Sunday, October 17, 2010

They Will Come

Being a tourist in your own country can be both an enlightening and frustrating experience.

I haven't been a tourist for quite a few months now - because I don't think spending one Saturday night in Bendigo last month counts - but having pined for Sapphire when she visited her grandparents in SA; then waving Love Chunks off to Switzerland and, a day after his return, Sapphire on the school bus to Canberra for the week, I started reminiscing.....

On our first night in Tasmania earlier this year, fresh off the ferry (or as fresh as you can be sitting on a freezing boat for nine hours with pie crumbs withering in your crotch and a pen stripe across your cheek that your family couldn't be arsed telling you about) and bleary-eyed in Devonport, we were keen to eat something decent. Preferably something not made four days earlier and sealed in a plastic triangle. Thus we found ourselves at our first touristy experience, Dannenbrog.

It's a steakhouse. And yet their menu informed me that it is named after the Danish flag because 'our Mary' married 'their Frederik' and it was considered the right name for a restaurant that challenges you to eat two 800 gram steaks plus chips, veges and gravy and win a bumper sticker for your efforts. We three declined, choosing much smaller cuts of meat but we were still amazed at the number of bumper stickers emblazoned with proud meat-eaters' names in black texta that lined the caravan-panelled take away section. The place was packed with locals and visitors and it was even going well enough to feature quite regularly in the ad-breaks between WIN-TV programs.

Maybe it was these drivers who owned the beach shacks at Dootown, quite near the blowhole (a natural attraction that both Love Chunks and Sapphire suggested - rather unkindly, in my view - should be essential viewing for me). The Bruces and Moiras had got into the spirit by naming their wonky little wooden boxes. We saw Love Me Doo, Didgeri-Doo, Doo Nix, We Doo, Wanna Doo, Doo Licious Fish and Chips, Doo Come Again, Can Doo, Sheil Doo, Thisll Doo, Dr DooLittle, XanaDoo and of course, Doo Me.

At a chocolate factory on the Bass Highway, Mr and Mrs Morbidly Obese pushed their way ahead of Love Chunks and Sapphire to get at the free samples. Toothpicks were provided to take one small sample, taste it and discard it before picking up another toothpick for another different sample. Mr MO speared as many chocolate ganache truffles that he could physically squeeze onto the tiny sliver of wood so that it resembled a fat satay, slid them into his mouth and then used the same toothpick to do it all over again. And again. Then he moved onto the next little box and underwent the same process for that particular flavour.

We decided that it might be best to just take a chance on the chocolate and buy some untested. Mr and Mrs MO, on the other hand, wiped their mouths against the back of their hands and bought nothing.

As I was handing over a twenty, a tour bus pulled up and the tiny shop was packed with bodies trying to pass by each other without being accidentally shoved into the precariously stacked shelves of fudge via their camera bags. These guys had five minutes for a 'look inside' as Dennis, their driver, headed straight for the bog beside the cafe. There was no time for tasting. "I take ten of those..... those....... ten more of those..... and those...... plus those," one Japanese man said, pointing at the truffles that appealed to him. Over a hundred dollars of chocolate based purely on time restriction, not taste.

The wildlife park at unfortunately named (not just for insult reasons but also because, well, how many moles are native to this country?) Mole Creek promised oodles of Tassie devils and had the Discovery Channel and Harry's Practice logos on their entry sign. The fibreglass devil at the gate wasn't quite so welcoming as his back legs had disappeared into the dirt and a large open hole was gaping in his lower back.

The paths were overgrown, having not seen a mower in a year or two but probably quite a few happy sun-loving snakes. Signs were faded or non-existent and no information was in front of any of the dilapidated enclosures.

A wedge-tailed eagle was busy eating a wallaby leg inside a hut no bigger than a lawn mowing shed whose roof had already caved in. The 'devils' were two in number; both fast asleep inside a dark log. One part of their fence had a sheet of cracked plastic perspex sheeting as a viewing area no doubt installed by someone even less handy than I am. Two baby wombats were also sleeping in a child's playpen with an old woollen blanket slung over half of the top to protect them from the sun.

We heard several different languages being spoken around us and I ached with shame at them visiting such a forsaken place. Fifteen minutes of aimlessly wandering around in shock saw me grit my teeth, purse my already thin lips and say (quite difficult with thin, pursed lips) to Love Chunks, "This is crap. I'm asking for our money back."

Sapphire cringed and LC busied himself trying to get the sleeping adult wombat to move (was it dead?) but I stood at the front counter and dinged the 'please ring if the desk is unaccompanied bell.' I usually don't do that but clear my throat politely in hope. Not today.

"Excuse me....!"

Reluctant worker girl dusted down her jeans and popped her head in the door. "Yeah?"

