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A boat cruise on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra

Once again the Tour Director excelled herself as did Alice, our GPS. We arrived in Canberra in comfortable time to board our cruise boat for a very instructive tour of Lake Burley Griffin, its surroundings and much of the history of Canberra.

In case I've given the impression of some magnificent cruise liner, our boat was small with rows of ordinary chairs - not secured in any way - for the passengers to sit upon. The passengers numbered two on this occasion. Yes, the Tour Director (who hates boats) and myself. To call Jim, our guide, 'Captain' would be a little fanciful, the boat was battery powered and moved quietly and sedately through the still water of the lake.

The cruise lasted an hour and was very enjoyable. Jim really knew his job and added just a teeny bit of cynicism to some of his remarks which made the bare facts more amusing. For example, around the National Museum of Australia there are a lot of fancy appendages which Jim thought might have been the result of one too many liquid lunches.

Nat Museum

The National Museum of Australia. The red pipe sticking up at about 45° from the roof is supposed to represent a drinking straw. Don't ask! The orange structure is a symbolic ribbon pointing to the symbolic centre of Australia, Ayers Rock.

Aus Art Gallery

The National Museum of Australia again. The black glass panes are supposed to symbolise the Sydney Opera House sails.
Tied up at the wharf is an old Murray River paddle steamer, P.S. Enterprise, built in Echuca in 1878.
Thanks to volunteers she is still in working order and belongs to the National Museum.

No, I couldn't make her out either, except for her tall, black funnel. After checking against other photos of her I can tell you that those cream coloured structures that look like portable toilets are actually part of her. Her bow is to the left with her white mast clearly visible. The fence-like structure is the guard over her port paddle. That curved bit at the stern must be her rudder, I suppose.

Parliament Houses

A slightly unusual perspective, Old Parliament House directly in front of the new one.

Wiggly Building

Were liquid lunches responsible for this, too?

The Carillon

The National Carillon on Aspen Island in Lake Burley Griffin, a gift from the British Government to celebrate Canberra's 50th birthday. It chimed eleven as we passed it. Jim told us it is a few seconds slow.

Question Time in Federal Parliament - photos not allowed.

It was an interesting experience but not one that we'd want to repeat. On entering Parliament House we were required to pass through an airport type security screen - you know, place anything metal in a plastic basket then walk through something resembling an empty door frame. The alarm went off, my heart rate increased and I offered to remove my belt buckle. Then I discovered I wasn't wearing a belt and felt a fool. I was told to stand with my arms outstretched as if I was on a crucifix while a security guard waved a thing like a little cricket bat over me, back and front. Nothing; not a peep out of it. Free to go.

Having sufficient time we had lunch in a café and then sought out the cloakroom on Level 1 where we were to collect our tickets and hand in our cameras, handbags, phones, shotguns, etc. Before entering the public gallery we were again obliged to pass through an identical security check. Here there was a uniformed guard (I swear he was wearing a hairpiece) who kept muttering into the cuff of his jacket, just as FBI and CIA agents do in the movies. He'd then press his hand to the earpiece he was wearing, head on one side as he struggled to hear the response. Standing all around were security people, some full of their own importance and others playing to the crowd that was waiting to be scanned.

On entering the gallery we had to sit in silence and gaze down at the government and opposition benches where some woman was on her feet, stumbling over words, repeating herself ad nauseum, and using acronyms which were meaningless to us. In the speaker's chair was Mister Deputy Speaker trying not to look bored. There were approximately six other people in the House, none of whom paid any attention to what was being said. Some were reading, some writing and others talking to each other. Every other seat was empty.

Before we nodded off we were asked to leave the gallery as the place was to be searched for bombs prior to Question Time. We were left to hang around while this went on and then ... you guessed, we had to pass through the security scan yet again. Being an old hand by now I walked straight to the man with the bat, arms outstretched, as soon as the alarm on the door frame sounded. Once again cleared we re-entered the public gallery and waited as the Honourable Members assembled below us. This time they all seemed to be there. But of course, the TV cameras and press photographers were also there.

It had never struck me before, when you see these characters pontificating on the television they become larger than life. They're not real people like you and me, they belong in a different world, somehow. Then you sit in the public gallery and look down and they all look so small and insignificant. From up there Tony Abbott's bald patch made him recognisable. Clive Palmer was unmistakable, of course. Bronwyn Bishop was in the Speaker's Chair. Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, missed his way; with a face like his he should be a funeral director. And all he could talk about was Toyota's decision to cease car manufacturing in Australia in 2017. Again and again he raised the subject to no purpose whatsoever, as far as we could determine. They squabbled, they bickered and they brayed. Orderlies were kept busy bringing them glasses of water or sheaves of paper. I never saw one Member say thanks or even acknowledge the existence of an orderly.

