The Hell Driver





No not the film which allegedly made a star of Sean Connery but also featured such glowing stars as; Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins, Patrick McGoohan, William Hartnell, Sid James, Jill Ireland, Alfie Bass, Gordon Jackson and David McCallum. The title came from the conditions they had to drive under and what happens to someome who tries to do something about it.
Sunday dawned sunny and I was dressed in shorts and flip-flops (or thongs as they are called here) before driving into Burnie to deliver JTO to church. Things had already got colder so I changed back into jeans and shoes in the van. I walked through the streets where workmen were putting up the christmas decorations, still in the, for me, incongruous sunshine. I walked down to the seafront and it started raining so I walked back under the awnings and so was protected from the rain. I bought a phone card so I could call my Mum as it was her birthday. By this time the skies had openned and it was raining like back home in Alsace, so much so it almost made me homesick and then I thought of the cold and the dark in Strasbourg now and I was cured. I had coffee in a bakery which was large and impersonal and the coffee lacked something and then headed off to meet JTO and, whilst waiting, watched the workmen attach the Christmas decorations to a light-fitting nearby where I was standing. One of those things you can watch and be enthralled by because you are waiting to do something else but which you wouldn’t give a second thought to in normal life. We met and went to make the birthday phone call but my failure to calculate the time difference correctly meant my mother had gone to bed so I chatted with my father for a while then agreed to ring their tomorrow, my later.
A quick fill up at the petrol station and we hit the road for Devonport, back where we had begun out Tasmanian adventure just two days earlier. Well not quite as we got off the highway a couple of stops early to head down the Mersey Main Road and track down my quarry, the ‘Big Apple’. I commented in my previous piece about the fascination for ‘big things’ in Australia and my pursuit of them on previous visits. After the big Penguin the day before it was the turn of the big apple. I apologise for the picture, although it may be familiar to people who have been following Ricky Gervais on Twitter. A florentine and an OK coffee later and we set off along the road to Sheffield, which has a number of murals painted around the town and it is famous for them. Next it was the turn off for Paradise where we both had our pictures taken with the road sign. You never know when it might come in handy to be able to say you’ve been to paradise and have proof of it, although I doubt the listeners will think of the one in Tasmania. This was on the road to Mole Creek and the Trowunna wildlife sanctuary and home of the third and last big thing in Tasmania a large Tasmanian Devil, of course. After having the picture you see taken we went in. As we paid our entry fee there was a commotion and it transpired a Quoll, before then I had not heard of one either, had got lose and it was bothering the devils.(See what I did there) The impression given was that the Quolls were nasty creatures just wanting to wind others up for no reason and the devils were OK. This was reinforced walking around where they seemed friendly and interested, although it could also have something to do with them associating the arrival of humans with the arrival of food. We also saw Wedge Tailed Eagles, Wombats, some less interesting birds and then JTO bought some feed and hand-fed some Kangaroos, which brought lots of them over to us. I didn’t do it and the massing of Kangaroo had me a bit spooked – imagine a Skippy version of the Birds taking revenge for my earlier eating of one of their kind as Spag Bol – so I, in best reporter fashion, made my excuses and withdrew from the scene. Whilst at the wildlife sanctuary it had rained one minute then the sun shone the next.
We then set off for the drive to Hobart and a caravan site there. I had planned what I thought was the most direct route going through the Central Plateau Conservation Area and alongside the Great Lake. JTO suffers from motion sickness so I thought there are less likely to be lots of turns alongside a lake to make this worse. OK so the road is not coloured in all the time in the map but that just means there are problems in Winter or some other insignificant matter like that, right?
On the way to the next major town with a turn-off, Deloraine, we stopped in Chudleigh at the Honey Farm where they had bees, including a hive in a glass case you could see in action, lots of bee produce and information about bees and the products we get from them, including the massively important role they play in fertalising crops, without which we’d be stuffed.
