A breakdown, tip over, flat battery, & we nearly miss the boat – all in 2 days

A breakdown, tip over, flat battery, & we nearly miss the boat – all in 2 days

First problem, accessing the camp site

We loved our time discovering Tasmania and wound up our tour with an action packed few days, including Wonder Woman saving our bus from tipping over and our two year old delaying the departure of the Spirit of Tasmania.

We decided to spend the last two days before heading off in a little town called Latrobe.  As usual, getting there was half the fun, especially with the pinpoint accuracy of the GPS.  NOT.

We follow the directions, and there we were, all 17.5 meters of us in the main street of Latrobe.  A bit like a pimple on your first date, nowhere to hide.  We found the camp site alright, but how to access it was our next issue.

Main street of Latrobe, TAS

There was no way we were going to fit down the lane way beside it, so we went past.  The GPS indicated the next street on the left should take us around the block and into the car park where we want to be.  And it did, sort of, it just forgot to tell us it was for small vehicles only.

So, here we are, in a short narrow laneway, packed with cars on both sides.  Good news is we can see where we need to go, bad news is, we have to make a 90 degree left hand turn, down a narrow dirt track to get there.  There is no way at this point I can reverse without unhitching the Suzuki and that of course would affect my male pride.  To make it just that little bit more challenging, the gutter where we have to turn ends abruptly and drops off sharply, and beside the drop there is also a large culvert right at the entrance to the laneway.

At 17.5m long we have nowhere to hide.

What the heck, we will give it a go.  I ask my trusty sidekick to stand at the doorway of the bus, which I have opened at this stage.  I tell her my intentions, “I’ve got one crack at this, and if I get the angle wrong we are going to hit the gutter, or end up in that culvert, so let me know if I am going to hit it”.  I couldn’t see a thing back there, so our fate was in her hands.

Second problem, we nearly tip the bus

I start the turn and to my surprise things appear to be going well.  My guiding light is standing in the open doorway, with a clear view of the rear of the bus.

“How am I going?” I ask.

“You are right”, is the reply, “You are going to miss it”.

‘Keep going, you’re well clear of the bollard’

With confidence I then creep forward, but what follows all happened very quickly, but don’t worry I will type it slowly so you can follow.

Without warning, the whole motorhome lurches sharply to the left, like we have fallen into a hole.  Lucky we all still had on our seatbelts as I was almost catapulted out of my seat.  I look ahead to see we are on a severe lean to the left side of the bus, with the bottom step of the bus scraping on the roadside.  It probably felt worse than it looked, especially from inside.

It is at this point that something bizarre happened, my dearly beloved, for some reason was of the belief that she suddenly possessed super human powers.  Like a scene straight out of a Wonder Woman episode, she stepped from the bus, braced herself one arm either side of the open doorway, planted her feet firmly on the ground, and appeared to be for all intensive purposes, in her mind at least, holding the bus up to stop it from tipping.  She then proceeds to yell at me, “We’re gonna tip, were gonna tip.”

“Were gonna tip”


My immediate reaction, of course, was to say, “What the %#$ do you think you’re doing”.

11 tonne of motorhome, on a 45 degree lean, and she thinks she is the one thing stopping it from tipping.

I am about to plant it and drive out of the situation, but at this point she tells me, “Don’t go forward or you will hit the gutter with the Suzuki.”

By this stage, I have realised that we are not going to tip, or at least not immediately.  We were however on a very precarious lean.  As I got out to assess the situation I had several thoughts, the first of which was a brief fantasy of my beautiful wife dressed in a wonder woman outfit holding up a bus and saving me.

The second of which was, if the bus had of tipped, she wouldn’t have looked so crash hot dressed as Wonder Woman.

Anyway, back to the story, when I saw the bus, I could see that my front wheels had made the turn OK, but the rear wheels on the passenger’s side, missed the gutter, and landed neatly in the culvert.  The turn however was too tight for the Suzuki, so if I kept going, we would probably puncture the tyres on the gutter.  Our only way out was to unhitch the Suzuki before I went forward with the bus.  Which is what I probably should have done in the first place.

And now for a flat battery & oil leak

Thankfully, it was a small laneway and there was no traffic.  As I unhitched the Suzuki, Michelle tried to start it.  No go, the battery was as flat as she would have been had the bus tipped.  To make things easier, NOT, the car was pointing slightly downhill.  No worries, I thought, I have Wonder Woman with me.  Unfortunately her powers failed us and I realised by this stage we were fast becoming the afternoon entertainment for the Latrobe locals.  I quickly recruited a nearby delivery guy and between him, me and Wonder Woman, we were able to push the Suzuki out of the way.  As I walked back to the bus I noticed a pool of what appeared to be oil under the motor.  Great, here we were with a bus about to tip, a flat battery in the Suzuki and oil pouring out of the bus.