There are two large timers on the wall, one facing the government benches and the other the opposition. Questions are restricted to one minute and replies to four minutes. We were told this system was introduced after Kevin Rudd was P.M. because nobody could shut him up. Probably the best decision the Parliament ever made.

A decision they should make is to ban Dorothy Dix questions which seem just a total waste of time. The P.M. or one of the ministers is asked a question by one of his own party. The respondent thanks the Honourable Member for Wherever for the question so people in the questioners electorate might hear their Member mentioned on TV. Doubtless the answer is well prepared and a Dorothy Dixer only serves to legitimise four minutes of party propaganda that neither side wants to hear let alone the Great Australian Public.

All in all, the whole debacle seemed an undisciplined waste of time; a 'look at me' opportunity for Members in front of the cameras.

Fitzroy Falls

Fitzroy Falls

Fitzroy Falls in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

Though long known to the Aborigines, the waterfall was first discovered by European settlers in the early 19th century. Sir Charles Fitzroy, the Governor of New South Wales, named the falls after himself during his visit to the area in 1850. Modest bloke.

The falls result from the Yarrunga Creek dropping over 80 metres down an escarpment on its way to join the Kangaroo River. Today the water flow has been tamed by a water catchment dam further upstream. As a result, the falls have only been known to dry up once in living memory.

We were very impressed - not only by the parking, tourist information and catering facilities at the falls - but by the pathways and boardwalks which enable visitors to view the falls and other spectacular natural features. Pam, with aid of her stick, was able to walk around the rim of the gorge as far as a lookout platform called Twin Falls built out over the gorge. The lookout afforded very impressive views, however of the Twin Falls themselves there was no sign. Victims of the drought, no doubt.


This picture typifies the views from the many lookouts along the rim of the gorge.


The weather was perfect.

Meanwhile, back at the playpen ...

Cable car

With the cable cars repainted and one or two accessories added,
the cars were suspended above the railways.

Three cheers for second childhood. With the three railways running reliably it was the turn of the cable cars. Unfortunately the reduction gearbox on the drive motor for the cars had a stripped cog and parts were no longer available. We did source a possible replacement but it was not certain it would be compatible, it was a long way away and it was prohibitively expensive.

Consequently it was decided to retain the cable railway as a static display only. Hence the gorilla on the roof, the chimp in the doorway and - out of shot - a man hanging by one hand from the cable with a pistol in his other hand. Actually the gun's barrel can be seen in the top left of the photo.

Cable car

Meanwhile, the other car, oblivious to the drama below, climbs over the top pool and the grizzly bear.

The caravan park managers, Peter and Karen, were gracious enough to put up two notices on the fence and gate of the railway enclosure ...


Chief Engineer, how about that? Thanks Peter and Karen, I've had a ball 'working' on this railway.
The real credit belongs to the enthusiasts that set it all up many years ago.

A Day of History - Maypole Dancing and Steam

A 'Heritage Day' was held at Riversdale Historical Home with much jollity and fun. There was a market, a vintage car display, maypole dancing, a pipe band and much more. The Tour Guide wanted to go so we went and I actually enjoyed it!

Maypole Dancing

A bit of a tangle but a lot of fun.

Pipe Band

Some wore traditional Scottish berets, two preferred headgear which afforded more shade
and one gent was really in the spirit of the day dressed in period costume.

Sword Dancing

Sword dancers? Or had someone seen a snake?

Leaving Riversdale we went on to the old Pumping Station Museum where the boiler was fired up and two large steam engines were running.

the Pumping Station

The old steam-powered pumping station on the banks of the Wollondilly River.

The main interest in attending a steam day at the Pumping Station is to see things moving, to hear the sounds and to smell the steam and oil. How do you portray all that in a photograph? The best I could do was slow down the camera shutter so that the moving parts became blurred.

Steam Engine

This engine was not connected to any load.

Beam Engine

This photo was taken up on the maintenance walkway above the vertical double acting compound steam engine. It shows the huge beam oscillating up and down on its bearing (on the right of the picture). The left hand connecting rods are powered by the high and low pressure pistons. The third rod drives the water pump down below ground level. The other end of the beam is connected to a crank driving the huge flywheel.

And on that confusing note I'll end Page 184.

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