On the road to Gundagai

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It was time to go home. Google maps picked us a route via the city motorways to the Hume Highway but it being a workday morning, we politely declined. Or maybe not very politely. 😊Instead, we went to the nearby town of Gisborne for breakfast. There aren’t too many places open anywhere at that time of day so we went to a cafe we’d gone into a day or two before, for a cup of tea. The lass at the counter looked at us aghast, as though we’d asked for a line of heroin. “We don’t do tea.” We’d gone elsewhere for tea, but the cafe did a good, cooked breakfast with a mug of coffee.

From there we negotiated a route of surprisingly busy ‘C’ roads to the Hume Highway well beyond Melbourne. The Hume, which crosses the Murray River and the border at Albury, is another river port, with Wodonga on the Victorian side and Albury in New South Wales. Since we’d enjoyed the Beechworth Bakery in Echuca so much, we made a point of finding the Beechworth Bakery in Albury for a lunch stop. It turned out to be a huge disappointment. Rather than a grand old building on the riverbank, the restaurant was a cramped shop in the town’s large mall. The service wasn’t brilliant, and the food was forgettable.

We headed on up the highway for our overnight stop in Gundagai.

We’d driven the Hume several times years ago. Back then the state of the road signalled which state we were in. The Victorian side of the Hume was a four-lane highway. Past the ‘Welcome to NSW’ sign it was two lanes with passing lanes here and there, with the speed limits changing it felt like every few kilometres. But that was the past. It’s now an excellent motor way all the way, passing through rolling green hills dotted with sheep and cattle.

The highway now bypasses Holbrook but we made a detour to take a picture of HMAS Otway. This Australian submarine was (obviously) retired some time ago and its shell above the waterline is installed in a park as part of a submarine museum. The museum houses some artefacts from the Otway and a reconstruction of its wardroom.

You would be forgiven for asking why there is a submarine museum in inland NSW. The town was originally named Germanton but amid anti-German sentiment after the First World War it was renamed to Holbrook, after Royal Navy Commander Norman Holbrook, who earned a Victoria Cross in 1914. He commanded B11 an obsolete submarine which carried out a dangerous mission to sink an Ottoman battleship, Mesudiye. There’s a model of that submarine in the park.

Holbrook himself had no association with the town before it was renamed, although he and his wife visited it several times afterward.

The scale model of B11 (from Wikipedia [read all about it])

Back in the car, we drove on to Gundagai. We’d never stopped there although we’d seen the sign to the dog on the tuckerbox. It’s a part of Australian folklore and of course the tiny town has used it to attract tourists.

“The inspiration for the statue has been traced to a poem, “Bullocky Bill”, published anonymously by “Bowyang Yorke” in 1857. Other references state that the poem was published in 1880, in the Gundagai Times, but confirmation of either date is hard to find. The poem humorously describes a series of misfortunes faced by a bullock driver, culminating in his dog either sitting on or spoiling the food in his tucker-box – an Australian colloquialism for a box that holds food, similar to a lunchbox, but larger.” You can read the poem on Wikipedia.

This folksong is the version everyone remembers.

We had some fun finding the motel we’d booked, even with (or maybe because of) help from Google Maps. The address was given as No.1 on the road. Google took us along a very beautiful winding road along the banks of the Murrumbidgee and said we’d reached our destination with not a building in sight a good five kilometres out of town. We backtracked and found the caravan park with Google turned off. It was the other end of that same road.

It’s a large park with plenty of powered and unpowered sites – and something we’d never seen before – covered parking for caravans. I expect the fee was rather higher. Some of them are shown in the picture below, top right.

Cabins for those without vans, and undercover parking for vans

The caravan park has also catered for tourists like us who don’t tow a van. The cabins are built by Jayco, a company which builds caravans. It was spacious and comfortable and had all the mod cons for a longer stay. We walked to the local bowls club in the town’s main street for dinner. But it wasn’t the most peaceful night. The Hume Highway passes much closer to the park than we’d imagined and heavy traffic travels up and down that road all night.

We actually visited the dog on the tuckerbox on our way the next day, it being situated ‘5 miles from Gundagai’ on the northern side.

Next time we’re approaching the Big Smoke.

Spring is in the air via Midjourney

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