Around Australia Week 47 – Canberra, Adaminaby and Dalgety

This week we moved on to Canberra for a few days before heading down to Jindabyne to meet up with the film crew for the final leg of our Big Lap of Oz. It’s hard to believe that our year of travel is almost up!

We got an unexpected phone call from our son Liam when we were about half an hour away from Canberra. Surprise! The family had decided to drive from Shellharbour for the day to meet up with us. After an early start, they reached Canberra at around 9.30, and had spent the morning at Questacon – a place I have wanted to visit myself for a long time!

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We all met up for lunch, and 2 ½ year old Cedar was wearing the new jumper I knitted for her as we were travelling along the Murray. (Josie, 15 months, spent most of the time sleeping, worn out from her big morning.) It was great to touch base with them again – and I decided then and there that I, too, wanted to visit Questacon! Many people had told me that it wasn’t just for kids.

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The next day, we decided that we, too, were going to Questacon! We had a ball. There are so many different activities to challenge your thinking and, well… just to enjoy because they’re fun! One of our favourites was the ‘Face Your Fear’ guillotine (you put your head and hands into the slots, which activates the guillotine. Up, up, up it goes… and then you can hear it rattling down and a whoosh of air as it slams down above your head. Very scary!) I think I might just opt to die peacefully in my sleep (a long time in the future) thanks very much. We also loved the simulated roller coast ride – a thrill a minute! The cost of Questacon (at the time of writing) is $20 for adults and $15 a concession.

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Next was the War Museum: Rob has had this on his agenda for a long time. He particular wanted to see the WWI exhibits, because he’d read a few books over the years about the terrible loss of life and the atrocious conditions soldiers endured, and was keen to look at the artefacts and relics from that conflict. He found it a moving experience.

We’ll be coming back to Canberra in a week or so, so we’ve left some more local attractions for then.

At Jindabyne, we set up on a site near the lake (well, pretty much all sites here are near the lake!) at the Discovery Big 4. This place is amazing: we have rarely seen such quality amenities. This probably has something to do with the fact that they cater for the skiing fraternity during winter. (Dryers have a high priority in the 24-hour laundry… I imagine there are a lot of wet clothes to dry overnight!) The upstairs lounge/games room/TV room are comfortable and well set up, and there are spas and a sauna. Another bonus is that it is well protected from the prevailing winds (we ran into a couple, Tony and Camellia, who had walked around the lake from another park; they commented that their site over there was much more exposed). Tony and Camellia were new to caravanning… this was only their second time out, and although they felt that they had a lot to learn, they were thoroughly enjoying it. Yep, they were hooked… like most of us!

Also staying in the park were Jess & Ant Yewen, a young couple who decided to sell their unit and spend a year seeing Australia with a new van and Nissan Patrol before they settled down. They’re off to a great start: Ant has had experience driving trucks, so he didn’t find manoeuvring the van to be a problem (Jess commented that she hardly had to say anything into her hand-held radio when he was backing!). Jess has a background in financial management, so she was in charge of the budget. They were in the happy situation of being able to fund a year’s travel without finding work – and they’re just at the beginning of it, so they’re looking forward to the whole experience.

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After chatting to Ant and Jess, we wandered up the hill to ‘Jindy Heights’ (their van was kind of up on different level!) to spend an hour or so getting to know Kerry & Ron Patman, whom we had first met at the Canberra park, when they were a few sites down from us. I grilled Kerry about what was in store for me if knee surgery was on the agenda (I’ve had some knee pain that feels like ‘bone on bone’… cartilage wearing away???… and I’m using a knee brace now and then for support. I’ll call in to a doc and find out exactly what’s going on when we return home… I have my fingers crossed, but I’m not optimistic!) Actually, we’ve met quite a few people on the way around who have had knee reconstructions, so I guess it’s one of those things that anyone might have to cope with as age advances. Curses!

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We drove to Adaminaby to check out the town and scenery, and particularly the new museum that is being stocked and looked after by the usual dedicated group of volunteers. Actually, we’d hoped to catch up with Rob Carter who alerted us to this museum on the Caravan & Motorhome forum… but wouldn’t you know it: Rob had chosen that day to go to Canberra! We were sorry to miss him, but we were warmly welcomed by some of the other committee members/volunteers, including the curator, Ed. They have done a great job so far on the museum, but they acknowledge they have a lot of work to do. They are aiming a formal opening in October, and they hope that it will be a popular stop for school groups.

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While we were in Adaminaby, we stopped at a small café for a coffee. There was just one table free inside (and it was a little chilly outside) so I sat there while Rob lined up to get coffee.

Then a couple turned around from the counter, and stopped short at our table. The woman spread both arms out wide in what looked like a ‘Well, really! Will you look at this?’ kind of gesture, staring at me.

Instantly I was certain that I had taken their spot (even though the table had been completely vacant, with four empty chairs) and didn’t quite know what to say… except to say guiltily, “Ahh… sorry… did we take your table?”

“It’s JUDITH!” she said, then added her maiden name to be certain that I’d place her. “From Bathurst!”

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Well, for gosh sakes. Many of you would have had that happen: a school friend you haven’t seen for years appears in front of you (looking nothing like the schoolgirl you remember) and you are completely blown away. Who would have expected to meet someone in a small café in Adaminaby? Especially since she and her husband lived in Jindabyne, and they had also just happened to have gone for a drive that day! Judith was at primary school with Rob, and we were all in the same year at High School – then Judith and I also got our teaching qualifications at the same college. It turned out that she and her husband Ian are keen campers and 4WD aficionados, and since they had been following the Caravan & Motorhome DVDs, they recognised us right away.

The bonus for us (besides being able to catch up with old friends) was that they are locals, having lived in Jindabyne for 20 years, so know the area like the back of their hands. They suggested that we go for a drive on a ‘nice little loop’ around Jindabyne, taking in Dalgety and Berridale. “And,” added Judith, “if you’re going for lunch, call in at the Gallery café at Dalgety. It’s just out of town – you’ll see a couple of flags flying… they do great tapas!”

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So we took their advice, and the next day did the loop. We called in to The Gallery licenced café (and gift store) and had tapas (our favourite was the pear and prosciutto with goat’s cheese), but just before that we stopped at the picturesque St James Beloco church and the nearby cemetery.

We find it immensely interesting to visit most cemeteries; they’re so tied to the history of the area (such as the pioneer cemetery at Wyndham, where so many of the meat workers were buried after working in atrocious conditions).

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Mostly, it’s the stories behind the headstones that fascinate us. At the cemetery near the St James Beloco church, one headstone was etched with the details of 3 little girls who died in 1899: Amy Lucy, aged 6, and Dora Mabel, aged 2, died in February, and then their little sister Nina Mary, aged 1, died the following month in March. What happened? we wondered. Rob and I are guessing that it was childhood diseases that carried them away, in those years when medical attention and antibiotics were not on call. And that’s just one headstone. In several cases, we noticed that one partner in a marriage had died young, followed by the other FIFTY or more years later. That’s a long time to survive your spouse.

We drove on through Dalgety, stopping to take photos of the bridge over the Snowy River, and on to Berridale, where we stopped for an ice cream. Then we drove back in beautiful autumn sunshine to catch up on a few chores before seeing out the day with a few relaxed drinks beside Lake Jindabyne, on the grassy patch just across from our van.

What a lovely week.


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