From the Blue Mountains I head off towards Canberra. I stopped a night in Gouldburn and went to visit the Big Merino. I felt uncomfortable standing at its rear end for too long.. the biggest ass I’ve ever seen. Onwards to Canberra. It’s interesting how the landscape changes from rural sheep grazing country to suddenly a big city. Canberra was pretty much put in the middle of nowhere. Arriving in the late afternoon the first thing I went to do was visit Parliament House. It’s quite an interestingly designed building. There are dozens of Australian Federal Police cars and police just driving around in circles all day long keeping vehicles moving on. There’s free parking for 1 hour available so I parked up and walked up to the entrance. There you are greeted with more Federal police one with a machine gun slung over his shoulder. Good to know our capital city is armed and ready for action.
Plenty of tourists around. I went inside and checked through security.. wasn’t a smile on any of the 7 guards there. Took the self guided tour around. Most places are open to the public.. Even has a gift shop at the exit for any political fans to get an autobiography or postcards with your favourite politician on it. The view on the roof of Parliament house is also pretty decent. You can see all the way over to the Australian War Memorial.
As I only had 1 hour parking my time was over.. didn’t want to overstay in case I was fined or my car (being a rugged green military looking Defender possibly owned by a terrorist) would be towed and detonated out of town. All the accommodation at caravan parks is quite expensive so I headed out to nearby Queanbeyan only a short 30 odd minute drive away.
Day 2.. I talked to a couple backpackers while heading in to Canberra and they told me about the NASA Deep Space Network. So that’s where I headed in the morning. We have a few large dishes there which communicate to a couple dozen unmanned spacecraft orbiting our planet along with some Mars explorers and others that were launched in the 70’s and are on their way outside our solar system. Being technically owned by NASA as they funded most of the facilities there are some cool displays of real space man food, an actual piece of moon rock, space suits and other interesting stuff like engines. Part of the original dish that was used to relay the first footage of man walking on the moon is also out the back. There’s a little cafe there too to enjoy.
I then returned to the city and visited the Royal Australian Mint, which is where all of Australia’s coinage is produced. They had a decent display of ancient coins right up to the present. Some single coins in the collection are worth over $200000 to collectors. With the day running out I took a drive up to the Black Mountain Telstra tower. There’s an entrance fee to go up in the tower to the lookout so I didn’t bother.. that and I didn’t want to be radiated by all the antennas.
Day 3 I decided to get some culture. I checked out the Museum of Australia which was really quite boring. It housed lots of Australiana memorabilia like old cars, posters, frying pans etc.. Would be great for a non-Australian. Best thing to see were a couple of Captain James Cooks personal items. The Art Gallery was much more enjoyable with some beautiful displays and sculptures. I stopped off at the Australian National Archives to see if there was any family stuff in their database. Found 2 patents by my great grandfather for various inventions in cabinet making and refrigeration, but to access them would have cost $60 or so.. another time.
By late afternoon I stopped in to the Australian Film Archives.. Wasn’t much to see there but a couple of free films in their theatres. The big library was closed for renovations. I was told that night they were having a record playing night, where people bring in their favourite record and it is played on their big analogue speaker system. So I stayed and quite enjoyed the mix of records people played. I picked an old negro spiritual from the collection they had on hand which sounded incredible with the bass/baritone voices resonating around the room.
Day 4 was my last day. I decided to go to the Australian War Memorial. I originally thought it was just a few walls and shrine. Expected to be in and out in a couple hours leaving me time to do some business study… I was soooooo wrong! There is an incredible museum underneath with relics dating right back to the english soldiers during the establishment of the Australian colonies, plus WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, East Timor, Iraq and Afganistan plus a dozen other conflicts Australian forces have served in. Spent the whole day there and was exhausted by the end of it. A total maze underneath.. Whole tanks, planes, cars, weaponry, endless collection of medals.. To fully enjoy everything I would recommond spend 2 days there.
One of my favourite exhibits was of course one of the Australian Special Forces Land Rover Perenties.. The one on display was damaged by a mine in Afghanistan. It is not a standard Land Rover by any means. Much wider and super reinforced.
And so that was my time in Canberra.