The Nations Capital

Trip Start Jan 14, 2012
Trip End Mar 13, 2012

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Where I stayed
Queanbeyan Caravan Park

Flag of Australia  , Australian Capital Territory,
Sunday, January 29, 2012

Goodbye Misty Mountains and we come Museums and Pollies!!!!  After the warmest night in the Blue Mountains, rocks removed from behind the caravan wheels, GPS set and we were off to the ACT (Australian Capital Territory). Our route was via Penrith on the outskirts of Sydney suburbia so the road became noticeably wider with concrete over and underpasses as we saved fuel winding our way and free wheeling down towards Sydney.  From Penrith we turned onto the No 9 Northern Road through a green fertile agricultural area with many fruit and vegie stalls along the road.  After ninety minutes since we set out, we turned onto the Hume Freeway towards Goulburn and at the first Rest Area, we bought a box of delicious cherries from a farmer's truck.  It was a pleasant drive along the Hume through thick vegetation in parts and looking down into valleys of tall trees. 

There were blue skies and it was surprisingly warm when we went for a walk in Goulburn, so much so that it was necessary to change into cooler clothes in the caravan, after finding a car park big enough for the van.  "With a history that includes explorers, gold-diggers and bushrangers, Goulburn was settled by colonials who forged a city from the bush.  Today Australia's first inland city offers an array of historic buildings and an energetic rural culture" commemorated by the enormous ram which we had to stop and photograph on the way out of town.  An hour later, we left the Hume Highway, which carries onto Gundegai, and continued on the Federal Highway toward Canberra crossing the Great Dividing Range.  Closer to the ACT, we drove through Olive Groves, Vineyards and wide open plains.  Looking out over the plains with brown cows grazing contentedly, we were reminded of Outback Queensland especially with the temperature steadily rising.  Close to the Federal Capital, we had a laugh as we passed the turnoff to the town of Collector with a population of 150...we wondered if that is where all the Federal Tax Collectors live!!

We soon were booked into the Riverside Caravan Park at Queanbeyan.  Our allocated site on the  river side was a challenge for Mike to unhitch the caravan because a rain water gully caused the tow bar to be so close to the ground that we couldn't attach the jockey wheel.  A cold drink was definitely necessary after Mike had dug tirelessly to eventually make a hole deep enough for the jockey wheel to be fitted to the A frame and raised so that the car could be uncoupled.  The caravan park is a third of the price less than the previous park but it has good facilites and no soggy grass or puddles.  As late afternoon approached and after scrubbing up, we set the GPS for Belconnen and off we went.  We found the WPC Belconnen Church easily and fairly quickly so with plenty of time to spare, we had dinner first at the nearby Chinese Restaurant.  The hymn singing was lovely and the sermon good, after which we were introduced to many of the friendly church folk. 

The caravan park we are staying at is in the old town of Queanbeyan in NSW (New South Wales) on the border of ACT (Australian Capital Territory) and 12kms from the Canberra City Centre. In books about Canberra, Queanbeyan is described as a good place to stay for easy access to all that Canberra has to offer.  There is so much more to this city that we are staying in for a week and the book on Queanbeyan describes itself as a "prospering river city on the move.  For more than 175 years people have been moving to Queanbeyan and the district in search of a better lifestyle.."  With a population of approximately fifty, Queanbeyan was officially proclaimed a township in 1838. By 1972 the town met the requirement of 15,000 people to become a city and today 42,000 bodies call Queanbeyan home.  The town had a natural beginning as early settlers together with their stock were attracted to a beautiful plain with the river giving them a good water source. Plentiful water also encouraged crop growers who found the land to be fertile...and of course miners seeking gold, lead and silver that were found in the valley. 

Whereas Canberra had a very different beginning.  After Australians voted for the States to become a Federation it was decided that the Federal Parliament should not be in either of the established big cities but that a new site should be located to build a capital city to house the Federal Government.  After many sites were suggested, in 1908 the exact location was decided upon and a world wide competition to plan this new capital city was won by Walter Burley Griffin, a Chicago Architect. 

It took us a couple of days to get used to the layout that Burley Griffins thought to be an ideal city with wide streets circling the city connected by roads with many roundabouts.  With the New Parliament built on Capital Hill and the old Parliament, War Memorial and Ainslie Mountain all situated on the same axis giving it a beauty of its own especially with Lake Burley Griffin and its  Geneva like fountain featured in the centre.  We could get good views of the city layout after driving to the top of Mt Ainslie and Black Mountain. From the lookout platform of  the Telstra Tower visitors can get magnificent 360 degree views of both the city and surrounding plain with its ring of mountains in the distance.

Our first couple of days here were spent visiting the interesting War Memorial Museum, National Museum, Canberra Museum and Gallery and the Canberra Exhibition Centre built close to Lake Burley Griffin. Nearby is the well known fountain spraying its jet of water high into the sky making it visible from much of the city.  In the evening we telephoned Shannon and  Rod, whom we had met in Cowra and exchanged details with, and were invited round for coffee and a chat.  It was an unexpected pleasant surprise to also catch up with Heather and David, who we also met at Cowra, and Shannon had invited round to see us.  Chatter went on for a few hours and we eventually said our goodbyes at around 11pm.

