Canberra #3

We started the day with a hike to Mount Ainslie Lookout. It begins gradually and is quite steep for the last 30m or so. Many good views are afforded along the way, but the best are at the top. It took about 90 minutes return and where I wouldn’t advise a wheelchair, I did see three people using canes and walking quite slowly. Many people are in training gear and run past slower people like me.

Remember it was bushfire season so excuse the misty photos.

Black Mountain Tower affords some fabulous views, we were told, but unfortunately with the fires the smoke haze made visibility poor. It is still an interesting building and an easy drive from the main sights.

There is a viewing gallery, a theater and a cafe, as well as a telecommunications museum. It is also called Telstra Tower and the actual tower rises almost 200m above the summit. Your visit wouldn’t be longer than an hour, I think.

Questacon is on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin and is an extraordinary collection of interactive Science and Technology activities (over 200 I believe) that are designed to entertain, educate and inspire schoolchildren to pursue careers in that area.

I have been there with my children, with school classes and this time it was just for me and I could have spent another hour or more there. We stayed 2 hours as it was, watching, trying, pressing, drawing, thinking, puzzling and marvelling. The free fall was fascinating, but I wouldn’t try it.

The National Gallery is very near here, so we walked there, along the Lake, enjoying the sculptures and what was on offer in the grounds, and not entering. There were a few reasons for this, among which was the advertising of the outdoor sculptures and the Skyspace. So that is what we spent an hour and a half viewing.

Staying in the region, we headed for New Parliament House. It’s an impressive building, right from its approach, and has a wealth of architecture and marble.

The House of Representatives has a green room, just as it did on the old P.H. and the Senate is red, as before. When parliament is sitting, between 4000 and 5000 people are employed there.

There are galleries of historical figures, current politicians and political cartoonists. Documents and decisions are displayed, as well as plans, models and protests. The view from the grassy rooftop is impressive and informative, with many structures to catch the eye.

One of these is the 81m flagpole, visible from many vantages in Canberra. Three locations form what is known as the Parliamentary Triangle and New P.H is considered to be at the apex. Dead centre of Parliament House is the flagpole and it is represents the intersection “of Australian democracy—the people, the parliament and the government—are all brought together under one flag.” (https://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/About_the_Building/About_the_Flag)

under the flagpole, on the roof of Parliamentary House

It’s quite easy to spend 1-2 hours, here. Tours are available if you prefer.

Even in Canberra, where it can get very cold, always take a hat and water in Australia.

Safe Travels.

Canberra #2

There is actually a lot to do in the capital of Australia, despite how small it is. That just makes it packed and practical. Some highlights from one day:

Canberra Glassworks

Located in what was once the Kingston Powerhouse, the FREE entry glassworks allows you to watch as glass blowers work, do a tour, watch artists hone their items, have a try at glass blowing, read about the history of the Power House or shop at the outlet.

Fascinating and colourful, it is easy to get to, with ample parking although on Sundays apparently there is a market, so keep that in mind.

There are stairs, so wheelchairs will be restricted, but there are also some ramps and I didn’t check for lifts. I think you’d plan for a minimum of an hour, here.

The Kingston Power House
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Viewing balcony or seats, although they ask that you sit down to watch. You can see the old iron workings of the Power House
Artists at work

Museum of Australian Democracy (MOD)

This building is also known as Old Parliament House. It is a young history of our Governments and the displays reek of the 1940s and ’70s, so is perhaps more interesting for Australians than those from other countries.

Classic British design abounds and there is a room where the House of Representatives meet and another for the Senate (Upper House). This is the same in the New Parliament House, with matching colours, I think.

Unless, of course, you enjoy the political art (craftivism), summaries (we saw Truth, Power and a Free Press), interactive displays and period furniture that a $5 family entry can afford.

From the front steps you see the current stand by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, first established in 1972, which is to maintain their sovereignty over Australian soil and waters. The Embassy is not recognised by the Government but nor is it removed (these days).

Oddly enough, the backdrop is Mt Ainslie and the Australian War Memorial.

Give yourself 60 – 120 minutes here, depending on whether you self tour or take a guided one and your interest in history.

Australian War Memorial

This dramatic and impressive centre has life-size displays of aircraft, cock-pits, weaponry, soldiers and more, as well as model battles and audio that captures reflections from veterans of the Great Wars, Vietnam, Korea and Iraq. It is considered as a military museum.

It is haunting, effective and free. I have heard they are thinking of spending a huge sum on upgrading it, but I cannot see why, as it is quite memorable.

I am not an advocate of war, but this is certainly worth a visit and you might spend a couple of hours or more, here. There is plenty for children, too, and accessible in a wheelchair.

This is definitely a 2 hour or more place.

