I left Derby on the 27th of November : after exactly 4 months, I was back on the road and I still remember that morning: my bus to Broome was leaving at 4am and I just started to pack my stuffs at 2am… In a way, I was excited for new adventures but on the other side, also quite sad to leave that place which was my home for 4 months and also lost because I didn’t knew what would be next. And now that I’m back in a city, I really see that time like an amazing time.
Men, I was working in the outback, dancing in the bush, serving cowboys in the pub, hugging babies kangaroos, eating crocodiles, speaking with flying doctors… Life in the bush is definitely an amazing life 🙂 One of my best Aussie experiences and on the top of that, to work/live with people who were like me on the road, who left everything behind them, was just amazing : we were on the same planet and nothing was strange about our way of live. We all became a family by living that outback life together and sharing all these memories. And because Derby was a small town, and the pub where I was working the place everyone was going to « go out » or have a drink, I used to see the same people every day, to smile to everyone because we all knew each other (and also because it was part of my job as a waitress :)) so imagine my feeling when I arrived in Melbourne or even in Broome while I was waiting for my flight to Perth : OMG I was so lost, I knew nobody, nobody was smiling and if I started to smile to someone, they were looking at me like « why are you smiling/looking at me, we don’t know each other »… here I was : back in the city where everybody was living on his own, where nobody took care of his neighbor, where everyone was living his own life…
Back in Melbourne for one day in order to meet my parents, who were on holiday through New Zealand and Australia, I suddenly realized when I saw them, that it was it : Derby and the bush life were behind me, I was on my way to something new, somewhere new 🙂
We traveled together from Melbourne to Canberra to meet one of our relative.
A must detour via the Yarra Valley, one of the most famous wine region in Australia
Seafood restaurant on the water in Lake Entrance 🙂 / Kalimna Woods Cottages : B&B in Lake Entrance : located in the bush, stayed there was an unique experience : the owners feed the birds (parrots yeah:)) every morning at 9am and the possums at 9pm 🙂
And it ends up that after my parents left, I finally stayed a bit longer in Canberra working for a Belgian bar serving these Belgian beers which I was missing so much. As Derby was one of the restricted areas in WA (map), where alcohol is sell with restrictions (why restrictions : link), I couldn’t even drink a strong dark beer :(. So you can imagine how happy I was feeling to serve some Chimay, Chouffe, Duvel, Carolus, Leffe, Kriek… 🙂 – I was just happy to the point that some customers became friends after chatting with them about our beers 🙂
When you say down under that you are going to Canberra, everyone looks at you like « Why are you going to CANBERRA ? it’s so boring there ! There is nothing to do » – and that how it ends up that Canberra is not really famous for backpackers or tourists. When you are in Australia for a short stay, you rarely end up to go to Canberra, because the city is a small city, still quite unknown, not famous for anything and it’s a bit in the middle of nowhere – everyone prefers to go to Sydney and Melbourne, which both have a bigger reputation.
Canberra in fact is really surprising because after you heard so often that there is absolutely nothing to do there, you don’t except very much once you land in the city, but then you just discover so many cultural treasures, so many areas with different atmospheres, unstressed people, a city without any traffic and also a big heritage – you start as well to read more about the Australian history, because you just don’t stop visiting all the museums !
Is it maybe the secret to enjoy more our travels ? When you don’t except anything from the place you are going to, at the end, most of the time, you end up with a great journey !
Anyway here we are, after my stay in Canberra, I was thinking I might share with you a bit of the Australia history !
Canberra is pretty new as a city/capital : they just celebrated the 100th anniversary of Canberra in 2013.
Built between the two world wars, Canberra was born in a time where Australia was looking for an identity. If you compare Canberra with Ottawa, the Canadian Capital, you see that both capitals have pretty much the same story.
Chosen between two others cities (Toronto or Montreal – Sydney or Melbourne), they both have a strong indigenous background until their names :
-Ottawa comes from an Algonquin word « adawe » which means to trade (for the most curious about the Canadian capital history click here)
-Canberra comes from an Aboriginal word « corroboree » meaning meeting place
to make it short with the Australian History: originally populated by Aboriginal people for now over 50 000 years, Australia started to be colonized by Europeans (mostly Dutch and British) in the 17th century. (I will avoid the big chapter about the attitude of the Europeans to the Aboriginals, because there is so much to say about it but just to give an image : it’s the same story as with the slavery in the US and it’s still a shame in my opinion, that this big chapter of the Australian history is kind of hidden by the gold image of what’s Australia is today). Anyway, let’s continue : in the 19th century, Australia had six colonies : Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria. After a referendum and many debates, 5 from the 6 colonies decided in 1899 to finally form a Federation. Western Australia joined them in 1900.
The Royal Assent for the « Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (UK) » was given by Queen Victoria on the July 9th, 1900 and after the Federal Constitution was proclaimed on the 1st of January 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was « born » with Edmund Barton as Australia’s first Prime Minister. And if you ask yourself what’s about the Northern Territory : here the answer : it only entered into the Constitution in 1911…
At that time, Melbourne was the temporary capital of Australia until that moment where politicians decided to look for a new capital. The new Constitution specified that the Capital had to occupy its own territory, which couldn’t be further than 160 km of Sydney for many reasons and that’s how the ACT « Australian Capital Territory » has been created in 1906/08.
