I will admit, after a sleepless, cramped and stuffy night spent jam-packed into my parents SUV, about 1.5 meters from the water’s edge, with bush fires surrounding us and lighting up the night skies, I was feeling it had become a pretty ordinary holiday. We were completely cut off from mainland Tasmania after visiting Port Arthur on a peninsula with one road out. We weren’t alone. The local footy oval had become a makeshift trailer park. It was overflowing with the pitched tents and motor homes of tourists, along with cars and utilities packed full of random items, grabbed desperately on the run by locals fleeing the fires. Always philosophical though, I couldn’t help a secret pleasure that the boys were having to survive without technology and that their compassion must be stirred by the plight of kids leading piglets and other oddments around on leads, and by the elderly nibbling on donated sandwiches, propped up with rugs across their knees, sharing how lucky they had been to escape disaster.
It was difficult to decide whether to stay with the car to leave in a convoy at an indeterminate time – we had already missed our flight back to Melbourne – or to be evacuated with all the mums and children on courtesy tug boats and catamarans. The smoke was what clinched it for me in the end. Breathing had become more difficult through the day, and the boys were truly miserable, repeating time and time again how this was the worst holiday they had ever, ever had. And so we waited on the pier wearing our donated jumpers and dragging our suitcase, being pushed back in the queue further and further to allow for the little kids to go first, and luckily caught the last boat out and back to Hobart.
Post Script: My boys, when I remind them of our Tasmanian holiday, remember it with great fondness. Go figure.