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Memorial courtyard
dome in the hall of memory

Kingston Foreshore

Finish the day with a walk around the foreshore. There are bars and eateries a-plenty, with pleasant views to be had.

River cruises and water craft for hire are also available if you want to hit the water in style.

Adelaide to Canberra – Australia’s capital

The Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T.) is very small, in our big island, with a total area of less than 3000 sqkm, and quite a distance from South Australia, but it was our destination at the end of 2019.

We drove there in three stages, stopping at roadside camps and arriving before lunch on the third day. This post will mostly cover the travel and stops there, so if you want to know more about Canberra and what to do there, try Canberra#2.

As we live in the north, the quickest way was through Mildura and we had a lunchtime rest at Lake Cullulleraine. Thankfully there was shade, as the temp was 43C and the water provided an illusion of relief, in the absence of any breeze.

We passed Mildura and made our way through dust clouds to our evening stop at Lake Benanee in New South Wales. This was very early in the bushfire season that hit Australia last year, and it was hot and dry. We were the only ones at the campsite, which was such a change from when we have stayed here before, and as we sweltered in the heat, looking longingly to the natural lake, some locals pulled up, took their water gear to the edge and walked right in. We were only moments behind.

This is a lovely free campsite with a toilet block and, although it is not far from the highway, we have never found it to be too noisy at night. We were off early and made a stop at Hay. Notorious for the long stretches of unbroken uniformity leading to and from Hay, it now has controversial cotton paddocks and tufts of the stuff stuck to roadside plants and fences, alike. The entry and exit are still quite straight for long periods.

Hay is a very interesting town if you turn into the main street. There is a very good park where children can play and adults stretch their legs, some fascinating craft shops, cafes and the River Murray.

says it all.

There followed a lot of highway and some missed stops, using wiki camps and the RAA book of campsites and rest areas, before we settled on Bookham. It was a neat area, with very good toilets, across from St Columba’s church and near a funky bakery/cafe, but very close to the main highway. At night, there was a constant roar of truck engines and flash of lights, and we had the van open due to the heat but by now we were close enough to the fires that smoke drifted in and we couldn’t sleep with all the windows open. Choose a quieter spot if you can.

We reached Cotter Campground in the A.C.T. by mid-morning and there were plenty of spots from which to choose. We pulled up alongside the Cotter River and a BBQ pit and this is a fabulous site. Fees are $15 per adult per night, $12 for seniors and $10 for concession/children. It is the most serviced park in the A.C.T. and the amenities were great, but beware the 3 minute timer on the showers. They don’t turn off earlier, either. Wood is available to buy from the rangers, who visited every day, if you don’t bring your own. It is a National Park, so you can’t cut down trees or break off branches.

I’ll talk more about some of the highlights of the campsite in another post, but at this point we drove into Canberra central to get some supplies. It was a 15 minute drive, one way.

Our son and his wife drove out from Canberra to share a BBQ tea and we made our plans for the upcoming days.

Blue Mountains

The iconic National Park region of New South Wales is called the Blue Mountains. As you can see in the photo, for Becky’s July blue squares, they aren’t exactly blue, but got the name from a fascinating fact, involving other blues…

the view from Govetts Leap lookout

The range is covered in eucalypts, or gum trees, many of them Blue Gums (seen in the foreground). In the heat, they emit a mist of eucalyptus oil which refracts the light, causing a blue haze at a distance. (www.sydney.visitorsbureau.com.au/regions/blue-mountains.html). You’ll find most mountains/hills in coastal Australia will appear blue at a distance for this reason.

5 Things you’ll love about the Blue Mountains.

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Why are they called blue, for a start?

Rayleigh scattering – the elastic

scattering of light particles, put simply. It is common with many such mountain ranges, that they look blue from a distance.

  1. ACCESS

The Blue Mountains are in New South Wales, Australia. They are accessible from Sydney by a two hour train ride to a heritage location, but we took a two and a half day drive from Adelaide. Coaches also travel here and you can hire a car.

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Blackheath train station

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great views from the carriage windows

 

2. ACCOMMODATION

We stayed in Blackheath Glen Tourist Park.  This had great facilities and wide sites for vans, as well as being near Pope’s Glen track to Glovett’s Leap, but we were told that the neighboring Katoomba Tourist Park was equally good, and ran shuttles to major attractions.

There are a multitude of accommodation options in the area and good access to all the necessities – supermarkets, bakeries, sweet shops, swimming pools, liquor, churches and more.

3. STUNNING VIEWS AND TRAILS

Climb the 250 million year old rock strata. Under the canopy of gum leaves seen from above, there is a rain forest below, with many waterfalls.

