Happy birthday, Dave!

OK, the Mt Buller story. Here goes:

Syndia's family had decided to have a holiday in Melbourne, and wanted to go to Mt Buller. We're not quite sure why they decided to go now, while Syndia and I still live in Melbourne and could have taken them for the guided tour, rather than later on when later on when we weren't living here. But never mind; they decided to go on a holiday and wanted to go to Mt Buller.

They arrived on Thursday (25th September) early in the afternoon, hired a car and headed off to Mt Buller, arriving safely later that evening. All was well. For future reference, it's approximately 300km from Melbourne to Buller. You'll see where this is going.

On Friday afternoon, Syndia and I headed off to join them. Very kindly, they had pre-paid accommodation for us on the Friday night, so we were happily ensconced in our nice little room with its spa, with snow falling outside. Lovely; very pretty and we were utterly content.

I had to take a couple of tutorials at RMIT the next day, so we had an early breakfast then both headed off; Syndia to stay with her parents in their hotel and me to the car. Syndia and family were going to drive back in the rental car later that Saturday, and I was going to pick them up after my tute and take them to wherever they wanted to go.

It had been snowing for most of the night and it turned out that the car was covered in 15-20cm of snow. It looked very pretty, but meant that I would need snow chains to get out of the place. Unfortunately, the snow chains were in the boot, which a) had about 60kg of snow on it, and b) was frozen shut. I spent the best part of half an hour digging the snow off the boot so I could open it, then crawling around on the ground trying to put the snow chains on. It's hard to do when your hands are completely numb, but I couldn't put gloves on because then I couldn't feel anything - either way I was stuffed.

Anyway, chains on and down the mountain I go. Leaving the car park, I found that about 400m down the road they'd had a bulldozer/snow plough clear all the snow off the road. So... chains off, and off I go again. All good. I made it to Melbourne in pretty good time and was just on time for the tute.

The tute went from 1pm until about 6pm, at the end of which I received an SMS from Syndia, saying, "We've lost the keys to the rental car, so our evening's going to be a bit disastrous." They had arranged for a spare set of keys to be sent up via V-Line, arriving at about 9pm, so they would be back at not much past midnight. All I had to do was wait until they got back. Cool, thinks Andrew - off to a BBQ at Ferg's place.

At about 8pm I received a call from Syndia, who told me that although the keys were on their way, they had realised that they didn't have enough petrol in the car to get to the nearest 24 hour service station, and... wait for it... could I please bring some. We arranged to meet in Mansfield, the town closest to Buller - they would drive there and WAIT after the keys arrived, and I would come and find them. OK, that's not strictly true. Syndia didn't actually call me and ask me to bring petrol; she just called and told me the situation for some unspecified reason involving the strange female need to communicate Of course, I didn't have many options with respect to solving the problem...

Bear in mind, this was the night of the AFL Grand Final and there was snow at Mt Buller so there was no accommodation to be had on the mountain, and finding a service station operator who actually gave a stuff at that time of night on grand final night was going to be trouble.

I did a mad rush around Melbourne looking for more jerry cans, filled them, then headed off. I was very close to asking if anyone else wanted to go for a drive to Buller at that time of night, but luckly I didn't.

Most of the way to Mansfield, I received yet another call from Syndia:

Syndia: You're not going to like this.
Andrew: What?
Syndia: We're in Mansfield, but...
Andrew: WHAT?
Syndia: ... but the car isn't.
Andrew: WHAT?!?!?!!
Syndia: The keys didn't arrive, but the taxi1 driver felt sorry for us and took us to Mansfield anyway.
Andrew: So what would you like me to do now?
Syndia: Could you please pick us up and take us home?
Andrew: (unprintable)

So... lucky I didn't ask people at the BBQ to come with me, right?

I got stopped for an RBT not far out of Yea, and although I had had nothing to drink (almost never do) the Police were most curious about the smell of petrol permeating my car. A terse, grumpy explanation soon placated them and I was again on my way.

I arrived in Mansfield at about 12:20 on Sunday morning, picked up Syndia, her family and their luggage, and wandered in to the pub where they'd been waiting for the past four hours. I got a bunch of strange looks from the publican (I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans; not exactly snow gear), then comprehension dawned: "Ohhh... you're the transport home then, are you?" We had a bit of a laugh, then I headed back outside and back to Melbourne.

Three o'clock on Sunday morning and we're almost back in Melbourne again. Syndia and I dropped her family off at their hotel, then headed home and crashed out.

Late Sunday morning we awoke and drove back to the hotel to pick up her parents again. They were still... discussing... what should be done with the rental company. To cut a long story short, it was obvious from the start that the only real solution was to send me back up there to drive the thing back. The rental company decided to take issue with my age (24) though, and were threatening to not let me drive it back. Put bluntly, they could either let me drive it back or they could sodding well go fetch it themselves. They acquiesced

Not a problem - we phoned the V-Line booking people and asked for a bus ticket to Buller. Uh oh - we spoke too soon. V-Line only runs two services each day to Mansfield - one at 8:30am and one at 6:30pm. I was going to be in time for the 6:30pm service, but that would have got me to Buller at 10pm and - again! - there wouldn't have been enough petrol in the car to get to the nearest open servo, and of course there was still no accommodation available on the mountain. So, of course, we booked my ticket for the Monday morning.

We spent the rest of the Sunday at the Tulip Festival, before returning to the hotel. Dinner at the Red Emperor was excellent - thanks very much to Syndia's parents for taking us out.

Thankfully, almost everything else ran to plan. I arrived at Spencer St on time on the Monday, caught the bus (which had a sickening air freshener that made me want to puke for the entire 4 hours I was on the thing), then headed on up to Buller again.

SOD IT! The bloody rental car was now covered in snow, and because it had been sitting there for a few days the lower layers had turned to ice. By this time, I had absolutely had it. Guess where the bloody snow chains were again.

I started the car, cranked the heater and rear demister, then left it for a couple of minutes. I cleared enough snow from the windscreen that I could drive it, then took it out into the middle of the mostly-empty car park and just spun the crap out of the thing. The snow all went slithering off in huge white sheets, and I was on my way down the mountain again.

Gripes about tiny cars built for tiny people and with no cruise control aside, the rest of the trip back was pretty uneventful, and I arrived back in Melbourne just on 6pm. What a crazy weekend. A total of over 1200km in our Commodore, plus about 300km on the bus, plus about another 300km in the Pulsar - and all along the same stretch of road . I don't want to see bitumen again for a long time.

1"Taxis" at Buller are run by the local bus company and are actually 4x4 troop carriers; not your normal Yellow Cab.