March 7, 2005

Another day in the Nation's Capital of Canberra. We have really grown to like this town despite others' opinions that it's not that special. We start out the day at a tourist trap called Cockington Green, about 15-20 kilometers outside of the city center. Cockington Green is one of those special things to Andy called a Tiny Town. It's a display of miniature villages and some actual buildings from around the world. There's even a miniature Stonehenge. You know how we love those. We've seen at least two other versions of Stonehenge, one made out of cars that's called "Carhenge."

Probably the most impressive display includes famous buildings, temples and other grand items from many different countries around the world. The details on the miniatures were wonderful and there were even some working model trains, a miniature mine shaft, and tiny windmills. Andy, of course, loved it! Vienna and I were amused for a while and then it was time to move on to the next big adventure.

This time it was the National Museam of Australia: a very interesting museam all about the nation's history, including that of the Aboriginies and the forming of the commonwealth. We didn't get nearly enough time there but we did see many fascinating things, including a rotating theatre, much like Andy's favorite: the Carousel of Progress. The theatre contained an awesome multimedia presentation. I learned a lot about our host country. At the end, we even had a lovely lunch outside in the "Garden of Australian Dreams," a contoured floor that was the shape of Australia with several layers of detail. My favorite part of the museum was the display of common Australian words and phrases that we don't hear in the States (outside of Outback Steakhouse), such as Mozzie, which is a mosquito, and "Fair Dinkum," which means the honest truth. I liked it so much that I got the book in the gift shop.

Next came the climax of the day. We had the great opportunity to go back to the Parliament Building to see Question Time in the House of Representatives. This is a time that they take each day the parliament is in session where both the majority (Liberal Party) and the opposition (Labor Party) get together and ask questions of the Prime Minister and his party leaders. The opposition can ask some very pointed questions and loud debate ensues. Andy has always loved to watch the British Question Time on cable. So, this was a special treat for him and a great experience for Vienna and me, too. It was very interesting. At the end, the Prime Minister gave a special statement about his decision to send about 400 troops to Iraq. This is a very big deal in Australia and it will see a lot of opposition in the near future. The three of us enjoyed this very much.

After Question Time, it was time to get on the road to Melbourne. Having started late in the day, it was certain that we wouldn't make it the entire way. It's about a seven or eight hour drive from Canberra. But we did see some nice towns along the way, including Yass. Right before getting back onto the Hume Highway, we needed to find an internet kiosk. We found a civic guide map for the small town at a rest stop along the road. It pointed the way to a library in Yass. We followed the directions, with some help from some locals and found the library. It's amazing how even in these small towns in Australia we can be connected to the rest of the world.

We are enjoying driving through Australia. The scenery in this area is a lot like that of California so we feel right at home. Except, instead of watching for deer, we are watching for kangaroos. From all of the warnings people have been giving, we are very wary of the roos.
Along the way, we also come across an Australian icon: The Dog on the Tucker Box. ("tucker" is food) It is now a memorial based on an incident that supposedly happened in the area long ago. A teamster named Bill the Bullocky was on the road to Gundagai when his wagon became stuck in the mud. When trying to get his wagon out, one of his bullocks broke the yoke. Bill, then gave up and went to have lunch but his bad luck streak was continuing. His dog was sitting (some say maybe worse) on his tucker box. The other bullockies all thought this was a great joke and one even wrote a poem about it to spread the story far and wide. The memorial is now a nice little tourist stop with a gift shop. We finally stop around 10 pm at a small town called Wangaratta. The first motel we found is the Wangaratta North Family Motel. This turned out to be a lovely mom and pop motel, much like the ones we like to stay at on our road trips back home: comfy beds and friendly folks. Tomorrow it's on to Melbourne.