I don’t always do wine tours. My company subcontracts out for another company, called “XXX Escapes”, which specialises in luxury small vehicle personalised tours. These people pay a LOT of money for their tours and they often get me as a guide and, as a result, they expect high end service, which I think they should get.
Trouble is, my company is provided with the bare minimum of information about what we are meant to be doing and I am meant to be a local expert so it often involves a lot of scrambling on my part. Don’t get me wrong – I DO know the area and I have done tours there before but I don’t do it everyday and, just like an actor not doing the same play all the time, you forget your lines if you aren’t constantly repeating them. I often don’t get details until two days before the actual tour so it involves a lot of last minute research on my part and, a I am a very anal person anyway, a lot of stress.
To add to the stress of this particular tour, there was a lot of driving – around 600 kms worth in the day – and some fairly iconic WA stuff to take in. Kangaroos, koalas, a National Park with particular limestone formations and sandboarding. Yes, they were meant to go sandboarding, which I knew nothing about, the people in my office knew nothing about, and which research turned very little about anything so I was almost totally winging it on it on google maps just to find where I might do it!. I kept on hoping the threatening inclement weather would turn totally apocalyptic as it seemed to want to do, making it a moot point and therefor not having to show my ignorance, but it apparently reserves that for my washing days and didn’t oblige.
There are all these cool photos online that seem to indicate companies hiring out boards and guides taking you down snow white sloping dunes. Nope. The reality is me finding a road on google maps prior and a vague sort of sport that says “Dunes” (and managing to memorise the road directions so it looked like I had been there before), then this dirt track that I am inching down in a luxury car, terrified that I am going to get bogged.
The track is getting really soft so I announce we are walking but I can see sand dunes in the distance so I am happy with that. I have previously set up my passengers with the reality by telling them that Sandboarding is actually a freebased Australian sport, that evolved from outdoor beach living and sliding down dunes on whatever was available because you were already there, having fun in the environment but it suddenly hits me, “Fuck, what do we actually board WITH?”
I reverse down fifty metres of really soft sand, to a slightly harder spot, where I can tuck the car into a grassy edge, and I pop the boot and walk confidentially to it, like I know exactly what I am doing and praying so hard that I will find something, ANYTHING, that we can slide down a sand dune on. I find a car sun windshield reflector. That is it.
I reiterate the whole “sandboarding as an aussie sport was developed as an al fresco expression of style with whatever was lying around” thing and we trudge off to these dunes, which turn out not to be that steep or that great, and the windshield protector turns out to be fairly useless but I tell them silicone advanced technology is ideal for sandboarding. And for all I know, it actually could be!
They move inches at a time. I offer to give them a shove. I shove so hard I am sure that I am bruising them. They move microscopically further. But I am a one woman cheer squad and I am convincing them that if they just hurl themselves fast enough and hard enough it will work. The guy runs so far and fast and HURLS himself so hard, belly down body surfing, that the whole dune shakes from his impact. His girlfriend is videoing him. She shows me later. You can see his lips actually flap from the shock of the landing.
After he recovers from being winded I just put them in poses and make them take pictures anyway and it totally looks like they are doing it.
I convince them that it is because it has been raining and the sand has compacted down, rather than the grains freesliding over each other in the right slippy manner, and that sandboarding is a summer sport and that they should come out and try again in the summer; it is obvious they are naturals.
Then we trudge back to the car and I try to turn it around and the low clearance means that the centre of it gets hung up on the hummock of sand at the side of the track. We try to dig it out for nearly an hour before two people come along who help up push it out. (Immediately it got stuck, I took off my professional jacket, my company name badge and smeared the plates with mud so none of my incompetence is immediately attributable to my company.)
Dishevelled, covered with sand, and exhausted, we drove 200 kms back to town. My clients fell asleep in the back seat. When we got to town, I took them via the ethnic area to point out a few good eating places and they told me what a great day they had had and tipped me a nice amount.