We might think of Ottawa, when you look behind the history of Canberra but it also has some similarities with Washington D.C. ! Like D.C. in the US, Canberra is independent of any state, first because it’s a territory and not a state (For more information about the difference between state and territory : here) and secondly like Washington D.C. where the President Washington asked the architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant to design a plan for the city, which was going to be the permanent US Capital after Philadelphia, the Australian Minister for Home Affairs, King O’Malley launched in 1911 the « Federal Capital Design Competition » to build the new Australian Capital.
Won by an American (from Chicago) : Walter Burley Griffin, who had some strong influences from European and North American architects, the plans for Canberra included large areas of gardens, long boulevards, parks, water feature, wide open spaces and bushland areas. In concrete terms, the construction was supposed to finish before 1920 but with the WWI, the Great Depression and also conflicts between Griffin and the politicians, the construction got some delay and finally in 1926, when around 7000 people had to move to Canberra, the city was half built… The construction from Canberra started in 1913 and went on until the 40’s…
Facts about Canberra:
Geometric construction, Green, Heritage and Culture: that could be few words who in my opinion describes the best Canberra.
- First of all, a large amount of streets go round in circles – when you get cities like NYC or Paris with parallel/perpendicular streets, in Canberra, it’s a bit strange the first time you arrive by car because you got this feeling to drive in circles and you are just lost, because you feel that you already saw that roundabout.
There is really just a few straight streets and when you look into the map of the city, you can see that yes in the city center, you got these 2/3 roundabout : the City Center one named Civic and the State Circle with the Capital Circle.
And in fact, when you look really carefully the map , you will guess that the lake is an artificial one : and yes you got it : the lake has also geometric motifs which quite changed a bit with the years
- Secondly : you have NO FENCES in Canberra : you don’t realize it the first days but then when you start to visit the city and suburbs with your « paparazzi » eyes, you kind of really surprised and I need to say, it really gives an amazing feeling of security, trust, family… I maybe exaggerating but when you really look into it : take a street in a residential area: A : put fences in the front of all the residences / B : just leave the front of all the houses/building without any fences = At the end, yes you got a totally different « spirit »
The official text : « Generally, no fences are permitted forward of the front of a residence/building. The aim is to create pleasant, open streetscapes and support Canberra’s garden city character. Hedges can be grown on front boundaries and adjoining Territory Land instead of using fencing materials. There are non-preferred and disallowed fence materials. Disallowed materials are bamboo, copper chrome arsenate (green coloured) treated timber, tea tree and brush fencing, pine and other softwoods. »
- A lot of suburbs and streets have been named after famous Australian figures (in exploration, navigation, pioneering, colonisation, administration, politics, education, science or letters), Australian flora, characteristics of Australia/Australians or Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander vocabulary, which make you even more curious about Australia culture : you even got a website, where you look for the names explanation
-Yarralumla was the name of an Aboriginal tribe that lived in the area,
-Barton was named after Edmund Barton, Australia’s first prime minister
-The Lake wears the name of Canberra’s architect : Burley Griffith (
- Canberra is definitly green : it has been a long time since I ever visited a city so green. In my memories, I think the last one was Berlin. But yeah, Canberra is really a green city : a lot of parks, a good water supply system, native animals reserves around the city, and everything is made for cyclists or public transport in order to avoid traffic and it works : there is no traffic in Canberra ! You got this feeling that you are on holiday every day as there is noon in the streets in the rush hours.
The Botanical garden is free, which is just great. You can stay there for the day and relax, enjoy an open air projection during the summer, walk into a reconstructed rain forest when it’s getting too hot (amazing feeling to see all the work that it has been done to create that humid area)
And every weekend, you got farmer’s market and the Old Depot Bus Market. The farmer’s market is absolutely reserved to ACT producers by the way, which is just great for the locals, as it’s direct from producer/farmer to the customer. And you find EVERYTHING : sea food, veggies, fruits, meat, coffees of course, cereals… = A MUST if you get a chance to be in Canberra during the weekend
- And once you got enough of the green, you can end up in of the museums, which are just incredible. Maybe the fact that I came from Derby where once you got to the Jetty and the baobab tree, you don’t got so much cultural sites to see but I was just picking one museum when ever I had time and thanks to that time in Canberra I learn so much about Australia History, Politic and Australians
The Old Parliament House, where I spent hours to read stuffs about women rights evolution in Australia
The Australian National Gallery, where I found a bit of everything : Indian Art, Pacific Art, Aboriginal Art, Roy Lichtenstein
The War Memorial, just located in front of the New Parliament House, in order that the Parliaments don’t forget the past is a pretty new museum and it’s always full : you got exhibitions about WWI, WWII, Afghanistan War, Anzac Day, Today’s conflicts and also a research center for Australians to find out if they had relatives involved in some wars.
right : the Australian tomb of the Unknown Warrior
The Anzac Parade, one significant road in Canberra links the New Parliament House and the War Memorial is a site with major military memorials : the Hellenic/Greek Memorial, the Kemal Atatürk/Turkeu Memorial, the Australian Army Memorial, the Australian Navy Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Service Nurses Memorial, the Vietnam Forces Memorial, the Air Force Memorial and the Rats of Tobruk Memorial.
The National Museum of Australia where I learn a lot about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories
My stay in Canberra at the end effect brought me more into the Australian past/history. I became more curious about the story of Australians and the history of this country. When you’re a backpacker, you rarely take the time to go to the museum, and you most of the time don’t want to spend 20$ for a museum, but I was lucky, I had a lot of times to kill in Canberra and all the museums were free in 2013 because of the centenary anniversary.