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Online maps available before we got there were too limited. Even visiting tourist shops en route proved fruitless. We had to wait to stop in at the national parks centre in the region, but they were marvelous at providing maps, suggestions and advice. There are 48 walks on the ‘selection of bushwalks in the Blue Mountains’ sheet. Great detail is here, concerning grade, time, distance and features to be experienced. This was invaluable in planning our outdoor adventures.

4. VERTICAL CHALLENGES

Reported to have the steepest train ride in the world it is really more like a show ride and these days travels very slowly compared with what carried people 20 or 100 years ago.

Then there is the Cableway or the Skyway, with viewing floors and up to 360 degree views.

Or just descend the stairway to the Three Sisters or Pulpit Rock and feel suspended over more than time.

5. HISTORY

Around 1900 the population of this coal mining area was 4000! However, it was very popular as a holiday destination and in Summer the numbers would swell to 30 000 people. The sewage system was unable to cope at these times and it was not uncommon for Katoomba Falls to be dis-coloured with refuse. Erk.

People ride here, walk here, drive here and arrive by the bus loads. It’s easy to see why.

At one lookout a man had his drone travel the 2km gap as he watched the view below on a smart phone. Unfortunately the echo could be heard across the canyon as we travelled to different lookouts, beyond where we could see it.

Take a hat, good walking shoes and water. You may need a coat if the clouds are hanging low, but they can blow away quickly, too.

Safe Travels!

Blooming begonias

I had thought my modest front yard begonias were pretty good. Then, quite by accident, I visited the Blowes Conservatory in Orange, New South Wales, to be blown away by the begonia display there. They are my entry in Cee’s Flower of the day, today.

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Tuberous begonias thrive in the climate of Orange. It is a beautiful town and we’ll certainly be going back, but the begonia display is only from February to April.

Millions of reasons not to ignore this Warning

 

As Australia drifted northward, 20-30 million years ago, it passed over one of the Earth’s hot spots, causing volcanic activity. Molten material formed the Mount Warning shield volcano and high rainfall created a myriad of streams and rivers which eroded the volcano into its present shape – one of the oldest calderas in the world. Fertile volcanic soil, high humidity and rainfall provided all the elements for the subtropical rainforest to thrive ( some of this reproduced, with permission, from the information board at Mt Warning). It is one of the Gondwana Rainforests and you are surrounded by ancient trees, dripping with moss. I think it is a good candidate for this week’s photo challenge: layered –  from the lava-rich soil, littered with decaying leaves making your ‘twisted’ way up to the tree tops, trickling over shades of green and brown.

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Tweed Heads has long conjured images of surf, sun and excitement. It’s nearness to the Queensland border and Coolangatta make it a popular holiday destination. But I had not known that the Tweed Valley, shared by both New South Wales and Queensland, was the site of an ancient volcano and that Numinbah Nature Reserve is at the base of this layered caldera?

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The Wollumbin National Park, formally Mt Warning National Park, was renamed in recent years to reflect the importance of the lava plug, that is Mt Warning, to the local Aboriginal People, including the Nganduwal, Galibal, Gidhabul, Bundjalung and Widjabal. Many of their Dreaming stories involve the monolith.

There are many walks to choose from and an information booth at the entrance to the park, giving detail, advice and options. We parked at the entrance to the park and walked to the Lyrebird track, which was quite short, but beautiful. The path was firm and bitumised in parts, and we crossed Breakfast Creek and made it to the lookout. If I visited again, I would do a longer walk, but the traditional owners prefer that people do not climb Warning.

I’m partial to walks through a rainforest  – it’s good for everyone, and everything, if we are careful where we tread and what we leave.

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There are excellent facilities – toilets and picnic areas. Take a hat, camera and water. Good walking shoes are not necessary on the Lyrebird trail but would be needed on others. Sunscreen and insecticide are useful, but remember the environment if you decide to dip in a limb.

 

 

Passenger in time

I had wanted to visit Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement since I was in primary school and my friend not only sent a letter (gone are those days) but brought back photographs. Constantly lost in my imagination (those days aren’t gone) it took me back in time and brought to life the television programs of the day – Whiplash, for example.

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Forty years or so later, and with a few pioneer villages under our hats, my husband and I travelled to the river region of Victoria and New South Wales and stopped at the BIG4 Riverside caravan park. It is an excellent park, with good facilities and a great location. It is right next to the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement, separated by a gate and a short walk.

The settlement is delightful, with a carefully planned township that is accessible and historical. Gardens, shops, homes, faith, education, industry and transport, you are carried back, to life in the mid- to late- 1800’s and early 1900’s in Australia. Being a young Nation (on the oldest continent) that is about as far back as European settlement goes in the area.

