|We rented a car in Sydney (a little white corolla from Bayswater Car Rental with the slogan "No Birds" on the side - this will be an important point later) and set off for a loop south of Sydney and around the southern coast. This was a huge change from original plan of renting a camper van and touring the whole country, but with soaring gas prices and limited time and money, this was a much better option (in the weeks before our arrival gas prices went from about 80 cents a liter to around 1.10 per liter (Australian) which is around $4.00 per gallon, and with the weakening US dollar that's about $3.20 US per gallon). We had also planned to go to the Great Barrier Reef, but it's not the right season for it and after Tahiti we vowed not to go anywhere in it's rainy season. So anyway, off to Canberra, the capital. It is a very enjoyable city. Rush hour traffic is about 4 cars on wide, easy to navigate roads, so even driving on the left here wasn't that stressful. The campground was excellent and for $13 US we had access to a nice pool and big, clean facilities. The weather was also very agreeable. First we went to the Parliament. The building was designed by an American architect and was meant to incorporate itself into capital hill. The building was very nice and we had an entertaining and informative free tour. A few concepts we liked, including the fact that the ministers of the majority have "shadow" ministers in the minority party and every day they are in session at 2:00 pm they have a question hour where the shadow ministers ask direct questions to the ministers about whatever policies, etc. they want. Accountability, what a concept! The public can watch the question hour and it is also on the radio. The building also houses one the 4 original copies of the Magna Carta from 1215 (this date was almost the stumbling block that stopped me from graduating from high school, so now I remember it well. The examiner wasn't happy with "mid 13th century" as my answer - Charlie). We maximized the free sites of the city with a tour of the Botanical Gardens. One of their highlights is a pine tree that is featured in a film we saw at the Blue Mountains. It was thought to be extinct millions of years ago but was discovered in the Blue Mountains and was kept in secret and only a few specimens were exhibited. The specimens here were protected in a cage since in other places the trees were actually stolen. However, soon this won't be a concern because later this year they will be selling these trees to the public for planting. Last stop was the National Museum which features exhibits on aboriginal cultures and other aspects of Australian history and colonization. It's a great (and free) museum so don't miss it if you're in the area.