Aus Update 30 - Bonnie Doon, Benalla, Glenrowan, Alpine way, Canberra

<Chris> 05-Feb-2007.  We left Theo & Katrina's (again) causing a few tears with young Zeke who was disappointed we were leaving again. We hadn't made a well defined plan of which route to travel. Theo had pointed out Benalla & Glenrowan as places of interest involving Ned Kelly (historic outlaw), so we were heading in that general direction with the ultimate destination being Canberra. After looking slightly more carefully at the map and seeing that we would be passing very closely by a small place I was only aware of from the movie "The Castle" I couldn't get the line "We're going to Bonnie Doon" out of my mind. 

The drive up the Maroondah Highway was quite beautiful. We passed through a number of National Parks. I felt sorry for each vehicle that came up behind us, because on this twisting hilly section of road with very limited opportunities for me to pull out of the way, the poor old Maverick really doesn't do it's best work. We reached Lake Eildon in the early afternoon where you could really see the effects of drought.

You can see at the end of this boat ramp where they expect the water to be. They've created another boat ramp at a lower level which is also high and dry, and now people are just using a dirt track
Lake Eildon is a very large lake. This is another arm of it. If you can imagine the area multiplied by the depth you can see it has fallen in the previous shot you have some idea how low water supplies are.

From Eildon (town at the southern end of Lake Eildon) we took a 4wd track over the mountains towards Bonnie Doon. It was very hilly, and considering it was 38-40 degC (in the shade) outside, the car did well to only get into the "very warm" section of the temperature gauge as we meandered about in the middle of nowhere. There is something distinctly different about the middle of nowhere in Victoria as say compared to Western Australia. For starters you just about always still have full mobile coverage (GSM, not even CDMA) and you pass farm gates or houses far more frequently. We didn't see any one else on the road we followed. I don't know if that said something about mad tourists getting around in the full heat of the afternoon or simply that there are so many more routes for tourists to follow that they're not all just concentrated on the one highway.

Just before we reached the Bonnie Doon township we came across a cluster of holiday homes that are built around an arm of Lake Eildon (this arm is totally dry). When we saw the power lines stretching across the lake we just knew this was the place shown in "The Castle" ("aaah the serenity").

Without our copy of the movie to refer to we can't be absolutely sure, but we reckon this is the Kerrigans holiday shack.

It was too hot to do anything more so we found a place to stay for the night. It was the Blue Range Reserve near Mansfield at the base of Mt Samaria. It was very quiet and we sat and watched some Kookaburras in the trees. There was a total fire ban so we had sandwiches for tea. We had a lot of trouble sleeping as we just lay there sweating. Eventually with both of the doors open (fortunately not too many mozzies) it cooled off enough to sort of doze.

Blue Range Reserve

The Kookaburra blends into the tree so well it's hard to get a photo.

06-Feb. The next morning we drove through to Benalla. There was a combined museum/information center that had an excellent collection of varied items for such a small place. The key focus was Ned Kelly and his exploits/death.  The trouble he got into seemed to escalate more due to police heavy handedness than a determined criminal path. See for more. The Benalla area was also the birthplace of Michael Joseph Savage (for Australians that haven't heard of him, a noted NZ Prime Minister), and the birthplace of Sir E Edward Dunlop - "Weary Dunlop" (for NZ'ers who haven't heard of him, a noted doctor, soldier, POW & teacher).

Ned Kellys cummerbund. He was wearing this when finally captured.

For pure "quirkiness" value and to show the diversity of the museums collection, I couldn't get past this. A drum used in the actual Battle of Waterloo.

An exact replica of the armour the "Kelly gang" wore. This one was Joe Byrnes. These suits weighed 50kgs!

And just to show that droughts are nothing new here, a notice from 12-June-1945 reducing water supply to a period of 3/4 each day.

We drove on through the town of Glenrowan which was where the famous "Kelly gang" siege of the town took place that led to Ned Kellys capture and the death of his friends. Not much else to recommend it any longer...

We headed into the town of Wodonga, and crossed the Vic/NSW border into the co-joined town of Albury (just because we could). They are bustling modern towns, but apart from buying fuel we didn't stop for anything and headed back into Victoria to continue eastwards through Kosciuszko National Park.

Towards the end of the day we passed the (nearly empty) Hume Reservoir (Lake Hume). The interesting part about this was the shifting of the town of Tallangatta in 1954 to allow the complete filling of the reservoir. Ironically, because of the low water level, today, where the marker is on the side of the road pointing out (normally) a couple of remaining chimneys, you can see the complete footings of the removed houses.

