Visit to the Capital.

Trip Start Sep 28, 2003
Trip End Sep 29, 2004

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Friday, December 19, 2003

Well today we arrived in the Capital of Australia and also in the appropriately named state - Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Canberra was some where I had been interested to go to, mainly because of the different
Parliament building. So it was great to finally get here. The plan was originally for us to both stay here for a night before jumping back into the car and heading down to Melbourne, where James' Mum - Elaine - and her husband - Bob - would arrive the next day. However, I liked Canberra so much that I decided to stay for a few more nights. This would give me a bit of time to explore the area.

The evening we arrived we went for a drive around Parliament House and I knew that this
would be my starting point the next day. So I saw James off before heading upto there.

Canberra is an extremely green city, in fact it has to be one of the greenest cities I have ever come across. Trees, water, mountains and it is also the Capital city. Too good to be true.... It was at this point where I decided I would try and see if I could get work here as it would be a really nice place to work.

It is interesting to see the unofficial Aboriginal Embassy on the lawns smack-bang in front of the Old Parliament House. It is made up of many tents and shacks and is basically the Aboriginal people's stand for the land that belongs to them. It has apparently been here since 1972. It is a strange contrast to the smart buildings and lawns that form the rest of that area of Canberra.

When I arrived at Parliament House I was lucky enough to be at a good time to catch up with a tour that was running. That particular day, one of the Canberra University's was having its graduation ceremony in the Great Hall. Imagine graduating at the Houses of Parliament in London - this is the Australian equivilent.

The tour included a trip into House of Representatives as well as the Senate. One of the
interesting tales about the Senate, is that because it is decorated in red a law was passed allowing the Fire Exit signs in this one room in the country, also to be red so as not to clash with the colour scheme! The two houses are oppposite one another in the building and the line is designed around a line of symmetry, that extends from Mount Ainslie across the river and runs through the Australian War Memorial and the centre of the Old Parliament House.

An interesting feature of the members hall, right in the centre of the building, is a water feature, which apart from looking nice has a couple of features. The first and most practical is to allow members to speak in this area because the noise will mask the
conversations being held. The second feature is a deep hole in the middle of the slab, which is full of water. The idea being that if anyone thought that they are important enough to stand right in the centre of the building, they will have to get wet doing it. The Australians do have some interesting ideas!

Later on I went out onto the roof, where there are tremendous views of Canberra. Including the view of the alignment with Mount Ainslie, the Memorial and the Old Parliament house as above.

Another fascinating fact (this entry is full of them...) that the flag supporting structure is made of around 220 tonnes, which makes it the second biggest stainless steel structure in the world.

Well enough facts for the day, I decided to try and do some research on getting work in the area, and spent some time getting hold of some contact details for local IT agencies. I did this using the Internet at the Boomerang Software Exchange in the city. The guy at the shop was extremely friendly and helpful when I transferred my CV onto a pc, before editing it and printing it out again. See After my day out, I decided to make the most of Canberra and read in the park on the way home back to the hostel.

Well the next day, I was spoilt for choice with what to do first and decided that as I was in the right place, I might as well go to the National Museum of Australia. There seemed to be dozens of flies in Canberra which was really annoying, however I soon got to the Museum. This turned out to be a great way of spending three or four hours and was absolutely free of charge. I could have bought tickets to go and see one of the extra exhibitions but I was pretty museum'd out by the time I finished the normal bits of the museum.

There were some amazing Aboriginal paintings and other items there. In contrast the ABC
Outside Broadcast van that was used for over 2000 Outside Broadcasts between 1960 and 1974 was there! The last part of the museum I went to was the K-Space feature, where my photo was taken, and then I designed a house on a computer before having them both integrated into a 3d show. Thought this was quite clever, although it may have been aimed at people younger than myself....

After leaving the museum, I started to walk back towards the city, and then I made a silly decision. I had seen the Telstra Tower, while I had been walking about in Canberra. This is basically a large communications tower that sits on a mountain above Canberra. I had even got a leaflet about it, to try and work out the best way to get there. The only way it really mentioned was by sightseeing bus - I remember thinking that it seemed quite dear at the time - or by car. I decided - probably rather foolishly - that I would walk it. The leaflet didn't say that you could not walk it, but it certainly did not advertise it as a way of getting there. One of the deciding factors was that the weather seemed much cooler than the previous day.

I managed the walk fairly quickly in the end (my notebook says 1 1/4 hrs but I thought it was longer than that). Well the route was interesting, my first point of note being the Australian University ( I had to walk through the campus to get to my destination). The particular place that caught my eye was the new Department of Phenomics. I wondered if this was something to do with the song that the Muppets sang... "Phenomena do dahh de do da...". Or some kind of department to investigate sightings of flying saucers and aliens. After further research, it appears that it is to do with the development of the Phenome, something to do with Genes. Still interesting, but not quite what I thought...

Oh well, I carried on with my journey and just after this started my ascent up the mountain (it looked bigger up close, had I made a mistake....) I kept walking, and walking and it was not a hot day but I was certainly boiling hot at that point. The next highlight of the journey, was seeing a Kangeroo. It was just in a stretch of forest land next to the road and I would not have seen it, had I taken a bus up the hill. I just about managed to get a photo, but it was then that the battery on my camera decided to pack up. After tweaking my camera a bit and turning the flash off, I managed to take a couple of photos to prove it, however unfortunately they did not come out as clearly as I would have liked.

After seeing the roo reaching the top of the hill was a bit of an anti-climax. The view was quite nice, but nothing too special, the same kind of scenery can be seen from the top of the Parliament House. The stark concrete interior of the tower reminded me a lot of a Luton multi-story car-parks, just without the graffiti. Not too impressive, however it did only cost about 3 dollars to go up in the lift.

I made my way back towards the hostel, hoping to catch some food on the way home. I had
forgotten that this was an issue, and arriving back in the area where the hostel was at
around 9pm was too late to get a meal from one of the numerous bars or restaurants nearby. I ended up sitting outside at a lively bar with a beer.

I then noticed that the huge party of about 25 people sitting outside this bar were actually English, and I later put it together with the fact that I there was an Oz Experience coach sitting outside my hostel when I arrived back. The Oz Experience is kind of like an 18-30's trip round Australia.

Unfortunately the party grew to make a bit more noise and were soon playing a game which
involved each of them taking a turn at doing an impression of a character from a movie or tv programme. Their first attempt was all to say "'ere Ratfans!". When I was younger I do have to admit to watching Roland the Rat on TV, in fact my favourite series was the Winter one where they all stayed in..... OOops!

So I immediately recognised this as being the superstar himself and listened in amusement at the tame impressions as everyone in their group had a go. The next round was less amusing when they tried to emulate Kevin the Gerbil (Roland's best friend). Unfortunately their impressions of Kevin really did not cut the mustard, too high pitched among other things. I was about to go over and demonstrate how it is done, until I realised that I was happy in my anonymity as an English person away from this crowd of louts.

The next day was my first lengthy coach journey on to Melbourne, unfortunately this coach had much less legroom than the previous one and reminded me that coach is not the way to go for me!

Observations from the coach trip: Why do Australian Coach drivers wear shorts that are shorter than should be allowed by law? and why do they insist on wearing matching Knee length socks?

Final observation: Australians are not fond of Volvo drivers. The driver said it was advisable to ensure that the toilet door was locked properly when using it, to make sure that nothing untoward happens, if for example a Volvo pulls out in front of the coach!

That is the end of this entry, join me in Melbourne for the next, coming to a screen near you soon...
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