I have promised my husband that this blog will not be published until we have left where we currently are. He is firmly (and probably correctly) of the opinion that if both sets of parents were to read it before we left they would have kittens. So this blog will definitely be out of date by the time you read it. Don’t be too upset – the other option was our parents have kittens to look after and some very difficult explanations as to where they had come from!
This blog is thoroughly motivated by my personal desire never to forget the best quip I have ever heard! Delivered with such spontaneity and heartfeltness that you know you were most definitely not included in the quip itself – a resounding ‘phew’ upon realising that! Before I get to the quip itself though a word on something that I just thoroughly love about Australians.
In Ireland we always refer to a ‘wag’ with respect. Now a ‘wag’ isn’t what a ‘wag’ is in England or other countries so nothing to do with ‘wifes and girlfriends’ of footballers or those who aspire to such heady heights. No, a wag is simply somebody who has a witty wisecrack available at every opportunity but usually not in an aggressive or (totally) disrespectful fashion. Somebody who can very quickly understand a situation and summarise it perfectly in just a few cleverly funny words!
Now the Irish pride themselves on their ability to be good ‘wags’. Most difficult / challenging / embarrassing situations will be met by a good quip. The Welsh and Scots are quite good at these too but I have to say (in my experience) the English just don’t quite get it! Sorry English people – you’re great at other things, I’m sure!
The question then is whether Australia has developed their own brilliant ability to be wags from its history of huge Irish settlement or whether it is simply a product of its own unique environment and history. If you do associate the Australian wag with the Irish, then I guess it is no surprise – 20% of all convicts sent to Australia were of course Irish and these people can only have been those most capable of living life on the edge, of fighting through difficult times with ingenuity!! Whatever the reason, Australians are just fabulous wags!
This ability to be a great wag doesn’t just come from unofficial sources, we loved how even official government signs had their own sense of being a wag. Under an official sign for the very tiny Wye River – another official sign stated, ‘because its bigger than a creek!’. You’ve got to love people’s ability to laugh at themselves. People willing to laugh at themselves tend to make just great people I always think! That goes for countries too!
Well that brings me right back to the beginning of this blog! What was the quip that I heard that surely has to be the best quip ever? Also, under what circumstances could we have heard it that needs to temporarily be kept from our parents?
On arrival in Hobart, Tasmania, it was clearly a lot colder than Melbourne. A quick trip to an outdoor shop procured a pair of gloves to go with the hat that had proved necessary in Melbourne. By the way, before you accuse us of a great lack of planning, I should point out that our sea shipment from the UK to India (containing all our winter kit) is now running more than 6 weeks late and so I didn’t even have jeans upon arrival in Sydney!
So Hobart was a little chillier. We then proceeded up the east coast to Freycinet National Park – an entire other blog will need to be dedicated to that spectacular place! We then moved on to St Helens. A pretty but as it turned out very dead (it is winter after all) seaside town!
Our initial plan was to drive across the Central Plateau to the centre / west of Tasmania to a fabulous hotel called Pumphouse Point, Chris managed to find via Google Maps (google map it and see if you can spot how Chris found it!).
Now that plan proved unproblematic until a park ranger in Freycinet upon asking about our travel plans advised us to check road conditions before heading inland. Like the sensible people we are, we kept an eye on road conditions and realised that several very large dumps of snow had closed ALL the roads to our next destination. Again being sensible people we visited the St Helens police station to check that our understanding was correct. The policeman there however assured us that if we had a 4×4 we would have no problem getting to Pumphouse Point!
Great! Pumphouse Point was the one place that Chris (and I) really wanted to go when we were planning our Tasmania adventure so if there was a chance of getting there we were going to take it. To enable this to happen however we had to drive three hours south to Hobart to swap our car for a 4×4 (A Nissan Pathfinder nicknamed ‘Thug the Truck’). Now our journey if we had gone directly should only have been 3 hours so we were aware of new time constraints, it was essential we were not driving in the dark in the snow!
Before leaving Hobart, I did a supermarket sweep ensuring we had plenty of emergency supplies! We had been following the news and knew that the police were taking the approach of: if you get in trouble, sort yourselves out if you can. We have enough idiots to deal with that will freeze to death without us! An overnight in the car was therefore on the cards should we have a problem.
All was well for the first 90 minutes or so – well rather it was official!Meaning that despite warnings that the road was closed
from a village called Ouse all the way to our hotel – we gaily drove through the village in brilliant sunshine and green fields – thinking seriously the road is going to close!?
