Without doubt the most expensive aspect of holidaying is accommodation, so how amazing would it be if you could stay in awesome houses and apartments for absolutely nothing? Well, I have news for you buddy, you can, thanks to the wonderful world of House sitting 🙂 All that’s needed in return is to look after the odd dog, cat or water some plants.
The time had come for our first house sitting assignment in Australia: We were off to the lesser known city of Goulburn! Following a 2 hour cruise along the repetitive grey tarmac of Australia’s Hume Motorway, we soon found ourselves parking up outside an old, characterful (for Australia) house just a stone’s throw away from the main high street.
Within seconds of entering, we were attacked (in the kind and metaphorical sense) by two well-fed English Staffies, by the names of Guess and Roxy. Fortunately the welcoming owners quickly calmed things down, and soon we were introduced to the other animals: Spike and Shirley (cockatiels), a canary and two nameless gold fish. After a quick tour of the house and a run through of feeding instructions, the owners departed, and we were left in charge.
Who knew there was so much history!? A walking tour of Goulburn
Goulburn had it’s own tourist information office, bursting with suggestions of things to do locally – little did we know that Goulburn is in fact Australia’s very first inland city! Once we’d collected a pile of brochures, pamphlets and maps, we took a walk up to the war memorial that sits upon a nearby hill, overlooking the town below. Not only was the view impressive, the museum was far bigger and expansive than we’d expected. Interestingly they had on show some Japanese invasion money, printed as a replacement for Australian money following their intended conquest of Australia – fortunately this never became a reality!
After nipping home for a spot of lunch and a quick play with the dogs – Guess loves playing fetch with her beloved ball, we set off on a walking tour of the town following a map acquired at the tourist office. The 3 hour tour proved to be quite interesting and took us past numerous historical buildings with fascinating back stories. These included a huge warehouse full of second hand books by the name of the Argyle Emporium, an old railway station, the wonderfully Art Deco Elmslea Chambers, a quaint little museum and a rather impressive courthouse.
We were glad to get back home afterwards for a cup of tea, considering it had started to sleet – not what we were expecting! Thankfully we had retro ski jackets lent to us by Martin and Christa, to keep us warm while walking the dogs later on.
Going underground: Checking out the nearby Wombeyan Caves
Conveniently there were two substantial sized caves within a short distance from Goulburn. Although it was tempting to head for the Jenolan caves as it was a nickname given to Joella by my Uncle and cousins when visiting Scotland the previous year, we opted for the closer Wombeyan caves. Following an hours drive through windy country roads and dirt tracks, we found ourselves parking opposite a field full of grazing kangaroos (worryingly referred to as a ‘mob’). We couldn’t help take a few photos before purchasing our tickets and making our way to the entrance of Fig Tree Cave.
With little to no light, we initially felt as though we were walking through narrow tunnels, but as we carefully made our way round the corner, a series of lights dramatically came on, presenting the cavernous underground cave that surrounded us. In fact it’s so big that it goes by the name of the Cathedral Cavern and has appropriately named karst rock formations including ‘The Organ Pipes’. The self guided tour was definitely worth the trip, thanks to the dramatic rock formations and excellent audio guide that automatically played as we approached certain points.
That evening we treated ourselves to Australia’s favourite pub grub: Chicken Schnitzels, washed down with some satisfyingly cheap happy-hour drinks at the Hibernian Hotel.
A whirlwind trip around Australia’s regimentally laid out capital: Canberra
Considering we were just over an hour’s drive away from Australia’s Capital: Canberra, we couldn’t not head over for a day trip. After parking up opposite the enormous fountain by the name of Captain Cook Memorial Jet, we felt very much like we were in a ghost town as we walked around, given how few people were about.
Our first stop was to be the National Gallery, followed by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. Both offered a mesmerising collection of classical and contemporary art that we could have spent all day gazing upon, but as we only had a day, we reluctantly dragged ourselves away.
Canberra’s most striking landmark is without doubt Parliament House that overlooks the surrounding buildings. Initially we walked towards it, expecting to take a few photos then be on our way; little did we know we’d soon find ourselves inside, watching a live debate in the Senate!
Although we were keen to be on our way so as to avoid driving at dusk – a common time for kangaroos to be hit on the road, we couldn’t resist a 15 minute whirlwind tour of the War Memorial Museum, that sits strikingly opposite Parliament House in the distance. The collection of uniforms, tanks, aeroplanes and weapons was truly breathtaking, expansive and fascinating enough to easily spend a day looking around, maybe for another visit then…
That evening I was in the dog house, after hitting Guess’ ball too energetically over the hedge. Despite there being an identical new ball on hand to throw for her, this didn’t stop her sitting outside for half an hour gazing up at the sky hoping for her original ball to soon return – I felt very guilty!
Will it ever end? Blown away (almost literally) by a 3 hour firework extravaganza
Prior to arriving in Goulburn, I’d already researched local events, and was pleased to have discovered a firework display happening on our penultimate evening, in the nearby town of Gunning. We arrived as the sun was setting, and grabbed ourselves some melt in your mouth salt beef rolls before wandering round the oval racecourse that was to be the the stage for the display.
Soon the fireworks began, and we were immediately impressed by the 10 minute introduction. This was then followed by almost 2 hours of continuous fireworks, one by one – this was more of a trade show to allow national display teams to view and buy their favourite gear (fireworks can’t legally be bought in Oz unless you have a license). But all of this was barely a warm-up in comparison to the finale we were treated to at the end; a 15 minute barrage of cataclysmic explosive delights, which often nearly hit the various groups of spectators (inc us), too hypnotised to run away. This was without doubt the greatest firework display we’d ever seen!
Before departing, we couldn’t resist visiting the Big Merino, a giant sheep standing proudly alongside the freeway. This is one of over 150 “Big things” that are scattered all over Australia, most of which originally acted as tourist traps along major roads, between popular destinations. Little does Joella know, that I plan for us to visit as many of these as possible during our time here in Australia 😉