Canberra

Trip Start Sep 10, 2012
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Trip End Dec 12, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Australian Capital Territory,
Monday, December 3, 2012

The ferry ride was as uncomfortable as on the way to Tasmania. Even after watching Rock of Ages May couldn't sleep. Ben was out like a light and didn’t wake up until all the other passengers had left the Ocean Recliner area!

After disembarking we headed straight out of town, we had a long way to go to Sydney. We also wanted to check out Canberra. It seems strange that the capital city would be decidedly optional for us on our trip but everyone we had asked about it said not to bother. However this only aroused our interest further. If it really was rubbish then it deserved a visit! And it was basically on our way.

We eventually got out of Melbourne and headed for the border, stopping only at a Hungry Jacks where, having declined the food on offer, we cooked ourselves a fry up. But before leaving Victoria we had one more stop to make. Ben saw a town names Glenrowan and had one of those moments when he was sure he had seen that town in a guide book. Swift research revealed that he was right and into Glenrowan we drove – we would be beginning our drive to Australia’s law-making capital by visiting the town of the nation’s most famous law-breaker!

Ben’s favourite biography of Ned Kelly is found in the Bill Bryson book – "He was a murderous thug who deserved to be hanged and was." But there is quite a story for those of you who know the name but not the rest of the story. Ned came from a family of Irish settlers and led a gang of 'bushrangers’ (highwaymen) who generally terrorised the population. The gang caused so much trouble that 4 police officers were sent to arrest them. The gang killed 3 of them horrifically and the fourth escaped and raised the alarm. And so the gang came to be surrounded here at Glenrowan – Ned Kelly’s last stand. The gunfight lasted quite a while and by the end Ned, aged only 26, was the only one unharmed. From the smoke he emerged, wearing a suit of homemade armour and a tin helmet. Unfortunately his legs weren’t protected and one of the police shot him in the leg and arrested him. He was promptly taken to Melbourne and hanged.

You may think that this is not the romantic story you have ever heard, but to Australians Ned Kelly is a national hero on the same level as Robin Hood (personally we think they need new role models). And no more so than in Glenrowan where they are attempting to maintain a tourist town based solely on this man. There are numerous shops and museums (unfortunately the awful puppet show described by Bill Bryson was closed) and a giant Ned Kelly statue. We wandered around town and got some old-style photos taken which we were very pleased with.

We bid goodbye to Victorian and headed into New South Wales. There was no welcome sign to the state. Since Australians love welcoming visitors to everywhere we can only assume New South Wales residents are a little ashamed of their state. Apart from a minor fuel emergency (every fuel station on the road seemed to shut at midday leaving us dangerously close to running out by mid-afternoon!) we soon entered ACT (the Australian capital’s own state) and by nightfall were outside Canberra ready for a day of sightseeing and being very touristy.

Canberra is a relatively new city. It was purposefully designed, it is large, spacious, green and we loved it! It has easy parking, all the main attractions are clumped together and it is just a very attractive city. After our compulsory stop at the tourist information centre we went to the war memorial. This is also a museum very similar to the Imperial War Museum. A guided tour was about to start which we joined. The guide asked everyone where they were from and finished with an Asian couple who said they were from Hiroshima in Japan – you can’t make this stuff up!

The memorial is beautiful and tranquil and the museum is very detailed. It focuses largely on the First World War Gallipoli campaign and the New Guinean campaign in the Second Worl war but covered everything else as well as ANZACs were based all over the world in both wars (they truly are the forgotten army).

After this we went to the Parliament. This is right in the middle of the city surrounded by a large roundabout which locals are scared of but we found remarkably tame! The best bit of the Parliament is.... you can park underneath it!! How many parliaments are there in the world where members o the public and foreign tourists can park literally underneath the legislature?! We were very impressed.

We joined another guided tour in the building. It was being led by a very articulate young man hwo suffered from the voice raising that so many young Australians do. They raise their voices at the end of every sentence which makes them sound very uncertain of everything and as if every line in a question. This had us giggling a lot, particularly when he asked whether anyone had any questions. Ben’s whispered response was “We don’t but clearly you have several queries.” We were soon getting odd looks as we continued to giggle.

The building itself is quite new, completed in 1988, and is based on the UK parliament – two chambers who both have to approve legislation (with the monarch’s representative’s approval) and one chamber is green and the other red. But to distinguish themselves they are a lighter red and green than their UK counterparts. Of slight interest are the ‘exit’ signs in the senate – they are red, they claim the only red exit signs in the world and they had to pass an act of parliament to allow this. In both chambers the Australian coat of arms, the emu and the kangaroo, stare down at the members of parliament. Personally we found this a little odd. Other countries have great statesmen or monarchs staring down at them, the Australians have slightly bemused looking animals reminding them of their duties... A last point; you can also walk on the roof of the parliament where there is a lawn (once again, how many parliaments have grass on their roof?!) and you can see the whole city.

Next stop, the Australian museum. It contained considerable information on settlement and colonisation and a large warped map of the country which seemed to omit major cities but mentioned a number of places we remembered fondly (see photos). It also had an interactive lab where you could design futuristic houses and then view them in 3D.

We then wanted to check out the more social side of the city by night. Ben had a traffic nightmare when he didn’t notice that a road was for buses only. We had a heart attack! However after speaking to a local traffic warded we reckon we got lucky. Well we’re still waiting for the fine to arrive.... We celebrated with tacos instead of pancakes which had become our Australian city tradition. We wandered around, played catch on the escalators (we’re very mature) and grabbed Asian food for dinner (Chinese with a spoon for Ben and Japanese with chopsticks for May) at a cheap chain food place, Wok and Roll. whilst watching the cricket (Australia lost as we watched).

Then it was time to leave town and continue on the final leg of our journey. Canberra had exceeded all expectations. That being said we both agreed we couldn't have stayed there for more than a day...
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