They were excited that we had to drive through Canberra, and kept asking "Is this Canberra?" at every town, until I said "Canberra is after Yass." They changed their tune to "Is this Yass?" The town immediately after Yass is a 1 pub, 1 shop village called Murrumbateman. The kids went very quiet as we drove through, then Alan said "Canberra isn't very big."
Of course, once we hit Canberra they were happy. We spent some time driving around the centre ("There's Parliament House! No, we can't stop to go in. There's the War Memorial! No, we can't stop to go in" etc.) then took them up Mount Ainsley to get a view of the whole city. They were very happy, but I don't know if it was the view or the ice-cream truck parked there.
At some point between Canberra and Cooma (ie around 3pm) the question of when we would get there arose. I told them it would be nearly dark. Five minutes later I was told the sun was setting, so are we there yet?
"Can you see the Sea?" I asked.
"Then we're not there yet!"
"Is that the sea?" asked David pointing to a dam.
Man, the country is dry! Dams are empty, rivers are dry. Paddocks look like dirt with trees sticking out. It was like that all the way, and every town advertised they were on water restrictions. The treeless Monaro Plains around Nimmetabel look awful. And the haze prevented us from seeing the mountains around there. Everything faded off into the wild brown yonder.
We turned off at Bemboka to avoid Bega ("Oh Muuuum! I want to see the cheese factory there!" "Be quiet Den!") and reached Merimbula at 7pm. The kids saw the pool closed at 8pm and vanished in that direction for an hour. We settled in to our cabins, neat little 5 berth affairs (1x double bed + 3 bunks, tiny bathroom, cooking area) and sat in the warm evening to munch ham sandwiches and listen to the surf pound the beach a short 5 minute walk away.
Next morning I sat on the step, munching toast and vegemite and smelling the unfamilliar salt air. Something touched my foot and I looked down. There, looking hopeful that I might drop some toast, were 30 rainbow lorikeets and a pair of crimson rosellas. I knew bread was bad for them so I bought a heap of packets of birdseed at the office. It kept the kids amused and the birds off my toast and veg.
After an early swim in the pool we went for a swim at the beach. Except I didn't swim due to my crap lungs so I sat on the beach and went pink despite wearing sunscreen, a hat, a long-sleaved shirt and jeans. This was the second time EVER the kids had seen the sea. They'd forgotten it was salty and I laughed a lot. They didn't know all the things I took for granted: that waves are strong, the tides (will the water come back? where does it go?), that the sea is salty, that jellyfish sting. The jellies were the large, orange ones whose sting is more an agravating itch than anything.
Eventually we made it back to the caravan park, where the kids went for a swim in the pool. Uncle Don arrived and we got ready for an evening beach-side BBQ at the free electric BBQs. It was Jolly Nice! Cold beer and sausage sandwiches.
On Saturday, after a swim in the pool, we headed down to Eden to look at the whaling museum. Back in the 30s Eden was the site of a shore-based whaling centre. Orcas would heard the rights and humpbacks close to shore, then the pod leader would go and fetch the whalers. He'd leap around the jetty until the men jumped in the boats, and if they weren't fast enough he'd grab the anchor line of a boat and tow it to the whale. After the men killed the animal they'd leave the orcas to take what they wanted before towing the carcas to shore. Afther the pod leader died in 1934 the orcas stopped helping, and the whaling station closed down a few years later. Australia signed the whaling moritorium in 1947. The girls, Carla and Jessica, were enthralled by the whale and dolphin video playing in the theater.
Then we went to Uncle Don's and Aunty Kay's for dinner. We ate too much, drank too much, and listened to CDs: Creedence, Blind Faith, Tommy Emmanuel, Chris Rea, and Leo Kottke. (note to self: buy Augerge by Chris Rea, and try to find some Leo Kottke)
Sunday was time to head home. So after a walk on the beach and a swim in the pool, and feeding the birds, and another swim in the pool, we packed everything and left. There were the obligatory stops in Cooma, Yass, and Cowra. The sky grew darker as we headed inland, and about halfway between Cowra and Forbes we hit a dust storm. Then the rain came, red mud at first but eventually it removed more than it deposited. I could see in the distance, about where Dubbo is, a fierce lightning storm. It had ended by the time we arrived at 7pm.
Scruffy and Polly were very happy to see us. And so was Dad. He'd cooked us dinner. Which was nice.