Canberra I saw, I heard, and I felt. Whoo hoo! Finally my Canberra trip has materialized and yesterday (28th Sept 2007) was the day! Woke up at about 6am, and left the house with OP, my housemate at around 6.45am. Since the school isn’t populated in such an early morning, I took the opportunity to take some iconic pictures of UNSW to start the day off. And what better icon for UNSW than the previous UNSW law library but currently general UNSW library? And another icon of UNSW would be the quite recent scientia.
Anyway, reached the main gate of UNSW at around 7.10am where the coach arrived just as we did. Jim boarded the bus about 5 minutes later. And within the next 5-10minutes, the bus was nearly full – there must have been like 25-30 people onboard. And finally, my walkabout to Canberra has begun! Yeah! Although I booked the tour through the International Student Service, the tour was conducted by the colourfultrips instead. Well, I quite recommend colourfultrips tour if you happen to be in Sydney, and based on my previous and current experiences, their tours were very good – friendly and knowledgeable tour guides and bus drivers.
Canberra is like more than 300km from Sydney, and so we slowly inched our way to the capital city of Australia. After passing the Botany Bay and suburbs like Campbelltown and travelling along the Hume highway through Australian bush, the tour guide, Debbie pointed out to us that the Wattle trees or also known as Acacia, that is along the divider in the highway is Australia’s National flora. And she also pointed out that Australia is experiencing extreme drought for the past 5 years, which is why the grass and some trees along the highway are all brown! And she further illustrated the extreme drought condition by saying that some areas in Australia hasn’t have rain for 4-5 years! And she carried on commenting that the animals and even little children less than 5 years of age who has never seen rain before were petrified when some rain did manage to fall in that area! LOL… So funny, but so sad too!
After like 1.5 hours into the journey, and before turning into the Federal Highway, we stopped by Goulburn for a 30minutes refreshment break. And the moment I step out of the coach, I was like “Wow!” because the wind was so strong that the jackets in my hands were nearly blown off! And what’s more, one can feel the resistance of the wind if you walk against it! LOL… Anyway, there were like MacDonald’s and Subway in the pit stop, and we (OP, Jim and me) decided to head off to Subway. Well, this was my first time trying out Subway, and it was a rather delicious experience! LOL… Tried their Ham and egg sandwich for just AUD$3.25 – pretty cheap and worth it! Anyway, it appears that each of these little suburbs/towns that specialized in a certain industry tends to build big statues/structures to celebrate their industry! And for Goulburn, their main industry involves sheep! Therefore, they have this big merino just beside Subway. And I’m an Aries… =)
So after our pit stop for our stomach, we branched off from Hume Highway into Federal Highway. And along Federal highway, we came across this vast stretch of flat green pasture where sheep were seen gazing. And it is so huge that this piece of flat green pasture covers one-third of the Australia Capital Territory (ACT)! And just as OP was wondering why there is like no development etc in such a flat piece of land e.g. probably a farm or something, the tour guide and the driver revealed the answer. According to them, this piece of lush flat green gazing pasture for sheep used to be a LAKE!
What!? A Lake!!? Did I hear wrongly?! Apparent it was called Lake George, and the water has receded several years ago due to the drought and thus this huge piece of land become a gazing land! Wow… simply unbelievable! And, the only time when it will be fill up will be during snow falls etc, and only to be evaporated soon enough as the lake is huge and swallow while the weather can be dry with strong winds. But seriously, unbelievable! Oh one question – if it rains or snow, what will happen to the sheep?? I hope they can escape out of the lake in time! LOL.
Anyway, about 45 minutes after Lake George, we crossed into the ACT. Yeah! Ok, for those who have no idea what ACT is, ACT refers to the Australia Capital Territory (sort of like a state), where its city Canberra is located. Specifically, Canberra is located in the Northeastern part of ACT. Anyway, first stop before going into Canberra after crossing into ACT – Mount Ainslie. Mount Ainslie is part of the Canberra Nature Park, and overlooks the whole Canberra city! Wow… the view is magnificent, and Canberra is so small!!! Hmm… probably Orchard Road in Singapore might be longer than Canberra! LOL… The red rectangular road is Anzac Parade which is part of the land axis, as will be mentioned later. And directly beyond the Anzac Parade after the river (water axis) is the old parliament house, followed by the new parliament house. And the jet of water shooting upwards to the sky over to the right of the river is Captain Cook’s memorial, as Captain Cook was the first Europeans to ‘discover’ Australia!
Anyway, Canberra is a city designed by Walter Griffin back in 1911 where an international competition was held to select the best city design. And according to his plan, there is this 3 axis that basically are the pillars of the city – Land, water, and municipal axis. All these 3 axis forms a parliamentary triangle where all the government offices such as the parliaments are located, and the ‘invisible triangle’ converge at Mount Ainslie.
After awing at the smallness of Canberra from Mount Ainslie, we proceeded to the Captain Cook’s memorial jet before walking a minute or two to the Floridae 2007 site. The Captain Cook’s memorial jet is simply just a stream of water that is being shot upwards towards the sky. As the wind are strong, you can see the water being blown away – either that, or that the jet is slightly tilted at an angle to make such an effect! But seriously, it isn’t any big deal – simply just a jet of water. But I guess what is nice is the tranquil lake that the memorial jet is in. And over at the far end, but still on the same side of the lake, there are some school kids rolling down the slope! LOL… Not that they were accidental being pushed down, but they deliberately lie down on the grassy slope and start rolling down! LOL… looks like they were having so much fun! Anyway, there were also some flowering sakura trees along the bank as well – beautiful, but I’m not really a fan of sakura! LOL… But still it’s hard to resist taking photographs of these beautiful flowers!
