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Published: March 27th 2010
Day 324 - Canberra
We could have had a really nice lie in this morning and waved Caroline & Andy off to work from the comfort of our bed, but we weren’t that cruel! We were however cruel enough to wave them off still in our pyjamas!
There was only one item on the agenda today and that was a visit to the War Memorial in the city. I’m not a big museum buff but Darryl is passionate about history so we’re going to give it a go.
You can’t miss the War Memorial buildings in Canberra, they hold a very commanding position at the bottom of Mt Ainslie and look up towards Old Parliament House and Capital Hill. Our arrival couldn’t have been better timed as we were immediately able to join one of the free guided tours that run throughout the day. We let the very passionate, quick witted and knowledgeable Mary tour us around for 90 minutes listening to her explanations of the dioramas, paintings, sculptures and the hall of memory itself.
Darryl has a far better grip on historic events than I do and being ex-forces ‘who was in what war’ is something
that seems to naturally roll off his tongue. That’s not the case for me though so I’m finding the tour very interesting and treating it rather like a big history lesson. Finding the whole place sadly intriguing comes as something of a surprise.
Our tour with Mary deposits us in the Anzac Hall where we find two video screenings bring historic events to life. The first is screened above G for George, the Lancaster Bomber standing proud and strong dwarfing everything else around it. The second is about the fighter pilots in WW1. Both are great short films and it was good to see so many people had made the effort to stay and watch them.
After lunch we re-do the tour in reverse but this time at our own pace, there’s so much to see that it’s impossible not to miss things the first time around. We pay tribute to those Australians honoured with the Victoria Cross by reading each of the placards one by one, there are 96 in all.
The Vietnam displays are excellent with sight and sound screenings of a ‘Dust Off’ and ‘Helibourne Assualt’. They’re brilliant but sad, particularly the ‘Dust Off’
transmission which is an actual transcript depicting the loss of a rescue helicopter, there’s no getting away from the tragedy that was the Vietnam war. On the back of a veteran jacket are the words ‘When I die I’ll go to heaven because I’ve spent my time in Hell. Vung Tau, Vietnam. 67-68’.
This magnificent memorial spans all Australian involvement during war time right through to those continuing in the present day. It was the vision of one man, Charles Bean, who became Australia’s official war correspondent and was recommended for bravery decoration during the attacks at Gallipoli. In 1916 he suggested to the Australian defence minister that a memorial should be erected not only to ensure the lives lost in search of elusive peace should never be forgotten but also to house the relics being brought home from war sites and to preserve the records he was so meticulously writing. In 1941 on the 11th of November, Charles Bean saw the Australian War Memorial open.
The Hall of Memory holds the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, an Australian whose name will never be known. His remains were returned from a WW1 battlefield but not until 1993. He
honours the memory of all Australians lost.
There were two reefs lain on the tomb this morning but one has since been removed, a foreign minister had visited recently and it is customary to lay a reef during a short service. On Friday a rather larger ceremony is expected to take place when President Obama is scheduled to visit. If he does arrive then the War Memorial will be closed off to the public.
You can’t help to feel moved when standing in the Hall of Memory. Inside you feel compelled to silent remembrance, outside your eyes are drawn to the walls either side of the water, the rolls of honour. Both filled with the tens of thousands of names of Australian men and women who laid down their lives for Australia.
The tributes, paintings, exhibitions and screenings within the memorial are brilliant, you might even say magnificent. Either way we’d decided it was worth another visit which meant we’d be staying on for another day in Canberra.
Our last port of call was the bridge of the HMAS Brisbane where you can stand amidst the navigation charts and listen to a recording of dialect between
its crew and an American spotter plane.
By 4pm we were full to bursting point so decided to return to camp but stopped at the bead shop for some more jewellery making supplies and then at the supermarket to pick up the food Andy had asked us to get for their work sandwiches!
We didn’t have to wait long before they both got ‘home’ and they were chuffed to hear we’d had such an interesting day.
Whilst we’d been inside, the sun had been shining for most of the day which meant there was a possibility the pool might have warmed up. There was only one way to find out. We headed down there with snorkel equipment in hand and shivered and squealed at the edge of the water. The sun had been shining but the water was still bloody freezing!
Our new found form of exercise was put to another test. Kangaroo jumps, twirls, hopping, underwater lengths and running races all worked well to warm us up. Darryl came up with the ‘breast-stroke without arms’ idea but there was a near drowning incident so instead tried the ‘breast-stroke without legs’ which was much easier! See
"Treasure them Pet"
He sent his shoulder tags home two weeks before he was killed. They are currently on display, along with the letter that accompanied them within the Love and War exhibition.
how much fun you can have in a swimming pool when the water’s cold! Caroline meanwhile could be seen elegantly snorkelling and avoiding any sort of ridiculous behaviour!
Darryl cooked up dinner again, chicken breasts in bread crumbs with veg and mashed spuds. Oh, and mushroom gravy! I can hear your tummies rumbling from here!
And then it was the Rummikub challenge! Neither Caroline nor Andy have played before so we went through the rules of the game and gave it a go. It was slow to start with but they got the hang of it very quickly. We have to admit that as much as we love Rummikub (and we do), it doesn’t sound as exciting as another game they’ve been telling us about. ‘Razzoo’ is an Australian board game where you have to try and win a Blue Heeler (Australian dog), tickets to an Aussie Rules footie game etc etc. They’ve only played it the once but it sounds like a right laugh. Unfortunately we can’t find any shops that stock it at the moment so we’re going to keep our eyes open when searching through the Op Shops - someone is bound to have thrown
After a few games we said goodnight but then a shout went up from the camp trailer. Earlier in the evening Darryl had been fixing our rear number plate on the car when he’d found a huge Red Back spider tucked up underneath it. There was a big hoo-ha as it dropped onto the floor and he politely requested that I get the spider exterminating spray. You can pick the words he used yourselves!
Anyway, when we heard Caroline exclaim that she’d just found the biggest spider in the world ever I thought she was having us on and we’d find her holding out a glove puppet or something. “It’s that big you could probably stick your hand up its bum but I’d rather not” was her response so we went to investigate. She wasn’t wrong and soon the rather large Hunstman had us all on the run. We assume it was a Huntsman and while they’re not dangerous they will give you a nasty bite if handled incorrectly! Really we should have let it be but it was inside their camp trailer and heading for the bedroom quarters. None of us were brave enough to
pick it up but we’d run out of spider spray after the visit from the Red Back. The only thing we had was worktop sterilising spray so Caroline and Darryl set to work. It took a while but under rather dramatic circumstances and many squeals the spider fell from the roof of the camp trailer in a crumpled heap. We then read that the spray only worked for six weeks, so if you’re coming to camp at the Canberra Motor Village and find a rather jarred off Hunstman spider we can only apologise!! It didn’t make us feel too good having destroyed one of nature’s finest but we knew Caroline & Andy would sleep more soundly now ….. at what point do you think we should tell them Hunstman spiders usually come in pairs?!
Dar and Sar
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