(Not much transport content here – check the next post for that!)
I’ve just come back from a road trip to Canberra.
Why by road? Mostly so we could include visits to some of M’s family, some on a farm not accessible any other way.
We left Melbourne last Wednesday heading up the Hume Freeway. Thanks to lots of upgrades over decades, there’s lots of traffic – passenger and freight. By about Seymour it thinned out a bit and the drizzily Melbourne weather disappeared too, replaced by blue skies.
Turning off the freeway at Wangaratta, we headed to Beechworth for a lunch stop. The town was crowded with (more) tourists. There was a queue out the door at the bakery, but a nearby pie shop wasn’t so bad, so we ate there.
The heritage buildings are lovely – despite the amount of intruding car traffic, and it was nice to stretch the legs and walk around.
Then on to Yackandandah where we had a room at the motel in the town. It’s hidden in plain sight – a small driveway in amongst the shops – but the central location was terrific, making it easy to explore on foot.
The motel manager mentioned that Yack (as the locals know it) has two pubs: they have official names, but everyone knows them as the Bottom Pub and the Top Pub, based on their locations along the street.
We headed out of town to visit the relatives on a dairy farm, which was very entertaining, as on that day they had a cacophony of dogs present – some resident dogs, some visiting dogs.
The dogs ran around following us and each other, until one found a ball, and presented it to the humans to throw. But one impatient dog grabbed it first and ran away with it, the others chasing. Amusing chaos.
Dinner was at a Thai restaurant, where I ate way too much food.
On Thursday, a quick (and small!) breakfast at the Top Pub where we watched as a bloke rode into town on a horse to buy a newspaper. Then we explored behind the main street, as I wanted to track down the Molyneux mineral springs, and a house related to my stepfather’s family – which we successfully found.
Then we headed north to Albury for visit with more family.
After that we got back onto the Hume Freeway. At some point we passed a Freedom Convoy, presumably making their way to Canberra to protest… something about freedom.
It seems they later filmed themselves (of course) harassing police for daring to ask them about their fake number plates and home-made identification under the “lore of morality”.
I wonder who the sovereign citizens think pays for the roads they’re driving on?
Next stop for us was Gundagai, where we didn’t find a shack or a track winding back, but instead found a bakery where due to the late hour for lunch, we bought the very last pie.
We also made a stop at the Dog on the Tucker Box. I have a photo of my aunt in a (very well dressed) tour group here, probably in the late 1940s. The gift shop and the fountain weren’t there at the time.
We refuelled in Yass (alas, missing out on seeing the legendary McDonalds sign) then headed into Canberra, where – just as I needed it – the phone decided the battery was too low, and my Google Maps directions stopped.
The problem with the Google Maps app on long drives is it leaves the phone display on as you drive for hours along the freeway, burning up battery for when you actually need it.
Anyway, we found the hotel, the Kurrajong, a heritage building close to Parliament and some of the institutions we planned to visit, then elected to get dinner at a nearby kebab place and eat on the hotel room balcony, which was very relaxing on a warm evening.
Periodically a souped-up car would roar down the road. A few of them had been on the freeway too, and we realised we’d arrived in Canberra just in time for Summernats.
This is definitely not my thing, and we could only be thankful that the hotel was booked in Barton south of the lake, not Braddon where the event was being held.
An evening walk took us past both new and old Parliament Houses. It had been warm during the day, but got quite cool after the sun went down.
Between the two Houses is the Federation Mall, which amazingly has a multi-lane expressway (State Circuit aka the A23) through the middle of it. Weird urban design, but it seems like a lot of the Parliamentary zone is like that. Designed more for cars than people.
I don’t know if this was all part of Walter Burley Griffin’s grand design for the area, but I’m not sure it’s as good as it could be.
This wasn’t the only issue from a pedestrian perspective. I found some locations had very narrow footpaths, with massive nature strips full of plants, leaving very little walking space. And crossing some duplicated roads such as Kings Avenue, the traffic lights made you wait twice.
Close to Old Parliament House was a classic old Canberra bus shelter. This one doesn’t seem to be in use, but it was still nice to see it. Perhaps it was appropriate that the bus stops near the current Parliament House were of a newer design.
On Friday we found breakfast at a nearby cafe, then headed to the National Gallery of Australia for the exhibition.
It was pretty crowded in parts, and being COVID-cautious, we opted for masks.
After lunch, I headed off to check out some of Canberra’s public transport network… which will be the subject of the next post.