Or, as the Aunt calls it: Tasmania and back again and again and again and again...
I don't think I'll take her anywhere again. Sensibly I have now moved to Melbourne thus making it harder to accidently do so.
(Fast forward 3 years)
Aunt: ...so, that was why I suggested that Clara turn it into a potato salad. That's Clara who married James Farris. And everyone said the potato salad was wonderful - never knowing the near disaster of two hours before. You always put Caraway seed in your potato salad now, don't you? Of course you do, because I told you to and you always listen to your wise Aunt.
Harry: Who is James Farris?
Aunt: He was a work colleague of...
Harry: Wait! Why I am in the middle of what appears to be the Kimberley Ranges with you?
Aunt: How odd you don't remember that you agreed to drive me around the North West for four months!
Harry: ...My girlfriend is going to kill me.
Aunt: Don't swerve so! It upsets me when you swerve.
H: Sorry, Aunt.
Aunt: There's a good boy. Now, look, why do they keep making movies about Archaeology? It's not as if everyone of school age is going to rush out and become archaelogists, is it? Oh, look a magpie! Magpies always make me happy. I remember one time....
I owed The Aunt a road trip after the last one was postponed when I rushed off to Canada on a quixotic quest we needn't go into here; and Aunt Caroline's oldest daughter selfishly had another baby. Happily the Aunt grew bored of her most recent grandson and it was time for me to quit employment again, so the Tasmania trip was resurrected. On the advise of a travel agent I booked all accommodation (except Hobart - the Aunt did that), the Spirit of Tasmania tickets and a river cruise; and printed out maps of all the towns we were staying in. This was totally opposite to the Great Ocean Road trip where we just winged it.
We drove to Melbourne and rendezvoused with the Spirit of Tasmania on Tuesday the 2nd of February; worked our way around Tasmania in an anti-clockwise direction; and eighteen days later met the Spirit for the return trip across Bass Strait.
All up we travelled about 3500km - 500 of which Caroline claims were backtracking.
My job was to make Caroline's life as perfect as possible - and I only failed horrendously once! As well as being driver, porter, photographer, chronicler and washer-upperer I knew I had to keep an eye out for interesting wildlife, in particular birds of prey.
Caroline's additional role to the last trip was to spot likely looking produce at the side of the road - kiosks with honesty boxes and that sort of thing.
On the way down we spent the first night in Yass with friends of mine. Here Caroline used a stubby holder for the first time. Past readers will recall that our road trip on the Great Ocean Road in 2007 saw her use a portaloo for the first time.
Stubbies are better.
We stopped in Holbrook for morning tea at the bakery that my mate recommended. I had a quick foray through the submarine museum which answered the nagging question what the hell this thoroughly inland town has to do with submarines. It's not like those cities in the mid-south of the USA that made submarines which then sailed down the Mississippi and out to victory in the Pacific.
It turns out that pre-WWI Holbrook was named Germanton. It was patriotically renamed after a submarine officer who won the VC.
The Oberon class submarine in the park is, disappointingly, not the real thing - it is mostly fibreglass.
I had bought a bag of small apples for snacking on during the trip. Obviously these would have to be dealt with before we hit the furit-fly exclusion zone. Accordingly we stopped in some town I can't remember, took the apples from the esky, and ate a bunch of them beside the chain of fetid pools that was all that was left of the local creek. We tossed the remainder in a bin, well pleased that we were doing the right thing by the Victorian fruit industry.
We met Ellen for afternoon tea/late lunch in Port Melbourne at about five. I tried not to eavesdrop on the people at the table next to us were obviously criminals doing deals.
Eventually we bid Ellen adieu, and (to quote Spike Milligan) she raised us a Hindu. The boat sails at 7:30 each evening, but first they have to load all the vehicles.
There is a saying about piss-ups in brothels that serves to illustrate the incompetence of an individual or group of persons. It was almost instantly applicable to the vehicle check-in and traffic direction staff. Relating the details will be boring, but the guy with wild-hair and the linen safari suit in the car behind us cracked before we did.
Once in Tasmania there was periodic speculation from the Aunt as to how much fun the 'wild-haired man' was having at this same instant. I would suggest that he'd driven off a cliff or into a tree in frustration with a cry of "Right! That's it! This holiday is over!"
Quarantine had inspected us by making us pop the hood first - presumable to check for the exhaustive array of weapons listed on our 'banned weapons list' that they'd given us - and then the boot - presumably for stowaways armed with rocket launchers, grenades and land mines. They saw, but didn't ask us to open, the esky - which was lucky because it was crammed with heavy machineguns and surface-to-air missiles.
(The Aunt had insisted I move the latter from under the hood due to an unfortunate incident near Campbelltown where I'd tooted at a blue pajero cutting me off and accidentally shot down the Westpac Careflight helicopter. A smart call on her part because we possibly would have been fined!)
Caroline had a cabin all to herself. This is one of the conditions of her, for better choice of words, rider. So, I guess a fair description since we were on tour and I was her roadie/manager. Other stipulations include Business Class or better for air-travel; no commitments after 9:30pm; and no heavy lifting.
I was in a four-berth shared cabin. Each cabin has a bible - presumably for use when sinking.
Things were chained down; aways were stowed; horns were piped; and I sat outside on a small deck on level nine while the Aunt sent increasingly terse text messages as she tried to find out where I was.
Melbourne fell behind as the sun set. On the shady side of the ferry the Mornington Peninsular appeared and I could smell dust on the wind.
Caroline visited the $10 salad bar and took so little the check-out guy only charged her a dollar. Perhaps inspired by such generosity she offered me some chicken.
Port Phillip Bay is enormous, and it was hours before we - travelling at 23 or 25 knots - started feeling the deep roll of Bass Strait.
Interrupted by occasion bursts of snoring from one of my two companions I drifted off and awoke with a start when the lights turned on and the public address system announced it was quarter-to-six and we'd start disembarking at six thirty.
Devonport looked colder than it was. It had rained during the night and the decks outside were wide puddles. The occasional calling seagull added to the atmosphere.
I met the Aunt and we blundered our way down to the car; drove off the boat to the quarantine station where they found the four lemons we'd completely forgotten were in the esky. I think they were underneath the anti-tank rifle ammunition. Bear in mind that we'd spoken at length about how we'd done the right thing with the fruit AND had joked about how defficient the Melbourne quarantine was to not even look in the esky, we felt like right fools. Luckily I am too handsome and charming to fine, so wasn't $129 down.