4 December 2009

GPA 2009-10 Tasmania

Long lost camping equipment is being fetched from the recesses of the loft, sleeping bags are being washed and tunes are being carefully selected for the iPod. In a few days time everything will be carted off to Heathrow for the long journey to Australia. It's a journey that never gets any easier, especially in the cheap seats where I seem to spend my travelling life. Yet the reward at the end is always worth it.

Being greeted at Sydney by old friends and then travelling down the coast will immediately consign the jet lag to history. Old friends who we have travelled with many times and old friends that we love. For this is not just a holiday this is the tri annual GPA, this time out a return leg in the antipodes.

GPA? Well a tricky one to explain, so some background. In 1992 eighteen travellers convened at a small hotel in Harare, then still a prosperous and engaging city, to join an overland truck travelling to Nairobi. Without boring you with the detail, the truck and the company running it turned out to be pretty darn unreliable. Yet the adversity helped all these people from Britain and Australia bond together. (With the exception of 'the great big pudding bear') and many of us remain lifelong friends.

Whether it was breaking the axle in the Khalahari and buying chibuka from a passing beer lorry or dancing all night long in a brilliant little jazz club in Bulawayo, grins fixed to our faces, or maybe it was camping next to lava flows or finally abandoning truck and driver to do it ourselves. Whatever it was many of us found life long friendships that we rekindle every few years with a new adventure.

So why GPA you ask? It comes down to Jules & Flave; every meal was either Good Puss or Bad Puss. Don't ask me why, they are Australian and work in mysterious ways. So after that first trip they organised our next meeting (rented landrovers, self guided camping in Namibia, 1994), under the auspices of Jules & Flave's Good Puss Adventures, and the name has stuck ever since. so these days the question is always when is the next GPA?

As we have become older, and I was reminded yesterday when I met Laura that she was only 22 on that first trip and is 40 next year, we have fluctuated in numbers as people have married and had children, all of whom are welcomed with open arms into the throng of GPAers. The last few adventures would not have been the same without the kids there, covered in mud and dust, playing with rocks, endless swimming and wonderful humour and fortitude, they are brilliant to have on board.

So this time out there will be 2 British, 3 Australian families, 1 still to get hitched , all finally meeting in Melbourne, meeting some more GPA veterans who can't make the journey this time, before the ferry to Tasmania and wine tours, treetop adventures, sea kayaking, national parks, waterfalls and forests, but best of all banter round the campfire.

I'll try and keep the blog up to date and watch out for some Tweets at @oarsmanpete.

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