Our first taste of Australia was Canberra, the capital city.
Was your first reaction a strong wholehearted ‘Why’? If not you must be from somewhere other than Australia. All the Australians we let know we visited Canberra were confused as to why we would go there. Deserved disparity or not, the capital city does not make it high on the Australians ‘to do’ list.
To be completely honest, Canberra got on our list because it was the only place in Australia that we could get Vietnamese travel visas. We ended up spending about five days there, waiting for our application to be processed. By the end we decided that it was actually a good place to acclimate to Australia, get used to live in a campervan and plan the rest of the trip while still finding interesting things to do see and do.
The getting used to live in a campervan deserves its own paragraph in the story. For me it was a bit harder than I thought, but then I got the hang of it. Wake up, make the bed so that later you can drive the van, make coffee and (sometimes) breakfast, do the dishes and pack everything, jump in the car, have fun, come back at the camp, decide what you need from the back of the car before making the bed (and hopefully you did not forget to get out the laundry detergent on a laundry evening, because that will mean making the bed again :)), put the ‘kitchen’ out and make dinner, have a glass of wine (ok, ok, more than one), do dishes and pack everything once again, read three pages of a book before crushing in bed. And start it all over again the next morning.
We spend the first couple of nights in the Tidbinbilla Reserve at Woods Campsite. This is a more nature oriented place to camp, good for hiking, making a wood fire barbecue, listening to parrots and relax. Although the last two can’t happen in the same time The parrots here are very chatty, 20 to 30 of them grouped together, usually looking for food. And sometimes that food will be yours, they are very skilled thieves whit the knowledge of what can be found in a bag left on a table, or the pan heating up on the stove.
This also meant there was no electricity and no cell signal, thus no internet. Given that we were painfully behind with the planning for the trip, it was not necessarily the perfect location to be. Despite these setbacks, we were lucky to find a place to camp there. With the new year celebrations and the summer vacation going on, all the camp sites closer to the city and civilization were full.
I know what you are thinking right now. What’s my problem, you could have just drove in the city, find a nice spot at an internet cafe, plug your laptop in and start working. Well, that’s what we thought as well. We were wrong. There were no internet cafes to be found around. Nor any places with plugs readily available for customers. I guess the concept does not have a lot of fans here, otherwise I would have expected more places like this. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of cafes, and the coffee is great. Just no free wifi. Nor plugs… We have chosen the next places to stay with their internet offerings in mind. We needed powered sites and in caravan parks close to towns. Which took out a bit of the fun of camping but it gave us what we needed. Connection with the rest of the world.
Coming back to Canberra, there are nice places to visit and things to do. Be that a walk downtown, a self-driven route of the city, or a hike in one of the many parks around. The history of the city is very interesting. The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation’s capital in 1908 as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne. An international contest for the city’s design followed. Walter and Marion Griffin, a family of architects from Chicago that have not visited the area before, won the contest and construction started in 1913. Their plan featured geometric motifs such as circles, hexagons and triangles, and was centered on axes aligned with important landmarks of the area. It also paid attention to the smallest detail, like the road naming convention.
One interesting trip we did, inspired the name of this posting. It is one of the six Canberra Tracks, a series of self-drive routes that take you to historic places, landscapes and communities. They have been established by the government as a way to attract people to visit, and also share some of history of the place. The project is developing still with two new tracks to be added to the group this year. We picked Track 3 ‘Looking at Canberra’ as we wanted to see more of the city, how it was planned and also because we did not have a lot of time for it. The track takes you through six high points that in the end give you a 360 degree view over the city:
Mount Ainslie Lookout
Red Hill Lookout
Oh, before I forget: we had our first encounter with kangaroos in Canberra. So yes, it was worth visiting