I look over my helmet visor to find yawning blue coastal surrounds. Behind me is a cluster of native gum trees. Contented cows graze in the paddock beyond. This idyllic island setting is well suited to tranquil tourism. That’s not why we came. There is a lingering smell of petrol and a chorus of 9Hp Honda GX 270 engines punctuating the silence. Ah, that’s more like it.
A swell of aspiring petrol heads congregates at the desk and we are ushered to a back room. I’m paired with my husband and a bunch of young male hooligans. Oh great. Safety first, the Nana in me was taking notes. I winced when discovering there are roll bars. My name is called towards the end of the group. I can’t help but think that it is a likely reflection of my impending performance. Last in and last out. I approach my kart with a teensy bit of apprehension. It’s red, which is good. Except all the karts are red, negating the speed advantage entirely.
The supervisor tugs at the starter chord and the engine chokes into life. His colleague gives us a pep talk of champions. “Conditions are good and there aren’t any kids on the track. You should be able to get some good speed up. If you don’t then… you’re shit.” With those words of wisdom echoing in my ears, we weave the concrete curves that replicate the real Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Although I must confess that the real circuit is five times this size.
The 4.45 kilometre Philip Island Grand Prix Circuit is regularly featured on television hosting a multitude of international super car and bike races. It flaunts stretching views over the cliffs to Bass Strait. This Go Kart track leads a double life, however. When there is MotoGP or Super bike racing on the big circuit, the go kart circuit becomes a “Trackside Campground.” Fortunately for me today is not one of these days.
After the first few corners, the frontrunners are whipping past me leaving testosterone fuelled vapours. To be fair, we did get started at different times. Supervisors insisted that we are racing ourselves, not the others on the track. I level the accelerator and gulp down the fresh air rushing through my helmet. Images of my youth flash past. I take a glance at the exquisite view then drop the accelerator and “flatten” the corner before switching back into acceleration. This is fun.
Results are in and it dawns on me as to why my photo was snapped at the beginning. There I am in dead last. A printout is produced for my statistical analysis. I don’t need any further evidence. I have become a fully-fledged Nana. And I’m very proud of it.
Go Kart sessions on the Circuit are for 10 minutes and family cars for driving children are available. For more information, click here.
Dave, the ebullient bus driver stood at the Niagra Falls bus terminal at the start of his shift. With a dapper haircut, a starched navy blue uniform and an enormous smile, this job suits him to a tee. A local mechanic stopped by for an old fashioned chinwag. The workshop in this small, remote town grew quite lively this morning. A gargantuan rodent was discovered in the lunchroom. In the ensuing commotion, a mechanic stepped backwards. Crunch. “How did the rat meet its demise?” Dave asked. “His boot was enough to finish the job.” The mechanic explained succinctly. Immediately I went on alert for oversized rodents.
The bus ride was as short as the town is small. Perhaps we should have walked. “Alright folks, we’ve got two people on board that came all the way from New Zealand so please make them feel welcome.” Dave announced. Luckily there were only about five people onboard. “Are you here long?” a local passenger initiated a bus wide conversation. What a friendly wee town it is. Minutes down the main road, we rounded a corner and Dave motioned for us to hop out. “Clifton Hill” he announced.
Niagra Falls sits quietly at the bottom of the gradual hill filled to bursting with attractions that appear to be borrowed from a theme park. Bright colours, loud noises and soft edges line the street as far as the eye can see. I wondered if were in the right place. I also wondered what one would do if they felt a bit queasy walking down this street carnival. Luckily I was fine, despite travelling on a train, two busses and finally by foot. I looked up from the clowns to see a large body of water hurtling over the American border and into the emerald green river below. You couldn’t get a more opposing scene. It is evident that on the other side, the Americans have made their own mistakes. They erected a large concrete road to nowhere alongside their falls. They have also placed a bright red zig-zag walkway towards the river’s edge.
The Canadian Falls, located further down the road are actually larger. This is probably the one time another country can claim to be bigger than the supersize Yanks. The wall of water cascades into a horse shoe mist and vastly increases the sale of yellow plastic ponchos from the gift shop. Snow capped the border of trees around the rim of the Canadian Falls and slippery ice blanketed all surfaces. I didn’t realise what an intrepid adventure this would be, battling the elements to secure a few digital memories.
The journey became more perilous as darkness rolled in and it dawned on us that we’d lost track of time. Oh dear. My mind flashed to the rat story from earlier. I didn’t fancy sticking around. Both our hands waved furiously for a taxi and we quickened the pace with a hint of panic. Christmas lights appeared against the evening sky reinforcing our tardiness. The low temperature was exacerbated and frost nipped menacingly at our extremities. A yellow cab emerged onto the road with a shining bright light on top. It slowed at the insistence of our flailing hands and we were saved.
“I’ll take you to the connecting station for $135,” the taxi driver offered.
“No thanks,” came our reply, even before we realised we had already overpaid for the return tickets in our pockets. The small transit centre came into view and we clambered inside looking like we desperately needed to use the bathroom. We were merely attempting to regain feeling in our fingers and toes. It was a balmy minus six degrees out. “When is the next Go Bus?” I enquired. “It left five minutes ago” the woman in the ticket booth replied. “Rats” my husband was dejected. “Eeek. Where?”