Tasmania's great journey?

They talk about “great journeys” usually to do with trains such as The Gant. The journey to Strahan may not sound so interesting, but let me tell you it was quite an adventure.

With Katrena already there, I took the bus to save bringing two cars back.

The 50 seater set off from Brisbane Street at 8:30am and the first thing I noticed was there was no toilet on board. Given that it was a 7 hour trip, this freaked me slightly. The second thing I noticed was that there were a total of 6 people, 7 if you count the driver.

So I had prepared nicely for this trip. I had my netbook, iPhone, book, headphones, newspaper, magazine, sandwiches, drinks and even a bit of cake.

The third thing I noticed was the dirty great sign on the bus that said “Absolutely no eating or drinking on the coach”. It was even in large print, Bugger! So I set up the iPhone and settled back to watch last season’s Spooks so I was all ready for the new season starting on Saturday night.

Here in lies the first problem, motion sickness. This isn’t something I’ve ever really had before. My incredible wife gets it just thinking about a twisty road, me I’ve never had it until now and boy did I get it.

Lesson one, you can’t watch video in a moving vehicle, especially one with industrial suspension.

I tried the paper - worse. Back to audio. I’m a huge fan of podcasts, so I dialled up MacBreak Weekly, even that was no good, I couldn’t concentrate. Thank The Goddess for The ChillCast, that settled me nicely.

The coach steamed on past New Norfolk and eventually came to Ouse for a stop. The driver hadn’t said anything, not a peep, so we had no idea of the planned stops. He did announce that we’d be here for 15 minutes so we all piled off the coach and into the local public toilets. A few brave souls ventured into the greasy take away across the road but I had my sandwiches.

Off again and from Ouse to Derwent Bridge the road just gets more bends, hairpins and can’t bloody figure out if it wants to go up, down or roller coaster all over the show.

We stopped at Derwent Bridge and our driver announced a bus change and then vanished. So we unloaded and waited to be told what to do. 3 of our fellow travellers walked away, we assume they were off to the The Overland Track, they had serious backpacks.

The facilities were good but not knowing how long we had, we rushed it, then sat in the sun and waited. Our second driver turned up but not before the first bus had loaded up and left. By this time I had discovered that my travelling companions were an actor (from Spam-a-lot no less) and a Danish backpacker on a working holiday. Both were in their 20’s and destined for 6 months of work in Strahan.

So we loaded onto a 20 seater with trailer and under advisement all sat on the right (driver’s) side, allegedly the trip is easier over there. Something about not seeing over the bloody long drop. Strangely it wasn’t the heights I feared, it was the bends.

Those bends into Queenstown are supposed to number 99, I wasn’t counting but I’m not going to disagree. The only thing I noticed was the vegetation is returning. The mining must have stopped or slowed down. I had prepared our Danish friend for a treat - moonscape hills, and there weren’t any.

We did pass the houses that sold for $3000 and landed safely in a back street. This driver was much more talkative and had kindly stopped a few times for photos and scenic viewing. He announced a 1.5 hour layover and kindly offered to lock our bags in the big bus.

So there we were, strangers in a strange town. The 20 somethings had no clue, poor dears, so I boldly suggested a counter meal and a beer. They followed enthusiastically. I should say Queenstown is one of only two places I’ve ever been refused service. (The other was the casino and I’d had way too many so who could blame them?) My previous experience was in the 80’s during the Franklin Dam debate and I did have a beard. Anyway, decades later I am pleased to say the service was friendly and forthcoming. The beer good and the steak legendary. I’m not sure how they get a whole cow on the plate, but they do.

So fed and watered, we still had time to spare. The locals have this pass time that involves putting coins in a machine, pressing some illuminated buttons and watching flashing lights and rolling symbols. It took me a while to discover that these were in fact poker machines. Now I don’t know what Andrew Wilke is all steamed up about, I mean I put a single dollar coin in, pressed the buttons (with no clue what I was doing at all) and it gave me 5 dollar coins back again. My compadres did the same. What’s the problem?

So we get back on a 50 seater and I’m thinking what a waste with only 3 of us, then we head off into the back of Queenstown and pull up at the local high school. 39 teenagers join us for the trip home. (Actually I think it was their bus and we were joining them, but don’t tell anyone.)

I remember the road into Strahan. I remember it badly, or is that I remember it as a bad road? I do remember camping in a siding (again with the 80’s) and having a good time, but there was rum involved.

Now I’ve seen a few really excellent drivers in my lifetime. And I don’t mean racing car drivers, I mean ordinary people who just have the gift. The guy on Tanna who took me to the volcano, a Russian hire car driver in Sydney and several others. This bus driver counts among them. On a road made entirely of bends that most drivers fear to face, this gentleman not only made the road seem smooth, he passed three other busses and kept 39 teenagers in check.

Arriving safely in Strahan, I said adieu to the actor and followed the Dane to my hotel where I would be a guest and he was to cook my pizzas.

Is it one of Australia’s great journeys? Dunno, but it is one of Tassie’s!