The tickets we’d bought to ski at Perisher, Hotham and/or Falls Creek ski resorts, turned out not to be valid for Perisher – which was where we were. (Full story here.) We were so disappointed as we walked back to the car. I was thinking about the wasted money, and where or what we would do. Head north, to warmer weather? But I did so have my hopes pinned on skiing for my first time ever. As did the kids, and Jarrad.
We walked back to the car, with the kids all saying, “But Mum … but Dad … why can’t we ski today?” “You promised we were going to ski today…” “I just want to ski” … and we were all nearly in tears with frustration and disappointment.
“What are we going to do?” I said, looking at Jarrad.
“I thought that was obvious. We’re going to pack up the campervan and drive down to Hotham. I’ve not been able to ski yesterday, or today. I want to ski tomorrow. We’re going to drive there this afternoon.”
Which Way Do We Go? Shortest?
I studied the map as we drove back to the campervan, where we packed and hitched up quickly.
“There are three ways. First is up past Thredbo on the Alpine Way. That’s easily the shortest, but I think I saw somewhere that the road’s unsuitable for campervans.
“Second is to go back up to Canberra. Looks like that’s the longest, but we know that the roads are good. We’d have to go through Canberra, then down the Hume Highway.
“Third is to start heading back towards Canberra, and then turn left on to the Snowy Mountains Highway. I’m just not sure what the roads are like that way.”
“We’ll go the shortest way,” Jarrad decided.
“The Alpine Way. We’ll just ask at the toll booth to Thredbo first what the road conditions are like.”
We were told that since it wasn’t too bad that day, so we decided to try it. We went past Thredbo ski resort and kept going a little way till we passed a sign saying Road Ahead Not Suitable For campervans. We kept driving.
But we’d gone only a kilometer when dark clouds had blown over and little flakes of snow were falling on to the windscreen. It was time to turn around … except the road was too narrow to turn around.
Jarrad had to reverse the campervan back down the hill almost all the way back to Thredbo resort before he could turn the car and campervan around. Peter gripped my hand tightly in the front seat. The girls held hands in the backseat, both pale and silent.
No one talked. Occassionally there would be a collective gasp, but all were silent…except two-year-old Edmund, who snored peacefully.
The longest way? Or the second shortest?
The shorter. “We’ll try that Snowy Mountains Highway, I don’t want to have to go back up through Canberra.” Jarrad decided again.
The road up the Snowy Mountains was good for a while, and we were pleased with our decision. Open pastures turned to thick forest. The road kept climbing upwards, and getting narrower and windoer
Against all hope, flakes of snow began to fall again as we passed the entry to a different ski resort. The dark clouds were gathering, and we were really scared about hitting black ice on that windy, mountain road.
Four-year-old Lucy and Edmund both slept, but Peter, Susan and I couldn’t relax. We trembled, and gave each other terrified glances. Our knuckles were white, and our hands cramping from keeping them clenched for so long.
I could see Susan’s jaw was firmly set, determined not to cry because she didn’t want to disturb her dad. Her eyes had a distant look in them sometimes as she seemed to try and be imagining herself somewhere far away. Other times, her eyes were big and scared – carefully watching and counting each snow flake as it landed on the car windows.
“It should be less than half an hour till we reach the Hume Highway,” Jarrad reassured us all as we rounded another corner.
The signs blocking our way ahead. We had no choice but to either turn around, or turn left down another road that seemed like it would head in the right direction.
This new road was narrower and windier still. The weather was getting worse. It was late in the day, and darker. We didn’t know if we were worse off continuing and risking it at this time of night, or risking stopping and having it snow over night so we definately wouldn’t be safe to move on or possibly be snowed in.
We passed Mt Selwyn Ski Resort, and kept going. At dusk, we drove down a hill that just seemed to go down and down and down … I was terrified that the breaks would overheat and fail, and we would plummet out of control down the hill.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the road flattened out and became straight. I noticed the forest that surrounded us. Peter and Susan finally relaxed enough to fall asleep. I relaxed enough to consider my fears about kangaroos or wombats on the road.
We couldn’t stop quickly enough when we found a rest area. Jarrad and I carried four sleeping children into their campervan beds. We only paused to hit the ‘on’ switch on the diesel heater so that we would all be snuggly warm. We went to sleep hoping that the rest of the drive would be easier tomorrow.
In the morning, Jarrad looked at me and said, “So which way do we go from here?”