Day 172 – Our Nation’s Capital (P.S. It’s Not Sydney)
After yesterday’s effort (and the day before) I was exhausted. I was so tired that I had a hard time sleeping (my heart rate just wouldn’t go down), so I didn’t wake feeling that fresh. But still, considering I’d hiked more than 30km in the last 48 hours, some of that quite steep, I felt a lot better than I thought I would. Hopefully my body is happier with exercise these days!
It was a short drive last night from Thredbo to where we camped, so I shouldn’t have been surprised at how cool it was this morning, nor that we were in the shadow of snow-capped mountains (OK, not ‘snow-capped’, but there were small pockets of the cold white stuff).
A little further from Thredbo was the beautiful town of Jindabyne. Apart from the pretty (though man-made) lake, it’s such a stereotypical ski town. Anyway, it was a nice place to sit by the lake and eat breakfast.
We’d been seeing loads of motorbikes recently (Thredbo was full of them) and just assumed it was related to the MotoGP at Phillip Island, even though it was over a week ago. We got an idea as we drove in to Cooma – there were flags up throughout the main street, with posters up about Motorfest. The town was full of bikes and bikers (and muscle cars), which I thought was quite surprising (as the only other things I noticed in town were ski/board/chain hire shops).
Risa has a friend that currently has an exhibition in a small gallery in Canberra, so that was our first stop. His art is very intricate, with an incredible amount of small details. Paul Summerfield – https://paulsummerfield.see.me/ I really enjoyed this small detour. The café that the exhibition was being held in (The Front Gallery) was also kinda trendy – nice furniture and music. It was also our first time outside of the car since the Snowy Mountains, and we couldn’t believe the heat! Sure, our weather applications said that it was only mid-20s, but it felt like we were in an oven – so hot and dry!
Just around the corner was the National War Memorial. I almost didn’t come as I thought it was horrible to have to rush a visit here. The view from the entrance, down Anzac Parade and across Lake Burley Griffin towards Parliament House, is impossibly well aligned, but I guess that is possible when you design a city, rather than let it evolve.
I could have spent an entire day exploring this museum in depth (and have in the past), but we only had four hours free this afternoon to explore Canberra, so we were really rushed here. We saw a few of the WWII exhibitions, specifically about the war in the pacific (It’s always interesting for Risa to learn about Japanese WWII history as there isn’t a lot taught in schools there). I had a look at the planes, and we eventually ended up at a giant exhibition area at the rear of the museum. They had a few presentations, and we were fortunate enough to have arrived just as one about WWII bombing raids over Berlin was about to start. It tried to recreate some of the sensations that they must have experienced by simulating noises and lighting. I don’t know why, but trying to empathise with what these people had to do, and the risks that they had to go to almost brought me to tears. It was the oddest sensation, but I can’t even comprehend that level of bravery and courage – one in three didn’t return from that particular mission.
We also went to the monument to the unknown soldier, which has an enormous cathedral-like domed ceiling, and amazing stained glass windows and tile mosaics on the walls. Very solemn. There are also plaques with names of all those who have fallen in our service, and the size of that list is staggering, especially for a country of our size. I once again apologised for having to rush, and then rushed off to Parliament House.
I’ve always thought that the Australian Parliament House is a beautiful piece of architecture, quite unlike any other parliament houses that I have seen elsewhere (our ‘old’ parliament house looks not dissimilar to USA’s White House). Just like the War Memorial, I was amazed that I could park here for free – it was underground and there were areas for cars of our height! It was another blitz of a tour, quickly walking through the Main Hall, tracing the old Prime Minister portraits (couldn’t find anything post John Howard…) and sitting in the House of Representatives (which wasn’t in session). While the building may be a piece of modern art on the outside, the interior really shows its 1980s heritage, with loads of pastel shades of marble (super cheesy).
With about an hour left until we met a friend in town, we made a futile visit to the National Gallery, which was just around the corner, and also had free parking! The gallery shut at 5PM, so once again, we found ourselves having to rush through an amazing art gallery. We barely scratched the surface, but saw all types of art there, from Monet, to Picasso, to Warhol as well as smaller exhibitions by local artists. I think the only artist that I could think of that I didn’t see was Dali, but that was probably because we didn’t find it. We’d only explored three or four rooms before we were being ushered out of the building (and they were alarming rooms behind us). Understandably, we couldn’t photograph inside the building, and with so few other visitors and such a noisy camera (and so many staff at hand), I didn’t bother with a sneaky shot or two.
We then joined Canberra rush hour traffic back across the lake into town (if only traffic was like this every where…). Again, we found a park in town straight away, put 30c into the meter (it was 15 minutes until un-metered parking) and went to meet a new friend. We hadn’t actually met in person before, but he had made contact after seeing our Japan road trip blog. It was a little different for me meeting someone this way, but we all had so much in common, and again, it was a shame that we didn’t have the time to relax. We were taken on a quick tour around the central shopping area in town, which unsurprisingly is quite similar to any other Australian city. There was a small cosplay event just getting started outside of a comic shop, which I was tempted to walk around and photograph, but apart from it feeling a little creepy taking photos of random teenagers, I also only had my super-wide angle lens with me, which meant I’d have to get really close to take photos (which makes it feel even more creepy). I do enjoy a bit of cosplay though, and it makes me happy to see people enjoying it. Anyway, we moved to a nice little bar/café (Cream) and chatted about travels over a beer (delicious Kosciuszko Pale Ale) and some salt-and-pepper squid. Rob gave some me some good advice (and encouragement) about London, which lifted my spirits about our move next year. But, we had to make a move to visit more friends.
Some friends from Brisbane, Morgan and Kate, moved here a few years ago, so we caught up with them (well, Morgan anyway. Our arrival was last minute so she’d already made plans) and some other friends (Adam and Joss) at their recently purchased house (it was labelled as a housewarming). Beer, dips, BBQ. Again, just like all week, it’s been great catching up with all these friends that we haven’t seen in a while (and likely won’t see again for a while with our future travel plans).
We even joined them on a late night (11PM start) screening of Evil Dead: Army of Darkness. It was actually a movie marathon, showing all three in reverse order over two evenings. Amazingly it was the first time I’d seen the third Evil Dead movie. Super camp/cheesy and totally worth the late night!
I’ve been a little slack taking photos with friends recently, and I’m now regretting being lazy…