Shanks’s Pony   Leave a comment

Sunday, 20 July, 2014

Since Skippy took out my car back in early June, I’ve hired cars, borrowed cars and caught many a lift of various people (thankyou all!), but today I thought that I would try to get around Canberra without the use of a car!

Okay the day without a car didn’t start too well as I had to return the car that I had borrowed yesterday back to its owners over in Kambah, but as it was such a beautiful day I decided to put my hiking boots on and walk back home once I had dropped the car off. The only problem is that there’s a bloody great big hill called Mt. Taylor in the way, but after looking at the map I reckoned that found a way back that took in the summit of Mt. Taylor and used mostly footpaths which avoided nearly all the main roads.

Additionally, I planned to visit one of the places on Lake Burley Griffin that I’ve never been too, The National Museum of Australia (NMA). Looking at the bus timetable early this morning, I worked out that the local bus that passes my place would take me right past the NMA, but the problem was being a Sunday it only came by once an hour. The best bet seemed to be the 12:13, which would get me to the NMA by 13:00, where I could spend 4 hours or so looking at the exhibits before jumping on the 17:04 outside and returning home, simple!

So setting off from Kambah after dropping the car off at around 09:15, I kept up a fair pace in order to stay on schedule. I reached the top of Mt. Taylor without too much trouble, stopping to take some pictures on the way and then made my way down the other side into Torrens, where I picked up a footpath which cut through the suburb into Woden. The last stint was to retrace the route I take when returning from work on my bike back into my apartment complex. 1 Hour 50 minutes to do exactly 10km wasn’t a bad effort in my opinion and it meant that I had plenty of time to jump in the shower, make breakfast and update my Facebook site, before walking out to the bus stop to catch the bus.

At this point, things started to unravel as even though I was at the bus stop in good time, the bus never turned up and after a good fifteen minutes waiting I started to walk into Woden in order to catch the Blue Rapid into Civic. Sods law came into play, because as I was in between bus stops the bus came round the corner and went sailing past me, bastard! Fear not, if I walked fast enough and caught a Blue Rapid in Civic straight away, I would only be ten minutes or so behind the bus I just missed. Sods law part two, just as I was approaching the bus station, a Blue Rapid bus went sailing past me which meant I had a 15 minute wait for the next one. Also, when I did get into Civic I had to walk through town and along the lake shore to get to the NMA, meaning that I arrived nearly 45 minute later than I expected.

To be honest, once I was inside I was a little disappointed in the NMA. Maybe it was the design of the building, which meant that I kept finding myself retracing my steps through some of the exhibition halls or maybe it was just the content of the exhibits, as I found some of them quite boring. So as I sat down in the excellent café having a coffee, working out what I had seen, what I had missed and wondering if I should go home, I spotted an exhibit that was only opened on the hour for fifteen minutes. As the time was approaching 16:00, I made my way over the Garden of Australian Dreams! to the Open Collections. On the way I bumped into Eng, one of the museum helper who offered to show me around. Well, Eng and the open Collections saved the day, as I was treated to a wonderful insight into Indigenous culture by viewing the many artefacts that the NMA had in their procession.

As I was leaving a little earlier than I was expecting, I decided to walk back around the lake’s edge, over the bridge, take a few pictures of the setting sun and catch the Bus Rapid back into Woden and connect with the local bus that passes my place. Sods law, part three, it didn’t quite work out that way, as when I was taking a couple of pictures of the lake, museum and Black Mountain from the bridge, the bus went sailing past me again…

Posted July 20, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about

Big Hike 23   Leave a comment

Saturday, 12 July, 2014

As you know by now, every 3 months or so, I join a few colleagues from work and go on a hike somewhere in one of the many National Parks that surround Canberra and the ACT. Phil (He’s from Bradford, but don’t hold that against him), the guy who organises these things, has so far arranged and taken part in 22 of these ‘Big Hikes’ and this morning, Patrick and I took a trip out to the Namadgi National Park Visitors Centre, via the café at MacDonald’s for a Brekkie Roll and coffee, to meet up with Phil, Brian and Tony in order to participate in ‘Big Hike 23’, which would take us up the North face of Mt. Tennent to the summit and back again.