Transport options abound, as they once did, and you can be a passenger aboard a horse drawn carriage, steam train, riverboat or vintage automobile. Other forms are on display, but you cannot ride them, such as a penny farthing bicycle and horses.

Treat yourself to an afternoon of discovery as you walk the streets, taste the fare and make sure you visit the Kaiser Stereoscopic Theatre, where a person once may have imagined they were a passenger on far away journeys.

 

Due to flooding and a very high river level, the famous Laser Light Show was immersed, so we missed that, but there is plenty to do in the area.

Safe travels. Don’t forget the hat and water (and maybe an umbrella).

 

Sydney, Australia – not just a big city

We had no intention of visiting Sydney again, having seen the icons in 2000, as we thought it was nothing more than a big city. We were so wrong.

To members of the rest of the world, Sydney is probably small fry, with a population of 4.3 million, making it less than one ninth of Tokyo, which I think is the most populous. Rival Australian city, Melbourne, is close behind with 4 million but then the rest just fall away, leading Australians like me to refer to Sydney as a big, busy city.

We were challenged by friends to visit their beloved city and they swore they could show us the type of holiday we would love, with plenty of hiking, outdoors and beaches. So here is a summary.

Plenty to see

We took a ferry from Watson Bay to Circular Quay, then from the quay to Darling Harbour. You go beside the bridge and opera house, then under the bridge and beside lunar park and any warships that are in. The waterfront at Darling Harbour has a wax works, wildlife show, maritime museum and at least one old sailing vessel. The walkways are accessible and interesting, with plenty of places to rest or get refreshment. From Darling Harbour you can go straight into the city centre and from Circular Quay you can cross through the Botanic Gardens, but we didn’t so I cannot comment on how easy or otherwise that is.

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Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk – Great range of sights

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From the iconic shore of Bondi Beach, with its cafes, sunbathers, cliff views and lifesavers, we set out along the cliff top. The gradient varies and we dipped into lovely coves where a surprisingly small number of swimmers were, and strode up to the top again to photograph dramatic and beautiful coastline. The big surprise is the cemetery at Waverley, where notables such as Henry Lawson are buried. Well-preserved monuments provide a somber section of the walk before you step out onto the hilltop once more. Coogee Beach baffled my beach-going instincts and i was lucky enough to see a few brave swimmers attempt the entrance from the side of the concrete …umm … platforms? Not for the feint-hearted, but children could easily enter from the sandy end, devoid of waves. Pleanty of water and rest spots along the way, including amenities. A beautiful walk, but take sunscreen and hat, even if it is overcast.

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The controversial and the magnificent

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We did the pylon climb on the bridge which was easy and yet took us high enough to see amazing sights at the top. The history of the bridge was very interesting and to so close to this icon was inspiring. The opera house was very controversial when built, with people saying it had ruined the city forever. Now it is a world-class symbol of good architecture, recognised everywhere. We saw the harbour by day and night and the myriad of colours and angles are all worth capturing.

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National Parks, the north coast and the heads.

We had a few morning walks through one of the National Parks on the North Shore. It was beautiful and the birdlife, flora and, of course, rocks, were amazing. Our friends took us on a drive of the northern beaches and The Head, where it is common to watch as cruise ships leave the harbour and head out to sea. A varied coastline with glimpses of subtropical foliage and the site of a popular Australian soap opera, filmed on Palm Beach. It got pretty windy, despite the warmth of the day, but the chance of sunburn is still high. We saw a very practical but unexpected way of storing boats in a marina.

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The City itself
There are a number of interesting buildings (old for Australia, at 200 years) and architecture. Hyde Park, Queen Victoria Building and the Royal Botanic Gardens are all lovely and the old wharf is packed with boutique, expensive bars. Maps of the city are easy to follow and public transport is readily available. There are some free buses to main areas, such as Bondi Beach.

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The Fireworks and Balmoral Beach
One of the highlights of the trip was to catch the famous New Year’s Eve fireworks. My camera hasn’t caught it well, or the million people crowded but orderly as we head for the available train stations. There is nothing like the sounds of a million people “AAAHHHing” at fireworks. We spent New Year’s day on Balmoral Beach, with views to the North and South Heads. It is a lovely, family-friendly beach with good facilities.

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Accommodation can be expensive, but it is like anywhere – you can get some amazing deals, too. Transport is made cheaper by buying an opal card and putting money on it- but remember to validate it on and off. This is a remarkable city. We didn’t visit the zoo this time, but it is quite good – the views are perhaps its best point.

Manly is a very nice spot for cafes and a good ferry trip. The city is filled with pubs and bars that are going at all hours, but that’s not really my scene, so I can’t recommend a particular one or area.

Our friends had done it – we now think of Sydney as beautiful, exciting and full of adventures.

Travel safe, talk to people, take your hat, some water and your camera.