Listening to the coach driver's tales

Previous page: West Coast Wilderness Railway

 

Today there is a lot of driving to be done. Just as well because it's raining a lot. We are heading to Queenstown.  The trip in our super-duper coach will take an hour.  We were told we would be driving around 250 bends in 44 kilometres.    Although the coach will take an hour to do the trip it has been done in 17 minutes by rally drivers.  In the past the road has been closed off to normal traffic and rallies run through there. A dangerous form of fun and entertainment ....... definitely not our cup of tea.

 

Brett's stories entertain us

Our driver, Brett, was very knowledgeable and we learned a lot from him.  He also told us a lot of sad tales that only tour company people would know about.  Brett told us about the sad “holiday tours”.  It seems some people don’t want their older relatives around at Christmas so they pack them off by themselves on a tour at Christmas time.  These older folk are invariably infirm or they have dementia.  Tour companies are not keen to take these sickly older folk because of the chances of something bad happening on the tour.  The problem is extensive enough that some coach drivers refuse to take part in Christmas tours.  What a terribly sad situation for those old folk to be in.

 

The Chinese tourists with the dead body

This tale didn’t happen to Brett personally but he knew of a driver who was taking some Chinese people on a tour.  It got to lunch time and the Chinese people were not at all keen to get off the bus for a meal break.  The driver had to insist that they get off as he had to lock up and secure the bus.  It turns out one of the group had died the night before.  Somehow, without the driver noticing, the others had got the dead person onto the bus and managed to get him seated without anyone noticing.  They didn’t want to get off the bus for lunch because someone would see there was a dead person in their midst.  I think they were trying to keep the whole issue quiet so it didn’t disrupt their tour! I don't know how this story panned out.

 

Lonesome people on boat cruises

Brett also told us about what happens on some of the boat cruises.  The boat crews keep an eye on elderly people who seem to be lonely and not interacting with other folk.  Even though some are seemingly enjoying the cruise they actually have nothing to look forward to when the cruise ends.  They don’t want their awful loneliness to return so they choose suicide instead.  So if the boat crew notices anyone standing by themselves on the edge of the deck for any length of time they are bound by their duties to go and speak to them.  This of course often happens of an evening. What a sad way to end your life.

 

We thought this tale was funny

On a lighter note, Brett remembered a cruise on a catamaran (I think it was a catamaran) when a man’s wig flew off into the ocean.  He was most distressed that the boat was not going to be turned around so that his wig could be rescued. Bret had so many tales to tell.

 

We arrive in Queenstown

Eventually we arrived in Queenstown.  Several passengers were feeling a bit nauseous but thankfully no-one was sick.  Queenstown was bigger than I expected.  We only stopped there for a toilet visit. the weather was closing in.

 

Damage caused by copper mining


The hills surrounding Queenstown were dreadfully damaged by copper mining.   The soil on the hills contains high levels of sulphur.  Rain brings the sulphur down in the form of sulphuric acid (acid rain). This of course kills the vegetation plus it also kills life in the rivers.   From the 1880’s the Mount Lyell copper mining company was emptying its waste water into the Queen River.  There was no regard for the environment whatsoever.  The Queen River runs into the King River which then runs into Macquarie Harbour.   Up until 1995 about 1.5 million tonnes of sulfidic tailings entered the river system each year.  Along with this were huge volumes of acidic, metal-rich water.  The pollution in the Queen and King Rivers is tied up within the mud in the bottom of the river.  The Queen and King Rivers have been so destroyed by run-offs that they are not expected to recover for a thousand years.  According to a government report: “..all aquatic life in the Queen River and lower King River has been killed”.
On a brighter note an Indian company has purchased the copper mine and although they weren’t responsible for the damage, they are doing their best to remedy the situation as much as they can.

After the toilet stop we climbed back on board and headed up more extremely windy, high roads.  At times we were driving in the clouds. 

 

Next page: Lake St Clair & the Wall in the Wilderness

 

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Goodbye picturesque Strahan

Strahan dock