Having conquered Mt Kosciuszko, and with less than a week remaining in our AroundAus trip, we left Thredbo resort in the NSW ski fields and headed off to our capital city – the land of politicians and bureaucracy. Speaking of politicians, on the other side of Canberra the Federal Hwy (heading north) descends steeply revealing a huge flat plain straight ahead. The hwy ends up skirting around the edge, but clearly visible in the mountains on the other side is another large wind turbine farm. Looks good to me, but this must be the one that federal treasurer Joe Hockey calls an eyesore… What a turkey!
But this visit to Canberra wasn’t all about politicians and turkeys. One of the main reasons for visiting was to see my uncle and aunty; Richard & Lyndal, and their two kids Yasemin and Jonny. As unlikely as it seems, it turned out that Lyndal was visiting Brisbane for the few days we were in town, but we did get to catch up for a couple hours before she boarded the plane. We spent more time with Richard and Yasemin, and the boys had a great time with Jonny. Mostly based around their mutual interests in soccer – out in the yard and on the x-box. Now Daniel is researching x-boxes so he can play FIFA 15 more….
In our few days in Canberra we also fitted in a number of sight seeing activities – Questacon, Royal Australian Mint, National Arboretum Canberra, Parliament House and the War Memorial.
Believe it or not, I think I actually found Parliament House the most interesting of all those! We arrived just in time for the 2pm tour, after spending the earlier part of the day at Questacon. The tour guide went through and explained the design and construction of the building, which seems well designed and nicely finished. We viewed the Great Hall, the House of Representatives chamber, the Senate chamber and more. He explained some of what happens and why. It would be good to see a lot of our Parliamentary processes changed – a lot of the ridiculous procedural technicalities and stuff based on old laws and traditions for starters. Whilst we are dreaming about improvements, we could also make the whole thing a bit less oppositional and put a more constructive tilt to our parliamentary discussions/arrangements/operations, and somehow require more of a long term focus in all decision making. But all in all, despite its many shortcomings, we’ve still got one of the best systems in the world.
Questacon is a science discovery centre, and is a great place for kids and adults alike. Though not huge, you could spend a lot of time here and it is one of the best science places we’ve seen. Jonny came with us for this (and parliament house), and we all had a great time. I think my favourtie section was in the Wonderworks gallery – one room was a large exhibit about illusions and how easily our mind can be fooled. Our brain is an incredible organ, but makes a lot of assumptions by ‘filling in the missing pieces’ in what we are seeing, touching and general interpretation of our surroundings. Important for our survival (historically at least) as it means we can make assessment/judgments quickly (or with limited info) in dangerous situations, but does mean we sometimes err in our interpretation of our surrounding environment. Didn’t take many photos here, too busy doing stuff, but here are a few!
This vid contains Daniel playing the air piano, 5,000,000V (I think) lightening, and me doing the ‘Free Fall’. Daniel also did the free fall, but the others decided against trying it out.
The Royal Australian Mint manufactures all coins for circulation in Australia. We went on a tour here also, which was very well run by an enthusiastic young lady. Unfortunately they don’t make the plastic notes – that would be interesting to see. The history of money in Australia is on display, and our tour guide took us through that. I liked how when Great Britain finally gave us dodgy convicts permission to mint their coins here (pennies etc), we took the opportunity to modify them by adding some Aussie features to their design details (which of course the British weren’t too happy about when they realised a decade later….). They’ve manufactured an aweful lot of coins here – about 14 billion pieces all up! One stamping machine pumps out 600 coins per minute! Coins for circulation is their main business, but they also do some un-circulated coins – collectors stuff in gold and silver for example.
The Arboretum covers several hundred acres, but is mostly young/small trees. We walked through the Himalayan Cedars and the Cork Oak trees (some of the older ones). I didn’t realise that cork was harvested from the bark of a tree, so that was interesting. The main visitor info centre was cool – I like nice exposed wooden beam structures such as this. They also had a bonsai section/display, with lots of nice trees. The closest I’ve come to doing bonsai is growing Adeniums (desert roses), which can have a bit of a bonsai look but aren’t really true to the art.
Our final day in Canberra was Saturday, which we spent at the War Memorial. The war memorial is very well done, with more quality exhibits than you could examine in one day. We went on a 90 minute tour by an older volunteer guide (as I suspect they all are), which was good but really only scratched the surface. I took almost no photos here, as there was way too much to cover and we spent our time absorbing everything instead. One thing I was not particularly fond of was the remembrance shrine, in particular the temple like ‘Hall of Memory’ that is dome shaped and tiled with images like a religious cathedral. It is basically a religious, but non-religion specific, shrine/temple to our fallen service men and woman (as described by the guide – and that’s what it feels like too). Whilst those men and woman made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, I think this particular shrine/temple goes too far in glorifying them.
The War Memorial is definitely worth a visit, and it is sobering to look, remember and reflect on the huge number of Australians who lost their lives (and learn about the conflicts). There are many huge plaques, full of the names of those who died due to war – there is another full wall like the one in the pic below. When learning and reflecting on the horrors/hell of war, it reminds me of that Questacon gallery where the human brain/mind is so easily tricked and lead astray. That gallery had no focus on or mention of war, yet it is some of those same (and other related) human fickleness/tendencies that can lead to the outbreak of war.
So we had a great time in Canberra – visiting some of its main attractions and catching up with family. With our holidays and sight seeing activities now pretty well completed, we left Canberra and put an hours dent into the trip back to Brisbane. We’ll take around 3 days to get back – no point rushing the end of a 6 month trip and arriving home stuffed!