Sunday, 24 April 2011

Melbourne to Robe 3 - Youth Hostels

Apollo Bay is one of a series of resort villages along this stretch of the Victorian coastline. We will be staying at three YHAs along this trip. These former “Youth” hostels have been rebadged simply as YHA dropping the reference to young people.

The story goes that as the original “Youth” of the YHA movement grew older they were reluctant to give up their identity and the benefits of cheap accommodation around the country and internationally. What once were for the under 26’s are now shared by that group and the over 50 year olds – survivors of the magical sixties and seventies era. Andrea was a bit apprehensive but was a convert on discovering the modern amenities offered at Apollo Bay and upon seeing children among the hosteliers.

Travelling can sometimes be beautifully quiet and calm or, depending on your mood and personality, socially isolating. I love both experiences. The tranquility of isolation and travelling with one other for company can replenish one’s reserves of energy and sense of balance. The company of many can be demanding but offers unexpected opportunities for conversations with total strangers.

David was at the third of our hostel stops – Port Fairy. A conversation over dinner in the common kitchen area revealed him to be a retired teacher. He was English born, a teacher for his working life, a father and now a late traveller with a keen eye for the social and political context of his journey. His observations of Australia were insightful.

He remarked on the lack of evidence on our indigenous roots. Comparing his experience of Wales where signage is bi lingual in recognition of the living presence of a native tongue. He had assumed that there would be something similar happening with Aboriginal language. We pointed out that there was not one but hundreds of dialects around the country but acknowledged that where there was a dominant indigenous language, in the red centre or Alice Springs for example, it was still not used alongside English.

Over breakfast we were sharing family stories and discovered that this Englishman’s father was in fact Spanish and then this rich story unfolded of Franco’s Spain and escape to England and a life in fear of retribution and an absence of family. Finally after his father died he began the search for his Spanish relatives who had given up hope of ever finding their brother, uncle, cousin, David’s father.

His search was rewarded. On visiting Spain for the first time at the age of 55 David expected to be met at the station by his aunt and her husband. On arriving he was overwhelmed to find 30 people embracing him as the long lost family member; the son of the man they thought they had lost forever.

At the feast which had been prepared for him a young boy, the only one who spoke English, made a simple statement on behalf of the family: “Welcome home. We thought we would never find you”.


Jennifer said...

Great story (as always) Steve - but the ending - it made me cry! I'm so glad you wrote it down.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog! I love this hostel very much. I will definitely visit and stay to that place.

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ledzepellin41 said...

This place is one of the best to spend my Christmas vacation together with my family and children. Thanks for sharing this!

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