The weather this morning looked promising, although when we reached the bottom of the mountain we could see that the top was obscured by low cloud. So it was with a spring in the step that the five of us set off from the Visitors Centre, however, once we hiked up to and into the cloud base the temperature and the visibility dropped and by the time we reached the top, any chance of viewing the magnificent views had disappeared. I think the plan was to take a break at the summit, but the poor weather put paid to that and we didn’t hang around, save to take a few pictures.

As we made our way back down the hill, we soon realised that the cloud base had dropped even lower and it was only when we got near the visitors centre that the visibility improved much. Today’s hike wasn’t too long by our usual standards at only 15km, but the climb up was steep and the decent down a little tricky, so I suspect that I’ll be a little sore in the legs in the next few days.

 

Posted July 12, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about

Melbourne (Day 3) – I’ve Reached the Edge   Leave a comment

Sunday, 22 June, 2014

Just about managed to force myself out of bed this morning. Note to self, try to get some sleep in the bank before you go away on weekends like this!

Anyway, spent an hour or so in the gym/swimming pool before packing up and leaving the apartment at the allotted check out time. My flight back to Canberra didn’t leave till 3:30pm and although I still needed to get to the airport in good time, via the excellent SkyBus, I had around 4 hours to kill on a beautiful Melbourne morning.

I considered taking the tram down to St. Kilda beach, but considering the time I had left I reckoned that I would only have an hour or so down there before I had to return to the station to catch the bus. The answer has been looming over me all weekend! The Eureka Tower is Melbourne’s tallest building and being one of the highest buildings in Australia, they’ve not missed a trick by having an observation deck up near the top and by all accounts it was something worth taking a look at.

First things first, breakfast! On the way to the Eureka Tower on the South Bank of the Yarra river is a vast array of bars, cafés and restaurants which all looked very inviting as I walked  along  taking pictures. I opted for one that had a great looking outdoor area bathed in sunshine and after being seated next to a patio heater I was soon enjoying a full English whilst being entertained by the live singer located somewhere inside and by the sights of the locals doing their Sunday morning things.

After breakfast I walked around the corner to the SkyDeck entrance of the Eureka Tower, paid my money (you didn’t think it was free did you?) and took the 40 second lift trip up the 88th floor to the SkyDeck. For an extra $15 on top of the admission price to the SkyDeck, I was given a beeper which would tell me that my time to experience ‘The Edge Experience‘ had arrived, so I spent the time in between walking around the floor to ceiling windows taking in the magnificent 360 degree views of Melbourne and the surrounding area. The only problem was that the glass was very reflective and I struggled to get any decent pictures through it.

Finally after around 45 minutes, my beeper went off and I walked over to the entrance to ‘the Edge’. After a brief safety talk and slipping on a pair of special socks over my shoes, we were ushered into a room where we had to leave all our stuff, including camera, phones etc. before entering the glass box that is ‘The Edge’. The glass on three sides and the floor (we had been assured that it was very thick glass!) was frosted and the eight of us in there took up positions around the edge of the box, strangely nobody wanted to stand in the middle of the box! This is where it got weird, as as soon as the attendant closed the door, the whole box started to move away from the building. There was a bit of dramatic music and suddenly the frosted glass cleared and we found ourselves 300 metres above the streets below. Once the box was safely brought back in, we all posed for pictures inside (another $15).

I returned to the airport a little bit early after taking a walk up through town to the train station where the airport transfer was located and was rewarded by being able to watch extended highlights of the earlier Germany v Ghana World Cup match in the airport lounge, before brooding the flight for my journey home.