Early the next day we had a quick breakfast and headed into the city for tours of the New Parliament House in all its splendour with its magnificent marble and wood decor and later in the day, the wood panelled, less ornate, smaller Old Parliament House.  By Thursday we needed a city break and headed out to the delightful Bungedore Village, a drive of 40 kilometres into the countryside.  The pamphlet says it all: "Bungendore is a wonderful place to visit.  Settled in 1837, it is an historic village with many well preserved old buildings.  It is a thriving community, a country town where locals still say G'day."  We spent the afternoon walking around and admiring some old buildings, including the quaint police station and some lovely country houses, walked through a half acre antique shop and yard, the leather shop with an interesting variety of leather work, art galleries, the railway station and the Wood Works Gallery. There is an outstanding selection of woodwork and fine furniture created by Australian Artists on display drawing visitors from interstate and overseas but very expensive and far above what we could afford.  After coffee and nougat at the Woodwork Cafe, we found a shop with fresh local fruit and vegies where we bought the ingredients for the mushroom omelet we planned to cook in the evening.  Before long we drove back  over the pass and down the hill into Queanbeyan where the rain began to fall once more, apparently quite unusual for this time of the year. After dinner was eaten and forgotten we downloaded our pictures, wrote up our blog, watched a bit of TV and fell asleep to the sound of raindrops falling on the caravan roof.

Its now Friday morning and the rain has been falling steadily throughout the night, it must be good for sleeping because we both did just that until almost 9 o'clock. After the customary shower and breakfast we decided that, although not really sightseeing weather, we would visit the National Gallery and Library where we could get our fix of culture without getting too wet. So around 1030 we hit the road for the 20 minute drive into Canberra. First stop was the Art Gallery where we spent about two hours looking at pictures and sculptures from this part of the world including Papua and Malaysia. Then we moved on to the Questacon, really a thing for children to explore the mysteries of science. When we saw the hoards of noisy children running riot in the place we decided that maybe we should give it a miss and look for somewhere more sedate to spend our time. The National Library currently has an exhibition called Handwritten:  Ten Centuries of Manuscript Treasures on loan from the Staatsbibliothek of Berlin. Interesting I'm sure but displayed in dimly lit persplex cabinets and difficult to see. If you can actually see the manuscript it doesn't really help that much because most of them are written in Latin, German or French by such names as Beethoven, Galileo, Goethe, Michelangelo and Napolean. After getting cultured out we ventured out into the open to find that the rain was still falling and the views of the Lake and surrounding hills hidden from sight. Only one thing for it, head back to the caravan, cook our boerewors and batten down the hatches for the night and hope the weather improves tomorrow.

The weather certainly did improve over the weekend even reaching 34C when we left Cockington.  First we needed the sun to dry our laundry while we had a relaxed breakfast before walking into Quenabeyan where we have been staying all week but not exploring.  All the heritage sites are fairly close to the Information Centre which was originally built in 1925 as the Council Building till they moved to their new premises close by in 1975.  The building housing Walsh's Hotel was originally used in 1875 as a millinery shop for ten years until it became the Globe Hotel. In 1906 it became the first subscriber when the telephone exchange came to town!  The first hotel was the Royal which opened in 1850.  The Methodist Church was constructed in 1859 and close to the Anglican Church which still rings its bells on a Sunday morning.  One of the earliest Boer War Memorials in NSW was erected in Queanbeyan in 1903 and down the road is the statue of John Gale, an early pioneer who established the first newspaper in 1860 and played a pivotal role in having the nearby area chosen for the National Capital.  We spent quite a while in the very good Queanbeyan museum which was the Police Sergeant's Residence from 1876 to 1981 when it became the museum.  In the back courtyard, a local artist has been painting a mural of a street scene depicting the town during the 1860s.  Inside is a veritable collection of household goods and musical instruments of that era and a hospital ward including an iron lung machine.  Here we learnt that the original name of the town was Quinbean, an aboriginal name meaning "clear waters" which was anglicized by 1838 when Queanbeyan became a township.  As we left the museum, they recommended we head to the very impressive Printing Museum where an elderly man demonstrated how the machines worked. He told us how he had started in the printing trade at the age of 14 and worked on these machines for 66 years until computers took over....he has now been retired about 18 years!!  It is wonderful that they have been able to keep these great old machines in working order to show people how they operated.  The first machine was the Alexandra Press which was hand inked and fed.  Each letter had to be laboriously handset but in 1920 they imported a Merganthaler's Linotype which mechanically assembled hot metal type produced by the manipulation of a keyboard.  They also had on display a Ludlow typesetting machine, a Wharfedale Press used in the 1900s and the Heidelberg Platen which came into use in 1925.  Mike knew this machine well from his school days when he was in the Printing Club and printed the school magazine, reports, programs and tickets for school plays and all the other stationary requirements for the school.  After an interesting afternoon, we had a good BBQ dinner of lamb chops and steak with salad and settled down for the evening which passed too quickly.

We woke on Sunday with the sun streaming through the caravan window, our first stop was at our churches sister church WPC Belconnen. After the service we stayed for tea and talked to a good cross section of the congregation. We then drove out to the Cockington Green Gardens and Miniature English Village where buildings made exquisitely to a scale  of 1/12 typify the houses and public buildings in various areas of England.  A second section has a display of miniature buildings from around the world and inside the Rose Room Gallery is featured a "Waverly" 34 room Dolls House.  After walking around this meticulously kept extensive garden, we headed across the road to the King George Inn for a good pub lunch.  We then drove through the Canberran CBD for our last look at the National Capital before reaching our Caravan Park and prepared for our departure tomorrow morning

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