Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Map of Tassie Tour - Day 5 - Disaster

This is every turtle's worst nightmare: you are minding your own business and next minute, you are lying there with a broken shell.

After 1400 km to get to Melbourne, we had an accident just 1 km - yes one - from where the Spirit of Tasmania was waiting at its mooring to take as across Bass Strait. Exact details are unimportant and frankly too painful to retell but from having glimpsed the boat from the Bolte Bridge only minutes earlier, to being stranded like a beached whale in a crowded, uber-busy, late afternoon Bay St, Port Melbourne, still is, a few days later, a traumatising transition from elation to devastation.

There we were, exchanging details with a similarly shocked young man who had emerged from a Lamborghini. The drivers side stub axle on the Avan stared coldly at the flat tyre and bent rim underneath it it. Battle scars bled on the shell. My wife had looked at the damage and retreated to a tree to sob over her shattered dream. It was the start of three hellish hours of public glare, police, tow truck drivers, insurance companies and a shocked, frightened drive to temporary digs.

Apart from the ghouls with phone cameras, some walking right up to us to take shots of the vehicles, shots of both drivers trying to talk through chaos using a civilised approached ... even shots  of my distressed wife leaning again a tree in tears ... the company of strangers was heartening. A long way from home in an unknown place, we were out of our depth in a situation we had no experience of, distressed and vulnerable, yet strangers were wonderful.

Some were doing their job - the police, the towie, the voice at the other end of the call to GIO - but they did so gently and with empathy. But there were others.  The biker on a Harley who stopped and offered quiet support to us without speaking a word in conversation and directed traffic until the police arrived. Priscilla, queen of the night clerks, who  opened up the office at Ashley Gardens Big 4 caravan park, ushered us in and upgraded us to a top end cabin at a standard rate as her means of support. 

Sometimes, the humanity we still have among us is a reminder that all is not lost: that the desire to be that Good Samaritan exists in people, even in these days of self-absorption and paranoia.

Even at the crash site, it was important to the two young men who had been in the other vehicle to check with me that they had treated me with respect. This from young men whose cultural background many Australians mistrust and fear since terrorism moved into the suburbs. I have never had such doubts myself and the respect I received confirmed that position.

Two days later, the nightmares have started and I'm writing this rather than risk another dream. In the last, I heard again the scream of the Lamborghini. My mind is exploring my vulnerability.

We'll recover. We always do. In part, experience comes to bear and the sure knowledge that you can't go back in anyway but macabre replay, so when faced with the only realistic option, you must go forward. Logically, you may as well get on with it. Faith helps. Experience helps. Survival helps and the realisation this could have been far worse. Like many times, an endebtedness to the care and kindness of strangers gives you a sense of not wasting their generosity in your own understandable but pointless self pity.

But not tonight. Right now, still battling those dream demons, I'll have a cuppa and write ... and wait for the recalibration of sunrise.


  1. Hi Pete & Sue sorry to see you had a disaster and the poor van coped a beating, how did you find the Avan cruiser in your travels a good unit is it the 1D layout in side possibly the ideal unit for 2 people touring around hope you did enjoy the time you did have on the road wishing you all the best for your next adventure regards Gary Watson from Melbourne

  2. We liked it so much, we have ordered a new one! The people at Avan made us a very good offer on a new Cruiseliner 1D that we take delivery of in June. In our two years of touring, we loved the Avan. Being campers and camper trailer people, it has been a luxury to be up off the ground and have less to do in the set up, pack up phases. It was a hard day when I had to empty it and leave it broken on the Avan lot at Pakenham. However, onward and upward.


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