April 27, 2012
Grandma & Grandad: Go To Australia (and take us!!) (Pt. 2)
The next morning we were refreshed and ready to go and after breakfast we packed up and headed away – on our journey to Penola. The ride was going to be about 5 hours, probably longer if we stopped off to look at things. We made sure studied the map really well and decided to take a different route down to the one back up.
There wasn’t much difference in the roads as to New Zealand in the city, there was of course more traffic but honestly they were all really nice courteous drivers – they would actually let you in if you indicated – not like in NZ where you just get cut up and beeped at!!
It was so cool to see road signs warning us of possible Koala on the roads – and whilst we didn’t want to actually see one on the road, we so desperately wanted to see one somewhere. One thing that stuck in my mind was the car hire people telling us the ramifications insurance wise if we hit a Kangaroo whilst driving, I scoffed at the time thinking that the likelihood was pretty slim – but as we got further and further into the middle of nowhere with just open land we saw nothing but Kangaroo – sadly all dead at the side of the road.
We were all on ‘Kangaroo lookout duty’ and luckily Grandma and I saw them out the side of the car which was just amazing, so amazing. After that sighting I was relegated to car driver so Michael could stare out the window and look for them…he never saw any that day!
The drive was long long long, and not just long, but also quite boring. There was just nothing. Nothing to look at but vast open land and this one long long long straight road cutting through the middle of it. It amazed me that you would pass a little settlement and then nothing for another hour.
We finally arrived in Penola and found our motel easily. The little town looked great and we were very excited about exploring.
Of course before that though yet another ‘problem’ popped up!
When I book anywhere I always do thorough checks, through all different online sites and make sure the place we are going to is not only nice but meets our needs. Before booking I had even contacted this motel and made sure I was getting what I asked for – a two bedroom unit. This was confirmed to be so until we arrived and found that the two bedroom unit was actually a one bedroom unit with another bed in the lounge / kitchen area. If it was for one night it would have been fine, but with Grandparents and a young child who gets up early (not to mention the child’s lack of understanding when it comes to privacy) three nights was going to be a stretch to make it work. So Grandma went off to see if we could find out about another room. 20 minutes later Grandma returned happily and excited to say that the lady on reception was sorry we were unhappy and had showed her other rooms which worked so much better. We were told that there was someone in there the first night but if we pack up again and head over in the morning we can have the units – and no extra charge – how lovely!!
But nothing is that easy right?
We pack up and Grandma heads over to tell them we are ready. She is greeted by the ‘manager’. Now for some unknown reason he just decided he didn’t like us, we obviously offended him somehow and he let this be known. He refused to let us change rooms and he said that his staff shouldn’t have done what they did and offered other rooms, especially for free. What then ensued was a whole day of arguing back and forth, I went to the office, Grandad went to the office, we all went to the office to discuss and the manager just wasn’t interested. We had absolutely no problem with the unit we were in – it was clean, tidy and spacious, but it wasn’t what we had paid for. The manager even printed out and highlighted our email conversations in a bid to win his argument – but didn’t prove anything, his explanation for the mix up was because ‘that’s how we describe two bedrooms in Australia’!
Anyway, it was just awful, he was rude, pompous and just down right disgusting. After all the arguing he said that he was happy for us to go to another motel with no refund, or he would try to make our stay as comfortable as possible. This comfortable as possible ended up him coming over and knocking on the door to tell us that he had removed room service duty’s to our room as him and his staff didn’t want to deal with us because we were so unpleasant. The comfortable as possible also meant that when we asked for an extra dining chair it was brought with a sarcastic ‘if it will put a smile on your face’ comment. Never ever ever ever have we ever (and I mean ever) dealt with such an awful person. We managed with our stay and made it work but we felt so uncomfortable and unwanted. It wasn’t very pleasant at all. Of course I put feedback on a well known travel website, ours of course the only one with bad feedback and he replied and made up lies to everything we said. The feedback now looks like we are the ones with the problem and not him. Totally disgusting.
Anyway, as much as a waste of space that he was and despite all the awfulness we had bigger and better things to focus on and the reason we came here in the first place – Grandad’s school reunion!
We arrived early and were greeted at the door and given name badges. Michael was given a name badge too saying he attended school in 1964 – he had aged well! A mix up in communication meant he was listed as a student – sooo funny! We had a look around the school, Grandad showed us his old classroom and hall. We saw old photos, and even saw a local newspaper article about the school reunion, and it mentioned students from New Zealand and the UK – we later found out that was just reference to us, Michael being the New Zealand student, and my parents being from England as they were the only ones to come so far.
Grandad met people he hadn’t seen in a long long time and he sadly found out that his best friend had died a few years ago, sadly they had lost touch over the years, it would have been so wonderful for them to reunite. However Grandad was cheered up when he saw a class photo he had forgotten about – and we were amazed at how he still looked the same (he is right in the middle on the back row – tallest boy)!
We talked with staff and met the current Principle, she was horrified to hear the stories that Grandad shared with her about the days teachers used to hit their children!
Inbetween meeting people and looking around Grandma and Grandad went on a little bus trip around the area which they really enjoyed too. It was all so interesting and amazing to think that over 40 years ago my Grandparents stood in the spot we were in, and that our life path today could have been very different should they have stayed – all so surreal.
We had a great weekend there – there was even an assembly with role call for all students who had attended over the years (for which Michael’s name got called out and someone shouted ‘absent’!). There was class photos and eating and drinking and more talking before the weekend was over – Grandad (and us) had a lovely time. Something we will never forget.
Grandad was so proud to be able to show off the place where he lived all those years ago, a moment in his life that we would probably never have even thought about sharing if it wasn’t for the reunion. It would have been so amazing to have been able to show his parents where we had been and share more memories, I am sure they were watching over us though, laughing at our fun and troubles so far. We left the school with a happy heart, Grandad will never ever return, but how wonderful to have been able to give him that one last special time there.
The trip still wasn’t over though, there were also other things we had come back to Nangwarry for…