What’s a trip down under without visiting the country’s capital city? With a stretch of 4 days off work in May, I decided to make a quick trip to the charming town of Canberra.
Canberra, the capital of Australia is 660 km North-East of Melbourne and home to over 380,000 people. It also is the capital of it’s own territory, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The ACT was made independent of any of the other Australian states to prevent any one state from gaining an advantage by hosting the seat of Commonwealth power.
I took the overnight 8 hour greyhound bus, leaving Melbourne at 10 pm and arriving in the capital city at 6 am. I quickly was greeted with even cooler weather than that of unpredictable Melbourne. The morning of my arrival it was a frigid 5 degrees. My 2 hoodie sweatshirts, rain jacket, winter hat and gloves quickly became my choice of clothes for the remainder of my trip.
My first stop in Canberra was visiting the new Parliament House building, home of Australia’s Parliament and the meeting place of the nation since 1988. Parliament House is located on Capital Hill and is the focal point of Canberra. Here I took a guided tour into the Senate and House of Representatives chambers.
After a quick and much needed nap, I spent my afternoon at the Australian War Memorial. Here was a shrine, a world-class museum, and an extensive archive. The Memorial commemorates the sacrifice of the Australians who died in war while helping Australians to remember and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society. I happened to still be at the Memorial at closing time and was able to attend the daily Last Post Ceremony. The ceremony began with the singing of the Australian National Anthem (I still haven’t learned it), followed by some lament music played by a bag piper. Wreaths and floral tributes were then placed beside the Pool of Reflection by family members of a fallen soldier who gave his life in the war. Each ceremony commemorates a different soldier and shares the story behind their life and time in the war. The ceremony ended with the sounding of the Last Post. I spent the night shopping in a large mall conveniently located next to my hostel.
For my second day I met up with Doug and Rhonda, a couple who were in our tour group through Africa back in 2014. Doug and Rhonda live just outside of Canberra and kindly offered to act as my tour guides for the day. They took me to the Telstra Tower, an iconic telecommunication tower rising 195 meters above the summit of Black Mountain. The tower gave a 360 degree view of Canberra and looked similar to the C.N. Tower in Toronto.
Next we visited the National Arboretum Canberra, a botanical garden devoted to growing trees for conservation, scientific research and educational purposes. It was created after the area was burned out after a result of bush fires in 2001 and again in 2003.The site includes ceremonial trees planted by visiting heads of government and ambassadors.
We stopped by the stunning Governor General’s house surrounded by fall coloured trees and perfectly green cut grass. I couldn’t help think of my dad when I saw the amount of grass as many of you know cutting our grass at home is one of his favourite hobbies. Rhonda noted the lawn is normally full of kangaroos, unfortunately we didn’t spot any. After a delicious lunch at Doug and Rhonda’s, we spent the afternoon driving around the city. We drove around the Embassy area, home to nearly 80 embassies and high commissions.Some of my favourites were the design of the Chinese Embassy and the striking design of the Thai Embassy Royal. Of course seeing the giant Canadian Flag and totem pole outside the Canadian Embassy was pretty neat too! It was time to part with Doug and Rhonda- thank you for a wonderful day and kindly showing me around Canberra!
My final day in Canberra was spent touring the National Gallery of Australia, walking along the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin, touring the National Library of Australia and climbing Mount Ainslie. The 4.5 km return hike was well worth it with amazing views of the city from the top. I even had some spare time to go back to the Australian War Memorial and explore more of the archives that I didn’t manage to see during my previous visit.
It was then time to take the 8 hour bus ride back to Melbourne before starting work again.