Posted June 22, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

Melbourne (Day 2) Football Crazy!   Leave a comment

Saturday. 21 June, 2014

After what seemed like only a few hours’ sleep, I was awake and getting ready to nip down for session in the gym and pool in the basement of the apartment complex. Great facility, but I would hate to see what the body corporate fees are for this place! Anyway, time for to find some breakfast and a bit of retail therapy at the DPO on the South Wharf. I only bought a couple of shirts in one of the menswear shops and as I was paying I was telling the shop assistant that I was down for the Hawthorn v Collingwood match at the ‘G. “Who are you supporting” she asked and when I asked her for a recommendation she replied “Anyone but Collingwood”. It turns out that everybody hates Collingwood because their fans are so boorish, so I promised her that I would be a Hawthorn fan for the day. After dropping my stuff back at the apartment, I headed into town for a quick look around before heading off to the MCG to catch the match.

Well that was the plan, until I jumped on a tram outside my place which I thought was heading the right direction, as where I was expecting the tram to turn down Bourke Street and into the CBD, it carried on Spencer Street toward North Melbourne. No problem, I’ll just jump off and walk the rest of the way. All well and good, until I had just stepped off the tram and realised I had left my hut on the seat, worst still inside my hat was my trusty phone, SHIT! As I turned round to get back on the doors had already closed and the tram had started to move off down the road, SHIT! Most of the trams that run in central Melbourne do so on the street where of course cars travel as well, so you had the sight of me running (not very fast) after a tram with a line of cars following me. Anyway the lead car sounded his horn and pulled up beside me and after a bit of explaining got me to jump in and off we raced after the tram. A few hundred meters down the road, the tram stopped at the next stop and out I jumped to reboard and retrieve my hat and phone, which were still sitting on the seat where I had left them. However, when I got back off the tram and returned to the back of the tram to thank the driver for his help, he was gone!

Anyway, I took my stroll around the shopping street of central Melbourne and then decided to catch another tram on the other side, which took me down to the MCG, where I was meeting Rory, Aaron and Dave. Rory and Aaron are the two oldest sons of James and Grainne, who live just up the hill from me in Garran and Dave is a friend of Aaron’s whom he meet on his Australian working holiday. Immediately, I could tell that today’s crowd was going to be a lot bigger than last night’s and by the time I had contacted Aaron on his mobile to see were we should met, I had noticed massive queues outside the main entrance points. At the gate where we could enter the ground, we had some fun and games trying to distributed the eTickets that Aaron had purchased around the various smart-phones we all had and in the end we just got Aaron to stand at the gate and scan each one in turn to let us in. We were back up on the forth level, so by the time we made our way up there, grabbed some beers and found our seats, the game had already started.

As with last night, my strategy was to see who the majority of people sitting around us were supporting and fall into line with them, so imagine my relief when we found we were sitting in the Hawks (Hawthorn) supporters’ club section! Anyway the game itself was close for the first half, with the Hawks just edging a high scoring first half. However, the break they scored several quick goals and were soon out of sight of Collingwood with the final score coming in at Hawthorn 115, Collingwood 86. After the usual post match club song etc. we left the ground and headed towards Richmond High Street where Rory had assured us was the best little bistro serving delicious American BBQ. He was right, MeatMother was excellent and the four of us enjoyed some fantastic meats from their Meat Tray selection. After a couple of beers in the pub across the road, Rory did the sensible thing and went home, especially so as he had had been on a heavy night last night was still feeling the after effects.

Aaron and Dave had other ideas, so we decided to head home, grab a shower and change of clothes and meet again in the World Cup zone at the casino in order to meet some of their friends and maybe watch another World Cup match in the small hours of the morning.

