Staring bleary eyed in front of my computer late one night, an email advertising discount airline specials fades onto my screen and seems too good to be true. Grabbing my calculator I quickly add up taxes, airfare and accommodation expenses. The result confirms the sojourn to be cheaper than going somewhere in our own state. I act quickly, but not quick enough, and miss out on good flights. Regardless, I don’t let a silly little detail of having to book the 10 hour red eye flight stop my family from having a good cheap holiday! ‘Will there be playgrounds?’ asks my First Born son, aged seven. ‘And food?’ adds my Last Born son, aged five. ‘What about snow,’ the kids constantly ask in the lead up to the trip. They are incredibly disappointed to learn that being February in Australia, they are never going to see any snow.
Last Born wakes from a few hours sleep he manages to steal thanks to the blow up pillow I packed. ‘What can I eat now’ he whines as he rubs his eyes. He is too tired to be engaged by any activities I planned. My own wretched weariness makes me agitated as I am also running out of snacks to placate his boredom. Meanwhile First Born stares quietly and blankly out the window. Obviously gob smacked at his first adventure on a plane, the only time his concentration leaves the window, is on intermittent trips to the toilet, a different cubicle each time as he returns with stories of how he thought he was going to be flushed out of the plane. I encourage Last Born to go back to sleep despite my own inability to join him in his slumber. In a desperate bid to feel anything but tired, I purchase another cup of coffee off the steward.
At Melbourne we need to recheck our luggage for Hobart. My irritation at the discount airline’s inability to forward on our luggage despite being the same airline gives in to appreciation as it is a good way to eke out our two hour transit. There is even time left over for a special treat, breakfast at Mc Donald’s. ‘Mum, I need to go to the toilet’ urges Last Born. After taking him to the loo, I down two more freshly brewed coffees, while my husband, who is already experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the TV, returns from the departure lounge screen and jubilantly announces there is snow on Mount Wellington, Hobart’s infamous peak. Excitement staves off the sandman for a little longer as we prepare for our last hour of sleep deprived torture.
At Hobart airport, we are met cheerfully by a delightful young girl from the campervan company who takes us to the depot to pick up our hotel on wheels. The lovely lady is quickly becoming more annoying as she drones on about every single feature of the van. The kids get bored and investigate everything in the workshop, after the irratating woman politely tells them not to, seconds after I already screeched at them not to. ‘Mum, where’s the toilet here?’ enquires First Born. ‘I don’t know, go over there’ I say in exasperation, trying to maintain some semblance of attention to the instructions while pointing to some bushes nearby. Surely, a moron could figure out how to undo velcro to close curtains I thought, and accordingly, became quite rude and told her we have to go now and see the snow before it melts. No doubt, she now thinks all West Australians are extremely crazy, crass and cranky.
In our state of slumber starved delirium, we abandon plans of sleeping it off in a noisy caravan park somewhere and decide to make the steep ascent to catch the snow before it completely melts. Coming from a predominantly desert state, there is a definite method to our madness in wanting to see a dollop of snow. We completely drain the last of our conscious resources half way up the steep incline and pull over for a quick power nap. It isn’t long before four sleeping faces are pressed hard up against the cold windows as jaws freely hang open. We are rudely awoken by a couple of police officers knocking on the window about an hour later. Embarrassed, I wipe the drool from my mouth and expect Husband to be told off for parking illegally. Despite our exhaustion, we manage a chuckle as it was explained some passers by thought we had gassed ourselves to death.
Our colossal effort is worth it as the boys squeal in delight at the first sight of scant pathetic snow. The kids grabbed it and started throwing it at each other. As they run to the next piece of snow, they proceed to fashion a snow man. I busily send mobile phone pictures of the remarkable February snow to family back home and video tape the whole exciting venture until Last Born inevitably exclaims ‘mum, is there a toilet up here?’ Tempted to show fascinated little boys what happens to the snow if…I think better of it, so off we relieve ourselves at the long drop.
