After breakfast, we decided that we want to see the parliament building. At one point we could not skip the all the tourist spots, and just visit local pools and bike paths.
Australian Parliament Building
This is the new one, that was opened in 1988. Before settling in its current home Australian Government got to move few times: the parliament was housed at the Provisional (or Old) Parliament House before 1988, and somewhere in Melbourne before 1927. I wanted to see it, because I thought it looked cool from the Google Maps.
Located on the Capital Hill, most of the building looks like it is hidden underground. If you look at it from the top, you will see the big “X” of a green roof, that eventually just rolls down and connects to the lawn, made to look like 2 crossed boomerangs. From the ground, it just looks green and peaceful.
We did not go inside, since we do not know much about Australian history or political system, but we took our time walking around. At every corner there was little something. We admired sculptures and artwork. And even visited a tiny botanical garden where different countries’ gifts were displayed.
After about an hour, we got in the car, and headed to the Snowy Mountains.
Side note on Australian Gasoline
Just like the coffee, this energizing liquid deserves its own mention. I think I am starting to see the pattern: everything that gives you power to move costs lots of money on this continent. While I am not quite sure how much an average Australian makes, it seems that they are ok paying an average of $1.80 for a liter of unleaded gas. I am not a car person, but I think it has a higher octane number compared to Canada, but still …. I should probably ask my uncle who spent most of his career on the oil refinery. Point is, I cry when I see anything higher than $1.2 at the pump at home.
Second thing when it comes to driving in Australia, is filling up when you see the gas station. Us, city dwellers are used to see a station every 50-100 kilometers. Even when we go out to the wilderness, we still expect our rest stop with Canadian Tire gas and Tim Hortons coffee. Not there, buddy. Once you are out of the town, you better have enough fuel to get to the next one. And in the villages, most of the stations close at 5 (that was a shock: what do you mean Shell is not a 24/7 establishment?!). It was a bit stressful, given the fact we like seeing our cars counting last kilometers until starving the engine stops.
Once you find a station, most of them are pretty international: BP, Shell and stuff like that. Just to make you feel better, most of them offer some sort of a coupon to a grocery store. Kind of like Shell printing a 20 cents off barcode for Sobey’s. You could also get gas coupon on your grocery bill. But just like in Canada we never had it with us at the right time to use it.
Land of the Sleeping Kangaroos
Once we got out of Canberra, we started driving through more of the empty spaces, except for this time the surroundings got flatter and much more open. Now there were fields, lavender, and sheep. I thought of my cousin’s wife, who would be in heaven there.
The landscape started to look exactly as the National Geographic depicts this continent. Big open fields, rocks and very little grass. Perfect background for a kangaroo or two to bounce across. And still nothing!
The only kangaroos we saw were the ones “sleeping” on the road’s shoulder. It started feeling like we missed something, or were too late.
Welcome to Snowy Mountains
And eventually we hit the real mountains. We drove around for 2 days, not stopping to admire all the different views. But only when we entered the Jindabyne village, and turned a corner it truly hit us. Lake Jindabyne spread in front of us, Thredbo mountains towering over it. Seriously, there is no camera that can capture the breathtaking beauty of the views in front of us.
We started climbing the constantly twisting mountain road towards the race site. Finding the lake Crackenback (much smaller, but no less beautiful lake of the region) was pretty easy, as the ITU festivities had already started. All competing countries’ flags were greeting arriving athletes. Music was blasting. And hundreds of triathletes were running around, getting themselves oriented, testing out parts of the course and making some last adjustments to there equipment.
While Alex tested out the course and met his first Kangaroo, I sat down at the lake and enjoyed some quiet time before the madness of the next few days of the Championship Event.
Kosciuszko National Park and Thredbo Mountain
Remember how we were staying 20 minutes from the race site further into the wilderness. Once we left the lake Crackenback we continued climbing up the twisting and turning road up the mountain.
All of a sudden, no insurance thing made sense. Roadside was covered with all sorts of warning signs: “200 meters until next chain bay”, “ensure your AWD is on”, “install your chains now”. I honestly would not want to drive there in the winter. I think the limit was 70-90, but even after a week of driving back and fourth we could never stomach more than 60.
But if you worked up enough courage to look over the railing (or just off the cliff in some spots) you would never want to leave. Thredbo river on the bottom, white peaks of the mountains over your head. We were there in November (mid-May equivalent or us North Americans) and there was still snow on top. They were advertising it as a last chance to ski this year.
We needed to purchase a weekly park pass just to stay at the hotel, but it wasn’t too much. I just wish we had more time to go explore the area.
Finally a Kangaroo
After a quick nap and a shower we headed back to Lake Crackenback for dinner with the team. It was about 5:30 and it was starting to get dark. And there they all were! Lined up along the road, kangaroos and wallabies staring at the passing cars. It was like a parade, every corner had 2 or 3 of them just watching us. And when we came back at night, they were all gone. Turned out that most of the Australian animals are active during the dusk and dawn hours, and then they hide somewhere from the sun during the way.
So with the kangaroo off the list, we only had to see a wombat now. But that was a challenge for another day. First we needed to sleep a bit.