Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Campers by Annabel Candy

Recently I camped in Coolum and discovered a small community on the verge of extinction. So I chatted to them, took photos and wrote this story.

Coolum Campsite is a great place to stay in the heart of Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Set right on the beach away from the high rises, you can find a peaceful spot, hoist the Aussie flag over your tent and relax. I only stayed one night but I wish it'd been longer.

Stan's lived at Coolum Campsite for 16 years. He doesn't need to use the communal bathrooms or laundry facilities because he's got a permanent home here, surrounded by lush bromeliads, with space to air his laundry in private.Temporary residents abound, but permanent residents like Stan are a dying breed. Literally. Once you could buy a spot at Coolum Campsite, set up house and move in, but those days are over now. Another charming resident who moved to Coolum from Victoria 10 years ago, said a permanent spot at the campsite was the only housing option he could afford at the time.

I admired a tree, adorned with a twinkling kaleidoscope collection and an epiphyte that clings to it like a ruff. The epiphyte has doubled in size since he moved here, but property prices have grown faster. Apparently, 10 years ago a typical house in Coolum would have cost about $150,000. Now they're over $400,000.

All 32 permanent camp-site residents have injected their personality into their homes and maintain them meticulously. Only one house looks pleasingly ramshackle and seems to house an extended happy family. Never-the-less, permanent residents are being phased out. Most of them are elderly and when they die no one else will be allowed to set up a permanent home like theirs.

If you can, stop by and visit the permanent residents of Coolum Campsite. They're a friendly bunch, teetering on the brink of extinction and we'll never see their like again. Thank you for chatting to me Stan, and letting me take your photo. You seem such a happy man.

Annabel Candy is a local writer who has lived in Noosa since November 2008 and is here to stay. She is originally from the UK (many moons ago) and moved to Australia from New Zealand via Costa Rica. Her blog "Get in the Hotspot" contains a wealth of great reading. Check it out.

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