Curtin Springs – Frankly Dear, They Don’t Give A Damn.

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We relocated to Curtin Springs from Alice Springs as we wanted to head to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). Ayer’s Rock has been turned into a kind of resort with prices for everything being in the upper ranges. You can appreciate it is in the middle of nowhere and getting gas, food, etc. in … Is pricey. We wanted to avoid that and opted to camp further away and save money. We found a place about 100 km from Uluru where we could stay for much cheaper and where we could leave the caravan and just drive over for a day trip. Perfect!

Prior to leaving we managed to give Fluffy a big clean up at Alice Springs and were not willing to have to repeat the process or the cost of having to clean her and the truck. I will probably be scrubbing the insides for weeks to come.

Curtin Springs is the actual homestead for a station selling mainly beef. They offer a few powered sites (no water) and then free camping. They employ many foreign young people, and again, a whole eclectic group of people from the young kids winging it on a sleeping bag and a prayer to the up-style homes on wheels – people from all over the globe.

It was an interesting kind of set up with one row of a few paid sites along the front, near the amenities. They had electricity, but no water. If you used any water from the main source, you were encouraged to make a “donation.” There were several cabins up around the gas station and store and then the free campers were parked in a large paddock that was basically a dust bowl. There was no rhyme nor reason as to how or where they parked. They hiked in to the amenities. The bathrooms and showers cost extra to be used, even for the paid sites. They were lined up across the front of the campsite and left quite a bit of people’s legs exposed to the general public’s view which meant that people saw many things they probably would have preferred to have missed. Soon, we learned that the “showers” that people had to pay for, were for cold water only AND that they were on timers. It is amazing how people’s screaming has its own language that is kind of universal. Most people discovered the truth about the showers when attempting to use them for the first time.

When we arrived at the camp and paid our fees, wee were handed a page of “rules” that were surprisingly detailed, common sense and good to know. Relevant to this post, they stated (in part):

1. (rego info)
2. Although you can go as ‘long; as you like in the site (east/west) we ask that you are careful about how wide/sideways you go, so you don’t impact on the next site.
3. Please keep you (sic) van straight and not at an angle, as that will have an impact on the rest of the sites.
4. Please park your care in-front (sic) off (sic) or behind your van NOT beside it.
5. If you take up more than your allocated space you will be asked to move your van and/or to pay for the additional site.
(6 and onward – several more not relevant to this post)

We were directed to park the vehicle and to make it straight in our space. The van next to us was so close to us and at an angle as to make it difficult at the back, to get between our ‘vans’ to walk, let alone put up the awning. We were supposed to park straight right next to “Crooked Caravan Site Hog Man.” The young woman who directed us told us that the owner of the other van would need to repark their caravan when they got back as it was clearly on an angle. She told us to speak to them. It was mid day and of course “Crooked Caravan Site Hog Man,” had probably gone to Ayer’s Rock and may not have come back until late at night, after sunset. There was little chance he would move his caravan at that time of night. Further from that, we did not feel it was appropriate for the campground to expect a customer to sort out a breach of the rules with another customer. That was not our job and could possibly lead to bad feelings and escalate into something quite unpleasant that would then be disturbing several other customers.

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It was impossible for us to park at the end of our caravan as it would put us in the road and there was no room beside out caravan on our paid for “site” so we parked in the weeds beside our caravan on the other side. We waited to see if “Crooked Caravan Site Hog Man” might come home but when it got to be late afternoon, Derek finally agreed with me that it was not our job to take up the issue and went in to speak to management.

A cute little Asian gal came back out with him to see the problem. She did not see that there was any. When Derek pointed out we could not open the awning she came up with a genius solution. Everything could be magically solved if we just put our awning on the other side of our caravan. She walked out on the other side waving her arms to show us how immense the room on that side was. She was beaming when she turned to face him. Derek then tried to explain how caravans worked and that the awning was not something we could move to the other side. This resulted in several minutes of her arguing about it. She insisted we were just being difficult and that we had a faulty caravan because all the other caravans opened on the other side. That was when Derek looked at the other caravans, very slowly, so that she too had to look and well . . . some things are just self evident and need no further words. Then she said we could move our vehicle from beside the caravan to the back and we would have room to move over and then we could open our awning. I opened the window and asked why one of their staff parked us where they did if it was not right and why now we were the ones that had to move? Derek closed my window from the outside.

The attendant was full of great and interesting ideas. She had parked the angled caravan and insisted he was straight, and we were wrong, despite the fact we and all the other caravans were then parked “crooked” according to her view. She was really unhappy with all of us. Why had we all done that? No-one had their car parked behind their caravan, for one very interesting reason. If any of us had done that we would have blocked the road that led into the free camping. None of us thought this was a good idea and it was possibly the point when we realized that the rules had probably been written by a creative writing class imagining the most ridiculous rules they could come up with to impose on a caravan park in the middle of nowhere, managed and operated by tiny little Asian girls who had never even seen a caravan before they arrived at a Cattle Station in the middle of nowhere in the Outback of Australia. (Ask someone to stand there looking at you with a completely blank, uncomprehending face as you read this so that you can relive the moment like you were actually there with us. If someone else would agree to be locked in a room with windows and would be swearing and making gestures from the window – that would be awesomely life like!)

