We have been travelling home over the last two days. The weather has been exceptionally hot but air conditioned cars have made it at least tolerable.
We left Canberra on Sunday as early as we could manage and stopped at the little village of Cockington Green on our way out of Canberra. This is a miniature village and has been open for many years although, in all my trips to Canberra, I have never stopped there before. One half of the area displays miniature scenes and villages from southern England, while other half has miniature buildings from any parts of the world. Some of these places are real tourist traps but I can highly recommend Cockington Green as a place to visit. It is immaculately kept and the attention to detail is very high.
We were back on the road by 11.00 am by when the temperature was about 35 C degrees. We just drove south in the heat until we reached the tiny town of Jugiong. It is a little village community on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River and was first settled in the 1820’s.
There was a time, before the highway bypassed the town, when Jugiong was known as one of the great speed traps on the Hume Highway. The temptation was overwhelming. Drivers from the south would come over the hill and there before them was a long, straight stretch of road just asking to be driven at a great speed. Police, eager to enrich the state’s coffers with speeding fines, would wait behind the row of giant poplars which edged the road to make a classic speed trap. Today the town comprises little more than a church, a pub and a service station.
The one building that dominates the tiny town is the Sir George Tavern. It was built in 1845 by an Irish immigrant, John Sheahan. The first version was constructed on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River but, like Gundagai which is only 39 km away, it was prone to flooding and in the great flood of 1852 it was washed away. Sheahan persisted. He brought stonemasons from Ireland and they constructed the building which still stands today. It has sandstone walls that are 500 cm thick and full of real olde world charm. It is known as the oldest family-run hotel in Australia with the descendants of John Philip Sheahan still in charge. We stopped there for lunch as it has a real gastronomic menu. It’s hard to understand that a pub in a location like this could have such a fantastic menu. Another amazing thing was that our table was right next to a family from Violet’s school who were traveling through to Sydney. There was no problem with boredom at this place – Violet and Audrey were very happy to engage in a lengthy conversations with their school friends.
By the time we left for Albury, it was really hot. A signpost at the crossroads in the town pointed to a memorial to Sergeant Parry. I wasn’t sure of the significance of this memorial until I looked it up on Wikipedia. On 16 November 1864, the Bushranger Ben Hall and this gang held up a mail coach between Gundagai and Jugiong and shot and killed the 32 year-old Sergeant Edmund Parry. By the time the mail coach reached their ambush, they had already held up nearly sixty people including a group of twenty Chinese gold miners. The mail coach was being escorted by Sub-Inspector O’Neill and Sergeant Parry. O’Neill survived only because he ran out of bullets and surrendered.
The only stop we made between Jugiong and Albury was for an ice-cream in Holbrook. The temperature wavered between 41 and 42 degrees in our car (107F) and Cathy’s car was showing 44C degrees. It was a great relief to get into an air conditioned hotel room once we arrived in Albury at about 4.00m pm.
This morning, Albury had a shower of rain and not only was it hot, but it was also now quite humid. The temperature for Albury looks about the dame for the entire week.
It became a little cooler (32C) as we approached Seymour and we stopped there for a look at the Vietnam Memorial and for lunch. Seymour is near the army base of Puckapunyal where many National Servicemen, like me, completed their military training in the 1970’s before heading off to Vietnam. The memorial was constructed by the local city council in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans Association. It has a long wall with the names of all Australians who served in the Army, Navy and Airforce in Vietnam (nearly 65,000 people). I’ve seen it a few times before, but I’m always impressed with its size and stature. They now have a Huey helicopter on a pole and some other equipment such as a tank and an Armoured personnel Carrier used in Vietnam. Again, I saw my name on the wall ( BL WILSON) but it appears twice. Initially, I assumed that I must have done such a good job that they listed me twice. Actually, I am the second of the two names, I looked up the nominal roll of Vietnam Veterans and found that the first name belonged to a Barry Wilson who was an Infantryman.
We had lunch at the famous Gaffney’s Pie Shop in the main street of Seymour. Their business started in the nearby town of Heathcote and they are well known for their variety of meat pies, pasties and sausage rolls. Seymour has developed a lot since my National Service days. There are some new shops and the site of the old town hall is now a shopping mall.
We were back home around 4.00 pm and thankfully the temperature in Melbourne had dropped to a pleasant 26 C.