The next day I pre book an 11am tour of the Cadbury’s chocolate factory, so we have a chance for a long overdue sleep in before the Willy Wonker adventure. The whole family has a sweet tooth, and after hearing about the free sweets being distributed throughout the tour, so no one has to go under duress. Sadly, company policy has changed and Last Born becomes feverishly insane as he is made to wait until the end of the tour to receive his goodies. The wait is worth it as the chocolates kept him quiet until the next toilet stop.
It is a long trip to Lake St. Clair-Cradle Mountain National Park and it rains heavily for most of the day. We arrive at the park at 7pm only to discover there are no powered sites left. There is one unpowered bay left, which had been snubbed by the other discerning travellers, right in front of the ablution facilities. It is starting to get chilly and in the shower it’s hard to tolerate the water cutting off seemingly prematurely in the allotted five minutes before the token runs out. I only have enough energy to muster up baked beans and toast for dinner before setting up our bedding. Discovering the rain had got in through a hairline crack in the fibreglass roof where our bedding is stored isn’t setting the pace for a start to a great holiday. At least the kid’s sleeping bags are spared from the saturation so we settle them in for the night before deciding what to do with our drenched doona. After realising the dryers in the laundry needed plenty of $1 coins, and we only have $2 coins, a long stroll in the rain to get change from the closed kiosk proves unsuccessful.
Not wanting to wake anyone else in the park, who clearly seem to enjoy very early nights, I think of using my hair dryer to solve the problem. As the temperature plummets towards zero degrees, after half an hour of blow drying there is no satisfactory outcome. Utter despair sets in as I am really tired and am guessing it will be 4am before it will be dry. Suppressing tears, my intolerance rises as I march back to the van, throw the offending doona at Husband, who is now adorned with every item of clothing we’ve packed, yelling ‘we’re doomed to a slow frozen death’. Consoling my fragile state, my shivering husband leaves to resume solving the dilemma. Meanwhile, I scavenge through my case and don all my clothes when I hear a strange noise outside the van. Grabbing my torch, I open the door to investigate. Lurching from the incessant darkness is a full set of sharp teeth rising out of blood red gums screeching at me. Quickly closing the door, I reel back in horror. Composing myself after the imminent mauling, I realise that it was the island’s mascot, the Tasmanian Devil. Still, I’m rather ignorant about the satanic looking mammal and warn my returning victorious looking husband that it’s lurking under the van ready to sink its incisors into his ankles. ‘I don’t think so, it’s more scared of us that you are of it’ Husband assures me. Snuggled under the perfectly warm doona, Husband recounts our good fortune at the miraculous discovery of money being left in one of the dryers. I lie there thankful that I wasn’t going to become an ice mummy after all.
The next day we get up at 5am. The fog is rising eerily off Lake St Clair and I take some photos while Husband gets breakfast and organises the kids. We then zoom around curvaceous roads ensuring a prompt arrival at Queenstown in time for the 10am departure of the Wilderness Railway. Last Born is a mad keen train buff, so the expensive trip is worth every cent just to see the joy on his face. No joy though when I answer his toilet question. There is none on the train and he has to hold out for limited stops along the way.
Zooming out of the mountainous terrain of the National Park, we make our descent to Tazmazia, a fantastic wonderland for young children. Inside, Cubby Town is a great escapade for the kids as they follow the yellow brick road running in and out of the brightly semi-miniature shops and houses. The boys run back with credulous stories of seeing the Three Bear’s house where Goldilocks was helping herself to some porridge. There’s also fun for the adults as we all make ourselves crazy in the hedge mazes trying to find the centre. Crazy to the point of tears when I hear little Last Born wailing for help as he gets himself hopelessly lost. A word of warning, there is no supermarket announcement here for lost children. If you lose your children, you find them, that’s the company policy. As a result we get out of Tazmazia very late. Unbelievably, the boys are too busy to go to the toilet.
The rest of the trip goes very quickly and on our final day I look forward to the sensible day time flight home until the check in chick informs Husband ‘Sir, your hand luggage is over weight; you’ll have to check some of it in’. I stare in horror as he proceeds to sacrifice the kid’s activities over his novel. Not wanting to make a scene I whisper to him that he won’t be reading his book, but dealing with bored kids for the trip home. I promptly arrange to change my seat as far away as possible from the consequences.