On the road to Deloraine I got stuck behind a Sunday driver going 80 kmh even when it was not the speed limit. After taking seperate routes at Deloraine I was pleased to be able to speed up on what seemed an excelent road. I almost missed my turning when the excelent road continued onwards on what was only a C road to a middling seeming place called Meander but I just managed to break and make the turn in time.
The road got narrower and became a straight two track road through woods which seemed a bit poor for what is the A5, a highway. After a while the road started to climb and the advised speed for the turns became 25 kph, something I had not experienced before. It was difficult to keep any speed going, how would I make Hobart in the timescale I set now?
The repeated tight turns were not doing anything for JTO’s motion sickness. The turns kept coming and we kept climbing. We had gone up between Devonport and Sheffield but nothing like this. More climbing and more turning. Now it had started to rain in showers too. In some instances, because of the altitude and the cold, the water was condensing in clouds from the water on the road in front of us.
Then relief, the turns stopped and we got above the top of the forrest. We were even able to stop at one point and take pictures of the woodland and rocks below. We were clearly not the only ones not expecting it to be so wet as we met someone leaving the lookout as we arrived who only had sandles on.
I started the van up again and headed on. It was not so rapid and there were not so many tight turns but we were still going up. The rain increased and I had to have the wipers on full. Then the rain turned to sleet. We got to a more open, less rocky part, with a lake on our right-hand side and the sleet turned to snow. The van was cold. I turned up the heating as much as I could in the van. Should I turn back I thought. Had this all been a ghastly mistake on my part? Better end the chance of danger now and turn back. My gallows humour prompted me to say something like “places I bring you to eh?” but my desire not to undermine morale in the van caused me to bite my tongue.
I drove on and the snow stopped. So did the road.
The reason for the break in the colour of the road on the map was that the uncoloured parts were unmetaled, or as they say here unsealed. It was not tarmac but a gravel road. We had joked about the lines from the Neil Young song “where the tarmac turns to sand” well here it was. There were some short metaled bits of road but just where there were some groups of habitation or a cattle grid. Mostbof it was gravel.
I drove on, largely down the middle of the road whose condition varied and we were bumped about from side to side, sometimes alongside the lake mindful of how easy at speed it would be to lose contol and direct the van into the lake. At the same time trying to keep the speed up to make Hobart, sometimes in the rain, sometimes in the sun. Then a new danger appeared, the wind came up. As we moved away from the lake the vegetation which had been ever present thinned out then disappeared and there was just the occasional tree with grass blowing in the wind. Then we were back next to the lake with the wind and I was still fighting the wind. Just as I thought we had reached the end of the plateau and were heading downwards we were back in a large exposed expanse and I was fighting the wind.  This lasted for more than half an hour. Plateau after pleateau. Fighting with the wind, fighting with the wind. The wind was to remain strong and I had to wrestle with it all the way to Hobart.
Slowly the longed for relief came. We descended. This brought its own problems of fighting the wind and trying to prevent the van getting so fast on steep parts of the descent that control was lost.
Descent, speed, wind, descent, speed, wind. Finally we came to Bothwell and a psychic barrier had been passed. From now on the road was metaled and the worst was behind us and it was still light. Would we get to Melton Mowbray whilst the light held? On the much improved road surface, and, despite still fighting the wind, the 20 kilometres went by relatively fast and, after leaving the builtup area, we turned onto the Midland Highway, the main north-south road on the island and the speed picked up, but there was still the ever-present fight with the strong wind.
We made it into Hobart and, with a few wrong turns, made the Treasure Island campsite we were headed for and were able to go out and eat at the awful Granada Tavern, do not go there if in Hobart it is awful. But we were just so hungry we wolfed down what they put in front of us, called my Mum to wish her a happy birthday, spoke to my brother then went to sleep.

One Response to “The Hell Driver”

  1. Jonny Says:

    Just googled quoll. They’re really pretty!

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