Thursday, August 2, 2012

Isle de Mort

The Isle of the Dead, a tiny island off Port Arthur, was used as a graveyard for the penal settlement from 1833 to 1877. It is thought that close to 2000 souls now lay there in comparative peace. Being such a significant historical site, only those accompanied by a guide may venture upon its banks. With strict instructions to stay on the path, visitors are treated to a mere glimpse of colonial life and death.

Few tourists however, are ever able to experience the real atmosphere of the Isle of the Dead like that of a parent. How many tourists can claim the privileged position of being able to take leave of the path and explore the tiny reserve in a more intimate manner?

Anyone who has ventured onto the Isle of the Dead well knows that the island is roughly the size of 2000 odd bodies, several convicts interred on top of each other, with little room for much else. Maintained in its most natural morbid beauty, the island has been largely left untouched by human hands.

That was until the O’Connors landed.

Doing her best impersonation of a one woman gas chamber, the short one brought the tour guide’s commentary to a screaming halt and the tour group to assume the best synchronised poltergeist head spin I had ever seen. Quickly realising that they were all looking in my direction, assuming nothing of the like could possible emanate from one so small, I had to do something to save face. Mouthing, “It wasn’t me!’ seemed woefully inadequate and clearly improbable.

It was about then that we should have realised what was to ensue; establishing our premise for a unique holidaymaker experience.

Not generally promoted in the tourism brochures, but anyone in need of emergency toileting in the remotest colonial cemetery in Australia will be directed to leap over the fencing and go in search of a discrete tree. Pulling up a patch of dirt, all I could think of was hopefully we weren’t committing the greatest insult known to man…

Whilst probably not a Lonely Planet recommended strategy in order to have that once in a lifetime experience, but having a toddler-in-need-of-a-poo scenario certainly opens the doors to so much more…

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