As the sun went down on Saturday night, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally being re-acquainted with the peaceful surrounds of Melbourne city. The respite couldn’t have come sooner; the ordeal I had been through had brought me undesired stress, unexpected panic, and uninterrupted frustration.
These reactions, however, had nothing to do with Tasmania itself. In fact, I have absolutely no complaints with the beautiful state. It was serene; it was charming; it was overall an ideal holiday destination. Nor did my complaints revolve around my ongoing schedule. Sure, the constant driving/navigating/cooking/cleaning/washing/laundering/organising threatened to burn me out on occasion, but these necessary chores were merely blips on the holiday radar. On the contrary, the vacation’s tension arose as a by-product of a number of deficient ingredients.
Two men, one car, a few thousand kilometres, and half a brain.
Panic was a constant theme of the 24 days shared by Dad and I. As told in my previous entries, the first two days brought us immense difficulty with phones, accommodation and petrol. A couple of days later the Honda found itself bogged in sand. The next day, as we drove through a dense rainforest (labelled ‘Scenic route’ by a cheeky sign), the radiator decided to fume. Then the battery stopped working. Twice. Both on mornings of 200 kilometre plus drives.
A faulty car can be fixed. Not finding accommodation, though, makes improvisation a little harder. Especially when it’s pitch black. And freezing cold.
It was 9pm; Dad and I had just enjoyed a rare restaurant treat. A welcome break, considering that our dinner the night beforehand consisted of bread, margarine, BBQ sauce and a small sachet of beef salt seasoning. Whilst driving through the Freycinet National Park to our YHA hostel, the abundance of roadside wildlife ensured that I remained at a steady pace. It was getting late. 9.30 now.
No lights, no signs, no other cars. Just me and my Dad. Looking for a bed for the night.
Four hours earlier, when the receptionist at the accompanying YHA drew me up a makeshift map, I figured that finding the place would be a cinch. That night, though, with our eyes peeled open in search of the hut, we realised that it was a shocking map. The squiggly lines and arrows pointed nowhere. Our GPS wasn’t much help either; we had no address to input. Nor did we have satellite reception. All we had was a map. A stupid map.
A sign directed us towards the car park, our first point of entry. According to the instructions, we were supposed to turn off onto a side road from this apparently easy-to-navigate junction. What we found instead was a poorly designed circular track with at least three roads branching off from it.
We tried route one, but to no avail. This five minute detour took us down a sloped gully to a series of impressive houses. Given the description of our hut, though, we knew that we had taken a wrong turn.
We returned to the car park, this time setting off on the second road. Like so many others before it, this track consisted only of dirt and rubble, but given the darkness we weren’t keen to drive along faster than 20km/h anyway. I consulted the crinkled pamphlet in my hand and was relieved to find that reality likewise presented consistent angles. This must be it, I thought to myself. Then I saw a signposted turn-off to the right. This IS it!, I celebrated.
We parked the car and retrieved our LED lamp to gain our bearings. From the outside, the hut looked pleasant enough. Toilet facilities and bedrooms were adjacent, while the living quarters were large enough to make ourselves feel comfortable. I jiggled around my pocket for the key, slid the key into the door, and began twisting.
And then nothing.
I jiggled it a bit more.
I was tempted to panic, before realising that another two doors awaited. I continued along the veranda and attempted door two. But this lock likewise refused to accommodate my key. As did the side door, which scoffed at my attempts to gain entry. I searched profusely around the perimeter of the house, but no more doors could be found. Door one enticed me again and I made a second effort. But these doors weren’t willing to play any games with me. They just weren’t going to open. That’s when I decided to panic.
With the torch in my hand, I decided to retrace my steps to the turn-off. I re-evaluated the entry sign. It was hard to read, but with the torch focusing its energy towards the engraved words, I was able to make out ‘Parsons’.
Parsons… where have I heard that word before? I pondered.
Snap. The words of the receptionist raced back into my conscious thought. “You’ll pass a couple of house on Parsons Cove. Drive past these and then turn right.”
As I jumped back into the front seat, I tried to envision the poor soul living within the house we disturbed. The rattles of keys, the squeaking of doors, and the engine of the car must have given him one hell of a fright. But I’m sure he’ll get over it. He can always write a blog or something. That always helps in such instances.
Five minutes down yet another unmarked route, we decided to splash some light on the night’s dark canvas. A shonky ‘YHA’ sign, circa 1747, revealed itself, giving the two of us reason for ecstasy. It didn’t matter that the entrance way was falling apart. It didn’t matter that the hut possessed no illumination. It didn’t matter that toilet facilities were lacking. It didn’t matter that shower facilities consisted of a tap in a shed. It didn’t even matter that worms squirmed about in the water supply. The key fitted. And that was enough to make us happy.
This misadventure threatened to repeat itself a week later at the high-altitude Lake Dobson cabins. Like so many other places we had slept in, these government-owned huts sold themselves as a budget option. We reasoned that such a vague subtitle could mean anything. The ‘No electricity’ footnote, though, ensured that we were bracing ourselves for the worst.
As a prelude to our entrance, we battled with Antarctic conditions. The temptation to turn back in favour of dearer accommodation was there, but we stuck to our guns. After all, we had already paid.
As we arrived the size of these cottages brought a smile to my face. With anticipation I unlocked the door and made myself at home. It appeared that the lack of electricity had been compensated by a cosy fireplace, a clean bedroom, and a convenient kitchen set up. I unloaded my pocket belongings onto the desk and rushed off to the car to bring Dad the good news of great joy.
I proceeded to open the boot to unload our luggage. I carried it to the door, rested it on the footpath and reached for the door handle.
Not believing that such poor luck had hit us on yet another occasion, I rattled the handle again.
“Arrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!” I yelled inside my head. Such was the volume of my frustration and stress that my brain decided to wake itself up from its daze.
“Why did you leave the keys on the bench?!?” my logic lobe screamed, directed towards the decision-making section of my cerebrum.
“Duh, I thort that’s wear thay were sposed to go. Duh,” replied the DMSOMC.
With that foolish response, my logic lobe attacked the DMSOMC. He wasn’t going to put up with this rubbish any longer. And with that, I was hit with a brain wave.
I knew that this was the only way. The door was definitely not going to succumb. And I knew that the visitor’s centre was closed already. I prayed that the management was careless enough to leave their windows accessible from the outside. I pushed at the glass frame, and for a moment it seemed like this entry route was likewise going to fail on me. Thankfully that moment was just a moment. The window slid open, and I awkwardly jumped through the window.
That’s all I can say.