As we approached Canberra, I wondered where it was concealed? Honestly it was virtually invisible. We drove through tree lined suburbs and it was hard to believe that we were closing in on Australia’s capital city. Remembering the vast cities of highrise buildings we had travelled through in China, or Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Canberra is by contrast, very subdued.
Another Sydney cousin, who had briefly lived in Milton Keynes, said Canberra reminded her of Milton Keynes. I am not sure that makes it a must go to destination!
The next day we did visit both the old and new parliament buildings and walked along the ‘rogues’ gallery. Below we have portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Menzies.
Tucked away in a passageway was this Barunga statement prepared by indiginous people calling on the Government to recognise their rights in respect of self determination and rights to land.
Outside the old parliament building is situated a small scruffy tent city and indigenous ‘Embassy’, testament to the fact that some indigenous people think little of the Australian government’s stewardship of the land and there are regular complaints about mining rights, water and land ownership.
We walked past a desolutary figure blowing into a didgeridoo whilst doing a lonely dance around the dying embers of a camp fire on the equivalent of our Parliament Square. No-one was watching apart from a tattooed lady-friend and us as we made our way up to the steps of the Parliament building.
A small bowl with a few coins in, was sitting close to a bronze statue of aboriginal figures, presumably to collect donations to support the struggle. The magnificent war memorial can be spied in the far distance.
We later visited the site of this very striking war memorial which commemorates all those Australians lost in many different overseas campaigns. The scale of it is quite thought provoking.
The memorial was visible from both the old and new parliament buildings and had been placed exactly opposite these buildings at the end of a very long ‘processional’ promenade. This image is from the memorial back to the old and new Parliament buildings along the processional route.
Tucked in and around the many tree lined parks and lakes are other civic buildings, museums and galleries. There are visitors, but it seemed very low key and quiet on a weekend.
Our friend Albert Namatjira, the aboriginal artist who was much admired but imprisoned for sharing alcohol with friends, and the subject of a previous blog appeared again in Canberra painted by William Dargie.
I learnt that Dame Nellie Melba sang the National Anthem at the State Opening of Parliament in Canberra in 1926, the year of my mother’s birth.
We stayed on the outskirts of Canberra with Jemma, another cousin and her delightful pup Darcy. (I had forgotten what it was like to live with a young dog and every time we left our bedroom door slightly ajar, Jim’s socks would appear chewed up in the living room).
On our first night with Jemma, we all decided to eat out in a busy local restaurant called The Olive. We had a great mediterranean meal and I would not have mentionned it, if it were not for the fact that a small item in the local paper reported that it was fire bombed and burnt down entirely within days of our visit!
Dog walking in Australia is quite different from the UK or European experience. Dogs are completely banned from the vast expanse of National Parks. These areas are massive and plentiful. However, the concern is that dogs will chase the abundent wild life and perhaps kill cockatoos or guanas.
Or startle the emu’s.
Or threaten a wallaby.
Or sniff at a black swan?
Therefore Darcy’s exercise was limited to an orderly brisk walk around the neighbourhood Ginninderra Lake on a lead, plus a short scamper around a small fenced dog zone where dogs can be off the leash.
This in contrast to our Tilly’s romps in Greenwich Park where she tore around trying to catch one of the many grey squirrels, before they scarpered swiftly up a large horse chestnut tree. In her youth, she would tear from tree to tree until totally exhausted and have nothing to show for her efforts. Out in the countryside at home dogs are free to run off the leash on public paths and on National Parkland as long as they are well behaved and restrained in paddocks with horses, or fields with cows or other livestock or out on moorland with grazing sheep.
On our way back to Sydney, Jim hatched a plan to take us on a detour through the Blue Mountains. Needless to say this was the moment that the heavens decided to open on the parched landscape and our windscreen wiper motor gave up the ghost. We made it to Goulburn and found another garage to take a look. Like the Toyota garage in Istanbul, they too recommended we replaced the motor. However, even though Toyotas like ours are very common, locally they drive on the right. Left hand drive Landcruiser wiper motors are different from right hand drive cars and we were stuck with what we had got for the time being.
They decided to bodge something up in the garage and basically advised us not to use them unless absolutely necessary!
Whilst we waited in the garage we noticed that they were raising donations (cash and kind) for farmers stricken by drought. In the corner there was a large pile of dog food collected for farmers struggling to feed their animals. We learnt that farmers in Western Australia, unaffected by drought, were sending lorry loads of surplus cattle feed to drought stricken parts of the country to save herds.
After several uneventful hours in Goulburn, the Blue Mountain plan was temporarily aborted, following advice from a bevvy of cousins on Facebook Messenger. Later that evening we were back safely in Sydney for the start of our second week of Sydney adventures.