When the school holidays finally arrive, Sonya, Andrew and I are on our way back to stay on our cousin's houseboat at Mansfield. We can hardly contain our excitement. Liam emails us to say that for the first time in twenty years, Lake Eildon has a decent amount of water in it! As we drive around the bend, the familiar lake comes into view.
"Look, there it is," Andrew shouts excitedly. Uncle Dave is in the car park of the Hideaway Resort, waiting with Liam and Madeline. This time, Madeline comes to meet us. Not like last time, when she didn't come out of her room until dinner time. But that was ages ago. She's changed a lot since then.
"I didn't think you'd want to wade across the water to the houseboat," says Uncle Dave. "I've got the dinghy ready."
"We should have brought the other dinghy across," laughs Madeline. She's just seen all the fishing gear and Andrew's inflatable dinghy. Dad suggested we pack it this time, as there's water in the lake. We just went along with him, although we think that we probably won't have time to do much fishing; we've got other plans. We want to time travel in the Time Machine we found last holiday. As we're about to get into the dinghy Andrew picks up a $1 coin off the ground. He's been finding lots of 5c coins lately.
"I told you it was just a matter of time until I found something bigger," he says.
"Yeah - a whole $1!" I laugh.
"Just wait. My next find will be a beauty. I might even find a $50 note one day!"
"Don't discourage your brother," says Dad. "He might surprise you all one day."
The bit about surprising us is right. Andrew is always surprising us one way or another. When we arrive at the houseboat, lunch is ready for us. We sit eating and looking out the windows. All around us, as far as the eye can see, is water.
"Are we still going to be able to get to the... the tree house?" asks Andrew. He just stops himself in time from saying, Time Machine! Madeline understands straight away and says, "of course we can get to the tree house. It's just that we can't ride the bikes over there. We need a boat now."
"We've got two attached to the houseboat," says Liam. "The one we came over in with the outboard motor is for Mum and Dad because they need to go backwards and forwards to the Resort. The other one is for us. We have to row it, but it gets us where we want to go."
We can hardly wait to be alone with Madeline and Liam. We have so much to catch up on. But for the time being, Uncle Dave wants to take Dad for a ride on the lake and do a bit of fishing before he heads off home in the morning. We all decide to go with them. We pile our fishing gear into the two dinghies and spend the afternoon fishing.
After Dad leaves next morning, we bundle into the dinghy and head for the tree house. Lots of trees have begun to spring up around the banks of the lake.
"If this keeps up, the lake will look like it did in 1960," says Sonya.
So far, we have all avoided mentioning the dreaded name of the one stranded in 1960 - Mr. Powers! It's hard to believe four months ago, we were riding bikes over this lake bed. We row the dinghy over to a spot on the lake bank that Liam points to. Madeline jumps out and secures it with a rope around a tree trunk. Then we all hop out.
"See--the tree house is just over there."
We don't have far to walk. There's the same huge red river gum tree and as usual, the tree house is completely blocked out of view by the surrounding trees. We make our way under the bushes and move back the branch that reveals the rope ladder. One after another, we begin climbing. Everything in the tree house is just as we remember it. Liam grabs the binoculars and looks out over the countryside into the surrounding gullies.
"Just as well we moved the Time Machine up here near the tree house," he says. "Look, Nick!" He hands me the binoculars and I look into the gully. It's almost unrecognizable now. It's full of water!
"Good thinking, Madeline." Madeline says nothing, but looks pleased all the same.
"Where are we going in the Time Machine?" asks Liam. "I vote we give 1960 a miss. I wouldn't want to meet up with you know who!"
"Nick and I have been giving it a bit of thought," says Sonya. "When we return to school after the holidays, we'll be starting secondary school. I know for a fact, that we will be doing a unit on early Australia. Perhaps we could go back to the early days and see what it was like, first hand!"
"Not a bad idea," says Madeline. "All those in favour, raise your hand." We all raise our hand, except Andrew.
"Boring," he says. "I don't want to go there!"
"Tough!" I tell him. "You're outvoted."
"You might enjoy it, Andrew," says Liam. "They had bushrangers in those days!"
"You can stay here if you want to, Andrew," says Sonya.
"No way!" he says quickly.
"Well, it's settled then--let's go! What date do you suggest?"
"Maybe around the late 1800s," says Sonya.
"How about 1870?"
Everyone agrees on 1870.
"Well, it's settled then--let's go!" Madeline says again.