Bernadine’s Bus Trip
At the age of 45, the last thing Bernadine O’Donovan expected to find on a bus tour of the Kimberley was a husband.
But on day five of the “Kimberley Exquisite” tour in August 2011, bus driver Chris declared his feelings. Today, the pair are not only married, but Bernadine has joined her husband on the coach as the tour director.
“I was checking on my washing after dinner, when Chris came up to me with flowers and a card,” Bernadine says.
“It was very romantic. The card said ‘The Kimberley is beautiful, but not as beautiful as you’.
“I liked him and he was funny and informative as a guide around the Kimberley. My only concern was that he was based in Broome, and I was in Sydney.”
The couple spent a lot of time together on the 14-day tour and, one evening, Chris asked Bernadine if she thought a relationship could develop.
“I told him I didn’t think so, and he was devastated,” she says. “I just didn’t think it could work, given the distance between us, but then I learned he lived in Albury.
“I’m a worrier and I would usually run a mile from something like this, but I decided this time I wasn’t going to. So we decided to have dinner after the tour, and I told him I wanted to keep in touch.”
The sixth of seven children from a Canberra family, Bernadine did nursing in Sydney for 10 years after finishing at St Clare’s College and then returned to Canberra to study communications.
She travelled overseas and worked in the public service in Perth for three years before returning to Sydney.
While she has always had friends and socialised with colleagues, there were few significant relationships.
“I didn’t struggle with being single, I enjoyed it as I could do things and go places my married friends couldn’t,” Bernadine says. “But there were periods where I’d think, “Why haven’t I met someone?’
“I really wanted marriage to happen. I just thought, I’ll get on with my life. I am a quieter person and enjoy my own company but I made myself do things, like the trip to the Kimberley.”
Bernadine had planned to go on a camping tour, but it was booked out. She was given four dates for the “Kimberley Exquisite” tour, and happened to choose the date that Chris was rostered for.
“I was the youngest by far,” Bernadine says. “Chris wasn’t sure I was on the right tour because the age group was much older. He was pleasantly surprised I was on board!
“He was very easy to talk to, and that’s what attracted me at the beginning. He has an incredible knack with people and they all loved him. He’s a lovely person.”
After the tour, Chris went back on the road and Bernadine returned to Sydney. He phoned her every night and sent her flowers every week.
She knew Chris had been married before, but that didn’t deter her. Nor did the fact he was 10 years older, or that he was Anglican and she was Catholic.
Once Chris was back in Albury and Bernadine would often fly to see him on weekends, he would also drive to Sydney to visit her.
Then, in July last year, she moved to Albury.
“That was a big step,” she says. “I had been looking for work and we were talking about getting married.
“Friends kept saying ‘Why are you waiting?’ and I don’t know why we were. So we chose March 16, 2013, as our wedding date.”
Chris and Bernadine married at St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Albury. Their reception was at the Albion Hotel and they spent eight days in Hawaii for their honeymoon.
“Chris had been in contact with Outback Spirit, who he worked for, and I didn’t have a job so they offered me work with Chris, doing the tours for five months,” Bernadine says.
The couple’s first tour was in May this year, a 17-day tour of Kakadu and the Kimberley.
“He drives and I’m the tour director,” Bernadine says. “We’ll be doing it until September, and have an apartment in Darwin and a house in Broome.
“The whole thing has been amazing for me. I’m really happy and relaxed about how everything has worked out. I think I was just waiting for Chris to come along. I’ve finally met someone, and that’s what I really wanted.”