Blog 228 Canberra 17th – 19th April 2012

Our continued recovery is going well and we have just returned from the Spaghetti rally over the weekend with our good friend’s from the Victoria Guzzi club. (Hence the lack of blogs recently). It was a good test not only for me (Karen) but also all our equipment and our bike, now repaired after the accident.

Back to this blog in which we explore our last state/territory of our Aussie tour before we head back to Melbourne in preparation for crating our bike to South America (or so we thought!).

Blog 228 Canberra 17th-19th April 2012.

There was an impressive, uninterrupted view of the parliament houses from the war memorial museum.


The war memorial museum was recommended so we headed there first as we knew it would probably take all day to explore. We weren’t wrong in fact we went back for a second day. The entrance was guarded by the Menin Gate lions straight from the battlefields of Ypres in Belgium. They were given to the Australian government in 1936 as a gesture of friendship from the town of Ypres to the Australian people. The painting shows the Menin Gate in Ypres during the war with the ghosts of the soldiers in the fields around.

We started our tour outside in the hall of memory, two long corridors with the names of fallen servicemen and a sea of poppies, this led on to the hall of valour. Flanked either side by statues of an airman and a sailor was a separate vast mosaic chamber which held the tomb of the unknown soldier. The massive columns behind were made of plastic, marble, metal and wood. The mosaic ceiling glinted in the sunlight which in turn lit the huge stained glass windows.

Inside the WWI hall we experienced the Gallipoli landings and subsequent Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) invasion day 25th April 1915, complete with bullet ridden life raft from the troopship HMS Ascot. Technically you had to be 18 to join up but many lied about their age. We read the story of James Martin aged only 14yrs old, he served in Egypt and Gallipoli but sadly died of Typhoid and was buried at sea. The photo shows the Anzac symbol, a fern leaf and boomerang intertwined. One of the pictures is of an Aussie map made from a German water carrier with its poignant inscription. The Hall of Honour was next where the museum paid tribute to the holders of Australia’s Victoria crosses.

We took a lunch break out in the gardens and while we were there explored some of the outside displays and sculptures. The first sculpture is of Sir Edward Dunlop, he was christened Weary Dunlop by the troops, the statue is a tribute to him and all the doctors and medical staff who saved so many lives during the building of the Thai Burma railway during WWII. The second picture and sculpture is Simpson and his donkey, Private Simpson famously used his donkey to ferry the wounded down from the front line, often in the line of fire. The next beautifully made sculpture depicted sailors being pulled into a life raft in the pacific campaign. Lastly there are some pictures of real life soldiers from the 21st century.

Back inside we headed for the aviation hall and met George. One of the first Lancaster bombers delivered on 6th December 1942, it was given the letter G and subsequently named George. George managed nearly ninety missions over eighteen months and was decked out with his tally count on the sides of the fuselage. We sat a while to watch some short films about George who was considered a lucky aircraft to fly in. Lucky charms were common place, aircraft mechanic Henry Marston had a black cat, a boomerang inscribed “I go to return” and a Fumsup (thumbs up doll) sadly all the charms did not help him as he was killed in action in 1917. The torpedo is off a Japanese midget submarine also on display and the torpedo can be run between 2.5 and 15 metres from the surface, it was used on an attack on Sydney harbour in WWII. There were also Messerschmitts, Mustangs and many other interesting displays.

Totally bushed we could not absorb any more information in one day and went to leave. A lone bagpiper piped us out. In the garden the sinking sun was lighting the Bomber Command sculpture depicting the air crews to whom we all owe so much.

We caught up with Mark and friends at a local Chinese where they ate often, the food was really good and great value.

Next morning we went up Mt Ainslie which gave us a superb view of the layout of Canberra down to the war museum and beyond to the parliament houses, our next destination. Canberra is unlike most major cities in that it was built from scratch. Designed by an American couple Walter and Marion Burley Griffin who won an international competition with their design in 1911. It took many years for their design to become reality partly because of the disruption caused by two world wars and the great depression.

Canberra is based loosely around Lake Burley Griffin in a letter Y known as the parliamentary triangle. Another significant design point was that the city was aligned between Mount Ainslie and Mount Bimberi and used them as a visual focus point for the street layout as per the original design. Hence, the Griffins influence lives on and the city is aligned with the most powerful force of all – nature.

We thought it would be a quick tour around the parliament buildings but there was a lot to see and our guide was very informative. We learnt a lot about how the whole process works, many traditions come from the English parliamentary system but have been given an Aussie twist. The red chamber is that of the Senate House, (the equivalent of the House of Lords) the high back chair is for the queen should she be attending. The green chamber is the house of representatives (the equivalent House of Commons). We took lunch on the grassed roof under the shield flanked by the Red Kangaroo and Emu. The unofficial animal emblems of the Australian government, chosen not as they both cannot move backwards as is often claimed but because they are well-known native animals large enough to be positioned in scale holding up the shield. We enjoyed the view back across the city towards the war memorial museum. The white building opposite is the old parliament house a temporary building which was used for 61 years until the new building was built in 1988. At the time New Parliament House was the most expensive building in the world costing over AU$ 1 Billion.

That afternoon we headed back to the war museum to finish it off. Starting in the WWII section and then Vietnam, North Borneo, Korea and Iraq.

We were told by staff the closing ceremony was different tonight and worth staying around for. One day a week the closing ceremony is performed by an elite squad of soldiers hand picked for state ceremonial duties, this allows them to practice in a live situation. We were lucky enough to be there on the right day, the guard marched past the eternal flame to the tomb of the unknown soldier then back down the steps and out to the accompaniment of a lone bugler piping the last post. It was very moving to watch and we felt very privileged to be witnessing it.

Our roof repair had gone well, Kev had the idea of adding an overlapping Velcro strip to the weak part that always tore so in the event of a minor tumble the Velcro would give way first thus saving ripping the roof.


Things were also progressing with our onward travel plans. We had managed to book a hotel in Thailand for our first night there as we would be arriving late at night. We also renewed our carnet (bike visa) for our onward shipment to South America at the start of May which was getting closer. We had been beginning to arrange crates in Melbourne ready to send the bike on a container ship.

Here is Mark (on the left) with his friend Ian, they both have been following our blogs since the beginning which is always nice to hear. It was great to meet them both at last. Kev and Mark spent happy hours turning and lathing bits in his workshop, Mark is a very clever instrument and toolmaker. Mark helped Kev repair our toolboxes which had pulled out the mounting nuts over time. Threading a couple of pieces of stainless steel plate and riveting them in place. The engine in the pictures is a sterling engine which Mark built for fun, we told you he was a clever blighter.

We spent the evening with Marks parents Thea and Barry and Skite (the long legged Jack Russell) enjoying a home cooked meal and their company. The next morning we hand fed the kookaburras that lined up on the kitchen window ledge.

Our time here was shorter than we would have liked but Mark and his friend’s ensured it was very enjoyable and made us very welcome. Now though we were looking forward to catching up with other friends in Jingellic at the Vic Guzzi club rally in Victoria’s spectacular high country.


Next up – the Moto Guzzi club of Victoria’s Jingellic rally.

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