Feeling back into the groove of the camping after Boyd we spent the 2 hours drive from Katoomba to Canberra Ooing and Ahhing at the scenery as we wound our way through the low-lands behind the Blue Mountains. We stopped in at a town for a pie and sauce where the boys and I got our photo taken next to a giant ram. It was very lifelike but the artist must have run out of fiber glass as he only had one "ginormous" testicle which the boys found very amusing and we made jokes of it all the way to Canberra. Fi just looked at me and told me to stop being immature. Rolling into Queanbyan Caravan park we had to take a quick breath as it wasn't what we had expected from the reviews. It was becoming apparent that if a caravan park allows pets it is a last ditch effort to attract customers and since this was a dog friendly place it clarified our fears. Despite the less than standard accommodation, we set up and arranged for the cabin that John, Fi's dad, was staying in before he arrived on a flight from Perth later that evening. The temperatures were starting to climb and at 34c it was getting to be the hottest day on the trip.
When we awoke to the dulcet sounds of little dogs yapping and career smokers finishing off their morning lung exercises we got ourselves sorted and headed out to hit the sights with John. Canberra was a strange town. Very pretty, organised and very clean it reminded us a lot of Germany with the architecture and trees lining the roads. The only difference was there weren't multiple camps of Syrian refugees on the side of the roads or old men in terrible jackets with leather embroided on the elbows.
The first stop was the new parliament house and it was a fabulous place for all of us to see. More surprising than the beautiful building itself was the lack of people milling around and we almost had the place to ourselves. All of us went on the free tour which was super informative and then spent the rest of the morning walking the corridors looking at the pictures of former prime minsters of Australia. It took about and hour to file past them as it seems we switch our country's leader here every 8 weeks…..
After the new Parliament house we headed down the hill to see the old Parliament House. Again, this was really interesting as it has been kept the same as it was when they moved out in 1988. The re-creation of the offices and desks was brilliant and the fact they had even left ashtrays on most of the desks with butts squashed in them was a level of detail I was proud to see. Harry and I had a brilliant moment when we both crept into the Prime Ministers office when no-one was there and both let off two loud farts, one after the other. We thought it was very funny. With John now joining us it was beers and wines with dinner and we sat outside that evening in the balmy Canberra air and caught up with all our news and adventures.
On the second day of our tour in Canberra we went to Questacon, an awesome science museum. It was well set up and the boys had a brilliant time on all the interactive exhibits. They admitted when we left that they didn't really learn anything but had loads of fun on the intractive exhibits and things to see. Next stop was the National Gallery. This was excellent also. We were advised to get there between 12:30pm - 2pm to see this "Unbelievably Amazing" water/mist sculpture from some Japanese artist and so we rushed there expecting there to be lines of people. When we were directed to the sculpture it just turned out to be some jets blowing a fine mist in-between some trees which we all laughed at. The only thing it did was cool us down in the heat. The building itself was fantastic and very impressive and the artwork we saw inside was great. We didn't really get the conceptual stuff, but then nobody does anyway, so we didn't feel so bad. A quick trip up to the Telstra Tower finished the day off before we stopped at a farmers market where the heat suddenly got to Harry and he cried all the way back. His reason was because we didn't buy a container of overpriced Feta from a bloke who looked sad and "hadn't sold anything all day and he didn't even have any shade…he was really sunburt" wailed Harry.
Day three of our tour was our favourite as we spent all day at the Australian War Memorial. We were there when the doors opened at 10am and left at 5:30pm as they finished the last post and had a memorial for one of the soldiers that had lost their lives in one of the world's conflicts. Truly moving, it really pulled on the heart strings and made you feel proud to be an Australian. The museum was top notch and although we were there all day we only touched the surface and felt it would probably take 3 days to see all the displays. All agreed it was our highlight. Ending with a lovely dinner in the quiet restaurant strip that was Canberra's supposed "place to be" we headed back to the tent for a final beer and a glass of wine with John and we recounted our tour of the National Capital.
The weather had cooled down as we bid farewell to John and made our way to the Snowy Mountains. It took a bit longer to get there then we thought but the drive was wonderful through and up past Jindabyne and into the "Mountains" of Australia. We set up our tent and soon befriended a German Tourist who was riding his bike from Sydney to Melbourne and then onto Tasmania. This bloke was only 19 and as thin as a whippet so we felt really sorry for him and made sure he ate with us for dinner and breakfast for the 2 days we were there. With the weather bright and sunny in the day and freezing at night we decided to head off early to tackle Australia's highest peak. Dressed in predictably the wrong clothes, we struck off towards Mount Kosciusko, at 2,228 meters, for the 13km round trip with the boys. They were fantastic and we made it up in no time and there were no complaints at all. A quick view from the top and a sandwich before heading down, Fi and I were impressed enough with their attitude and get up and go that we got them a treat when we made it to the bottom. We almost didn't catch up with them as they tried to beat us down and ran most of the way back to the lift to gets us down to the village…..
Back to the camp site and some hunting for a whole stack of firewood had me and the boys setting about making a big fire for us, Jacob the starving German and Kevin, an American we had also met who was fly fishing up and down the river. We had such a wonderful night chatting away and listening to the colourful life Kevin had led that it was almost midnight before we had to say goodnight to the bottle of whisky he had bought and the stories he told us. We also met up with Shanta and Jeff who were another family that were travelling around Australia looking for "their next place to live". It was incredible how many people we have met like this and felt really inspired by the ability of those to just sell their lot, buy a caravan and travel until they liked somewhere….Awesome.