With the car now safely parked, and no fear of it being stolen, we drove the motorhome the rest of the way to the camp site and stayed put.  The rest of the afternoon was taken up by repairs, a new battery for the car, and thankfully it was only a fuel line that had cracked on the bus which was leaking over the gear box causing the oil stain.  All fixed, we enjoyed the next day and got ready for the next adventure.

Due to our recent track record, on the day of departure we decided not to leave it to the last minute to board the ferry.  We had to leave from Devonport, and decided to get there nice and early.  To make sure, we headed in about 5 hours before boarding.  We found a parking spot, literally right at the start of the line where you board the ferry.  We were in poll position, ready to go as soon as the gates opened.

With 5 hours to kill, we decided to sight see around Devonport, the Don Railway museum was a hit for Henry who was right into trains.

Some great old restored trains @ the Don Railway Museum

Ready to board the Ship

By this stage it is about 5pm, things are progressing well.  Last and final boarding is at 6.45pm, for once we are on time and well organised.  We decide to feed the kids even.  We serve up their pre-cooked dinner, and leave them to it as we usually do.  While they are eating we figure we have time for  last minute preparations, and then we hear it.

We were so close to boarding

A loud thud, a thump, then a gasp.  It sounded just like a little body hitting the steps below.  We looked up, and realise it was a little body that had hit the steps below.  Henry, who was last seen eating his dinner at the table was now folded in half at the bottom of the stair well, trapped in a very awkward looking position.  We quickly pulled him out, but he was in the middle of one of those breaths.  You know the breath a kid takes in when they are just about to scream at the top of their lungs.  He held it for what seemed about 5 minutes, then finally it came out.  A blood curdling scream, (which also seemed to last for about 5 minutes.)

At this point we could still not tell what had happened to him, or how bad it was, other than he was in shock.  Then, as we checked him over, we saw it. Blood. Tricking down the side of his head.  He had a gash on the top side of his head.  Then Jade saw it, and she went into shock and also let out a blood curdling scream.  So now, we had the two of them crying loudly, and still no real idea of what had happened.  We finally calmed Jade down, long enough for her to tell us Henry had sat on top of the railing and fell over backwards.  Looking at the drop, it was probably a reverse tumble, with degree of difficulty 8.

Off to hospital

The blood wasn’t pouring out, but with his blonde hair, it looked worse than it was.  But he was still bleeding, so we went in search of first aid.  We were in walking distance to the ferry terminal, so I took him down there in search of the ships medic.  He was not due in till 6.15pm.   Next option was either the Hospital or the Ambos.  With 45 mins to go, we opted for the Ambos.  They arrived shortly after and assessed him.  He was in fine spirits till he saw them rock up in blue overalls and started to scream all over again.

They were able to assess him and were satisfied he was still with it and it was only a superficial wound, but we needed a clearance before they would let us board the ship.  Only way we could do that was a trip to the hospital, about 15 mins away.

A quick trip to Latrobe Hospital

Half an hour to go till boarding and off we go.   The medic rang the Ship’s Captain and told them what was going on and they told us to let them know by 6.30pm if we would make it or not. Michelle and Henry went in the Ambulance, and Jade and I followed in our car.  Honky was left behind, still at the head of the queue waiting to get on, with all the other cars now going past and assuming their positions on board.

We were initially told that it could be a long wait, which meant we would miss the boat and have to reschedule for two days’ time, we would also miss and forfeit our connecting flights from Melbourne to Brisbane, and then forfeit our accommodation in Brisbane, plus our hire car.   And to think we were so well prepared.

But, fate was on our side.  The doctor finally attended, checked him out and declared he would be fine.  The bleeding had stopped, and didn’t need gluing.  He advised a check-up in Melbourne the following morning.   We called the ferry and let them know we were on the way.  They told us boarding had been closed off, but they would wait 10 more minutes for us.  Let’s just say it was a very quick drive back to the ship.   We were determined not to miss the boat.

We arrived back at the bus, started her up and went through the boarding gates.  We still had to go through customs.  I was fearing the worst, but they were great.  We were given the Royal treatment with the customs officers all lined up awaiting our arrival.  They knew the story and all wanted to know if Henry was OK.

Leaving Tasmania on the ‘Spirit of Tasmania’

So, finally, about an hour late, we were on board and in our room, exhausted and not sure whether to laugh or cry.  Little Henry had successfully held up the departure of over 1400 passengers and 1000 cars.

I am happy to say the rest of the trip back to Brisbane was relatively un-eventful, and we had a good time at catching up with as many family and friends as we could.

Leave a Comment

Rate this post
Spread the love

About Full Range Camping

Full Range Camping is one of Australia's largest and most comprehensive Camping/Caravanning and RVing related directories. With thousands of listings online, there is bound to be that special place you haven't discovered yet.