Barwon Heads, Australia, January 2017
I was quite new to the Caravan Park scene, but Zach had pretty much grown up there, so I felt good knowing there was someone who could introduce me. I visited it for the first time in 2015 during my first trip to Australia, and I couldn’t wait to go back there again. During my initial visit to the caravan park, I didn’t think much about the vans. I focused more on nature and my proximity to it. The ocean which I could almost see from the caravan, the birds singing so loudly, and the sand - oh the sand! No matter how hard you try to keep it out, it always found a way to join you in bed!
Only when we stayed there longer the second time whilst backpacking around the world, did I realise that really, it’s a cemetery for old caravans. The thought of an “elephants’ graveyard” stuck in my head as all of the caravans were so big and could no longer move. They were grounded; unable to travel, contrary to their main purpose. The only difference was that in their final resting place they were all together in a group, unlike elephants, alone. And they were cherished - with new memories being created in them every year.
Each caravan has it’s own identity that has developed over time. So I prefer to think it’s the caravan’s chance for a second life, albeit a much slower one. Once on the move with the aim of seeing Australia, or maybe even the world, now they rest. Just like their owners, who sit in front of them and enjoy the sun whilst reading the local paper.
Zach’s parents, Ian and Christine, bought their first caravan in 1996. This was a big step up from the massive, old canvas tent of their parents’ day. They have moved onto a larger van since then, which has changed over time, just as the family has. Remodeling the inside to better suit adults rather than kids, as Zach and his siblings grew up.
Within the Caravan Park, the majority of vans have an attached annex that leans on the camper’s side. As time has progressed, the owners have modernized the inside, by adding TVs and sometimes even air conditioning! In Zach’s parents’ van, the annex area has been the place of endless games of Scattergories, Monopoly, Scrabble and movie nights.
The meals are cooked on the small stove inside or the barbeque out the front. Some of the trailers have built-in toilets, but most of the owners rely on the shared toilet block. Ian and Christine’s van doesn’t have its own bathroom. I loved it – it forced me to get out of the bed in the early morning and walk through the little alleys filled with rays of the rising sun. Sometimes in the evenings, I’d even get startled by a possum running out of the bushes.
There are no real beach houses in the Park, only the old converted caravans. The spot couldn’t be more perfect – from the furthest point of the Caravan Park, you have to walk only 5 minutes to the beach and a few minutes to the bluff, where the view of the bay is simply stunning.
That made me wonder though; how is it, that in our fast developing world, are there no luxurious cottages in this picturesque spot? After asking around, I found out that the land functioned as an Aboriginal camping site for thousands of years and was a significant marker for European settlers, trying to navigate their way through the heads of Port Phillip Bay and then on to Melbourne. For this reason, the land is now considered Crown Land - protected by the law, which states that no permanent buildings can be raised there.
Although these caravans are not considered to be permanent, they are definitely in their final resting places. They have lain dormant for many years on end; they can no longer be towed. They are just a shell of their former self, a shell that now holds so many memories that all come together to create its soul. The soul made up of a family living together in a small space, for weekends here and there, or a summer holiday, or even the entire family celebrating a wedding. So even though today the retired caravans sit there grounded, their rusty souls will always be on the move and their adventurous nature is enough to overcome the law.
By Hanna Puskarz and Zach Groves