Postscript
When coming out of the World Cup Zone after the Italy v Costa Rica match on Saturday morning, I was presented with a free $10 bet to be used in the casino> As I was pretty tried I just stuck in my wallet and forgot about until I was walking of the same place tonight. I’d already said goodnight to Aaron, Dave and their friends and as I walked place the $10 roulette table I remembered the free bet in my pocket. Sod it, so I put the voucher on red and won. Wow! double your money, that was easy. Okay $10 on Evens, won again! Upshot is after a few more goes I was $100 up and going home a happy man.

“I wonder if I put that $100 on Black …”

 

Posted June 21, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

Melbourne (Day 1), are you a Tiger or a Swan?   Leave a comment

Friday, 20 June, 2014

It’s a funny thing, but the most popular sport in Australia (viewing wise anyway) is Australian Rules Football or Aussie Rules or just plain old Footy. It’s played mostly by teams in the state of Victoria, but there are teams from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in the Australian Football League (AFL). However, the mecca for all Footy fans is the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or the ‘G as it’s affectionally known. This 95K seat venue is used by the cricket people in the summer, where I watched England get murdered in the Boxing Day match late last year and the AFL in the winter.

I’ve been to a few AFL games at the Manuka Oval, where the Greater Western Giants (GWS) are contracted to play 3 or 4 of the regular season games this season and although the action has been fine, I was left wondering what it would be like to go to a big game in the best AFL venue of them all, the MCG. So a couple of months ago I got a few friends to scan the league schedule for me and let me know which weekend would be a good one to head down to Melbourne and catch a few games at the ‘G. As it turned out the best weekend would have been about two or three weeks away, but when I checked out the flight prices I decided to look at another weekend a little further away so that the flight cost would be cheaper.

And so it was that this afternoon I flew down to Melbourne from Canberra, checked into my apartment, grabbed some lunch/dinner and then headed down the Yarra River towards the MCG. Tonight’s game was between the local team Richmond (the Tigers) and the Sydney Swans (Surprisingly known as the Swans). I bought a general admission ticket from the box office, headed around to the gate and into the ground. I wasn’t sure who I was going to support tonight and on the way I decided that whichever fans I would be sat with, then that would be my team for the night. So when I eventually got to my seat high up on the fourth level and found that was sat next to a family of Swans fans, I knew that I was a Swan for the night. As the start of the game approached, it didn’t look like much of a crowd was going to be in attendance, but I was surprised to learn later that the crowd was 37k, even though it looked smaller than that in the massive stadium.

At the start of the match, the Tigers raced into a decent lead at the end of the first quarter, much to the surprise of most people, including their own fans, as they are current rooted near the bottom of the ladder, whereas the Swans were coming into the match having won their last 8 matches. This lead was maintained throughout the second and third quarters, although the Swans were reducing it slowly but surely all the time. In the final quarter, the Swans suddenly clicked into gear with a couple of their big stars, Buddy Flanklin and Adam Goodes coming to the fore and in the end they ran out 61 – 51 winners over a very disappointed Tigers team.

On the way back to the apartment, I took a quick walk through Federation Square and back along the Southbank of the Yarra River to see what was going on. My plan was to ditch the camera equipment and coat back at the apartment, take a break and then head over the Crown casino where I had heard that they had created a massive World Cup zone based around the Sport bar and watch the Italy v Costa Rica match starting at 2am. Last night England were beaten for the second time in the group stage and this meant that we needed Italy to beat the Costa Ricans in order to keep England in the tournament. The Sports bar was packed with hundreds of Italian fans, which a few Costa Ricans thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, Costa Rica scored first and Italy didn’t have enough in them to get back into the game and it was with a heavy heart that all those Italian fans and me trooped out of the Casino and home.

Posted June 20, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Travels

You’ve Killed Skippy!   Leave a comment

Saturday, 7 June, 2014

Tonight I was going to tell you all about my perfect day at the beach.

