Travelling with children changes everything. A road trip with children when the roads are blocked is on a completely different level. The lovely Aparna Burke has written an amusing and heart wrenching account of her recent family trip down south. I enjoyed reading it, hope you do too x
by Aparna Burke
We are in the car ready to go. Total fist pump moment. I’ve managed to pack the food, the kids and their worldly possessions-which-all-of-a-sudden-they-can’t-live-without-for-4-days all before 9.30am.
Dunsborough is only a 3 hour drive, we will make excellent time. My beloved glances at the kids as he adjusts the rear vision and says “right let’s make this an uneventful trip”. I only remember this because true to Murphy and his law, the journey was anything but. I turn off the radio (with the benefit of hindsight, a bad move) and plug in the mummy favourites, much to the dismay of the cherubs in the backseat.
Almost an hour into the trip we reach Pinjarra Rd and are met with full road closures. Little did we know but not too far in the distance fires were ravaging the towns of Yarloop, Waroona and Preston. We quickly learned that the only way down south would be via Williams and Collie. It never occurred to us to turn back toward home and reschedule the holiday. After all I had packed the kids worldly possessions and I wasn’t going to do that all over again, ‘aint nobody got time for that!
We told the boys we were off on an adventure, negotiating sealed and unsealed roads through Narrogin, Williams and Darkan that don’t even show up on the satnav, with a mud map roughly drawn by a very helpful petrol station attendant, and of course no Wi-Fi, that’s as adventurous as it gets for these city slickers. We didn’t know the magnitude of the fires, and how much damage they were wielding to folks’ livestock and homes.
Still feeling virtuous from my self-professed super mum status, I unpack the kid’s neatly prepared snacks: fruit, sandwiches and choccie biscuits, all the while attempting to pass lollies to my beloved without being caught by the cherubs. The last thing we need is for Master 6 to unleash in a closed space on a sugar high.
As we approach Collie it gets real. The sky changes colour and the customary country stillness that greets us while travelling down south is replaced by an eerie silence. The kids wake from their snooze to witness the colourful yet threatening landscape which fills us all with apprehension.
I took these photos in Collie, beautiful yet confronting shots which belie the chaos taking place not far from here, and still unbeknownst to us. We move through Collie slowly, mostly in silence and awe. Silence is rare for my two cherubs, such was the sight of our surrounds.
We face another road block as we approach Bunbury but once we start travelling down the Bussell Hwy towards Busselton, I feel like we are in familiar territory and on the “home” straight. Just that the home straight takes eons longer than usual and I don’t feel so adventurous anymore. I join in the cherub’s groans of ‘are we there yet’ and I am reminded that men have such a neat way of drowning out sounds they can’t deal with.
Master 6 now needs to use the toilet, I can be thankful that my limiting of water intake means that they were able to hold off for so long (not sure I should be admitting to that one). My beloved tells him he can hang on, he’s been driving for hours and he can’t bear the thought of stopping. Pffft as if that’s going to happen. So we take a toilet break and my beloved who is usually so-laid-back-he-should-be-lying-down shouts us all in and out of the toilet with military precision. By the time we end up in Dunsborough I am ready to punch someone. A different kind of fist pump moment than the one I had experienced hours earlier.
I had scoffed at the helpful petrol station attendant in Pinjarra when he told us the detour around the fires would take us around 6 hours, I mean Dunsborough can’t be that far away? Well we sure showed him. 7 HOURS LATER we made our grand entrance, yes that’s how long it took , no traffic, with my beloved driving as fast as was safe on unknown roads; I feel I need to point out again that this is usually a 3 hour journey sigh.
All said and done, we were on holiday and although we didn’t venture far from the resort once we arrived (petrol tanks couldn’t make it through the fires and so petrol had run out) we had a fabulous one so we continue to count our blessings. We are very mindful that this wasn’t the case for thousands affected by the raging flames– the fires were going to get worse before they were contained. Turning on the local news gave us the full story, the full extent of the fires, the devastation and the generosity of our community who rallied to assist in any way they could.
People continue to rebuild lives, property and livestock and will continue to live in one of the most beautiful yet surprisingly relentless parts of Australia. We will continue to choose the south west as a holiday destination, maybe just give the mummy melodies a miss next time and tune into the news before we go!
Aparna Burke is a writer, avid reader, member of the grammar police and coffee snob. She rewards herself with a good vino on a Friday night, maybe a cocktail if the ‘single sock’ pile is less than five ( she hasn’t had a Friday night cocktail in months).