So empty the grass grows! I have circled where we could see the house footings.

We stopped for the night in a beautiful little caravan park in Colac Colac (not a typo, the name repeats). We're in an alpine region that probably sees it's highest visitor numbers during the skiing months, but surely a caravan park only really gets full in summer? The place was practically empty. Another oddity was the "camp kitchen". It's amazing how varied these facilities are from park to park, but they tend to be a lot less fully featured than a NZ equivalent. We usually don't use/need them, but on these days of total fire ban (inluding gas cookers), we're keen to use them to cook a meal. This one deserved a mention for it's minimal level. It was essentially a shelter roof tacked on to the side of the ablutions block. It had a fridge, jug, toaster & griller. They did have gas barbeques under a separate shelter ($3/use), but no hot water, no microwave, no hotplate, no oven. Oh well, we just setup our own gas cooker (you're allowed to use a gas barbeque within 15m of a permanent building even during a total fire ban as long as you have a continuous water supply).

07-Feb. The first stop of the day was in Corryong where we visited the cemetery. A fellow by the name of Jack Riley is reputed to have been the basis of AB "Banjo" Pattersons character in his famous "Man from Snowy River" poem (though there are several other opinions).

We spent the rest of the morning driving through the alpine region via "The Alpine Way". At Thredbo I stopped and had a look around. Last time I was here was August-2005 with Afele (and saw Theo here too). I don't have my full photo album here to compare from, but look at this...

Can you believe that's a chairlift up the center of that grassy slope?

This is what it looked like Aug-2005 (Pete).

In the afternoon we stopped in at the Adventist Alpine Village in Jindabyne to see David & Rada Afele (and kid's). Dave was happy to show me his recently setup dirt buggy course which is to be a new feature at the camp ground. I didn't get any photos but I did get suitably dirty blatting around the hills for a half hour or so! I'm sure it'll be a sought after activity. After our visit with them we drove straight on to Canberra where we were to spend some time with Paula's sister Allison.

8 to 17-Feb.  The single defining description of what we did while we were at Allisons was "blob out". We watched quite a few movies out of Allisons extensive collection and spent one morning watching Allison appearing on a parliamentary estimates committee. To compensate for the slothfullness, I threw myself into repairing a gate and fence (and turning it around as Allison didn't like looking at the back of the gate).

Rotted framing was causing some severe bowing and near collapse

New framing, post and replacement of some palings past saving!

13-Feb. We did go and see some of the sights of Canberra. We had done a lot of them a couple of years ago, but this afternoon we went and visited the High Court and National Art gallery.

Outside the High Court - one of the few fountains still operating in a parched area!

Inside court room 1 at the High Court.

Sculpture hanging outside the National Art gallery.

15-Feb. We visited the Telstra Tower (great views over Canberra) and took a quick turn around the gardens of the Australian War Memorial and Anzac Parade.

Anzac Parade from the forecourt of the Australian War Memorial. Parliament House in the far center

Looking the other way across the forecourt at the front of the Australian War Memorial.

16-Feb.  We visited Parliament House. It's hard to know what to point out in a visit here, but starting with the forecourt, note the temporary fence around the out of action fountain and water feature (water restrictions apply here too).

They had on display one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta - can't remember quite how they came to have it, and you're not allowed to use a flash to photograph it, so it's a bit of a ho-hum shot.

These shots are all from the top of Parliament House. The original plan for Parliament was that it was not to sit above the town and "lord it" over the people as such, so when the highest spot in town was finally chosen, a novel feature was the incorporation of a public garden on top of the building so that the people could be "over the politicians" literally and metaphorically.

You can see the underside of the flag pole in the reflection next to Paula

Looking out from on top of Parliament House across the old Parliament building. In the far center, the other end of Anzac Parade and at the far, far end, the Australian War Memorial.

Flag pole atop  Parliament House

17-Feb. We left Canberra heading in the general direction of Sydney.  There's not that much to see on the highway, but as we reached the top of the cliff above Woonona there was a bit of a "wow" view. Ocean and lush green vegetation on a sunny day. It looked pretty good, but since we were concentrating on the very steep one lane descent and a broken down vehicle stuck coming up the hill we didn't get a photo. Woonona/Thirroul is where Paula's cousin Nigel lives and we stopped in at his shop to see him. Hot didely Dogs is the name of his business ( and he specialises in gourmet hot dogs ("didelys" as they're becoming known).  We tried them and they were delicious!

Next week, Sydney!