Soon we headed to the Floridae 2007 site. Wow! There are simply so many flowers!! Red, purple, yellow, white, big, small – flowers every where! Coupled with the afternoon sun, their colours were even more attractive and bright. Simply gorgeous, but the organizers should have put the names of the flowers on the flower beds as well! All throughout the exhibition, I could only recognize tulips, and I kept wondering what the rest of the flowers were! So, you can forget about asking me what the flowers in my pictures are!
Probably you think I’m bragging, but I seriously think that the pictures of the flowers were very nicely taken. I would say they look very professional! LOL… Seriously I didn’t realize that they will turn out so well. After all, I’m an amateur when it comes to photography. Armed with only a digital Casio EX-Z850 camera, I know nuts about lightings etc when it comes to taking pictures. Hmm… which is my favorite picture? Hmm… it’s really very difficult to decide which is my favorite as they are all so well taken! LOL… Hmm… but among all the flowers in Floridae, the one I like most would be the yellow tulip. And… I still cannot choose which of the following picture I like best! Argh… Maybe the yellow tulip picture is the nicest. No, the one with the truck in it is nice as well, having the different colour schemes within the same picture. Hmmm… no… one on the flower buds is very nice too, so that might be my favorite… but wait, I think I prefer the tulip… No… yes…. Argh!!!
But one thing is for sure – the Floridae wasn’t as big as I though it will be! And the flowers were predominantly tulips. Therefore I think it would be nicer to have more varieties as well. And, according to the organizers, their theme was ‘Aussie icons and myth’. So naturally I expected to see flowers arranged into designs of Aussie icons like the opera house etc, but I guess my expectation was too high for them! They have opera house alright. But it is made of clothes with some kind of plants growing on it. Yucks… how disappointing! I really wonder what the organizers were thinking!
So, after spending about an hour and thirty minutes in the floridae, we bided farewell and headed back to our coach. We next proceed to the new parliament house where parliamentary debates are held, and bills are debated. However there was no parliamentary session when we visited, else we would be able to see how the debates are, and see the Prime Minister of Australia live! LOL… To sidetrack a bit, lots of people hate the current primer minister John Howard, and I personally don’t think he will be reelected in the upcoming elections as well. If I’m an Australian, I will definitely not vote for him! LOL… Anyway, the parliamentary guide briefed us on the history of Canberra, Australia’s parliament, and talked about their voting system as well. Thereafter, she brought us to the two houses of the parliament. Parliament in Australia is very different from that of Singapore. In Australia, there is a House of Representative, as well as the Senate. According to the guide, all bills that involves money has to go through the House of Representative, while the Senate deals mostly with non-financial issues e.g. moral issues such as stem cell cloning etc. And in the House of Representative, each member of the house represents a certain number of the electorate, and doesn’t take the area of the land into account. In the Senate however, each state will have equal representation, and the total number of members in the Senate should be as close to halve of the Representative number as possible. In this case, equal representation within the Senate will give states with less popularity an equal voice in the parliament as well. Anyway, we concluded our parliamentary tour by going to the roof of the parliament house. And the view from the roof is spectacular! Initially in the morning, we looked at the parliament houses from Mount Ainslie and in the afternoon we were looking at Mount Ainslie from the roof of the parliament house! LOL… Truly spectacular view…
Next in the itinerary is to look at the different national embassies that were in Canberra. Well, I guess the easiest embassy to recognize would be China embassy! This is because the architectural design of their roof – typical Buddhist temple touch, and having a garden with pavilions and bamboos if I’m not wrong! Singapore’s embassy is well… plain and very governmental style of building… how disappointing!
So, final stop of the day – Australian War Memorial. Our coach reached the War memorial at around 4.05pm if I’m not wrong, and so that leave us less than an hour to browse through the stuffs in the memorial. Well, essentially the Australian War memorial is to commemorate Australians who died during the wars and in particular the two world wars. In fact, there is this ‘tomb of the unknown soldier’ where an unknown Australian soldier lies. But strangely enough, the tomb reminds me of India’s Taj Mahal when looking at it from the outside the tomb! LOL… Anyway, the war memorial also includes exhibitions of WWI and WWII relics, and anything related to that. I was looking through them with interest, but time didn’t permit me to look through everything. By 4.50pm we were asked to leave the exhibition to gather in front of the tomb for the bugle call titled ‘Last Post’. Well, it was an apt way to end our tour to Canberra as well.
Basically, I had fun and the tour was very informative and an eye-opener as well. Awed at the size of Canberra, saw lotsa of flowers, taken hundreds of pictures, learned about Australia parliamentary system, visited the tomb of an unknown soldier – all for a price of only AUD$79. It is definitely money well spent, and most importantly, I enjoyed myself. =) And finally, ended the day with the sight of a full round moon on the way back to Sydney from Canberra, as mid-autumn festival was just a couple of days before the trip – it is always a couple of days after the mid-autumn festival where the moon is the brightest and roundest. Lastly, head on to my online photo album to see all the 130 pictures for the Canberra trip! =)