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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Canberra, part 1

During the most recent school holidays, the boys and I took a 4-day trip to Canberra. Canberra is Australia's capital city. It is a planned city, much like Washington, DC. It was chosen as the capital in the early 1900s as a compromise in distance between Sydney and Melbourne. Again, much like how Washington, DC, was chosen as the US capital. (At the time of its choosing, Washington, DC, was the very near the geographic center of the country!)

Before I can tell you about our adventures in Canberra, I have to tell you about our adventure getting to Canberra.

Like many humans traveling by car to a new / unfamiliar place, I popped the destination address into the car's GPS and off we went.

Traveling along the motorway in Oz is quite different from the US. There aren't billboards promoting McDonald's, Starbucks or Subway at the next twenty seven exits. There simply aren't billboards or advertisements. Every so often there would be a directional road sign, but playing the ABC game along the Aussie motorway is a no-go. There are emergency phones every kilometre with small directional signs between them so you know which way to walk to the nearest phone. That's about it.

At some point along the route, I saw some mobile signs warning that the Hume highway was closed. I paid little attention to these signs as a) I thought "they can't just close the one motorway between Sydney and Canberra!"; and b) I didn't know the motorway I was on was called the Hume. You know where this is going...

When we hit the backup, I was still perplexed. We had passed some rural fire brigade trucks waiting (presumably) to be called into action. We had seen the signs of the motorway closure. And yet still, I was perplexed. I was quite focused on safely getting to Canberra before the boys became too unruly. And before dinner. And before our petrol ran out.

At the point of the standstill we happened to be near an exit. I figured we'd take our chances. The GPS lady (in her brilliant Aussie except, no less) kept telling us to "turn back where possible." I had a hunch, though, that we had to stay the course. And then the road became unpaved. The anxious child was growing very concerned. The adventurous child was loving the bumps and uncertainty.

Whenever the GPS lady told us to turn, the road would be blocked. So we just kept following the few brave cars ahead of us. Through the dirt and mud, the ups and downs, the Aussie hillside. When we were nearing what looked like a paved road ahead, I realized we'd just driven through a sheep farmer's land. He was standing at the gate waving drivers through his gates.

Once we were back on the Hume, it was smooth sailing. And suspiciously almost no cars on the motorway alongside us. It wasn't until we reached our hotel in Canberra that we learned of bushfires along the Hume that had forced its closure.
Photo courtesy of the Canberra Times / Lisa Martin

The road was reopened later that evening; I heard only one lane in each direction for some time to help control the massive backups. 

I'm quite thankful we arrived to Canberra safely with only some delay. I'm even more thankful no people were hurt and no homes destroyed. 

More on Canberra next...

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