Luck is a major determinant of your fortunes when you decide to choose a neighbourhood and a home from 15,000 kilometres away, and I’m happy to report that ‘the lucky country’ has so far blessed us with a fair amount of fortune.
A mere month ago, Gungahlin seemed an exotic name for an outer suburb of a city we’d researched but didn’t know too much about. We reasoned that, given Canberra’s reputation for being easy to get around, even if Gungahlin turned out to be as dull as an Eskimo’s diet, there would be plenty of other options within easy reach.
Luckily – there’s that word again – Gungahlin has turned out to have more than its own fair share of delights.
Last weekend we gave the kids a rundown of the leisure options within a few minutes’ drive of our house. The clear winner was Canberra Reptile Zoo, which is located in Gold Creek.
The place doesn’t look very promising from the outside and is clearly undergoing some renovation but with entry for the whole family costing less than $40, I wasn’t smarting too much at the dissonance between price and experience.
The place is small, comprising two main exhibit rooms linked by a short corridor, but what the place lacks in space, it more than makes up for with the enthusiasm of its staff, their subject knowledge and their eagerness to share it.
No sooner had we entered, than two of the staff came back into the exhibit rooms and started lifting lizards, snakes and mini-crocs from their enclosures and offering wide-eyed kids an opportunity to greet the animals close-up, while also learning about their diets, natural habitats and whether you should be wary of them in the wild.
I must confess to hanging around at the back of the group, lest I should be forced to brave holding a snake or something, but our two boys loved it – as did many others, judging by the squeals and screams coming from a birthday party group in the garden.
I think it’s stretching definitions to call the place a zoo, but I can’t argue with the fact that we spent a thoroughly worthwhile hour and a half there. An added bonus was the fact that our eldest son wanted to go straight to the library the next day so he could borrow a book about reptiles. Any day out that gets him reading is a winner with me.
Most importantly, the first snake I met in Australia was behind a glass door which was secured with a nice heavy padlock. Even so, above its enclosure was a map showing that it was native to the Canberra region. With more of that luck I spoke about, I won’t meet its relatives any time soon.
All reptiled out, we walked over the road to the specialist tea cafe Adore Tea, which proudly declares itself to be a coffee free zone.
There, Mrs CBRbound and I soothed away the close encounters with Gungahlin’s scaly residents with one of the 300 types of tea on offer and cream scones that wouldn’t look out of place in Devon or Cornwall.
Meanwhile, the kids sipped iced tea and watched the fire-breathers that were performing for cafe guests and asked if we could visit the nearby National Dinosaur Museum next.
That’s within walking distance of our house too. Lucky that, eh?