In our last post I mentioned that once again our plans had been changed. We were now committed to visiting Tasmania but this had been a tough decision to make. We dearly wanted to head across the Bass Strait but were a little taken aback at just how much it would cost to get there (the total return trip ended up costing $1924 – but more on that later). In the end the pull of the island was too much, coupled with the fact that travelling the continent of Australia but completely missing one state just didn’t seem right.
So, we jumped on the internet to book our trip over and were once again taken aback, this time at how tricky it was going to be to even get on the boat in the first place! Helen’s Handy Hint – book well in advance. The final result was that we managed to secure a berth but we now had ten days to get from Broken Hill to Melbourne!
We briefly crossed the NSW/VIC border and did a large grocery shop in Mildura before going back into NSW, finally pulling up late in the afternoon at a free camp alongside Lake Benanee. This was a really pretty spot and we ended up staying for a couple of nights, mostly just chilling out and playing cards.
We also had overnight stays in Hay and Wagga Wagga. We really like the town of Wagga Wagga and I would have loved to have had a bit more time to look around. The free camp we stayed at in Wilks Park was great. It’s not far from the Murrumbidgee River, with lots of shady spots and well maintained toilet facilities. There were a number of vehicles parked here which can be a contentious issue with locals (particularly caravan park owners) but once again we tried to repay the use of this facility by spending some money in town.
Unfortunately, a few weeks after we had passed through there was wide scale flooding in this region, requiring a number of people to be evacuated.
After warbling a few renditions of Along the Road to Gundagai (the bush song, not the poem) it was only natural that we stop just out of Gundagai to take advantage of a photo opportunity at the statue of The Dog on the Tuckerbox. The statue was first unveiled in 1932 and is a tribute to the dog from the poem Bullocky Bill. This was even more fun because one of our great friend’s nickname is Bollocky Bill (for various reasons).
Before heading to Canberra we had heard from various people that it wasn’t that great. Others had complained about it being hard to get around – with lots of roundabouts and that a day here was more than enough. We actually found the opposite and though the two nights we spent here were sufficient to see what we really wanted to, another couple of nights would have been handy.
And we only got lost once!
Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) is the best option for camping and the rate for the five of us was $38 a night. The facilities were basic but very functional and its location was fairly handy for getting around.
The War Memorial was the first place we wanted to visit and one I would highly recommend to all Canberra visitors. It is an inspirational and very special place. The Pool of Reflection is just beautiful with a Roll of Honour alongside the pool, dedicated to the fallen . There is also a beautiful domed memorial which contains the grave of The Unknown Australian Soldier. The dome features some stunning stained glass windows. There were lots of guides around to answer questions and listening to one telling the story of one of the windows was very moving.
The museum at The War Memorial was just amazing with an incredible collection of memorabilia, some even dating back to The Boer War. There were some great film presentations and it would be very easy to spend an entire day here, with guided tours available.
A very touching way to end the day was to stay for the daily closing ceremony, which takes place at 5pm. The ceremony features either a lone bugler playing the last post or a piper playing a Lament. It was a piper the day we were there and it really was a moving experience. If you visit the memorial do yourself a favour and get here for this. Entry is free although there is a donation box at the entrance.
We spent a full day at Questacon – The National Science & Technology Centre, for a family price of $60 and took advantage of everything on offer. There are eight galleries to visit with one of our favourites being the one that housed the lightning generator and earthquake house, where you could watch man-made bolts of lightning at regular intervals and enter a house which shakes and moves as though in an earthquake. Poor Ben missed out on the earthquake experience because of his arm cast. By now the novelty of Pinky had well and truly worn off!
There are also a number of stage shows, based on scientific concepts and both Reardon & Emma volunteered to go on stage and be involved in mini experiments. In fact, Emma enjoyed the limelight so much that she was up on stage for two of the presentations and we had to draw the line at number three.
It was fitting that our last morning in Canberra actually fell on Australia Day. We all applied some obligatory Australian Flag tattoos, Reardon wore his flag bandana and Paul donned his lovely yellow Australia singlet!
The final few hours before leaving our nation’s capital were spent at the Royal Australian Mint. This was also very interesting, with a huge collection of coins and a detailed history of money in Australia. Regular free tours run throughout the day where we were able to overlook the factory floor and see the robots used in the coin making process – all of Australia’s coins are made here. It was a little disappointing, however, to learn that the blanks that are pressed to make the coins are imported from Korea!
Each of the kids paid a couple of bucks to ‘mint’ their own one dollar coin. Doesn’t quite add up does it?
There are plenty of other things scattered around Canberra to see and do and we managed to navigate pur way around the dreaded roundabouts with relative ease. As well as those things I have already mentioned during our Canberra visit we also drove to Parliament House, visited Lake Burley Griffin and The International Flag Display and called round to The Lodge to see the Prime Minister – unfortunately Jules wasn’t home.
All in all, we enjoyed our Canberra visit and although it may not be high on the list of places we wish to revisit soon we definitely don’t think it deserves some of the harsh reviews it gets.
Being the proud Aussies we are our final meal on Australia Day was barbecued lamb which we cooked on the free barbecues outside the Bega Cheese Company – after sampling their wares of course!
It was now time to hit the road again as we only had a few days before the kids and I took to the sky and Paul hit the high sea!