I was going to tell you that I left Canberra early this morning with some friends, stopping off at Braidwood for the customary pie and coffee, arriving at Pebbly Beach at around 10:30. Then I was going to tell you about being the first on the beach, taking pictures of the kangaroos sunbathing on the dunes, perfecting my body surfing technique in the crystal clear sea, relaxing on the sand by reading the newspaper, doing some exercises in the shade and taking a stroll along the beach to the rock pools at the end.

Then, when we realised we were hungry, I was going to tell you that we drove up the coast to Mollymook for fish n chips at the beach side cafe, took another stroll along the beach to watch the surfers in the turning tide and then leave for home. I was also going to describe how we stopped off in Bungendore on the way home for a beer/coffee sat beside a roaring fire in the local hostelry.

I was going to tell about all those things and more, but unfortunately on the way out of  Bungendore, on a long straight stretch of road, I picked up a couple of kangaroos on the side of road heading towards us in my headlights. The next few seconds were a bit of a blur, but the upshot of it all meant that I struck one of the roos with the front left hand side of my car. After pulling over, we ran back to check on the kangaroo, but with the force of the impact, it was already dead on the side of the road, along with the little Joey it was carrying in its pouch. Checking the car revealed extensive damage to the front headlight, bonnet and wing of the car, but luckily the car was still driveable, so it was with great sadness, we drove the last few miles back into Canberra.

When I got home, I posted an update on my Facebook page and although most people were sympathetic in their comments, one in particular stood out for its frankness, cheers GerdyBo!

Posted June 7, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

Bikes, Bridges & Bright Lights   Leave a comment

Saturday, 24 May, 2014

Cycle Tour

Sometime last year I was using Trip Adviser to check up on a hotel in Sydney or something like that, when I came across a Top Things to Do in Sydney list. High up on the list was a Cycle Tour around the CBD which promised to show the tourist parts of Sydney that most people don’t know about. After reading some of the many positive reviews, I promised myself that I would give it a go one of these days. Normally, whenever I’m up in Sydney, I’ve come up for something specific and don’t have a spare six hours or so to come all the way into the centre of town and partake in a cycle tour. However, this weekend the time gods were on my side and I managed to book myself onto ‘The Sydney Secrets Big Spin’ guided tour with Bike Buffs, Sydney Bike Tours.

Before I tell you about the tour and the rest of the day in Sydney, let me paint a picture of what I was supposed to be doing. I found out ages ago that Lawrence and Barbara’s daughter, Lauren, was expecting a baby sometime in May. I had always told them both that I would be expecting a phone call when the baby had arrived, so that I could come up and greet the new arrival. Also this weekend marks the start of the Vivid Festival, where many of Sydney’s iconic buildings have light projections cast upon them. You may remember that this time last year Barbara, Lawrence and I experienced the Vivid Festival from the comfort of a Sydney Showboat dinner cruise around the harbour. So, when I received a call from Barbara earlier in the week to tell me that the baby was imminent, I told her that I would come down at the weekend to A) see the baby and B) go with them to see Vivid from the water or any other way they wanted too.

Well, best laid plans and all that. Turned out that Barbara and Lawrence didn’t fancy going to the Vivid Festival again, ‘been there, done that’ came to mind and it seemed that the baby wasn’t quite playing ball and didn’t make an appearance until Friday afternoon, meaning that Lauren was either going to still be in hospital when I arrived or would be just arriving back home after a short stay and therefore not in a position to accept non family visitors, like me. So plan B was invoked

So, after a couple of phone calls and a flurry of emails, I found myself standing on the corner of Argyle and Lower Fort Streets in the Rocks at 10:15 this morning waiting for Graeme from Bike Buffs to make an appearance. Sure enough, a white pick-up with a load of bikes on the back rolls up and I’m soon being fitted out with a bike, helmet etc. ready for the start of the tour. Not long after I start to get ready, Jack and Mary Lou turn up and the four of us are soon chatting away like old friends. Graeme, our tour guide tells us that he was an antiques collector/trader until ten years ago, when he suddenly decided to change direction completely and setup Bike Buffs. It turns out that Jack and Mary Lou are from Minneapolis and are in Australia to attend a Sales conference related to Jack’s work. Jack had been on the same gig a couple of years ago and had done the tour with Graeme then, so had brought Mary Low along this time to experience the adventure.

