Oz Report – Part 17 – Albury to Canberra


After a brief morning constitutional, we were out of Albury and on our way to Canberra. We stopped for lunch at the Niagara cafe in Gundagai where we had hot chocolate (of course) and passable food (I think I had some kind of pie). A few miles the other side of Gundagai, we came to The Dog on the Tucker Box, an Australian landmark:

Dog on the Tuckerbox

For some reason, we were expecting it to be big. But it was, as you see, just a normal size dog. I think we had got it confused with the Big Things. Anyway, the cafe/gift shop was closed for refurbishment (“under new management”) so we stayed only five minutes before getting back on the road. The weather, which had been fine for us for so long, started to worsen and we had several showers.

Approaching Canberra on Highway 25, we got stopped and turned around by police at a bad accident scene that was blocking the road. This put a minor crimp in our plan, since we didn’t really have directions for an alternative route, but we followed a truck that also got diverted, reasoning that it would be going to Canberra too. As it happened, it was going to Goulburn, but we only had to follow it as far as the main highway where we turned south and it turned north.

Canberra! The city everyone loves to hate. Planned to within an inch of its life (or further, depending on who you talk to), just like Milton Keynes. Everyone, on hearing our plan to drive back through Canberra, had told us “what do you want to do that for?” but we approached it with an open mind, intent to see all the sights. Strangely, the only person who spoke well of Canberra was the motel owner in Albury, who avowed, “Oh, it’s lovely up there.” I think in the end, this says more about Albury than Canberra. I was later to have the following conversation with Ben:

Ben: “So, how’s Canberra then?”
Me: “It’s… everything they say it is.”
Ben: “That good, eh?”

Well, millions of people can’t all be wrong in their opinion of Canberra, and I must report that it’s not a place I feel the urge to go back to. We arrived at about 4 owing to our unplanned delay, and after getting to our motel (the worst so far) discovered that everywhere closed at 5. Everywhere, that is, except the National Library. We had hopes of walking over there to see the various exhibitions and a bit of culture. As it happened, we drove because the rain was threatening again.

Thank goodness we drove, because Canberra is not designed for walking. It’s planned, and things are relatively far apart. I have no doubt that one can walk, given the abundance of greenery, but it’d be quite a long way. The road system, I assume initially planned with the best of intentions, has become a diabolical snare of twists and one-ways that one is only saved from by good maps and good signage. Even so it was in large part luck that saved us from a wrong turn that would take us a mile out of our way.

National Library and Telstra Tower

The National Library exhibition turned out – you guessed it – to close at 5. Our water was detained by the security guard and denied access to the reading rooms. We took a look at some dead parakeets in a mini-Exhibition in the hallway, and used the computer to check our email, before taking our leave.

Canberra has a few features that save it from being a total loss. The Cook Memorial Jet is impressive, and was active as we were entering the city and crossing Lake Burley Griffin, sporting a permanent rainbow in its wake and treating our car to a light windblown shower of lake water. We also spotted the largest stainless steel structure in the southern hemisphere! This makes me wonder what the largest one in the world is, but I don’t think I can be bothered to find out.

Southern Hemiphere's Largest Aluminium Structure

In the end, the most enjoyable thing about Canberra (besides journeying onward) was the evening meal we had. Our guidebook told us that eating out in Canberra was excellent, and in fairness I can’t disagree. We ate at a restaurant called Milk and Honey where I had a pork chop, stuffed apple and caramelised onions, and Mrs Elbeno had some kind of pasta that was equally delicious. We returned to the small motel room glad to have only one more day of travelling ahead.

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