Ultra-marathon for the under-aged

Four children looking at the Sydney Opera HouseDespite their enthusiasm for public transport of all persuasions, this adventure wasn't the juniors' fault. Generally, school holiday outings involve one kind of public transport, an icecream, and everyone's happy. Yesterday we accidentally ended up on an ultramarathon. At a couple of points I wondered whether we'd ever make it home. So did the juniors.

Because an outing with three juniors didn't seem sufficient, we borrowed a fourth for the day. A ferry ride to Manly was planned, with a train trip into town thrown in for good measure. We were to drive to the nearest train station to begin the adventure. It was when I had the juniors sun-screened and hatted and standing on the driveway raring to go I discovered the first challenge.

I have, oft in this forum, described my vigilance for keeping my keys safe. This time, for reasons long and uninteresting, I hid them in the glove box of the car. The car was now safely locked in the garage. The only alternate key was also safe. In the senior recipe tester's pocket. In his office. Nowhere near home.

Not to be deterred, I explained to the juniors that we would walk to a close by bus stop, and take an alternate route into town. We dutifully walked to the bus stop and waited. Predictably, and because we had been adventuring for about 3 1/2 minutes, the juniors began to whine that they were hungry. So as to avoid spending the national debt on food during the day I had packed sandwiches and myriad healthy snacks for the day. I rummaged through the bag, pontificating on the variety of things I had packed to ease their hunger.

Turned out I had packed only sandwiches. The snacks were on the kitchen bench.

We made it into town via bus and two trains and promptly ate lunch. It was eleven thirty. The juniors, apparently faint with hunger, could wait no longer. As we had only a single sandwich each, an ice-cream helped fill the nutritional gaps.

Missing out on the ferry was a fate worse than death, but the planned trip to Manly could no longer be completed in the time available. We had come via Parramatta bus interchange, so I reasoned we could catch the ferry back to Parramatta and then the bus back home. All transport bases were then covered (if you don't count the light rail) and everyone would be satisfied.

It would have been quicker to fly to Melbourne.

The Rivercat trip from Circular Quay to Parramatta is interminably long for the under 8's. In fact, it's so long, the river ends. Parramatta Wharf is in a cul-de-sac. I don't know if the captain missed the "No through river" sign, but he definitely had to do a U-ey when we got there. The juniors were well over it by the time we got to our destination.

The wharf is also located nowhere near the Parramatta transport connections. The juniors were a little nonplussed when I explained that we weren't quite home yet, and that the day's adventure also included a walk. Rather a long walk. So long in fact that we had to stop for a sustaining milkshake (I noted again, the absence of snacks) part way through the frog march.

As you would expect, when we finally approached the bus stop our bus sailed past us. We found some seats and commenced the wait for the next one. With less than 10 minutes before our bus would finally arrive one of the juniors started that, "You-don't-want-to-take-me-on-a-bus-unless-you're-prepared-for-the-consequences" dance.

The nearest toilets were in the train station. On a platform. Where you may only go if you have a ticket. We didn't have tickets, but we did find a compassionate CityRail attendant who didn't want to deal with the consequences either. We went as fast as we could, but were then left with the problem of getting out of the station and back to the much anticipated bus.

"We don't have tickets," I explained to a different CityRail staff member. "We're trying to catch the bus..."