As it was just the four of us today, we were soon on our way and the first stop was the church on the corner where I was standing earlier, Holy Trinity Anglican Church Millers Point. Inside, Graeme gave us a history or the church itself and the Rocks area in general and then we were off up the hill to the highest point in the Sydney CBD, Sydney Observatory from which you get great view of the Harbour Bridge, darling Harbour and a lot more besides. We then crossed the Harbour Bridge on the dedicated cycle path and dropped into the famous Kirribilli Market on the north side of the harbour. This was our first pit stop, where we grabbed a coffee and a slice of cake and sat watching the world go by. Our next stop off point was under the bridge where we took pictures from the fantastic lookout point which overlooked the Opera House and South Sydney skyline. Riding back under the bridge, we took a stop at Luna Park, which is an amusement park built as a thankyou to the people of Sydney from the people who built the Harbour Bridge back in the 30’s. From here we rode around the corner into lavender Bay where we visited Wendy Whiteleys’s secret garden. This oasis has been created out of an old rail shunting yard by this lady over the last twenty years and was a perfect place for us to take lunch sat under one of the pagodas.

We crossed the harbour by ferry, which took us into Circular Quay and from here we rode round the quay and Opera House (not strictly legal!) and into the Royal Botanic Gardens for look around. An obvious place to stop, for that Kodak moment and the history was Mrs MacQuarie’s chair. Out of the gardens, past the Art Gallery of NSW and into Hyde Park we were enchanted with the sight of a young boy busking at the side of the fountain right in the middle of the park. After dragging ourselves away, Graeme took us down through the heart of central Sydney and across the Pyrmont Bridge into Darling Harbour. After a quick tour of the area, we were soon riding past the newly developed King Street Wharf and into the soon to be developed Barangaroo shorefront. The last part of our tour took us into and around the Walsh bay piers, which have been developed into some very high end apartments, studios, restaurants and bars. The only thing left to do with to ride up the steep hill from the water’s edge to our starting point at the church. Wow, what a trip, fantastic and I would recommend anybody visiting Sydney to check it out (providing you got a space six hours or so!).

After a couple of last photographs, packing our stuff away and saying goodbye to Graeme. Mary Lou, Jack and I took a short walk over the road to the Lord Nelson Pub/Brewery where we sampled one of their on-site brewed ales. They had to shot off for a dinner appointment and left me to finish off my beer and write a quick post on my Facebook page. As I was about to leave, I took a call from Barry, who was in town to catch the Pixies at the opera House later in the evening, so I invited him over for a beer or two before the concert.

Vivid

Well you know how one or two stretches into three or four and beyond, as we sat and chatted about our respective days in Sydney. In the end I had to buy some food from the bar and get changed into a pair of jeans and jumper that I had brought along for the evening’s entertainment, which in my case was supposed to be an evening walking around the various Vivid installations in Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. However, by the time we came out of the bar, it was well gone seven and any plans of me strolling along the water’s edge in Darling Harbour were out of the window, as I think I would have fallen in! I decided to ‘escort’ Barry to the Opera House, so that I could at least get some pictures of the various building located around Circular Quay that would be lit up by the big projections. In the end, due to the crowds around the quays, Barry had to shot off in an attempt to skirt round the hordes in order get to his concert in time. This left me to struggle through to the various vantages points where I took the pictures below. I think the amount of beer consumed earlier and the fact that it had been a long day affected the quality of the photographs I was taking and I decided to bail out at around ten O’clock, instead of staying on until late into the night.

Posted May 24, 2014 by yermandownunder in Observations, Out and about, Travels

yermandownunder

A Blog about Mario's life down under!

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