Glen and Kathy Forbes are veterans of the road, more in love with the road than ever (and each other, too). The retirees have spent the last decade on the road travelling Australia, and they’ve got no plans of stopping any time soon.
The couple are from Newcastle, but these days their address is wherever they park their van. “We go for about seven to nine months of the year,” Glen says. “It’s just wonderful travelling. We’ve been right around Australia, crisscrossed the whole lot...been to the places you wouldn’t think existed and had no signs. You’d get there and get the shock of your life.”
While we chat at Discovery Parks – Fraser Street, Hervey Bay, Kathy works away fixing up some clothes. She’s a superb sewer, making her own clothes, and even tailoring for fellow travellers as they go. “I take my sewing machine with me. It keeps me busy,” she says. Glen keeps busy brewing his own moonshine to share around the campsite with new friends.
Their car and vintage RV are well loved, with stories to tell of their own. “As you can see by the front of her, she needs a good wash,” Glen says, pointing at their SUV with a good smattering of mud over the front. With deck chairs perched just in front of the car, the couple smile as the look over their quaint little campsite.
It’s well-loved, just the way it should be after ten years of travel. “You learn a lot in that time,” Glen says. “I went to buy some mudflaps for the car recently, and they wanted $89 each, so I just screwed two thongs onto the back of the car.” It’s cheap, it’s inventive, and it’s just the kind of attitude you become accustomed to on the road - you make do and laugh about it. They’ve got spares, too. “We were up in Karratha and there were a pair of thongs on the road so we went and stuck them to the car, too.”
Their RV is a vintage Winnebago Janbaree, but it’s a lot more than a place to sleep and get around the place for Kathy and Glen. It’s special. “While I was in the police force, in 1972, I decided to get an old Ford Transit Van,” Glen says. “I wanted to do it up as a campervan. I wanted to travel. So I went hitchhiking to pick it up. This guy picked me up and told me I could come and get parts from him if I needed. He used to repair caravans, and he had two or three businesses that he owned doing them up. After that, we were best of mates. He’s been godparent to our kids. He passed away a few years ago, but he had this bus. It’s very old, but it’s only got 100,000km on it. It’s got everything, because he did everything to it.”
The couple now proudly travel around in the RV, which they bought off their beloved friend. “He’d love to be here with us, I’m sure,” Kathy says. “His wife keeps in touch with us to hear about our travels.”
That’s what it’s all about for these guys - the people you meet and the stories to tell. “You get to see the country, and you get to meet some wonderful people,” Glen says. After ten years travelling the country, they’ve racked up a good list of friends to drop into for tea. “We’ve got friends everywhere and we keep in touch with them. Just on this trip, we met people six or so years ago - they live at Yeppoon - and we’re going to meet them on this trip. The people you meet are just amazing.”
It’s not just the kilometres they’ve racked up either, collecting a story or 70 to tell from their travels, too. Their top yarn? An unexpected wedding anniversary. “We got halfway across the Nullarbor - halfway across the 146km straight - I turned left and went in about 150 metres,” Glen says, grinning at Kathy. “I got me table out, put it down, got me bloody bourbon [which he makes himself like moonshine] and wine out, we got all dressed up, I put a tablecloth on the table, went and picked some bush flowers, chucked ‘em in a Coke bottle and that’s where we had our 47th wedding anniversary. There we are, in the middle of the Nullarbor. Nobody can tell me that they’ve had a more romantic wedding anniversary.”
“I usually like a lot of people around me and there was nobody for miles. But it was romantic because he went and got me the bush flowers,” Kathy says. “Sometimes I make my dance dresses. I’ve got a blue, a purple, a pink, a red, a green, and an orange one, and they’ve all got swirls in them. I put the pink one on that night. They’re very dressy.”
For now, it’s knock-off time.
“Five o’clock every day, people bring their own concoctions and everything out to share. I bring me own moonshine,” Glen says pouring a few for neighbouring campers.
“More people should do this…they’d get a shock. Instead of going to these five star hotels and sitting on your bum in the bar. Get out and come and do this.”