Neil, An Australian Bushman

Neil, An Australian Bushman

You know those stories that pop up on Facebook from time to time, shared by all of your friends and normally some corny fake love story with some epic morale lessons etched into them? I don’t often have the time for that codswallop. But when this one popped up in my news feed last week written by a friend of mine I figured it worth a look. I’m glad I did! In fact, I’m so glad that I’ve asked permission to share that story with you this week. Read on below, and if you enjoy the read as much as I did, follow the links at the end of the post and show Jed some love for this inspiring story.

Alex

Alex Garner

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I met someone. Someone who enjoyed being alone in the bush. Some people are peoples people and some are solitary. Neil was the latter, but I could tell he enjoyed the chat when we met. It’s a shame I had to leave; with plans as long as my arm lined up, completely different to Neil. He was free today, the next day and well into next week.

10252041_1522171984729229_6084455671020207725_nWe met in a rest area on the side of a highway after I had been out with a mate and our dogs, checking out some tracks up and around a river bed I heard about. I pulled in to air up after the afternoon’s exploration and noticed an old ute with a home made canopy and an enclosed 6×4 box trailer in tow, the rear of which was plastered with a funny mural depicting its lack of road racer ability. It looked a little worse for wear.

A friendly G’day was said while I had the compressor on full noise and I yelled out I’d be over for a chat when I was done. I plonked down on the concrete bench across from Neil under a tree in the rest area, extended a hand and said a simple “how are you mate”. That simple sentence spurred into all kinds of conversation topics. I knew from the get go I was going to be able to sit on that bench all afternoon and listen to Neil’s stories (and I could have well into the night too!).

Neil is a skinny sun tanned character who sat relaxed with his Novel, a home made beer and pouch of tobacco on the concrete bench. A weathered Akubra hat tipped from his head…one sure sign the bloke I was speaking to had certainly forgot more places than I had seen myself! We began chatting and one of the first things Neil told me was that he had been on the road for 17 years. Originally Neil did 3 laps of Oz on a pushbike and he reckons this was the best fun he has ever had. A little older he had to trade the bike for a vehicle and bought his old Mitsubishi Triton not running and fixed it up himself. After 17 years on the road aiming to travel at least a lap a year, it’s seen some country. More than many of us could dream about; but it was a tough old reliable bus with good mechanicals.

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We talked about all sorts of things, like his home on wheels. Neil reckoned he had the kitchen on the left of the canopy, brewery in the back corner and the living room and bedroom on the right. The shed is out the back in the trailer, and the office up the front. Yep he had it sorted. His mobile Hilton suite.

He also told me of some of his adventures to North Queensland, like the time a 4.5m croc had it in for him while at one of his secret spots. He decided it wasn’t worth pushing his luck after 4 days of trying to gather water from the river. I’m betting that was a good choice.

One comment Neil made rang pretty loud to me though. “I’m amazed at what I’ve gone to see in this country that isn’t a national park -, because nobody knows about it yet ” he says. “Billabongs in the bush full of fish and clean water, places not even on maps.”

I was sitting in awe. Jealousy would probably best describe it.

Neil didn’t care so much for the coast either. He preferred red dirt and spinifex over the beach. To many people he reckoned. He was an East of Kalgoorlie or West of the ranges in the East kind of bloke. Neil has a fair Diesel capacity in the old Triton too – about 2000 km worth at full fill. He once made it from Kalgoorlie to Mildura (by the skin of his teeth). This sort of range helped him bypass the more expensive places to fill and preserve his limited funds.

Simple, functional and awesome. A well proven setup for a life on the road!

I built the courage to ask why he was out on the road. It’s a fine line one must be careful not to cross, but Neil understood I meant well and told me a bit of his situation.

A serious injury that left him unable to work ultimately meant he became homeless and with nothing. When he managed to receive his pension he decided he could live on the street as he had been or get out and live in the bush and as you can now tell – the rest is history.
Time was pushing on and I had to be back home, but up would spark another line of conversation. No way could I leave. It was just too bloody interesting!

I asked to have a quick look around his rig. A modest set up that worked for him. Very well used but everything was set up perfectly – how he liked it. It was really quite great to see something set up so simple that has worked so well. Everything home made – it really was great. He made the Canopy himself, Bought the steel originally but used recycled wood to panel the canopy in. A simple blanket with bulldog clips secured a temporary awning and a a couple of rusty old adjustable tent poles kept the canopy ajar. A small mattress and pillow took care of his sleeping quarters wherever he was for the night.

Neil reckon's 72 long necks a week at full production from the on-board brewery

I noticed a faded calendar on the divider mesh in the canopy on the kitchen side which had a new recipe each month. “Those lamp chops look alright hey Neil!” I joked. As I was checking out the sleeping quarters and the brewery shed (Neil reckons 72 long necks a week at full production) he handed me the recipe calendar I eyed off. A gift of sorts. “I’ve had all of those in there and that first ones a bloody ripper!”. I felt bad. Someone who obviously didn’t have a great deal wanted to give me something of his.

I just remembered I had something to trade, I said “I’ve got something in the car for you mate”. “What do you mean, I’ve got bloody everything” Neil yelled out as I walked over to my car.

I noticed he was a little short on lighting in the back of the Triton so I got the rest of a roll of LED strip I had in my console and gave it to him showing him what it does and how it worked. I opened up the back of my truck to show him it in action. “That’s alright isn’t it” he said. I think he was impressed. I dived into the rear drawers to see what else I could give. I found a rocker switch for the lights and a rigid light strip he could screw inside the canopy as well. I think he most liked the new LED headlamp I gave him. I also gave him a pair of gloves and a clip. “There’s some new gloves for croc wrestling when you head back up the cape Neil” I joked .

Gifts exchanged I really had to get going. I was late, but Neil wasn’t. He was quite content with where he was right now, no commitments.

I said my goodbye and set off in the cruiser back on the highway, a few toots on the horn to Neil who was standing up on the concrete bench with his home made beer in hand giving me a wave.

It was an absolute pleasure to meet Neil have just a glimpse at the stories this bloke has from travelling all over Australia many, many times. It also reminded me I’m too busy and I need to spend more time out in the bush! We all do I think. Sometimes simple is the most fulfilling way to live I reckon.

Maybe one day you too will run into Neil. You wont miss him if he drives by, but don’t count on it. He will probably be somewhere none of us know about; off the map if he has his way. But if you do see him make sure you stop for a chat. Rumor has it he will be up the canning soon and headed back down to the Alice before venturing north again, Cape York bound.

Neil waves a friendly goodbye. Can't help but wonder if the pirate flag is to ward off intruders to his secret campsites!

A little about Jed & Explore W.A.

Jed Currey is a deadset lover of the Aussie bush. So much so that he operates tag-a-long 4wd adventures to showcase the wonderful state of Western Australia. He also runs the occasional 4wd training day, so check out the links below if you wish to learn more about the capabilities of you and your vehicle; or would love the opportunity to explore some great new places with like minded people.

Explore WA Website                                            Explore WA Facebook Page

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5 Comments

  1. Ben Collaton
    January 23, 08:33 Reply
    Living the life I reckon, hope I run into him for a chat one day.
  2. Emiel
    January 23, 15:11 Reply
    great story this. thanks for sharing! people like him make the world interesting!
  3. Phil
    August 16, 09:57 Reply
    Just bumped into him in Iron Knob today. Top block.

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