Friday, August 28, 2009

Roadtrip to the snow

We leave home around 7am, an hour later than planned – well, not really planned as much as anticipated which would be closer to the truth. Nothing goes to plan when we set a time to it, so it’s better to call it anticipation. It’s not that we fail to meet planned timings; with a family like ours, it can be a bit hit and miss.

Heading down the Hume Hwy we stop in Goulburn for a coffee and toilet break, or should than be a coffee refuel for maman et papa and a toilet stop for the tribe? Anyway, it became a play stop in the big park with the big trees and a big playground. In the park, we met "J", a five year old boy who was big for his age. Actually, big for his age is an understatement – he was big for his age in a similar proportion the Big Merino is to sheep that adorns the outskirts of Goulburn. Basically he was the size of a boy double his age – what’s in the waters here?

Heading south out of Goulburn, we pass by the Big Merino twice (to show the tribe) – first passing it on the road then we go around it through the carpark and then again on the road. Oh yes, it’s just an oversized sheep that’s 15 metres tall and the entrance to the gift shop is under its balls – just mind the dags (well not really, the entrance is to its side but imagine, if it were under its hind legs).

Canberra means lunch – in our language at least. Last time we were here several years ago on a weekend break visiting the museums and galleries, we found the place to be desolate and devoid of life. This time, we hit the main retail district at the lunch hour and spend a bit of time trying to find a park that isn't height restricted – the retail centre’s many carpark entries had a restriction of two metres and we were well over that with a luggage pod (cleverly disguised as a trendy, slick ski and snowboard pod) straddling the roof of our already tall four wheel tardis. Eventually we find an open-air carpark which suits us perfectly.

We hit the food court, followed by a brief amble through the complex in search of a supermarket to grab some provisions for our week’s break. Driving again, we find the streets are like that of our previous visit – sparsely populated and pretty much lifeless, as all life has been consumed by the many steel and glass edifices we pass. Such a stark contrast to Sydney’s Pitt St Mall or Melbourne’s Bourke St.

On our way out of town, we stop in Manuka to grab a coffee – plenty of cafes to choose, each as lifeless as the other at this time of day. And unbeknownst to us, we discover it be a mini Toorak or mini Double Bay – or should that be One-rak or Single Bay such is Manuka’s pretension to be grander than the sum of its soulless parts.

Along the Monaro Hwy to Cooma, we pass countless sleeping kangaroos by the roadside, each tagged with red paint – got us thinking that you sure do need protection when playing paintball skirmish. Actually, they were victims of the game ‘chicken’, or replicating that cliché of the car trying to outrun the train to the crossing and coming off the loser big time.

These sleeping kangaroos actually offer many passing drivers of a Kodak moment opportunity to replicate the works of Shaun Gladwell and his ‘Apology to Roadkill (1-6)’, but alas I don’t have leathers or a motorbike helmet packed in the car. While we didn’t stop to shoot a roo, we did however stop for the tribe to shoot into the wind.

Something that struck us on the road a short time out of Canberra was the prison (sorry ‘correctional facility’ . . . umm do they actually correct anything in these places?) – this must be the most secure prison in the country as in: to where would you escape? Canberra?

Ahhh, Cooma – closer to the snow, or at least they would like for you think so with the countless ski hire shops dotted along the road into town. It makes you feel you are actually in snow country – but where is the snow? Cooma is obviously delusional . No nearby hill looked like it had seen snow in quite a while – in fact it would be many more kilometres before we even see a glimpse of the white stuff. Yep, so after several hours on the road, the tribe is still wondering if this stuff really exists.

I visit a couple of these ski hire shops in the vain hope that they stock some second-hand kids gear at knock-off prices – why spend $$$ for a little kid who’ll outgrow the thing next week. Anyway, the folks in these establishments seem pleased as punch when I enter – you can see their thought bubble float above their heads (“oh goody, a customer . . . at last”) – and after a quick scan about the shop before I open my mouth, my replying thought bubble, like an arrow (“me, a customer, not really”) – evaporating their thought bubble in the process!

Our destination and holiday cottage is in Talbingo, a little town near Tumut over the other side of the Snowys and as we headed down the Snowy Mountains Hwy, we see glimpses of snow in the now fading light of the early evening, which cheers up the tribe no end – now they are excited.

Yes, snow is real!

We pass by Adaminaby but we don’t enter town to view the big trout. Along the winding narrow Snowy Mountains Hwy, no street lights, no moonlight and teaming with potential roadkill suicide targets, we see many roos, veer to miss scampering rabbits and startle three brumbies alongside our part of the road who literally appear from nowhere and disappear as quickly in the rearview .

Pity we were doing this drive in the fast fading light as we could see glimpses of the potential beauty of the scenery – patches of snow, the white dotting the landscape like a sprinkling of icing sugar on a dessert, interspersed among the clumps of snow gums and other alpine fauna.

We continue on our way to Talbingo, concentrating our watch in the hi-beam ahead to spot potential kamikaze wildlife as the darkness envelopes us.

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