THE American poet Robert Frost took the “road less travelled,” believing it “made all the difference”.
I’m of the same mind. Sometimes you’re thrust on to the road less travelled by unforeseen circumstances, wrong turns or bad directions. However it happens, it’s worth the journey.
Last weekend I planned to take my caravan to Tidal River at Wilsons Promontory – 90km away – but instead ended up barely twenty minutes down the road, on the Inverloch foreshore. All up it was 165-odd kilometres and two-and-a-half excruciating hours towing a van around the potholed roads of South Gippsland with five children and an overwrought wife.
We were told that the Prom would not be full and there was no need to book. We were meeting two other parties there for a fun weekend of swimming, surfing and sightseeing. After the mammoth task of getting the kids organised, packing the van, feeding the fish, feeding the chooks and finding a baby sitter for the dog, we were off. Songs were sung, blows were exchanged and threats were made. In short, everything was normal.
Arriving at the gate to Wilsons Prom there was still a long way to go. But everyone’s spirits (bar mine) picked up. I was suppressing nightmare visions of our car stalling and us – my four children, an invited guest, my wife and me – hurtling backwards down the mountain that precedes the drop to Tidal River. You’d think that was a ridiculous thing to be thinking of, unless you knew me and my history with caravan holidays. Blowouts, breakdowns, tears and recriminations are all par for the course.
As it happened, the gatekeepers of the Prom told us the place was full. No booking, no entry. On the road again. Back the way we had come.
We met one of the parties at Shallow Inlet – mother, father and three kids – and explored the sites there. Mud flats, snakes and mozzies. We moved on. We checked out Sandy Point, thought about Waratah Bay. Moved on again. Our friends took a wrong turn somewhere. They called us to say our other party of travellers had infiltrated the Prom. “They have a spot reserved for us. Will we turn around?”
By this time it was dark, the kids were feral (well, even more so), we were closer to Inverloch than Tidal River and I was thinking of nothing more than cracking a beer. No, I said. We move on to Inverloch. If I’d had a sword I would have held it aloft and issued a battle cry.
Later in the night, as we set up in darkness, the message came that our other friends – the ones who had stormed the gates of the Prom – had been kicked out. The ranger had given them their marching orders. My decision was vindicated. For the first time ever on a caravan holiday I had made the right choice. (This bit of good luck didn’t stop me setting up the van too far away from a power source, though, meaning we would have no lights for our fist night.)
But, I still couldn’t help feeling responsible for this collective mess. I became convinced that my bad luck with caravanning had infected my travel mates’ plans. Somehow I’d sucked everyone into my bad luck vortex.
However, all such thoughts would eventually evaporate. I came to realise that Inverloch was where I was meant to be. The happy weekend of beach, sand and sun – with all of us again reunited – would only confirm it. Rather than a pointless journey that had led to a poorer experience, the mishaps were actually serendipitous. It was a long way to get to a place that was close by, but the effort of getting there made it all the sweeter.