Derek showed her all the room there was between “Crooked Caravan Site Hog Man” and the next caravan compared to the room between us and him. Yes, she nodded to indicate she could see it. Nothing struck her as unusual. He would need that space to park his car beside it. Derek pointed out he could park 3 cars beside his caravan as he actually took up his space, half ours, and another whole site. Besides, what happened to we all had to park behind the caravan on the road? Why was he exempt. She told Derek he was being difficult.

She said we could move the caravan over. Derek showed her that his tow bar would then be on the road and again, cars and people going by in the night especially, would trip over it. How was it that we were supposed to pay to park in the road? We were squished into half the site we paid for and not being able to open our awning, was not acceptable. She repeated the words to the song she was singing, “We were parked wrong.” Sung to the tune of” 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall.”

Derek asked for a supervisor and opened the window for a few moments so I could have some air. Once an older woman came back with her, he reclosed the window.

This woman was the boss and she either could not read or she had just seen these rules at some other caravan park and thought they sounded good and copied them for hers without realizing some people might read them and think that they were supposed to comply. I told Derek we had to stop reading things, it just set us up for huge disappointments in life. She did not care at all that rules 2, 3, 4 and 5 were breached. We should move. In fact, she insisted that everyone else, except us, ALWAYS moved their caravan over and parked on the road. Derek asked her to come with him for a moment, he showed her the stump that was almost touching our caravan at the back, preventing him or anyone else for that matter, from moving over anywhere. He also shared other small details like the huge cement block that prevented you from even parking on the other side of the stump as nothing could fit in between the two, well except for perhaps a couple sheep or a small horse.  Also, the minor detail that the electrical cord would not reach.  She waved her hand and dismissed it. Now she was just making crap up because clearly no-one would have ever been able to move their caravan over for that site. I was screaming that from behind my now really fogged up, locked window in the caravan but no-one was paying me any attention at all. “Crooked Caravan Site Man,” was parked on half of our site plain and simple and she was not prepared to do anything about it.

She asked what we wanted to do and Derek suggested we were there for two nights, we only had half the site we booked, he would be happy with paying half price for both nights, or one night full, one night free.

Nah. Not happening.

She then waved at some weeds down at the end and said we could move down there if we weren’t happy. And she walked off. We seriously considered the weeds but being as we paid for a powered site and we did not have a mile and a half worth of extension cord, that was never going to happen. Derek unlocked the caravan door to let me out and I went to run after her but I got caught between the two caravans and Derek had to go and get the crowbar to free me. She disappeared in the crowd of people swearing about the cold showers.

Customer service at its best – the type you get when someone holds all the cards and doesn’t really give a damn. Ya well, I am Canadian and we carry our own cards.

Derek did mention that I blogged, and that I also wrote reviews on places we stayed. She told us to go for it, she did not care. She is the only option where people can safely leave their caravans or tents and go visit Uluru. People can free camp but no-one really goes with leaving their caravans while they sight-see. It just is not safe.

So here you go. The skinny on Curtain Springs and why the Appleford Gang will never raise the dust in their dirt bowl again.

The people a couple of caravans over told us how “Crooked Caravan Site Man,” tried to argue with the girl who parked him. He could see he was crooked and that no-one would have any room to park beside him in the last site. She was the same little gal who had argued that we were the ones parked crooked. She insisted he stop arguing and park exactly where she told him to … crooked to all the other caravans already parked. Damn, he was going to be a nice man and we would probably even like him. What the hell were we supposed to do with all the pent up rage we were feeling? (I was holding on to Derek’s for him because I am helpful like that.)

I locked myself in the caravan for awhile.

When “Crooked Caravan Site Man,” got back, he turned out to be a lovely man and he and his wife invited us over both nights to sit under his awning and drink wine. We sat there most of the night complaining about our lot in life. There, in the middle of the Outback, under a sky full of stars, drinking wine with great new friends, listening to the laughter of a whole dust bowl of people as they cooked their dinners and sat around fires singing and talking. People with no time constraints and no need to do a darn thing, enjoying all of that with all the creature comforts of home in a little room on wheels right there beside them. Yup, we bitched and complained for quite some time.

You know what? After enough wine, nothing really matters anymore and you realize that once again the universe has served you up a lesson in a great big stir pot of drama. Some of the best friends are found after all the dust has cleared. Awning. Schmawning. Turns out you can caravan just fine without one.