Canberra, and the road to Melbourne

Canberra is Australia’s purpose-built capital city, located on the border between New South Wales and Victoria. The history behind this is quite interesting, involving petty politicking and infighting between Melboune and Sydney over the years (Wikipedia article about it). I arrived after a fairly long trek from Katoomba, and initial impressions were of a sunny Milton Keynes – a highly designed city with wide boulevards, plenty of roundabouts, and a noticeable absence of character. Lake Burley Griffin lies in the centre of the city, and neatly divides the commercial northern areas from the southern administrative and governmental zone – the south side is significantly more pleasant. My traditional long city walk took me across south across the lake, with my first visit at the National Gallery of Australia – this was hosting a large Toulouse Lautrec exhibition (really good), alongside its pretty substantial collection of classic and contemporary art. The walk then encompassed a lot of the major government buildings, embassies including the peculiar Aboriginal Embassy, and Parliament House where I took an hour long free tour (which was the anticipated blend of information and patronisation). After that, there seemed little else (practical and/or free) to see, so the single day that I’d allowed for Canberra was perfect. I will admit that despite its lack of deep history the city probably has lots more to it, but just not on a backpackers budget.

Australian Parliament Sculpture outside the National Gallery of Australia
Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra Australian Senate

From Canberra, I decided to head back to the coast before heading round to Melbourne. I’d had recommendations to visit a town called Lakes Entrance, which was a day’s drive from Melbourne, so a quick process of triangulation pointed me in the direction of Merimbula as an intermediate stop. The day’s drive was relatively uneventful, with only a few stops for scenic photos, so when I reached the coast I was overcome with the need to go for a swim. I had been on the coast almost continuously since leaving Canada, and the Katoomba and Canberra stops, being well inland, reminded me of how much I’ve come to love the sea. The first coastal town was Tathra, which had a wide sandy beach (albeit a touch windswept), and I headed into the water ignoring the small jellyfish washed up on the shoreline. A later check told me that there was a mass of Portuguese Man’O’Wars in the area, and I’d been lucky not to have been stung. Oops!
Following the swim, I moved up the coast about ten kilometres to check out the Mimosa National Park which was adjacent to Tathra. A signpost pointing into the jungle drew me like a moth to a flame, and 8km of bumpy unsealed road later, I reached the coast. The coast here was stunning, and I also had my first encounter with a kangaroo in the wild – he was very nervous, and didn’t hang about for long sadly. After that I wondered if I’d also see any koalas, so I continued walking through the forest looking upwards. This nearly proved to be a fatal mistake – glancing down to check my footing, I realised that I was about to stand on a snake! Jumping backwards quickly, swearing rapidly, I managed to avoid it, then watched as it slithered away across the park into the undergrowth. Unfortunately the shock meant I didn’t think of my camera until it had completely disappeared. Later research identified it as a King Brown Snake – a bite, while not necessarily immediate fatal, would have been very bad with me being so far off the beaten track. I have since learned to look where I walk!

Coast at Mimosa NP Bashful kangaroo

Merimbula itself was a fairly uneventful little place – nice enough, but nothing to write home about. Actually, I’m trying hard, and can’t think of anything… Oh – a good beach for kite-surfing, and I did get a late night from a possum, who sat outside my window making some very odd squeaking noises 🙂 The drive down to Lakes Entrance was pretty long, so I broke it up with a couple of side trips to the coast. The first of these involved a 20km unsealed track down to a very nice lighthouse, while the second took in a long coastal drive – slower than the main road, but closer to the sea. In the end, my day ended at Lakes Entrance, primarily a fishing port, but leaning more towards tourism in recent years. I personally couldn’t find anything particularly touristy about the town, although I will confess that I didn’t spend much time exploring. A visit to ‘Old Man Pizza’, a bottle of red wine, and Dark Knight Rises formed the evening’s entertainment in the oddly Butlins-like YHA – there just wasn’t anything else on offer. Never mind, Melbourne would doubtless be full of entertainment 🙂

Cheeky possum Green Cape Lighthouse

Aboriginal Embassy

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