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Prom night (with a wombat).

Who knew the journey to this enchanting home-away-from-home would hold as many thrills and chills as a blockbuster adventure movie?

Feb 24, 2023

Words: Matt Dunn

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Our adventures along Victoria’s open roads usually end in a sadly predictable way: something broken or a close encounter with a demented, ravenous native animal.

We’ve been caravanning for a number of years and our usual destination is Wilsons Prom. It’s a place that sings to our souls. Otherworldly in its beauty, the Prom feels like a second home. But that’s not to say it’s a safe harbour.

Even getting there has been tough, with broken lights, dents, scratches and a collision with our letterbox (an inauspicious way to start a trip) all par for the course. Worst of all was the day we ended up down a ditch just outside Fish Creek after an oncoming car – the guy was trying to pass the three or four cars in front of him – almost collided with us, forcing us off the road. This Mad Max-esque character continued his crazy, meandering journey while we climbed out of our hole and, finally, with the help of the local police and other travellers, found ourselves back onto the road.

They say getting there is half the battle, but honestly it's nothing bar a minor skirmish in the grand scheme of caravan travel. The war begins at your destination; and the Tidal River campground is as fraught with challenges and dangers as any other wilderness.

Sure, there’s a general store, an outdoor cinema, toilet blocks, showers and all the other ameni-ties that go with a ‘modern’ camp-site. But don’t be fooled. That’s a smokescreen – a way to make you feel as if the adjacent nature can be controlled and contained.

The illusion quickly falls apart, especially after nightfall.

Okay, everyone knows about the wombats. The rule goes: don’t leave food on the floor of your tent. It’s a rule that needs to be extended significantly. For how could we know it was not safe to leave our caravan door open, even though our annexe was completely closed and all our food was stacked inside the van, unopened and way up high?

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I was fast asleep when my wife started shouting at me about something being in the van. The creature, as big as a burly footballer, had pushed through the annexe, climbed the step into our van, clambered up on a bench seat and knocked down a packet of Aldi corn flakes (‘Flakes of Corn’, or some such). They’d not been opened until the wombat got hold of them. As he tore the box open and devoured its contents, plastic inner and all, he made a sound that was not of nature. This creature was from the very depths of Hell.

Half asleep and convinced I was having some sort of post-red-wine-binge hallucination, I flicked at the beast with a towel (yes, I know you’re not supposed to hurt native animals… but I thought this was a matter of life and death). In any event, an exploded grenade would have been unlikely to put a dent in this creature. Bleary eyed, pot-bel-lied, and with nothing to cover my manhood but a pair of frayed Y-fronts, I was evidently a fear-some sight, for the wombat raced off. He did return moments later, though after another near towel whipping, he stayed away for good.

It’s fair to say I felt rather manly.

On a separate Prom trip, I was faced with an even scarier creature – a punch-drunk, mangy wallaby, who kept trying to raid our bins. This pugilist was ready to disembowel anyone who stood in his way. Eventually, mercifully, he retreated into the bush.

The kookaburras, however, are much bolder. They never fly away, except for one, after he stole a sausage in bread from my outstretched hand, my dinner mere millimetres from my open mouth!
We may all be products of nature, but visit the Prom and you’ll quickly see it's definitely all on their terms. The animals will always have the home-ground advantage.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 25

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