On M’s birthday I planned the day out. A secret plan. We began with breakfast at the Old Jetty Cafe – they are awesome – Vy had made a gluten free chocolate cake on request… So we had proper breakfast with a birthday cake chaser. The Smalls were very happy.
It was THE most beautiful Autumn day. Perfection. We all jumped into the car as I drove us to our secret destination. M guessed what we were about to do when we were halfway there. I had booked a tour of French Island. We have sailed to French Island quite a few times. M and my dad did a memorable circumnavigation last year.
I had rung and spoken to Lois – a tour guide with authentic French Island ancestry and an excellent old bus. We bought tickets for the ferry and waited for it on the Stony Point jetty – a place where we had once spent the night on the trimaran, tied up to the pier all night with the weather too bad for us to sail home. It had become a distant memory…the water, looking down from the pier, was sunshiney and scooting with fish.
The main ferry was unwell, so we got the back-up ferry – a small but very high powered catamaran. The trip from Stony Point to Tankerton Jetty on French Island took eight minutes. Boom! We wandered about a little – there were a few others waiting for Lois, who had sent word that she was running about 20 minutes late – her bus was unwell and she would be using the back-up bus (are you sensing a theme here?). Actually, the bus she turned up in was very similar to the old school bus I used to get to and from school when we lived in the country when I was little.
About two minutes after we started the tour, Lois pulled over. There were koalas in the trees by the side of the road – the tour had already paid for itself! I have never seen a koala in the wild before, despite craning my neck skywards on every holiday for the past bazillion years. I was happy. M and the Smalls were thrilled.
That basically was the way the tour went – M had a great time, I had a great time, and the Smalls tolerated it peaceably. Lois showed us the sights and told us the history. Just before the tour ended she took us to her own property – a kind of storybook farm scene. A horse or two were wandering amongst some chickens and ducks. There was a fridge full of food for the animals that the Smalls could feed to them, another koala or two, a beautifully restored Don caravan (that I was lucky enough to get a tour of – similar to this one) and afternoon tea… with gluten free biscuits supplied, and the chance to taste chickory (a big industry for French Island in the past, before it was killed off by instant coffee).
I was unaware that there are only currently about 95 residents of French Island – I had thought there were more. There is no power there, everyone is pretty self sufficient – and very reliant on the ferrries to take them across to the mainland for secondary school, work or shopping. There is a tiny school on the island itself – Perseverance Primary – and it seems like a pretty tight knit community. Here is some more information about Lois and French Island.
After our ferry ride back, I drove us back to Tooradin where we had begun our morning and we finished the day off with fish and chips. M voted it – Best Birthday Ever!