The 'Grey nomads' are coming

In Morocco we are perplexed when we arrive via a difficult rocky piste by the Blue Rocks. In Mali our eyes are out on stalks when the sand settles after a passing lorry on the way to Timbucto. In islamic Iran just as we at last find peace and quiet in a courtyard in south Shiraz, we are again staggered.

The grey nomads have found us again! It seems that we cannot hide from this curious race that is spreading like an epidemic across the globe. Armed with their white campers, they are conquering the world. Dressed in the tropic outfits of the western consumption society, they look at the different cultures on their way through the time. Because time is what they have. The retired workers from Europe search for happiness outside the bounderies of an ever increasing European Union. With time and enough money in their pockets they travel with their campers like backpacks. The modern backpacker is only hindered by bad roads and a shortage of water.

West-Africa, the Middle East and Asia have now become the work area of the 65 plus brigade who don't want to stay at home. These new nomads aren't held back by borders or reputations. They have nothing to lose, aren't afraid to take risks, aren't put off by the corruption that exists in some resorts. The seniors have seen it all before, they aren't scared of the youngsters that have to prove themselves or from the border guards who want a tip. With plenty of life experience they pass each border.

The urge for independence characterises this new travelling population. A characteristic that you see in their behaviour. They park anywhere along the route, often guarded by an alsatian, a doberman or a rottweiler. With these faithful companions nothing stops them from enjoying the loveliest places on the earth. The new race has a nose for finding each other. They smell each other, as soon as one of them reaches a sleeping place for the night, he leaves a trail for the rest. They smell the safety of the sleeping place and race towards that spot. You rarely see a grey nomad alone. Within a few hours, they group round the scout and place their mobile homes in a circle. The temporary settlement has been established. The portable village is marked out and when all the campers are in the right place the senior retreats to his mobile fatherland and shuts all the windows and doors. only the smell of cooking betrays the presence of the senior tourists. At soon as it is daybreak the inhabitants leave the village with only tyre marks remaining.

Each time we meet these brave travellers, we have mixed feelings of disapproval and admiration. We respect the elderly for their initative and not sitting at home in front of the telly waiting for the end. They deserve a pat on the back for the way that they are spending the last years of their lives. They aren't stopped by prejudice or borders. Enjoy is their motto.

Our disapproval is best illustrated by two examples: In Morroco we are the only ones on a farm in a gorge, where the people don't have much. The farmer has put all his hope into his just opened campsite. As night falls and we await the evening by our campfire, eight German campers suddenly appear. They have also found this new campsite. Even though the facitities are minimal the grey nomads decide to retire here for the night. But before the eyes can be shut for a good night's rest, a number of rituals must be carried out.

First the water supply must be filled. Otherwise you can't do the washing up, have a shower twice a day and put the washing machine on. The water hoses are rolled out and the farmer's water supply shrinks within half an hour. Each camper takes roughly three hundred litres water and the farmer's water reservoir evaporates before he knows it.

As soon as the satisfied faces of our eastern neighbours have filled their water tanks, they take on the electricity. Of course it is better to get your 220 volts from the socket, than to tax your batteries with all the electronic appliances that can be found in your movable home.
No sooner said than done. Eight rolls of cable are rolled out synchronously and a cobweb of wire decorates the site. The nomads retire to their beds and shut the doors. "Now we have electricity from the socket, we can immediately connect everything and turn it all on", the mobile travellers think. The washing machines begin to turn, the microwaves ping and the satelliet dishes search for the German Fernsehen. Then suddenly all is dark. The farmer awakes with a start. What is the matter? What is happening to my campsite?

While our campfire still smolders, various people run back and forth over the site. "Scheiss kamping. Dass gibt es ja nicht. Verdammt noch mal!". The Germans react furiously. "We aren't going to pay for this", the visitors shout. As soon as the sun comes up, the grey nomads leave the campsite.

The site is empty again, the farmer looks at the pittance in his hand. The water supply has gone, the electricity is broken and the guests have paid less and left dissatisfied. "Maybe I should move with my family to the big city and see if Allah will look down more favourably on me there".

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, we arrive in Shiraz. We find a nice campsite and hotel with a lot of shadow, and separated from the inhabitants. We enjoy the peace and take the time for maintenance and relaxation. Till: Suddenly seven white campers drive into the place. Seven Italian nomad vehicles park their campers round us. They park the cars so close to each other that they can compete with each others snoring. The dogs are let out and we politely ask if they will not allow them to foul the grass next to our car. After ten minutes we see the first women appear. Dressed in sun tops and shorts, without head-dress they stroll across the campsite. The number of curious Iranian eyes grows. The Italian men walk cheerfully in their shorts to the shower facilities and back. No-one takes any notice of the customs of the country they are visiting. The Iranians that have taken up residence round the campsite, begin the cheer and shout. The retired southerners begin to clearly get annoyed by the Iranian behaviour. How supprising?

Peace only returns when the grey nomads now covered in scarf and long trousers get into a taxi to go and see the city.

Bravely and in own style, our older citizens travel round the world. Fleeing from the individualistic society and looking for warmth and adventure. In their own 'house'.