Friday, 17 March, 2017
Bruny Island, Tasmania, Australia
I once got served a beer when I was seventeen, that was the happiest I had ever been with a purchase. However, after eleven long years that lovely beverage has now been knocked off the top spot. The Toyota Camry is now officially my greatest ever buy – frankly, it is a grandfather of a vehicle; the thing has dentures that have to be taken out after each journey and chats to the Robin Reliants by telegram.
However, this banger is a necessity that has vastly improved our working (I did two days, you smegs!) holiday experience. It’s given us the opportunity to do so much more. I’ve never travelled to a place before where a car is this essential – roads in Australia are often very long and public transport is pretty scarce. Without gramps-on-wheels, we’d be looking at sticking a thumb out and hoping the car that pulls over isn’t an axe-wielding psychopath.
So, after I finally recovered from the world’s deadliest man-flu – we set out on our journey across Tasmania. The roads of the very scenic Bruny Island were to be the first test for our new friend, and the old fella did not let the side down.
We must have driven around the entirety of the island five or six times. I even put together a nice little sing-a-long CD to keep spirits up as we were on the move – I decided that it was probably best not to worry the Camry with an iPod or equivalent, after all, we didn’t want the old lad having a panic attack and breaking down just yet.
While the car was in top form, he did have to face some challenges, even beyond getting his head around what a CD is. We were left playing a bit of ‘avoid hitting the animal’ after sunset. Once the sky turns dark, the animals on Bruny Island come out in great numbers. This is wonderful as a tourist, although somewhat of a potential hazard while driving a car.
There are certain roads in Australia where you’ll continuously pass dead kangaroos and wallabies that are being pecked at by hungry birds – it’s not pleasant to see – but it’s circle of life, and it moves us all.
Basically, we desperately wanted to avoid joining the ever-growing list of humans that send Aussie animals up to heaven prematurely. However, we would have the world’s stupidest possum to contend with first – if this was an ‘avoid the animal’ computer game, this silly sod would have been the boss level.
The dumb fool was standing in the middle of the road, and to make matters worse, we are talking about a part of town that had no street lights, no zebra crossings, and no traffic wardens. I would have definitely been having a word with its mum – if a) I actually knew which possum she was, and b) assuming the idiocy doesn’t run in the genes and she is still with us, rather than food for the birds.
So, we abruptly hit the brakes on Gramps; almost giving him a seizure, while allowing the possum a chance to dash to the side. The animal saw us and started running for its life, much like you’d expected. However, this moron didn’t choose to make a dash left or right – which would have seen it sharply off the road and celebrating another day of life.
Instead, the nutter decided its best option was to start sprinting straight forward, and subsequently, down the middle of our lane in the road.
A possum is not particularly fast, at least by a car’s standard – even one this ancient. Therefore, we were having to drive at six miles an hour to spare the fluff-ball its life. Well, as you can imagine, this wasn’t looked upon favourably by the BMW and the Mercedes stuck behind us (I’m pretty sure they were completely oblivious to the petrified possum that we were desperately trying to avoid killing, to be fair).
So, we were left playing the role of annoying road tractor in the dark for about five minutes, while the angry fancy-pants’ behind us beeped their horns from time to time. The possum did eventually make a dart to the left, not because that was clearly the logical move to make, but instead because it got too tired of running and needed a break, we could see it huffing and puffing at the side of the road – maybe we were just being used as a pawn for some extreme possum sport.
We then went back to driving at a normal speed, and the beeping of the horns faded into a distant memory – the BMW guy did give us some sort of sarcastic clap as he overtook us though. It didn’t matter – we knew that we were the unsung heroes on the island, and by sacrificing our image as the boy-racers of the road for the greater good, the forests were now able to listen to one more beating possum heart. Although, we couldn’t have done it without the aid of an old car, that happily chugged along an eighty mile an hour zone at speeds only previously used by David Pleat.
Possums weren’t the only animals we saw on our night travels – we also got to see a few wallabies and an echidna – the possum was just the standout creature of the night, for obvious reasons.
Aside from animal spotting, we were also able to visit, and appreciate, some of the island’s fantastic landscapes – most notably, The Neck (a long, thin piece of land that connects the two sides of the island, and homes many fairy penguins) and The Mars Bluff Beach (a beach with incredibly clear water and an attractively arched rock formation).
The beach required a long trek through a thin gravel track; so, with a tear in our eye, we left Gramps behind for that one. I’m not ashamed to say I felt a bit guilty. After all, we did the rest of the trip as a three, and had already been through so much together. I convinced myself that he was probably in need of the rest.
Besides, he’s old as hell. A little trek won’t even come close to some of the stuff he has seen over his twenty-three years as a car – yep, the Camry was legitimately made in 1994, I have a sibling that was born in the same year as Gramps. This car is so old it has outlived the average gorilla (20), tiger (22) and possum (6 years, but with road sense and luck, up to 11).
His next task is getting us to Port Arthur, a small town in the south-east of Tasmania that was formally used to detain and harshly punish some of Britain’s worst convicts – talk about out of sight, out of mind. I guess it would have been a bit more difficult to visit your man doing time back in the 1800s.
“Vicky, I can’t believe you couldn’t even be bothered to visit me on my thirtieth birthday!”
“Look, Alan. I tried, ok. The flight went and bloody got delayed, didn’t it? I ended up stuck in Dubai for nine hours. Hardly my fault!”