20 miles or so beyond the village we began to see lots and lots more snow, slowly it
began to accumulate on the sides of the road and then the road began to noticeably narrow as the snowy verges leaked onto the road itself. Then spots of snow began to appear on the road until the road really became one lane and we finally began to understand the policeman’s insistence on a 4×4!
As the road entered the mountains, it became more twisting and the ascents and descents became steeper. Our speed decreased considerably and while the road was definitely still passable for most vehicles, we reckoned that if we had kept our previous SUV we would by now be more than just a little bit nervous – yet the road was still open – we were confident all would be well.
Then we were met by a Y junction – slow realisation hit us that the fork we needed was indeed that very fork with two bright yellow police barriers – saying road closed! Road closed! A quick perusal of the map made it clear: it was this road or no trip to Pumphouse Point!
Now Chris has done a season driving 4x4s in Norway and Sweden with the army and lets be fair that was on hillier and snowier mountains! We stopped and thought about it for a second – could we just go around the barriers – a quick check showed that others had definitely done it before us! Our car insurance was already void as we had gone above the snowline (a state clearly not used to lots of snow!) and so that wouldn’t change if we went onto an officially closed road. Looking down the road it was clear that it had actually been ploughed! We were in Thug – we went for it. A little dubious about just how much trouble we’d be in if the police spotted us – Australian police seem quite chilled though so we reckoned on perhaps a telling off but no more!
For about 10 miles the road was perhaps just a little snowier than the open road we’d been on – the problem that had closed it however was clear – a) it wasn’t suitable for anything other than a 4×4 and b) lots and lots of trees had fallen onto the road which had to be removed. OK, we were on an officially closed road but hey we really reckoned on it not being a major problem.
10 careful miles later we spotted a snow plough coming towards us so carefully pulled out of its way – giving it as much space as we could. As the snow plough passed us, he stopped, wound down his window and reassured us that we’d be fine but did remind us that the road was officially closed. Chris asked again, would we be ok in Thug – again – ‘just take it easy and you’ll be fine’ – reassuring to say the least.
Then this friendly ploughman (can you call him that??) asked us to stay where we were so that the ‘’tool drivers’ coming up behind him could get by. ‘Oh yes, indeed we will,’ we thought – these people are crucial to the roads staying up – imagining men with big tools to chainsaw through trees, to put back up power lines etc – essential emergencies services. Yes, priority must and will be given to these people.
As the cars started to roll by, we couldn’t help being a tad confused – a Mini, a Toyota Corolla, followed by at least another 8, well not exactly vehicles suitable for dealing with emergency snow conditions!
Then it dawned – our friendly ploughman had quietly called these drivers ‘tools’ – in other words – ‘behind me you will find lots of idiot drivers who should have their driving licences thoroughly revoked for quite simply being idiots who have wasted my time and the time of the second emergency vehicle that is following on behind them! I should be keeping roads open not escorting idiots off roads they should never have been on in the first place – so yeah watch out for the tool drivers!’
It was brilliant! Hilarious in its very simplicity! it will remain forever my very favourite quip! Genius! You have got to love the Australian wag!
So you may ask what happened for the remaining 30 mies of our journey – in summary – nothing! in a 4×4 it was thoroughly passable. Yes, the driving was slower and more tiring than the average journey but in Thug we weren’t quite invincible but at the very least we were more than a fair match for what Tasmanian mountain roads could throw at us!
We did cause an element of surprise when we arrived at Pumphouse Point – one of the managers had literally just been driving a few miles in front of us (along the closed road too) having had to do an emergency supply run 2 1/2 hours south to Hobart and she didn’t expect any more guests to be arriving! Chris told me afterwards that he had seen before we headed out that they had officially closed the hotel to any new guests! He somehow forgot to mention that one!
Once we settled into our fabulous room, we headed out along the jetty to the Pumphouse to meet lots of guests who were all several nights into extended stays having arrived in cars that now quite simply couldn’t and shouldn’t go back on the road (including a Lotus!). This led to a real congenial atmosphere further heightened by the shared meal later that evening.
So I guess you could say our first night in Pumphouse Point was not spent with ‘tool drivers’ but rather those that listened to the advice of those who knew better and settled back with a nice glass of wine and some good local cheese to endure the hardship of another night in this spectacular place! They’re a tough lot those Australians!
On second thoughts perhaps tomorrow we should stay here! Surely, going back on the road will make us ‘tool drivers’ too. Yes, I think we should ignore all news reports and just assume all roads are closed. Yes, we too can endure!