"I'd like my entry fee refunded please. Here's the receipt. This place is shabby, unsafe, rundown and provides absolutely no information whatsoever."

Sighing, she walked towards me. "Got your credit card receipt?" and snatched it out of my hand before I could answer. My request clearly wasn't the first.

Back in the carpark, we decided to head towards our next overnight stop and look for an ice-cream on the way. It was highly likely that most of it would fall prey to the gravitational pull of my crotch but at least it wasn't scalding hot coffee.


Ann O'Dyne said...

Bravo! You Assertiveness consumer-wise is totally impressive.

Ann O'Dyne said...

every single time I type 'youR', it appears as 'you'. It's a symptom of chocolate deprivation.

nuttynoton said...

Brilliant writing as usual, like you I do not like these places where animals are couped up, they are obviously bored and suffering stress. I would rather not go, but then if you don't traavel you don't learn and develop. My youngest came home from school with a project to discuss the pro's and cons of Zoos, as expected I was against. It was an interesting discussion!

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Ann - I understood YOU the first time :)

Nutty, I'm sort of with you and sort of not. I don't mind 'zoos' if they're in wide open spaces and well-cared for, or the animals get to 'rest' at larger, open plain areas away from prying eyes.... Mole Creek should be shut down; it was so shabby and clearly hadn't seen any Discovery channel visitors for many years....

River said...

Someone should inform these people that the "laid back, she'll be right mate" attitude doesn't apply to anything remotely resembling a tourist attraction. Tourists of ALL nations deserve better. How disappointing to travel (in some cases) thousands of miles, pay hard-earned, long-saved money, for something as dismal as this?

Pandora Behr said...

After spending yesterday in Salem and witnessing the full horror of tourists en masses - yep - know where you're coming from. The behaviour of some poeple is appauling (Family MO in particular - saw a lot of that yesterday) Great piece as usual.

Red Nomad OZ said...

HHHMMMmmm... never thought I'd ever say it, but remind me never to go to the chocolate factory!!!

Happy travels!!

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Pandora - MO families seem to be par for the course on holidays

and yes, RedOz, some people make things pretty ugly on 'free sample' stalls!

Don said...

I lived in South Florida for a couple of years, and was not happy with the touristy areas as well. Add to that the behavior of the tourist coming in and it made one want to up-chuck!

As long as Mr./Mrs. MO ONLY touched the chocolates they picked up, things should have been OK..... Germs don't just jump off the stick that easily... ;)

But, I'd just have selected the flavors I wanted as well, without sampling after seeing that too....

Radge said...

I like.

The headcold prohibits further comment, but I enjoyed.

Baino said...

euuwww double dipping, not good at the best of times, let alone in a chocolate factor. We have a 'koala park' near us that sounds similarly dilapitated, such a shame and the Japanese file in all day to marvel at the climidia prone marsupials.

nuttynoton said...

I agree Kath, open wildlife parks are good they have plenty of room but only for certain animals as for the rest leave them in the wild and film them the picture quality is so good now it nearly seems real and when we get 3D who knows!

Wally The Walrus said...

I don't think we stopped in at that wildlife park. Thankfully. There was one near Port Arfur that had a bunch of Tassie Devils going nutso at feeding time.

And Doo-Town. Oh dear. Yes, been there. Very, very twee. That made me want to have the up-chuck. You had no choice but to pass through and view the twee in order to make it to the blow hole. And then get another dose on the way back.

Blow hole - ok. Doo-town - meh.

Vanessa said...

I have just returned from being a visitor in your lovely city. Watch my space for more details but I ate my way thru Melb. Short but fun trip. Had two hour layover in Canberra on way home and took a taxi tour with my 11 yr old to see the sights. She was impressed and I forgot how green and pretty the city is.

Kath Lockett said...

River - you're right. There's a huge difference between 'laid back' and dilapidated, dangerous and bad for the animals.

Don, sometimes the Mr and Mrs MOs you see on your travels act as good 'warning signs' for own behaviour - ie time to share, time to be polite, time to DIET...

I hear ya, Radge. I'm back off to the doctor's in around an hours' time to find out why - after losing my voice last week - I'm now getting head spins every time I stand up.

Baino - I don't mind cuddling up to a Chlaymidia Koala at times but if the park they're living in is filthy and so homemade as to be embarrassing, I'd want to say to them in that one hour they're awake - RUN!

Wally, you're right, Doo-Town was on the way to the blowhole where, despite having endured the tackiness of Doo-Town, we three then entertained ourselves with all manner of blow hole jokes.

Nice to hear it, Vanessa - if I'd known I would have asked you over for some coffee and 'help' with a chocolate review or three!