COACH operator Kevin Oliffe’s first trip was almost his last after torrential rains left his vehicle up to the axles in mud, with a bunch of 12 year olds on board.
“I got home and said I’m going back to boilermaking,” laughs the Hilton local.
It was 1982, pre-mobile phones, and the trip was a school excursion to Bimbijy Station, 350 kilometres east of Perth.
With no way of contacting the owners, it was more than five hours before anyone came looking for the coach in the dark.
Meanwhile, with a bunch of hungry youngsters on board, and the doors stuck fast in the mud, “We had to dig to get the food out,” Mr Ollife says.
Four days later a tractor got bogged trying to pull the coach out, so the station owner sent a bulldozer.
“I thought it was going to tear the coach in half getting it out,” Mr Oliffe recalls.
But the kids were having a ball helping and Mr Oliffe reckons they‘re probably telling their kids about the adventure more than 35 years on.
“A mate said this will be the worse trip of your life, or a taste of things to come.”
Despite this baptism of fire, Ollife Coaches continued their two-week excursions for years.
But while he loved the coach business, Ollife grew sick of being away from home and jumped at the chance to take over Elite Tours, which specialises in day trips.
The company offers a wide range of tours for all interests, including vineyards and gardens, New Norcia, York and the Wizard of Fire, a world renowned master forger.
In December you can visit Manjimup’s cherry festival, where you can try your luck at the cherry seed spitting competition, peruse the local artisan market and taste fresh produce from the trees.
Most tours include lunch and morning tea (with home made cake) and the coach is a luxury 49 seater, with rest room, DVD player and air conditioning.
To find out more go to elitetours.net.au or give Kevin a call on 9314 2170.
by JENNY D’ANGER