the most eagerly-awaited moments was the announcement of next year’s destination for the annual gathering and, in 2016, the group will be gathering at Ganmain, a small town of just 600, between Junee and Narrandera in southern New South Wales.
Check out the full feature in issue #95 December 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.